Academy should award films, actors based on talent

The Oscars: Is the Academy a group of art aficionados or the gavel of morality? After a stunning 79-year run and a stable position as the most prestigious award in the business, why can’t the Academy get it right? Sadly, too many times the winners are not called up onstage at all but cast aside for another film, another director or another actor.

“For Your Consideration” is the immortal slogan accompanying every film sent to the Academy in a dire plea for a nomination and, hopefully, a gold statuette. Lobbying, although the least of our worries, is one of the causes of this mistreatment of art. Films and artists are peddled as if they are products, hoping to sell for the highest bid. Not only is this a defamation of the cast and crew involved, but a low blow to the industry as a whole. Bribing and thrusting a film into the Academy’s faces should not guarantee anyone a spot on the list, no matter how convincing the tactics may be.

Perhaps the most appalling entity to sway the Academy is politics. It hurts me to hear about the Academy’s anti-Semitic and pro-Caucasian past, but it hurts me even more to hear their solution. Awarding an Oscar to people simply because they are black, Jewish or Hispanic doesn’t rectify the situation or give restitution. The only way to make things right would be to make a fair ceremony, judged solely on the work and solely on the merit of that work. This is not to say that every minority who has won an award didn’t deserve it, but it is to say that some did not. Why place the movie titles next to the nominee if his performance in that movie isn’t the only thing being judged? It seems that the Academy would be just as content to have a list of names they can simply choose from, making sure to make the most politically sound choice.

Before the 78th Annual Academy Awards, Russell Crowe was involved in an incident where he lost his temper and attacked hotel personnel. All the media could discuss was how he was most likely to be excluded from the Oscars for his behavior and come February, he was. What he did was awful, but does that make him any less of an actor? The Academy shouldn’t care how he leads his personal life; the basis of the awards isn’t on his moral character but rather his performance in a film. One could easily formulate a list of people the Oscars generally snubs, but perhaps the biggest loser is Leonardo DiCaprio. The Academy hates him. He chooses risky films, sways from the media, is politically liberal and stays rather recluse. He is facing his third nomination this year and has always left empty-handed. His work has been constantly thrilling and amazing to watch, but he always loses out to Oscar politics. Sean Penn and Johnny Depp have been shunned for years for those same reasons. Luckily for Penn, the Oscars responds well to headlines such as “Oscars Too Conservative” and “Why Can’t the Oscars Loosen Up” and gritted their teeth as they awarded him and Tim Robbins in the same year.

My only hope is this year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will prove me wrong and, for the first time in years, choose a list of winners based on talent and merit. In the meantime, it is our job to recognize the films that are the true winners and make our own decisions.

Sam Ortiz is a freshman political science and theatre major from Shreveport, La.