I'm just dying to complain a bit about the Golden Globes, so please indulge me for just a moment. Let's take a look at the winner for Best Dramatic Film, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel (currently playing on 173 screens). Now, let's compare it with two other films directed by Iñárritu's pals, Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men and Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (194 screens). Being totally honest, hardly anyone would say that Babel is the best film of the three. It's long and vague and reeks of self-importance, and even some of our most overenthusiastic critics shrugged their shoulders at it. But of the three, it's the most awards-like. It has a message about guns, and one character has a medical condition (she's deaf), which almost always results in awards. Plus, it carefully straddles the line between confusing and complex, so that even viewers who didn't quite get the point were reluctant to say so for fear of looking dumb. (Last year's Syriana pulled off the same stunt.)
On the other hand, Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men employ genre elements in their story construction, namely horror and sci-fi, and nothing turns off awards-givers faster. Not that either film was dumb, not by a long shot. But their messages were cleverly woven into the story's fabric, instead of waved around like a flag. Such subtleties are often lost on the folks that hand out awards. This leads one to conclude, though many find the idea ludicrous or depressing, that filmmakers deliberately make films with certain elements in place to win awards. But what's really depressing is not so much that they do this, but that it works.