Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Post Mortem/semi-rant

I love the Oscars, but even I don't want to listen to my favorite Oscar podcasts or even go to my favorite Oscar sites.  That being said, I have a rant building in me...and I'm going to let it out.

1.  Natalie won.

I said it back in October, and I stand by it:  It was the strongest, most complicated performance of the year.  In many years.  I have honestly had to rethink my opinion of certain critics/peers after hearing dissent for her performance.  I get that the film might not be for all people.  But what she does in that role is nothing less than a revelation.  Was it showy and over the top?  No. Watch "The Fighter" if you want to see that type of acting.  Portman's work was heightened reality.

2. The Hosts/ratings

Was Franco really that bad?  I didn't pay much attention past the opening montage, which was incredible.  Already people are saying that the ratings drop was due to the hosts.  Hmmm.... People watch the Oscars when movies they LOVE are nominated.  We didn't have an "Avatar" or "Titanic" this year.  We had great smaller scale (Inception and perhaps TS3 removed) films nominated.  Not to be too much of a regionalist...but those middle states don't always respond to films like "Winter's Bone." Maybe because they live it.

3. Best Picture/Director happened.  Tom Hooper won best director.  Yes, it wasn't deserved.  If you know anything about know what Fincher did...what Aronofsky did.  What Hooper did was get great performances out of great actors using standard cinematography and themes that have been around for years and years.  Nothing new there.  Sure it was good. But not Best Picture of the year. Look for "The King's Speech" on bargain racks for $5 in a few years next to "Gladiator," "How Green Was My Valley," and "Dances With Wolves." A good film that is immediately discredited for beating one of the best, most relevant films of our time.  But I guess it made people feel good.  Next time take a Prozac, Academy.

4. Shorts

This was a very weak year for Oscar shorts.  Of all 15, I only liked 3.  One of them, "Strangers No More," won Best Documentary Short.  It was not the best, but it was good.  (Definitely check out "Warriors of Quiquang.")  I fell asleep during the animated short winner, "The Lost Thing."  Again, it was ok.  But this is the freaking Oscars!  And in terms of Live Action...jeez.  I do a lot of student films, but "God of Love" felt like a student film.  In all the bad ways.

5. The Reviews

I have for a few years now been so disappointed with "reviews" of the Oscars.  Imagine if I wrote the "review" of the Super Bowl for the New York Post.  Would be horrible, right?  That's how I feel reading almost every major publication the day after the Oscars.  The Huffington Post had a headline stating there were no surprises last night.  Umm...yes there were.  Several.  I understand that some people can't see all of the films...some journalists who have to critique the Oscars don't actually cover Oscars year round...but there are more awards than the top 5.  Oddly enough, these are the same people, every year, who complain that the show is too long, but somehow manage to suggest things they should have added.

Yes, negativity sells, and yes, I'm oozing with it right now, but for what I consider to be the right reasons.   Could publications actually consider having people who ENJOY awards shows to begin with write about them?  Or maybe people who are at least informed!  Maybe if these "critics" actually watched all the films nominated, they wouldn't be so annoyed that those "smaller" awards were being given out.  Why do I see all the films?  Because it's my job to see the films.  I'm covering the Oscars.  How can I do that and not see the nominated films?  I'm not just a Best Picture writer.

On Twitter I have seen plenty of objective criticism, but in the majors, it's "same old, same old."  Hate on the hosts, hate on the length, blah blah blah.  If the critics/bloggers/journos actually focused on the films, god forbid, maybe they could discuss what matters.  The awards!

6. It's what you make of it.

My friend Nathan on Twitter said the Oscars distract people from going deeper.  I don't agree...exactly.  Sure it can distract.  The Oscars are what you make of them.  I saw all 56 (?) films nominated for Oscars.  Not just for bragging rights.  I actually watch the films for the films.  Therefore my Oscar experience is a celebration of film.

7.  Putting it to bed.

The Oscars are over.  Thank goodness.  This whole season has been so ridiculous.

"I am bored.  The Social Network is winning too much."
"Wait a minute.  The Social Network isn't going to win BP?  I'm not bored anymore.  I'm mad."

You get what you wish for.  Either accept the ride or get off of the Oscar train.  If you are bored.  STOP WRITING ABOUT THE OSCARS!  It was a mostly good time overloaded with negative noise.  Great films overshadowed by comparisons to Citizen Kane...and major critics (Edelstein, Scott) calling out other critics for having opinions, not their own.  Oscar panels with "journos" v/s bloggers.  One thinking they are better than the other, when they are actually a dying breed, and the other self deprecating themselves when they are the ones people actually listen to.

Let's get back to the movies! Let's enjoy film again.  At least until this time next year.

I want to thank Rick Hamilton for helping me take Awards Wiz to another level.
I want to thank Sasha Stone for letting me write for Awards Daily.  Seriously...a dream of mine.
Ryan Adams:  What is there to say?  I wish we could go to Limelight together.
Thanks to Anne Thompson for helping me figure out who to contact when I needed to find films in order to see all the nominees.
Thanks to Peter Knegt, Guy Lodge and Kris Tapley for always engaging in conversation.
And to everyone who came to my Oscar party last night.  Old/new friends.  But what I really learned.  You are the real friends.  There through success...not just failure.
And to Steve. Words aren't enough.


