Is it honouring great art or seeing glamorous movie stars that most entertain the millions of viewers who tune into the Academy Awards each year? Two Queen’s experts have loaned their expertise to answering this question:
Craig Walker, Chair of Undergraduate Studies Queen’s Drama Department, offers a historically based but skeptical view of the whole Academy Award enterprise. “The Oscars are not really relevant or accurate to the art of acting. So many other sorts of considerations -- having little to do with the quality of the work -- play a part in them,” says Walker. “Their main value has to do with celebrity spotting, not really honouring the best work.”
Dr. Walker has acted with Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, and the National Arts Centre English Company, appeared at the Thousand Islands Playhouse and Theatre Kingston as well as various Toronto theatres ranging from the Poor to the Royal Alex. He is also an artistic director and the author of The Buried Astrolabe: Canadian Dramatic Imagination and Western Tradition (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001) and co-editor (with Jennifer Wise of the University of Victoria) of The Broadview Anthology of Drama: Plays from the Western Theatre, Volumes I and II (Broadview Press, 2003).
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Blaine Allan, head of Film Studies at Queen’s University, offers informed commentary on trends in filmmaking and the history and evolution of the Academy Awards. Dr. Allan teaches historical approaches to film, Canadian film and television, and researches film authorship.
He says the Academy Awards are a way that Hollywood rewards its own. They're an important part of the culture of celebrity on which the U.S. entertainment industries have been built. For some fans, they're a link to the glamour and mystique of Hollywood past, while also clearly being of the much more secular present-day Hollywood. Like much of celebrity culture, they're also about ways of playing and about winning and losing -- and not only the Oscars themselves. The famous people win and lose based on their outfits and appearance, as well as their public performance as themselves. And, of course, the whole show itself wins or loses.
Dr. Allan also has insight into recent trends in documentary film-making. When discussing Michael Moore’s campaign to have Fahrenheit 9/11 nominated as top picture, He says that apart from the politics of Fahrenheit 9/11 and the possible attractions or not to Academy members, it seems to me extremely unlikely that a film made without actors or a conventional script or art direction or costume design or the other crafts whose practitioners nominate and vote in the Oscar race would get into the running for the top award.”
Dr. Allan has published widely on issues of filmmaking and film authorship and has also made some films of his own. His recent research has resulted in a series of three articles on a 1939 film, Heritage, produced by the Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau.
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