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The 84 th Annual Academy Awards

An awards show recognizing 2011's accomplishment in film.

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It Has Gotten So Far Out of the Mainstream Movie Lovers Just Can't Be Expected to Watch

  • Mar 4, 2012
  • by
Rating:
-3
I've made few secrets about how much I love the Oscars.  I love the guessing games.  I love the oscar pools.  I love watching the red carpet and watching the glamorous dresses and picking out the best and worst dress.  I like the guessing game.  The Oscars isn't about watching pretentious movie snobs give out awards.  It is, like some of the other award shows, about the entertainment factor and about hoping we see the people (or film, in this case) win what we think they should win.  It's part of the reason we tune in.  It's part of the reason we continue to watch these award shows.

Throughout the past decade at least, the Oscars have had something of an identity crisis.  One that they've been stuck in for years.  And as time has gone on it has made the show less interesting to watch and less entertaining.  Even the Oscar pool isn't the same anymore.  And it isn't just because it's predictable (if you didn't know The Artist would take home Best Picture, for instance, you were living under a rock) as hell now.  It's mainly because even in this day and age the movies that get nominated are just movies that people aren't likely to have seen. 

There are two things I have to address here, however, that people are not entirely aware of.  The first is that the Oscars wasn't always this way.  Movies such as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Fugitive, The Color Purple, The Lord of the Rings, A Clockwork Orange etc.... used to have a chance of actually being nominated for Best Picture.  In this day and age, the Academy would snub them.  either because they made too much money (as is the case with E.T. or Star Wars) or because they aren't prestigious enough (as is the case with Raiders of the Lost Ark) or because they aren't dramatic enough (as is the case with The Fugitive, there's simply too much action for that movie to be a contender for Best Picture).  In the past, it really did used to be that just about anything could be nominated for Best Picture.  ALL of the movies I listed above were nominated for Best Picture... but would most certainly miss the count now.  And what's odd about this years Oscar?  They opened the Best Picture slots up to nine so that movies of that kind COULD be nominated for Best Picture in the first place.  But it only took two years before the Academy sank back into it's strange ways.

The second thing to address is that the idea that a mainstream movie is bad because it appeals to the mainstream or that an indie film is suddenly better because of a low budget is the stupidiest argument that movie goers ever got into.  Indie movies aren't better than mainstream as a general rule... it just so happens the indie films that make it are ones that appear to be really good to audiences.  And sure, you haven't heard of them, but just because they're sitting there making some artistic statement doesn't instantly make them better.  There Will Be Blood may have been artistic, but it sure as hell wasn't entertaining.  And that's a movie there was hardly anything wrong with... but it was certainly a great cure for insomnia.  Likewise, Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would've been awful even if it had been an Indie Film.  It used to be that good movies were good movies.  Didn't matter how big or small they were. 

And this is by far the trap that has ensnared the current generation of Academy voters.  It consists of people who nominate films based on prestigious merit rather than as merits of a film.  As I said, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a movie that wouldn't have a chance in hell of being nominated for Best Picture in this day and age.  And yes, being nominated used to really be an honor because it brought more attention to your movie.  It meant that the craftsmanship of a film was being acknowledged and represented.

This year it was on display like never before.  And it isn't that movies like The Artist or The Descendants aren't good movies.  No.  And perhaps The Artist really deserved a Best Picture nod.  The issue is that had they been bigger movies (or simply made more money) they wouldn't have been nominated in the first place.  For Movie Snobs and Indie Film goers this all sounds fine.  The problem is they already have several film festival awards for that as it is.  The Sundance Film Festival, the Canne Film Festival, The Independent Spirit Awards already award Indie Films and have helped several film makers get their foot in the door to going to bigger and better films (but not ALWAYS bigger and better, some like remaining low budget and others make sure they stay within the means of what they'd like to do).  The issue with the Academy Awards is that it sort of forgets that mainstream cinema... is still cinema.  And that it isn't artistry it used to award.  It used to be the mastery of that artistry.  The reason Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for Best Picture was most certainly not because it was turning heads and changing the name of the game as we knew it.  There's nothing particularly "original" about the film.  It just happens to be crafted so well that it becomes to be known as art.  But innovative and original?  I can't say I'd assign that to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Even moments such as the famous Dessert Chase or the melting faces had been done before (in a different context, of course).  They just borrowed from what already existed and meshed them together so well they crafted a film that some remark as one of the greatest there ever was. 