  1. Let me try to explain my position, since here I have more than 140 characters...

    It's true that for some people such as yourself, you look at the Oscars as a celebration of film. Unfortunately, I find that much more of the time, it's just people arguing about what movie should win the Oscar, not what movie actually has the merits to be considered "good" or even "great". Do people get into that discussion? Of course some people do. But much of the time, it's always in the context of "The Oscars". And if movie X doesn't win, then it's somehow a huge crime. In that way, it is a distraction. It's a distraction from thinking more deeply about the films we're watching. It's so much about taking sides one way or another. "This movie is more deserving of the Oscar!" - Why does it matter one way or another what wins? If something as atrocious as Transformers 2 or say Norbit, had been nominated for Best Picture, that might be an outrage. Norbit got a beautiful 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. But just to use The King's Speech (since it just won Best Picture) as an example, it got 95% on Rotten Tomatoes to The Social Network's 96%.

    But all of the outrage at The King's Speech somehow sneaking up and claiming the top prize was all people could talk about. And it wasn't just about it potentially winning. It was that it was somehow UNDESERVING to win (95% consensus on Rotten Tomatoes hardly seems undeserving from a consensus standpoint).

    Let's look at it this way: the discussion of The King's Speech amounted to essentially "it doesn't deserve to win because The Social Network won more critics prizes" - then somehow we got attacks of King George VI having been a Nazi sympathizer from Christopher Hitchens (who forgets that this, unlike John Adams, was just a 2-hour film, not a 6-part epic miniseries), and then people laughing at it for having a set in common with a gay porn film. I point is, EVERYTHING is put through the lens of Oscar. People stop looking at the movie from an unbiased perspective as soon as it gets attention. Is that to be expected? Yes. Is that the RIGHT thing to do? I don't think so.

    People weren't really analyzing the merits of its screenplay as a movie so much as they were analyzing it in comparison to other screenplays nominated for Oscars, and then considering whether it's "Oscar-worthy". People weren't really analyzing the way it was edited to elucidate the relationship between Bertie and Logue -- the way the shot, reverse-shot puts them on opposite sides of the screen (right and left), something I found quite interesting. Is it there to show that the two characters come from opposite ends of the spectrum? Or that they're equals in Logue's office, but still separate?

    I'm not saying no one was looking at it that way. I just think that people get so caught up in the Oscars that they forget that it is, in the end, just an exclusive election among around 6,000 people, with campaigns and candidates and everything. It's fun, and it's entertaining, but I feel that in a major way, it's a distraction from what makes certain films so meaningful, or so personal to the individual. Because it reduces it to nothing more than petty competition with mud-slinging and insults and everything.

    Perhaps I'm just being a complete and utter cynic. If someone labeled me as such I wouldn't disagree (completely). But I find that more often than not, actual thoughtful discussion on film gets lost in the noise of the Oscars when they loom their ugly head (was that too harsh?). Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.

    p.s. I'm sorry I wrote so much. If it was too long and you didn't read, that's fine. My fingers just wouldn't leave my keyboard... I gotta train them better or something.

  2. I don't have responses or anything to add on some of these, but:

    2) Yeah, he kind of was. Not in a hideous, he's ruining it kind of way--but Anne Hathaway is super charming and comfortable on stage. Not all film actors are and Franco didn't seem to be. The pre-taped opening segment was good, I'll agree. But the response to Billy Crystal coming on stage led me to believe that even at the Kodak, they were feeling the need for a little more.

    4) I liked more of the shorts than you did. Mentioned in my piece that I wouldn't be surprised if "The Lost Thing" had its admirers. But "God of Love" really surprised me...

    5) So, the first time I read this, I misunderstood your point. I thought you were saying that the awards shouldn't be reviewed, but now I see that you're saying they should be reviewed by people with better knowledge of the event. And it's certainly hard to argue with that in any circumstance.

    6/7: I'm much more removed from the "noise" than you are. And that's not a boast, a complaint or even a judgement. So, while I miss some things, I also get to avoid others! Perhaps its one of the reasons we complement each other so well. I couldn't disagree with Nathan more, though. I think the awards encourage us to go deeper--to compare and contrast all the films, to honor each of them their merits and to discover what it is that we dislike about others. AND (this is what I think is the most important) to be able to voice those differences.

    I get frustrated at times when it becomes less about the work. When things come into play like past work/trade ads/"likeable" (I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard THAT word this season...). Perhaps that's one of the reasons I like to avoid the noise.

    I tend to approach things with my head first. Brian, I think you approach them with your gut first (followed closely by your heart--another way we complement each other...) It's why movies affect you so deeply and why the awards mean so much to you. And I hope you never ever lose that.

    I've been thrilled and honored to be a part of "Awards Wiz" this year. Thank you for including me!

  3. I have no heart! Just kidding. You are absolutely right.

    I think Nathan actually agrees with you...and he and I discussed that a bit last night. There are plenty of people out there who don't use the awards as a way to go deeper. And when there is a 2 way race (TKS/TSN, Bening/Portman) one becomes the good one, one the bad one. Which is too bad. BUT...I have definitely been one to do that...but am learning to analyze in a better way.

    And I think that's all I have to say about that for EVER. Just kidding. At least for a week or so.

  4. Didn't I comment on here? What happened to it? Noooooo!

  5. I have no idea! I definitely didn't delete it, but it is in my email. I can email it back to you...or can repost it. So strange.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Yeah. I figured you didn't delete it. I went to see if anyone else had commented on this post only to see my comment just GONE, hahaha! Well, it's back up, so no worries. :)

  8. Your blog doesn't appear to like my comment.

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