Awards Season: Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets

Francis Quina
Want to understand what the new year Awards Season is really all about? Read on!

NOT AN 'IMPOSSIBLE' HONOREE. Naomi Watts at the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala on January 5. Photo from the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Shortfest Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – With the announcement of the winners of the People’s Choice Awards on January 9 (January 10 Manila time) and the announcement of the winners of the Golden Globes on January 13 (January 14 Manila time), movie awards season is officially in full swing in the US. 

Since we Filipinos love pageantry and contests as much as we love the movies and television, there’s no doubt that many of us are waiting with bated breath to find out what and who’s going to win what award.

But with so many awards being handed out by so many award-giving bodies, it is not uncommon to hear someone ask:

“What’s the difference between a Golden Globe award from an Oscar?” 

To help you figure things out, here is our simplified guide to the entertainment awards from Hollywood and beyond:

Popular choice

Photo from the People's Choice Awards Facebook page

Let’s begin with the People’s Choice Awards, so-called because the winners are chosen by the viewers through online voting.

The People’s Choice Awards were first handed out in 1975, and covers television, music, and movies. It also has flexible award categories that change almost every other year, as well as unconventional awards such as this year’s Favorite Movie and TV Fan Following Awards.

WATCH: The 39th annual People’s Choice Awards red carpet and awards proper

Because it is based on online votes, the winners of the People’s Choice Awards — as well as Nickelodeons’s Kid’s Choice and Teen’s Choice and MTV Movie Awards — are crowd-pleasers and not the heavy, serious stuff that you usually expect to find in these award shows.

In short, you can’t predict the winners of the other awards using the results of the People’s Choice, simply because the other awards criteria go beyond mere popularity. 

Critics’ choice      

Photo from the Critics' Choice Awards Facebook page

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the awards handed out by critics groups and associations, such as the aptly named Critics’ Choice Movie Awards which is handed out annually by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the largest film critics organization in North America.

The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, which were first handed out in 1995, is based solely on votes cast by members of the BFCA — movie critics on radio, television, and the Internet.

READ: The complete list of winners of the 18th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards

Many think that Critics’ Choice Movie Awards is a good barometer for the Oscars, since conventional wisdom tells us that what the critics deem best is best. But seeing as how this year’s winner of the Best Director award, Ben Affleck (“Argo”), wasn’t even nominated for the same category in the Oscars just shows you how wrong that kind of thinking is.   

Jury and audience selections

Photo from the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Shortfest Facebook page

International film festivals such as the recently-concluded Palm Springs Film Festival and, of course, the internationally-renowned film festivals such as Venice, Berlin, Sundance, and Cannes film festivals are another source of movie awards. 

It is in these film festivals that many of our filmmakers are winning awards and recognition left and right. This begs the question: Why aren’t these wins translating to one of the winning Filipino films in these festivals being nominated in the Oscar’s Best Foreign Film category?

The reason is, quite simply, that the only films in competition during the festival are the ones eligible to win. And while a win in any film festival is a big thing for any filmmaker, one should also note that winners of film festivals are decided by juries, composed of a handful of individuals. (Though it should also be said that many film festivals also hand out audience prizes, and these audiences are usually cineastes and critics.)  

Can you use the winners of film festivals to predict the winners of the Oscars? Not really, since many of the films that do compete in international film festivals don’t even get a limited release in US theaters, which is one of the minimum requirements for an Oscar.  

Honorees of the 2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival are:

  • Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston: Ensemble Performance Award, “Argo”
  • Bradley Cooper: actor Desert Palm Achievement Award, “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Naomi Watts: actress Desert Palm Achievement Award, “The Impossible”
  • Helen Hunt: Spotlight Award, “The Sessions”
  • Helen Mirren: International Star Award, “Hitchcock”
  • Mychael Danna: Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing, “Life of Pi”
  • Richard Gere: Chairman’s Award, “Arbitrage”
  • Robert Zemeckis: Director of the Year Award, “Flight”
  • Sally Field: Career Achievement Award, “Lincoln”
  • Tom Hooper: Sonny Bono Visionary Award, “Les Miserables”

Guilds’ choice

Photo from the Screen Actors' Guild Awards Facebook page

It isn’t just the fans and critics that bestow awards for achievements in filmmaking. Unions working within the US film industry also give out awards to their members. In particular are the Directors’ Guild Awards (February 2), the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards (January 27), and the Writers’ Guild Awards (February 17)

The winners of these awards are decided upon by the members of the respective guilds. These awards not only recognize achievement in film, but also television and radio. 

It is generally acknowledged that these guild awards are a good indicator of who wins on Oscar night. For example, since 1948, most of the winners of the Director’s Guild Award for film have gone on to win the Oscar for the same category, except in 6 instances, the latest being 2002 when Roman Polanski won over DGA winner Rob Marshall.    

This year might make it 7, though, as 3 of the 5 nominees in the DGA’s film category were not even nominated for an Oscar, namely Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), and Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”). 

The foreign press 

Photo from the Golden Globes Facebook page

The Golden Globe Awards are given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which awards achievements in both television and film, since 1945. 

The Golden Globes, as the award has become known, are considered by some as a preview of winners for both the Oscars and the Emmys (which one can consider as “the Oscars of television”). But the very fact that the HFPA gives out awards based on genres (drama and comedy or musical), makes predicting the Oscar based on their winners still difficult.

But the very nature of the body that gives out the Golden Globes has been questioned a number of times, too, as well as their qualification for handing out awards. Some have taken issue that the Golden Globes favor big studio efforts over independent efforts, connecting this to the fact that membership of the HFPA are easily susceptible to bribery.

Some have even questioned the membership requirements of the HFPA, and wondered what really constitutes a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press.           

The independents

As a way to highlight independent films and filmmakers in the US, the Film Independent’s Spirit Award (February 23) was established in 1984 by Film Independent, a non-profit organization. 

The award allows the best independent films to compete against each other, without big studio releases eating up the list of nominees. This is especially beneficial to onscreen talents who are often overshadowed in major awards by their more well-known and flashier peers.

The winners of the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards usually end up in the Oscar nominees list, but rarely do they go on to win the big award.

The academy

Academy Awards nominations photo from AFP

In terms of movie awards, there is nothing bigger than the Oscars or, as it is more formally known, the Academy Awards (February 24).

What academy is this?, you might ask.

It is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), described as “a professional honorary organization.” Members of the AMPAS, which are representative of the different disciplines in filmmaking, decide on the nominees and the winners of the award. According the Wikipedia, AMPAS has 5,783 voting members as of 2012.

READ: Live Blog: Reactions to Oscars 2013 nominations

Because of the enormity of the AMPAS and the range of its membership, the Oscar award is considered within the film industry as the highest accolade one can receive from his or her peers. That said, the Oscars has not been immune to controversies, such as this year’s notable snub of Affleck and Bigelow in the directing category, and weaker films defeating clear front-runners, as in the case of “Crash” winning over critical favorite “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005.  

For casual viewers like us, though, this only means that we’re assured a good, suspenseful show either way.

Addedum: Predictions

Since I’ve been talking about movie awards all this time, I might as well get my own Oscar predictions out there in writing. 

Now, my choice is based solely on the observation that movies with an uplifting theme and some ties to historical events win awards.

Also, if you’re an actress and you play a prostitute and/or uglify yourself, you get the award.    

  • Best Picture: “Lincoln”
  • Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, “Argo”
  • Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
  • Best Director: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
  • Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, “Lincoln”
  • Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Best Original Screenplay: “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: “Lincoln”
– Rappler.com

(Francis Quina teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and English in UP Diliman.)