Don the Curmudgeon's Corner
AVN Voting 2010
One of the biggest trials a reviewer or critic can face each year is the daunting task of voting for the AVN Awards. Certainly part of that is the sheer quantity of nominations to watch and then rank order against one another but given this is the biggest and most comprehensive award show in the industry, by far, it takes on aspects of an insurmountable mountain at times. Remember the old saying to be careful what you wish for? Well, this is one of those times that you just can't understand the depths of the phrase until you've been a voter.
The tidal wave of boxes shipped in from all over the country, even foreign sources, is amusing enough since you get to be on a first name basis with every delivery driver and service for your area. Some boxes are big enough to fit a window air conditioning unit while others contain a single title with tons of shipping peanuts. Some companies, realizing the amount of porn you are going to get will ship immediately after the nominations are announced while a few holdouts will wait to the last minute, the former typically getting more detailed scrutiny as the latter get the "oh fuck, more porn" look a dedicated critic will have taken on by that time.
A few companies helpfully including a list of every award they are nominated for while others will let you figure it out on your own, easy enough when there are a dozen categories but a bit troublesome when you have to rely on memory to know a title had nominations for "best scene" on top of more generalized nods. In a few cases, I had to go back more than once to figure out where a scene actually came from, not finding it on the listed movie after bouncing between categories for the weeks long adventure. Then there were the times when I wondered just how crazy the nomination process became when I see something that would have fit better under another category, my friends suggesting that the process is a whole different adventure altogether.
It's not like I'm new to this rodeo as some of my fellow voters at Xcritic.com are, the voting pool wisely expanded this year to include some of the most knowledgeable porn critics out there. No, these are familiar grounds for me and I take them very seriously knowing how much is at stake, more than some companies will openly admit to be sure, especially considering the harsh economic times. Having seen the other side of the fence, I've had more than one friend ask me just how I keep sane doing this, my answer reflecting the gravity of the task before me. See, I already see a great many of the titles during the year, my reviews detailed enough to serve as helpful voting guides to what I liked, disliked, loved, and hated about specific titles. Compared to most of the voters, I probably see more of those nominations as they come out, testing the foibles of memory as much as the knowledge that my opinion can change just like anyone else over time.
For all the 30 or so voters, it is important to remember that each of us have different tastes in porn, different criteria to evaluate different award categories, the importance of keeping focused and not losing sight of the forest for the trees. I take pride in the fact that my reviews and experience are strong enough to assist other voters with questions too, my own willingness to ask them for their takes on titles in return at least hinting that I know the limits of my experiences too. I don't vote in every category, nor would any credible voter given the magnitude of the task, but I sure in heck try to cover as many of them as I can in a meaningful way so that I can say that I've done my best.
Once upon a time, I was one of those cranks that took AVN to task about the awards, the multitude having expanded geometrically in recent years. Yeah, finding fault in specific nominations or the relative strengths of a movie came just as easily to me as it does to anyone else on the outside. It is practically a cottage industry to fault the nominations committee for every perceived slight under the sun, the loudest of the cranks claiming every outcome is the result of a payoff, advertising dollars, or personal friendships. There are numerous cases proving otherwise but as long as more people lose than win, there will be differences of opinion that get blown out of proportion.
As such, I try to avoid the published AVN magazine so I just won't know who spent what on multi-page ads, removing the subtle barrier that might hint that a company feels so strongly about a particular title they are willing to shell out a ton of money to tell the world to look at it in detail. I know I've reviewed such titles with a chip on my shoulder a time or two, the elevated expectations backfiring on such companies more than they know, but often enough there is some merit to both sides; hence the ability of companies to pre-nominate for awards as a means of bringing titles, scenes, or performers to the probing eyes of the nominations board.
On a related note, since we all have different tastes, picking the best of the best is sure to result in arguments over personal choices that are completely unrelated to such things too. It is no surprise that I'm willing to call out weaker product and parade them through cyberspace as such when fellow reviewers write glowing things. I make no apologies for doing so, even openly discussing the matter on a fellow voter's blog when a vested interest tried to prop up a shitty title as though it merited more than passing consideration for anything other than "lame parody of the year", her sutle threats from earlier in the year apparently bearing no fruit. There is enough crap out there suckering people to waste their money without me giving in to such clowns.
So, while any of us, voters or not, disagree with a particular nomination or eventual winner, please keep in mind that the AVN Awards are more open than ever before, including a variety of strong willed critics who take the process more seriously than some would like. The only comparable award is the XRCO, all others falling flat by comparison for the reason that they are either easily manipulated (look at how certain performers scramble on twitter or facebook to gather "votes" and even teach fans how to circumvent procedures to prevent multiple voting) or rely on a much smaller group of voters or questionable methodology to select their choices. Seriously, whatever your personal take on awards in general, the experience behind the AVN Awards is measured in decades, not dollars despite those whose noses are pressed against the glass window wanting in.
I look forward to seeing who won what and the resulting arguments it generates next month, feel free to comment in the forums for further discussion. I can't promise I'll agree with you but I'm always curious as to how others look at the subject, having heard so many industry types claim awards don't matter yet every year they line up to spend significant amounts of money advertising all over the place, sending thousands of screener discs, and put up with the results in public.