Entertainment » Graham Gordy

The self-congratulatory orgy Hollywood calls "award season"

On over-praising actors.

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We're in the midst of the self-congratulatory orgy Hollywood likes to refer to as "award season," which will culminate in the most interminable and graceless of all the interminable and graceless pageants this weekend, the Oscars.

I could lament the fact that we spend so many hours each winter celebrating something as silly as movies when we should be celebrating the advancements of science or great philanthropic works, but that's disingenuous. I probably spend 40 hours a year watching, talking about and reading about movies for every hour I spend watching "NOVA" or volunteering for anything myself. Also, if I were nominated for one, I would immediately a) shriek like a girl and, b) book my plane ticket.

I think my problem with the Oscars isn't that movies are celebrated in such an overblown way; it's that movies are being celebrated so much less than celebrities themselves.

I understand that actors are who we pay to watch on Friday nights, and that we don't want to see Quentin Tarantino's face 22 feet tall. I also understand that the Director's Guild or Writer's Guild Awards don't get televised, much less have all-day pre-show coverage on "E!" However, when you look at what goes into making a feature film, actors are glaringly over-praised.

Now look, I started out as an actor and, if I'd had more success at it, I'd be eating the stuffed French toast at the Chateau Marmont right now rather than bitterly writing about actors here. What a good actor does is invaluable in terms of teaching a writer what he's really written, showing a director what his film really is, and generally bringing a project to life.

A lead actor gets paid to spend two to three months on a movie set, mostly in a comfortably air-conditioned trailer, and mostly waiting. Yes, there are late nights and hard days. There is the preparation, memorization, rehearsals, incessant exercise, the losing/gaining weight, hours in a make-up chair, junkets, press tours to far-flung countries and the often cheerless "award season" itself. However, compare that to the average film in Hollywood which — from concept through scripting through revisions, finding producers, attaching a director, actors, finding funding, assembling crew, pre-production, production, editing, etc. — takes five years to get made. Five years.

Moreover — maybe more than any other artistic talent out there — acting is more gift than craft. That's not to say it shouldn't be praised, but while I've seen good actors become great actors, and great actors become exceptional ones, I've never once seen a truly untalented actor become someone who could carry a film.

I'm primarily a writer, so naturally this is going to be my grievance. Also, my complaining about the hardships of the industry is a little like complaining about getting paid in gold bars because they're so heavy. But here's what I ask: When you're in your fourth hour of pre-Oscar red carpet coverage, when you're talking about this one's plunging neckline or that one's visible cankles, stop and think a little about the grip's broken knuckles and the burns on the gaffer's hands. Think about the director who slept for three hours a night for six months and the cinematographer who is covered in bee stings because of where the halfwit director wanted the camera. Think that maybe the reason those pretty people on screen sound so cool, or intimidating, or sexy is because there were smart people in rooms for endless hours beforehand making them sound that way. Think about the editor spending six months in a dark room making scenes work that didn't work before, or the producer who lost every friend he had begging them for money, or better yet, the documentarian who risked his life to get you the material you watched.

Movie-making isn't a hard life in comparison to most others, but it's harder than it looks in the movies, which is itself the strongest testament to what filmmakers do.

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