And in some ways we can admire the Academy wanting to retain that in some ways.  The Artist, for instance, is hardly innovative either.  But it does what it does REALLY well.  It's not that the movie is low budget that made it so good.  Why can't people just sit back and admit that's it's a good movie regardless of how much money was or wasn't spent on it?  Or regardless of how "innovative" or "original" it was?  That's the part that used to matter.  To some degree it still does. 

The rumor used to be that if a movie made a bunch of money it was a sure fire nomination or something.  This is mostly brought on by the fact that the only time people actually remember watching the Oscars is FOR that reason.  Meaning that... you watched in 1998 when Titanic was bigger than anything on the planet and you wanted to see if it would win... but the very next year you tuned out because there wasn't a movie THAT big that was nominated for it (Shakespeare in Love walked away a winner over the much more audience admired Saving Private Ryan).  People watched in 2004 when Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was huge but not in 2005 when Million Dollar Baby became that little movie that could.  People watched in 1995 when Forest Gump was really big and won (over the now more fondly remembered Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction) but did not seem to be too enthused in 1996 when Braveheart won... or in 1997 when The English Patient won.  And while Braveheart is certainly a popular movie... it isn't exactly one that was lighting up the box office (Toy Story, for instance, grossed twice as much as Braveheart and that movie wasn't nominated for Best Picture... and there wasn't a Best Animated Movie category yet).  So the idea that Box Office gross was ever THAT important just seems like a moot point when it was pretty clear that it was quite ambiguous.  Sometimes a big film would win and sometimes it wouldn't.

Yet nowadays Box Office kind of plays a role.  That being that if a movie makes a little too much money and appeals a little too broadly you can almost assume they'll find a reason.  Although a lot of this comes from the fact that many Academy voters now just simply don't like movies which come around in the summer.  Because it's when the "stupid" movies come out for "idiots" as it were.  Of course, that's an idiotic thought in and of itself.  We all know that Transformers: Dark of the Moon made a gazillion dollars, but that doesn't mean anyone was actually expecting it to be nominated for Best Picture.  Most of us know that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is stupid... but none of us were exactly going to watch it for some smart and intelligent plotting or anything like that to begin with.  Who the hell would do that?  And when it gets criticized, recall that it's usually because of its merits as a film and not because it was just "stupid." 

Still with me so far?  Good. 

This year was the strangest case of the Academy Awards trying really hard to avoid mainstream films.  In their defense, 2011 was not exactly booming with a ton of good movies.  Neither mainstream nor independent.  It was hard to simply pick a film.  Only one crowd pleaser actually managed to get any sort of acclaim and respect ("The Help") while many others that probably should've been given some credit ("Bridesmaids," or  "50/50," for instance) were ignored. 

Instead what we got were mostly films no one had ever heard of being nominated for Best Picture and for other categories.  Again, it's strange because the whole point of broadening the Best Picture category from five to ten was so that movies that did appeal to crowds but still showed good film making could actually be nominated for Best Picture.  A sort of, "We still care about what people enjoy in our medium," type thing.  I understand this strange trend of, "Rally against anything popular," is still a REALLY popular thing right now (is that irony?  No it's not; it's stupidity) but it has caused the Academy Awards to lose some spark as to what made it so much fun to begin with.  Regardless of what people think, people are concerned about their horse in the race.  If movies people haven't even heard of are getting nominated... then no one really wants to watch the Oscars.  The movie they hoped would take home something isn't there.  And believe it or not, it's why people tune in. 

I hear all the time things like, "I don't care about the Oscars," but strangely enough they feel compelled to talk about them all the goddamn time and feel compelled to voice their displeasure when the nominees aren't the nominees they want.  If they didn't care so much... why even bother paying any attention at all?  It's a puzzling thought, but one that is worth asking.  Why do they care?  My guess is that it would be nice to feel as though we, the audience, were included in the Oscars.  But because movies most of us just can't wrap our head around what gets nominated for damn near anything now, it's a little hard.  So we say we don't care... but yet we're listening for who won anyway (even though we know we won't see it). 

