Oscar Chat with Dennis Bingham Part Two


This is a continuation of a previous article. Click here for part one.

The 89th Academy Awards air tonight on ABC, and we talked to Dennis Bingham about how the Oscars work and how significant the awards actually are.

Dennis Bingham, IUPUI's Film Studies director

Dennis Bingham, IUPUI's Film Studies director

Since 2009, the Academy has allowed up to ten films be nominated for best picture, and there have been numerous times where the nominations have not gone up to that many, usually staying around eight to nine, with this year being the latter, and there’s a reason for that.

Bingham explains that films being voted by the Academy need to reach a voting percent of at least five percent in order to be nominated for best picture, and everyone within the Academy is able to vote for best picture.

Ever since that rule between five and ten nominations, Bingham also mentions that there hasn’t been a film to ever sweep. Films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Gravity” have won multiple Oscars, but not in the bigger categories like best picture. With the multiple best picture nominations, there’s more to choose from and makes the winners more diverse he adds.

The Academy Awards, while an award that looks impressive for filmmakers on their resumes, can be seen by the general public as something not that important. In asking Bingham about the importance of the Oscars, he said:

“It’s easy to always say that too much is made of the Oscars.” Bingham said. But in discussing the importance of films within the Oscars, Bingham raises the question, “Would a lot of films like ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Lion’ be made if you didn’t have the Oscars?”

While on the subject of the significance of the Oscars, Bingham added, “There’s so much attention that if you can say that your film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won three, that’s huge. The DVD can be marketed for the next hundred years as being an Academy Award winner, so I think you might have nothing but superhero movies if it weren’t the Oscars. So in our era, they become important and part of the filmmaking process, and they always were to get movies to be taken more seriously.”

There’s a term called “Oscar-bait” where it’s directed towards films that are seen to be made purely for winning Oscars. Bingham mentioned an article created by Mark Harris about the condescending term, restating Harris by saying that it isn’t fair to call those movies “Oscar-bait” because there isn’t a pre-sold audience for them and there’s still a large amount of effort put into those films. 

He also comments, “They aren’t comic book films, sequels, or adaptations, and companies are not pushing the filmmakers to make the films.”

The Guilds (actor’s, directors, and screenwriters) present their own awards around this time of year and Bingham finds them important as well. He also finds them as precursors to the Oscars with one’s like the directors who win at the guild will usually go on to win at the Academy Awards. 

While these can be seen as precursors, Bingham thinks they have taken away some of the fun of the Oscars. 

“The Oscars used to be a lot less predictable than they are now,” Bingham said.

With the other awards that are given out prior, it’s easier to see who will win when the Oscars do finally happen.

Awards such as the Critic’s Choice that take place much earlier in award season, there’s usually a film the critics have in favor and that film will run the awards for a while, but that doesn’t mean that the industry will agree with them. 

“‘Moonlight’ pretty well ran the table of those critics awards, and then the question becomes, ‘Will the industry be behind ‘Moonlight’?’ So when the Guild awards come out and they go for ‘La La Land,’ then it becomes more clear the industry, which ultimately means the Academy, is in favor of that film over ‘Moonlight.’”

Bingham recalls another time something like this happened back in 2014 when films like “Boyhood” and “Birdman” came out. He mentioned how the same thing happened with “Boyhood” where people thought it was going to win the awards at the Oscars with it winning at the Critic’s Choice and Golden Globes, but when the Guilds came out, everyone shifted towards “Birdman.”

With that, there’s a distinct disconnection, with the old saying, “Critics don’t give Oscars,” to what the Critics favor compared to the industry.

The 89th Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

The 89th Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

He also commented on films of the past on earning the golden statue. “Ideally, we should be giving academy awards to films from 1991.” As means to showing what films are standing the test of time, much like the filmmakers who earn Oscars at the Academy Governors Awards where they honor people’s work over time.

Something that Bingham is very critical about with the Oscars now is them eliminating the awards to those who earn these Oscars at the Governors awards. 

“Often, those speeches the people make at the Governor's awards give would be the highlights of the show, and now they’re shoved off into October or November, where they’re not televised, and they’re a footnote now,” he said.

He mentioned the time Spike Lee won an Oscar at the Governor’s awards, “You may of heard Spike Lee won one last year, but if he had won and it was on the show, then he would’ve had a nationwide platform for five minutes and could’ve talked to the whole world.” He feels that the Academy has let the network dictate what they’re going to do and instead of television covering the Oscars it’s now the Oscars as a television show.