Saturday, December 12, 2009
Disclaimer: This is from the POV of someone (me) who has interacted solely with members of the Academy who are cool, progressive & vote for what they actually love instead of what what many are pressured into voting for by studio campaigns, critics picks & general Oscar prognostication
Let's get something straight here. I LOVE the Oscars. Love. Every year since I was old enough to have an appreciation of movies, I have made a point to see as many Oscar nominated films as possible, every year. This soon evolved into seeing every movie that COULD be nominated for an Oscar, getting the bulk of my viewing in before the Academy released their noms. I like making my top 10 lists, my top 25 lists and up until this year, my top 5 list, which has always taken careful thought & lots of deliberation, mostly due to having to fight against the influence of Golden Globe winners, Critics choices, etc. My #1 movie of 2005 was Shaun of the Dead. My top five last year consisted of a Swedish Vampire movie & a British movie about a genuinely happy woman from one of my least favorite directors of all time. In 2001, my top 5 was Lord of the Rings and 4 movies that began with the letter M, that are also all considered genre flicks in my book. I've never appreciated being told what to like by critics, but this year, I feel a line is being crossed...
See, every year, the internet gets bigger, but smaller at the same time. More and more blogs get recognition, more sites become well known, more bloggers are invited to screenings, earlier and earlier, so the word gets out sooner and sooner. Opinions are instantly formed and blasted across Twitter and within hours, we have a new front-runner.
Take the past two days. Thursday night my Twitter exploded with 140 character reviews of Avatar, which screened for press for the first time that evening. They were all GLOWING, (save for the seemingly universal thought that the dialogue sucks and the story could have been slightly better) and by Friday morning there were blog posts galore positing that Avatar had a chance not only of being nominated for Best Picture, but winning. That's funny, cause you know who HASN'T seen Avatar yet? ACADEMY MEMBERS.
The rest after the jump
Let's take a look at the Up in the Air, the so called front runner to win Best Picture right now. In December. For weeks, if not months, I've been hearing that this is the movie to beat, it's fantastic, amazing performances, etc etc. But...Paramount only sent the film out to Academy members YESTERDAY. So now, members remotely connected to the Internet at all are going into this movie with incredibly high expectations and perhaps with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. Instead of getting to discover this gem for themselves, they are acutely aware that they are watching the front runner...for the awards THEY nominate. A film that was considered a front-runner before it even opened in theaters or had a single screening for the Academy. Does something not seem off here?
This just adds fuel to the fire that's been steadily rising in my universe of Oscar prognostication. I used to have so much fun guessing the Oscar nominations, but a lot of that fun has been taken away, a little more, year by year, by not only Internet influence, but Critic's Awards.
Children of Men (and frankly, Shaun of the Dead) is now highly regarded as one of the best films of the decade, yet was hardly recognized at the Oscars. I credit this with the fact that it hadn't appeared on any other Critic's list, so what chance did it have? ::Also, Universal, grumble grumble:: Academy members thought, "Oh, it's not on anyone else's best list, so I guess I don't have to watch it" meanwhile, those who DID watch it, had it in their #1 nominating slot. Jennifer Hudson said some lines and sang a song well and because all the other Critics chose her, the Academy certainly had to, right? I'm so sick of this direction the Oscars are heading, where they simply fill in what was outlined by everyone else who didn't work their asses off in this industry to make it into the Academy. (No offense to us bloggers & you critics, you've worked incredibly hard to get where you are, I'm simply saying the Academy should get to do the job they were voted in the Academy to do and that's becoming increasingly difficult.)
Don't get me wrong, politics have been playing a huge role in the Oscars for a long time, especially in the 21st century (Julia Roberts over Ellen Burstyn, anyone?), but we're almost to a place of no return. Up in the Air is officially fucked. Either it's been way too hyped up and a movie that could have taken every Academy member by surprise is swept under the rug as "overrated" or it goes on to win Best Picture and once again, the Oscars are grossly predictable and the new 10 movie nominating format has done nothing.
Ah hah. But there IS something changing this year. The Academy saw what was happening and decided to get old school in an attempt to defy the new school. 10 nominees. If you look at the Best Pic nominees of this decade, they all consist of the following: the epic, the indie fav, the biopic, the musical, the period piece/British fare, the arty farty, the scorsese/eastwood/spielberg or a double up like last years Milk Frost/Nixon double bio pic snooze fest (Sidenote: I enjoyed both films). Now take a look at the 90s - the films DO NOT follow this format to a tee, often the nominees may GASP actually have been the best of the year. In the 2009 Oscars, as we enter a new decade, I'm hoping we may see a marriage of the aughts and the 90s in the Best Pic nominees...sure, there will still be at least 5 noms that are selected out of guilt, or being cornered, or politics, but what if there are also 5 that are ACTUALLY favorites?! Perhaps an animated movie or two! A non-epic genre movie or two! The best romantic comedy in years?! God forbid, a movie directed by a woman?! Movies based on children's books?! A doc about an aging metal group?! A brilliantly disturbing Korean vampire movie?! Okay, maybe I'm aiming too high bringing Thirst into the picture, but you get what I mean.
If you think I'm way off base here, please comment below. I've just been having lots of thoughts on the matter lately so I thought I'd throw them out to you loyal readers & see what you think. There are tons of holes in my argument, I'm sure, I'm not going for an air tight dissection of the movie industry here, just looking to encourage thought & discussion.
And hey, just for fun, if we follow the format this decade has set up for us, the top 5 would be:
Invictus (Eastwood/Biopic. Haven't seen yet)
Up in the Air (Indie fav. Haven't seen yet)
Nine (Musical/Epic. Haven't seen yet)
An Education (British Period Piece - 60s counts!. Seen, loved)
A Serious Man (Arty farty. Seen, loved)
....boring, right? Can you think of some other boring mix a 2009 top 5 would bring us, using those categories?
What other categories do you think the aughts were prone to? War movies? Message movies? World War 2/Holocaust specific movies? Which years in the aughts are the exceptions that prove the rule? Was 1994 the best top 5 ever nominated?
Please comment below. Very interested in your thoughts.
Update 12/15 And then there are times when the buzz sets up a scenario that I would DIE to see - check out Erik Lundegaard's tally and check out who is sweeping the Best Director category. It's time for a woman to win Best Director and since in my opinion, based on what I've seen so far this year, she IS the best director, things are looking good. Almost makes me want Cameron to be nominated too, just so he can lose to his ex-wife.