I wish I could tell you that my Oscar Pool went great this year, but so much was nominated that I simply knew nothing about I couldn't tell you.  In short, I just didn't feel like partaking in one this year when I couldn't even get into the spirit to see some of these movies.  The nearest theater that would even show half of them is a lot farther away than I'm willing to go, for one thing.  And the ones I could see just didn't fill me with much excitement.  I did get the winner for Best Picture right... but like I said, if you DIDN'T know that one, you were probably living under a rock.  It was the only movie that anyone really made any sort of fuss about.  And while there were some other predictable nominees (The Descendants was an obvious Best Picture nominee and Best Actor one, but we all knew it would win neither) there was just no fun in picking winners this year.  It never is when you simply don't care about the movies being nominated.

The only thing that seemed fun about this years Oscars was that Billy Crystal was there to host and did a fantastic job.  Were it not for him the Oscars might've just been a cure for insomnia.  But he was charming, entertaining and just simply didn't try so hard.  Last year James Franco looked as though he didn't want to be there... and Anne Hathaway was just bizarre.  So it was nice to see that at least the Academy was willing to try to restore SOMETHING that made it good by getting a charming comedian instead of trying so hard to appeal to the younger demographic. 

You know what would appeal to the younger demographic?  Nominating movies they actually knew about or cared about.  And before some idiot comes by making a Twilight joke, it's important to realize that the box office receipts and the audience reception are two different things.  Twilight does well because the people who hate it are ALSO spending money to go and see it so that they can hate it (I probably wouldn't even know what the hell Twilight was had it not been for some of my friends going on so incessantly about how much they hate it).  No, what I mean is there are movies that did well that are well liked by a younger crowd and that don't exactly involve sparkly vampires... or dumb giant robots.  Movies like Bridesmaids or even giving something to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows might've been nice (Harry Potter certainly deserves SOME recognition considering all the film series has been through and still manages to please quite a bit of the fanbase--while really annoying others).  It doesn't have to be that complicated.  And even members of a younger crowd are probably not too bothered by some of the others nominees either (meaning that a movie like The Descendants probably appeals to younger audiences as well). 

What the Academy is still having a hard time grasping is that it's not about the show in and of itself.  The show never needed much improvement.  It needs things to be cut and things to be shorter, but the presentation was never the problem.  What the Academy fails to see is just what the Oscars is about.  It's not about the show.  It's not about the red carpet.  It's not about who is hosting.  It's not about how many ads for JCPenny Ellen Degeneres can do while repeating the same stupid joke over and over (I had to get that off my chest... I love you Ellen, but the "Has it always been this way," bit got old really quickly). 

It's about the movies.

And until they once again begin to make Oscar about the movies, and step away from this "How snobby can we be?" bullshit, then it's going to continue to be a downer to watch every year.  Movies such as The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, Brave and Prometheus look like promising films in some ways.  If they're good... will they be honored?  And if they're not then we'll kindly let them fade away.  But don't let them fade away because one is about a guy in a batsuit or that one is an animated movie or that one is science fiction.  It's about the movies... make it about the movies.  And stop being so pretentious and stuck up your ass about it, already!

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March 05, 2012
Well-written, Sean! I caught snippets of this and am now glad that I didn't take the time out just to watch it. Hopefully they'll make some changes next year!
 
March 04, 2012
I really don't watch the awards shows any more. I can see your frustrations with them. Nice one, Sean.
 
March 04, 2012
Compare today's movies to my time. i.e.

o The 10 Commandments

o The Snow Queen

o The Sky Above and The Mud Below

o Mary Poppins

o Abbot and Costello in "Hold That Ghost"

o It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and many other fine movies with intelligent plots and fine cinema.
 
1
More 84th Academy Awards reviews
review by . January 25, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Road to Wrestlemani...the Oscars have finally begun. Most would agree it was a pretty weak year in film. There are a score of movies that came out last year which would probably be taking home the award this year. That is just not the case though, so let's take a look at some of the nominations or lack there of      Best Picture   “The Artist”   “The Descendants”   “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”   …
Quick Tip by . February 27, 2012
Was that last night?  I was too busy watching The Walking Dead and then snoozing through Comic Book Men to check out the Academy Awards.      All jokes aside, I'm sick and tired of all of these self-serving awards programs.  95% of the time the general public doesn't even know most of the films that get nominations. 
Quick Tip by . February 28, 2012
This show seems to get more boring each year. After a fairly exciting Grammy Awards two weeks ago, this show is a real snooze. How a silent French black and white film can be the best picture and how an actor with no lines can win best actor is beyond me. The Red Carpet pre-show was a lot more interesting and even that was boring compared to the Grammys pre-show.
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #5
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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