The life and death of the Star Awards

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There is nothing like film awards season in America to remind us all about how our mimicry fails in comparison. We are fascinated and impressed by the Oscars, we deem credible the results of the Golden Globes. That’s not quite true for its local counterparts.

The Famas, now Luna, Awards is subject for another piece altogether. The Star Awards, in the news yet again for questionable results, is the more important point of discussion; it’s also a different creature from the Famas altogether.

The movie press and credibility
For the Luna Awards, the patronage is intrinsic to the fact of peers voting for each other (a la The Oscars); for the Star Awards, the credibility should be built into the idea that the members of the movie press are experts on the culture industry. Fashioned after the Golden Globes, which is given by the Hollywood Foreign Press, the one thing that the Star Awards needs is the credibility of the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC).

But the latter is, in fact, the Star Awards’ undoing.


It’s not the first time that this award-giving body has become embroiled in controversy, and always it’s about the fact of questionable winners. For 2014, the charge of lobbying and bayaran against the Star Awards for Movies isn’t even a surprise anymore; we imagine this has been happening all these years in some form or other.

The first time I thought this award-giving body was incredible was when it started having a smattering of ties for its bigger awards—that, to me, is the inability to critique and decide between two performances, an inability that no self-respecting award-giving body should fall victim to. The rest of the time I just wondered how it is that a movie press club would have the objectivity to give out awards for culture.

Because in this country, members of the movie press also work as publicists or managers of actors and actresses, if not do the public relations for movies and movie companies. In this country, a member of the movie press is about as credible as a salesman who will only earn some good cash if he’s able to sell you a pair of shoes.

And this is the thing with members of the press giving out awards for the best in culture: how many of them are unaffiliated with, un-employed by, any of the institutions and individuals that they are giving awards to? How many of them have real opinions about films, TV shows, and music?

Indefensible and disingenuous
One would at least hope that the PMPC knows there’s a contradiction here. Some self-reflexivity after all, a reckoning with the limits of one’s ability at judging cultural work given one’s own limitations, could go a long way. It would be better though if it was clear at all how the PMPC chooses its winners. But their choices are inexplicable and they are hard put to defend these.

Say, Vice Ganda winning for Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy on the year when Joel Torre’s Tatang forced on us a redefinition of the bida/contrabida dichotomy in On The Job. Say, KC Concepcion’s win for Best Actress on a year when both Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos were given such beautifully written characters in Ang Kuwento Ni Mabuti and Ekstra, respectively, and Rustica Carpio was just brilliant as the aged and to-be-neglected yaya in Ano Ang Kulay ng Mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?

This is not to question the talents of Vice Ganda and Concepcion (whose greatest performance thus far is in Forever And A Day), as it is to point out how there are years when the movies we make, the talent we become witness to, are such a level-up that we expect our award-giving bodies to rise to the occasion as well.

But no dice. In fact if the PMPC Star Awards this year are any indication, there is a refusal to level-up at all. Case in point: when it decided to include independent films in the awards, it also decided to create totally different categories for it. This year, there are two Best Picture Awardees, On The Job and Badil, and two Best Director Awardees, Eric Matti and Chito Roño. In effect, films and filmmakers are always tied for the best of the year.

Hilarious, I tell you. Hilarious.

Industries silent and complicit
Now this is the thing: I can’t imagine that everyone in the show industry thinks the Star Awards credible. I can’t imagine that all the networks and production companies deem this award-giving body particularly trustworthy. The intelligent members of the culture industry must be able to see through the pomp and pageantry.

Yet as expected, the Star Awards lays claim to the most well-attended awards nights, where celebrities come all dolled up, where they willingly host and present awards, where there is fun and laughter. But of course that’s what we expect: the vicious cycle is such that the culture industry feels indebted to the members of the press if not in fear of them. They fall silent about the Star Awards because it’s still another trophy to put on the shelf.

But that also just makes them all complicit in this task that the PMPC engages in, one that remains highly questionable and is devoid of credibility. It makes the movie and TV and music industries complicit in this task of giving awards not based on merit, but on god-knows-what. It is the culture industry getting the awards they deserve: the ones with no meaning.

The Star Awards is dead. It will live forever.

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