Lost in the forest of awards Essay: Once all of America -- maybe even all the world -- tuned in to the annual Oscar show to see who won. Now, with so many movie awards, it almost doesn't matter.


The Academy Awards. Who needs 'em?

I mean, do we really need them to tell us who the best movie actor was last year? Do we need their stamp of approval before figuring out filmdom's best director or its best cinematographer or its best costume designer? For God's sake, in the year 1997 do we really have to turn to some know-it-alls in L.A. to clue us in on what was the best movie in 1996?

Of course we don't.

Not when we have the Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the National Board of Review Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards and the People's Choice Awards. Not when we have film festival awards in New York and Chicago and Fort Lauderdale and Berlin and Puerto Rico and Cannes and Deauville and Telluride.

Not when we have the Blockbuster Awards.

Cynics in the media say so many movie awards devalue movie awards. They say any night you turn on cable, you're looking at a different award show. I say: You talkin' to me? Just who're we supposed be, Siskel and Ebert? As Pacino says in "Donnie Brasco, "Fuhgeddaboutit."

Case in point: Madonna. Remember when she was chosen to star in "Evita"? Huge part, right? Everyone wants it. Madonna gets it. Suddenly the whole world's saying, "Sure she can dance in a pointy bra, but can this chick actually act? I didn't see anyone handing her any statuettes after 'Who's That Girl?' or 'Shanghai Surprise.' "

Well, now we've got our answer, thanks to the Golden Globe Awards. The jury is in. Theatrically speaking, the Material Girl is for real.

Same thing for Courtney Love. Rocker, druggie, widow. Yeah, she was all that, but who knew whether she could act? Could she ever! How do we know? Easy. She got the Golden Satellites Award as best supporting actress.

Who or what are the Golden Satellites? you ask. What difference does it make? Courtney won, didn't she? That's what counts.

What I like about all these awards is they make you think. For instance, I loved "Fargo" when I saw it last March, thought it was the most enjoyable movie I'd seen since "Pulp Fiction." Now I'm not so sure, what with the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival eschewing "Fargo" as best film in favor of "Shine." And I was really at a loss after the National Society of Film Critics picked "Breaking the Waves" and the American Moviegoers Awards gave the nod to "The English Patient."

(Come to think of it, though, "Pulp Fiction" didn't get the Oscar in '95, did it? How good could it have been after all?)

This brings up one of the big drawbacks with having all these awards. Often, they don't agree with each other. For instance, the National Society of Film Critics said Eddie Murphy was the best actor of the year. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association said it was Geoffrey Rush. The American Moviegoers Awards said it was Tom Cruise.

See the problem? If we are knee-deep in these sorts of contradictions, how are we supposed to know exactly what to think?

I guess what it means is we really do need the Academy Awards after all. Thanks to them, after tonight, we'll finally know who the best actor is.

At least until later this spring when we hear from the MTV Movie Awards.

Pub Date: 3/24/97

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