Even celebrities and filmmakers need a public boost of confidence here and there. Movie award shows give Hollywood entertainers a chance to receive recognition for their acting, writing, directing, composing, and production skills from fans and peers. While it’s easy to think of all award shows as being basically the same, each show attracts a specific audience based on tone, voting system, and nominees. Award shows where the voting is decided by the public tend to bring in more playful and outlandish elements to satisfy mainstream viewers, while industry- and critic-based award shows often take the conservative approach.
Some award associations occasionally try to reverse a show’s public image. For example, the Academy Awards famously chose to reach out to younger viewers by enlisting actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway to be co-hosts in 2010. The mismatched hosts bombed horribly with flat banter and ill-timed exchanges. Despite the ploy’s obvious flaws, the Academy Awards renewed this attempt in 2012 by inviting crude humorist Seth McFarlane to host. Despite these mistakes, the Academy Awards reign as the top movie awards show in Hollywood. The show is informally known as the ‘Oscars’ and has been honoring moving pictures since 1929, making it the longest running film awards show.
The Oscars are organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one of the most influential film organizations in show business. The seasonal air date for the Academy Awards has changed multiple times, but it has been consistently hosted in late February or early March for the past decade. As the academy’s voting body draws directly from Hollywood’s pool of popular performers and filmmakers, winning that well-muscled golden statue is directly linked to opinions from industry peers. Looking back at the Oscars’ eighty-five-year run is like taking a course in the history of film. While some audiences view the Oscars as outdated and limited in scope, the show has hailed iconic screen gems in nearly every genre, ranging from “It Happened One Night” and “West Side Story” to “Star Wars” and “Forrest Gump.”
Not far behind the Oscars in prestige is the Golden Globe Awards, which is organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The show first aired in 1944 and typically weighs the votes of ninety-three HFPA members. From time to time, scandalous rumors have surfaced, claiming certain award winners were chosen after enticing judges with lavish bribes. Revenues from this popular show are partially used to fund scholarships, charities, and other lesser known HFPA awards ceremonies. Airing just a month before the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards acts as a lead-in and a first look at which actors and films are likely to win at the larger show. Yet, the Golden Globe Awards manages to stand out from its older sibling with a more relaxed environment where celebrities sit at dinner tables copiously supplied with alcohol.
Younger film goers await the annual MTV Movie Awards for comical spoofs, wacky outfits, and the obligatory-but often awkward-smooch from the Best Kiss winners. With a 1992 launch date, the show is about as young as its average viewer. Before 2007, the show was deceptively weaved together from separately pre-filmed moments, but it is now presented to a live audience. Once award nominees are chosen, voting is entirely in the hands of the public. Actors and films not likely to be awarded at merit-based shows find a home with MTV, where popularity and mainstream appeal are enough to snag the title of Best Actress, Best Movie, and so on. Like many other movie award shows, MTV brings in music artists to excite the crowd in between award announcements.
Critics, the fair-weather companions of film making, have established many award shows to hand out their top picks. Since 1995, the Broadcast Film Critics Association has been operating a highly respected ceremony known as the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. The show aims for accessible categories for everyday moviegoers, such as Best Family Film, Best Song, and Best Comedy Film. Voting occurs in December just before the January airing, allowing critics to honor notable performances and movies, while offering a collective point-of-view to kick off the major awards season.
Another notable ceremony is the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which was created by the associated labor union in 1995. The show focuses on film and television and usually takes place within a week of the Academy Awards. As Hollywood giants bask in the collective greatness of their peers, the SAG Awards unfolds with a simpler and less scripted ceremony that is ninety minutes shorter than the Oscars. The guild members hold the voting power, so it’s not uncommon for the same actors and television shows to win repeatedly. Of the sixteen standard awards, only six are specifically designated for film, including awards for supporting roles and stunt ensembles.
In reality, award shows take place year round. The biggest shows are aired in succession at the start of each year and honor the previous year’s films. While some performers prefer the quiet laughter and elegant musical numbers of the Academy Awards, others crave the validation that comes with award wins that survive the scrutiny of a gang of critics.