Here’s the problem with this scenario, which the dumb Satellite Awards story serves to remind us: when you have to give out your awards at the beginning of December, you’re making proclamations about an incomplete year, and all the movies haven’t come out yet. Some accommodations are made for the big organizations; as Gold Derby points out, Paramount has allowed Golden Globe, New York Film Critics Circle, and National Board of Review voters to see The Wolf of Wall Street in advance of its first critics screening on December 6. But everyone else is shit outta luck — for example, I’m a member of the Online Film Critics Society, which this year decided to bump up its final ballot deadline from January 6 to December 14. Our nominations are announced Monday, so there’s a good chance we won’t be nominating Wolf of Wall Street, because so many of us haven’t seen it yet.
But here’s what’s even more important than whether voters are seeing all the movies they should: they don’t have the time to consider all the movies they should. The hustle-bustle bullshit of the Awards-Industrial Complex has nothing to do with film and everything to do with business — the business of “awards blogging” (I’ve lost track of the sites that exist solely for the year-round purpose of predicting and odds-making) and film promotion (nothing like having a bunch of critics’ society laurels to spruce up the ads for your studio’s Christmas week release) and raising the profile of your awards-giving society. It’s all clatter; none of it actually matters, or has anything to do with an honest assessment of the year’s finest achievements in film.
Awards and recognition should not drive film culture, but every year, the tail wags the dog a little more: citations creep a little bit earlier, the November/December calendar gets a little more crowded, the rest of the year gets a little more barren for adult audiences looking for movies that don’t treat them like morons, and the country that lies between the coasts has to wait a little bit longer to see the movies they’ve been hearing critics crow about for months. And viewed through that lens, the Satellite Awards story actually seems less like a horrifying breach of etiquette and more like the natural extension of an awards-season landscape where the last thing that matters is whether anyone has actually seen the fucking movie.