Looking on from the Emmys

Last week’s Emmy's were a night of celebration, celebrity fangirling and even romance. The show’s surprise marriage proposal warmed the hearts of in person and at home viewers, but the Emmy's are just one show in a long and busy awards season, typically thought to end with the Oscars, which will be in February this year.

 

With Oscar contenders just emerging in the international film festivals of the last month, there is a lot to keep up with during the long haul toward February. Here are some topics of relevance to keep in mind throughout the various shows.

 

Diversity

 

Diversity has long been an issue in entertainment, but the last few years have seen a huge push toward diverse representation. Sandra Oh’s historic nomination and adorable parents were certainly a cause for excitement.

 

This year’s Emmys (Primetime Emmys, which are different from Creative Arts Emmys) had the most diverse nominee pool in history, but that translated to only three wins for people of color.

 

Those few wins came in the awards for limited series. The key winners from the night like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Game of Thrones feature predominantly white casts. The disparity between nominations and wins for minorities has sparked a discussion about the differences between diversity and inclusion, as well as inviting a new look at how good television is recognized and awarded when there is such a volume and diversity of good shows themselves.

 

Streaming Services

 

Streaming services have tried to break into awards for a long time. At the Emmys, Netflix had the most nominations of the night with 112 but tied with HBO for the most wins with 23 each.

 

These two rivals might be dissatisfied with a tie, but their wins show that original content from streaming services can win. However, that’s proven to be true only of television thus far.

 

Last year, Cannes Film Festival shut out Netflix’s entries from the main awards categories, resulting in Netflix pulling itself from the competition. This banning had to do with French laws about the timing of premieres and theatrical release, but it was interpreted as a decision about what cinema is.

 

To many, it seems as if film festivals look down upon streaming services as a matter of culture - streaming movies aren’t fancy enough or high class enough.

 

Maybe people see them as movies made for consumption. Perhaps there is resentment over how streaming services have cut into the traditional film industry. Whatever the case, it’s not true.

 

Streaming services can produce award-worthy films, and these films are shown in other festivals like Toronto or Sundance. But the films of streaming services aren’t winning yet - the film that does will break the glass ceiling for streamers, and since success at festivals correlates to success at awards shows, it will open up a new age of cinema.

 

Oscars Changes

 

The inclusion of streaming services is just one change facing awards shows. With viewership for most shows on a steady decline, the coordinators of many shows like the Emmys, Oscars and more are looking at ways to keep awards shows relevant. The proposed changes to the upcoming Oscars were just one attempt to do so, and those proposals were met with both fierce criticism and appreciation.

 

For one, the proposals move the date of the Oscars up a month, whereas their previous March date dragged out awards season. The length of award season and the length of awards shows themselves are often topics of complaint; shows are often three hours or longer and it is difficult to keep the attention of at home audiences. Shows rely on comedic hosts for entertainment, but Colin Jost and Michael Che missed the mark for many of the Emmys viewers.

 

Additionally, events of the last two years have caused awards shows to become increasingly political; but not every viewer appreciates the outspokenness of celebrities. The tension between entertainment and advocacy is just another factor shaping the future of awards shows.

 

The biggest and most controversial proposal to the Oscars came in the addition of a Best Popular Film category.

 

This suggestion was a response to mounting criticism that films that are winning awards like the Oscars aren’t movies that people are watching. The worry was that the critical enjoyment of the film was becoming a stratified experience, with awards being considered only for artsy, high brow or niche films.

 

The Best Popular Film category was intended to bring the Oscars back to real audiences by creating a space for blockbuster and popular films to be recognized. In theory, this was a good idea, but backlash abounded as people fought over the differences between popular big movies and smaller elitist movies.

 

While movies can be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Popular Film, historically, the introduction of a new category has led films to flourish in that new category, instead of both applicable categories.

 

For instance, the introduction of an award for animated movies closed down the inclusion of animated movies in the Best Picture category.

 

All sorts of questions have been raised by critics, filmmakers and audiences about what makes a good movie and how that should be recognized.

 

Many see the new category as a subtle implication that blockbuster films are lower in stature and respect. Others point to the fact that many Best Picture films have very small box office returns and can only be found in certain theatres. Some people are bringing the discussion back to The Dark Knight Rises, which many think should have been nominated for Best Picture.

 

As of right now, the Academy has not announced formal rules for the nominations and wins in the Best Popular Film category. Without knowledge of those guidelines, it cannot be determined if Best Popular Film will add or take away from the Oscars experience.

 

However, it does seem hasty to institute a new category in the same season it has been introduced. Practically, a new award lengthens the ceremony and may present issues in voting and presentation. This is especially important after the Moonlight and La La Land fiasco.

 

The fate of Black Panther will be a strong indication of how these themes progress throughout awards season. Its awards will show how that diversity is being recognized in the ongoing battle for representation.

 

Black Panther will also be a test for the new Oscars. Much of the backlash to the Best Popular Film category came from Black Panther fans who want the movie to be nominated for Best Picture

 

As a superhero movie, it would be difficult for Black Panther to break into that category, but Black Panther is much more than a superhero movie. Its underlying themes of race, colonialism and the responsibility of privilege give the movie the kind of weight needed to swing in the Best Picture category.

 

More importantly, Black Panther has something no other film does; it’s a cultural watershed.

 

A superhero movie with a predominantly black cast and a powerful African nation? Audiences were hungry for what Black Panther was offering. Popular success isn’t the only reason Black Panther should be considered for the Oscars, but it’s safe to say that the cultural significance of Black Panther has weight few other movies do.

 

So, keep an eye on Black Panther to chart the trajectory of these issues throughout awards season.

 

In an industry that changes by the day, anything can happen before February, and then the awards cycle will start over again.