The Problem with the Oscars lately or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

And just like that, I unexpectedly return after an unexplained absence from blogging. (I just couldn’t think of anything great to write…oops) Don’t worry, if you ever wanted to see me rant, this is the blog for you.

So, in less than a week now, the Academy Awards are going to announce their nominations for this year’s ceremony. And after the unbelievable choices that the Golden Globes made for their awards, I’m already prepared for disappointment come Oscar time.

Now I know a lot of people dismiss the Oscars for various reasons; some feeling art shouldn’t be judged, while others just think the awards are nothing but a colossal waste of time and a way for stars to feel better about themselves. But, I feel that the Oscars (especially over the past few years) really provide an interesting perspective on the current status of the film industry.

Now, would you care to join me on my road of criticism? No? Oh….well…please?

Good, if you read this far down, that means you still give a crap about what I’m talking about.

So, now you’re wondering, why exactly do I strongly dislike the Academy Awards? Well let me take you on a trip down memory lane.

In 2008 “The Dark Knight” opened up to rave reviews and was a major box office success. As if that wasn’t enough, the “long time” Batman fans clamored together hoping that this could finally be the comic book movie that critics recognize as a serious Academy contender. And what happened? The Academy only recognized the late Heath Ledger’s haunting performance as the Joker, and The Dark Knight received no other major award nominations (Picture, Director, Screenplay, or any other acting category).

From this, the Academy got a lot of backlash, and in addition their viewership was plummeting. Minus the darling “Slumdog Millionaire”, no other movie that was nominated for best picture had captured people’s attention (maybe Benjamin Button for about five minutes). So, what happened the next year? The academy decides to add five more films to their best picture category, with little to no explanation except for the fact that this was an excuse to get more mainstream films on the nominations list. Because of ONE film not getting in, they decided to add FIVE more nominations. This is when the trouble started.

In the first year of the “ten picture selection” era, films such as “The Blind Side”, “Precious”, “An Education”, and “A Serious Man” were nominated for the best picture of the year. Now I know some people are saying, well everyone has an opinion, but honestly none of those movies can be seen as instant classics. Given they are good, solid films, but best film of the year? C’mon man. (yes a sports reference was just made).

In the second year of the new selection process, the same thing happened. “The Kids are all Right”, “Winter’s Bone”, and “The Fighter” made it into the best picture nominations. Now I personally enjoyed Winter and Fighter, but honestly there was nothing about those movies that should jettison them into the best picture category.

Blind Side and Fighter capture the typical, cliched, inspirational sports movie, in which everyone predicts how it will end with the underdog beating the odds and finally reaching his goal. Precious, Serious Man, and Winter’s Bone all followed typical independent filmmaking styles and traditions with undefined imagery, depressing down on their luck characters, and obviously low budget filmmaking techniques (minus Serious Man). Now again, I can’t stress this enough, I’m not trying to riff on these films, but this is the same Academy that nominated such films as “Pulp Fiction”, “E.T.”, and “Raging Bull” for best picture of their respective years. Would you put any of those films in the same class as the films that were previously named?

Now I know some people will say that they were just off-years. But, two years in a row since the ten picture nomination, it is obvious that the Academy are slipping movies in that would just get mainstream people to watch the show.

It shouldn’t be about who watches the show, it should be about the integrity of the films; and politics aside, it should commemorate what films were the touchstone for that year. The film that sets the bar for the others.

In 2010, the Academy selected “The Hurt Locker” for both Best Picture of the year AND Best Original Screenplay. When you think 2010, is Hurt Locker REALLY the first film that comes to your mind? Everyone instantly thinks of two films: AVATAR, and Inglourious Basterds.

Avatar and Basterds were better films than Hurt Locker plain and simple. I know a lot of people feel Avatar had one of the worst and most overused stories ever, but honestly you cannot deny that Avatar changed filmmaking in the same manner Star Wars and Wizard of Oz did during their time.

Now, I will admit I am a bigger fan of Locker over Avatar, but in regards to the film that made the bigger impact, Avatar is the clear winner.

But, overall, my favorite of that year was Basterds. Basterds will be the movie, ten years down the road, that will be remembered. You can quote so many lines from Basterds, but who the hell is going to quote Hurt Locker? How can such a forgettable script like Hurt Locker beat out one of the best scripts Tarantino has written? The story was better, the dialogue was better, everything from a writing stand point was better.

But, as always, the Academy had its fair share of politics, and they put in all of those factors that come with Award ceremonies like ad campaigns and gift baskets which always blur that line between recognizing the best film, and being nice.

Fast forward another year.

The King’s Speech beats out The Social Network for both Best Director and Best Picture of the year. Both being “based on a true story”, these films were both well shot, well written and well acted, and both deserved to be nominated for best picture.

But, Social Network was something new, something unique, something that was fresh and exciting to film buffs. It made a bunch of guys building a website seem incredibly engaging.

King’s Speech was a British period piece with “grandma humor” that was exactly the type of film that the Academy gushes over.

And what happens, King’s Speech wins.

Would you rather go see a Tom Hooper film, or David Fincher? I’m not trying to discredit Mr. Hooper, but his film was a far cry from what Social Network was. Love or hate it, it was a superior film, and one that did not replicate anything else, or feel like something we have all seen a thousand times before.

The Academy simply went with the “safer choice”, which is all fine and dandy, but you are the ACADEMY AWARDS, you should be picking what is the best film, and the best director of the year so that when everyone looks back, the right film was chosen.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “so what? what’s the big deal?”

Don’t worry all of this whining and bitching has a point.

How many times have you heard in the past three years “movies are dying” or “this is the end of great filmmaking”. Every year I hear it more and more “this was a weak year”, “it’s all sequels and remakes”. But, the same critics that spew this out of their mouths are also the same critics that would pick a traditional movie like King’s Speech over the Social Network or films like Hurt Locker over the Basterds.

People contribute this to the 3-D boom, but honestly, why does everyone HATE 3-D? 3-D, when in the right filmmaker’s hands, can be spectacular (Hugo, Avatar, hopefully Prometheus). People misconstrue the post-conversion 3D crap that gets made like “Clash of the Titans” or what they did with “Harry Potter” and argue it’s studios just vying for a quick buck. There are instances where that is not true. If people just gave movies FILMED in 3D a chance, they would see it’s a medium that shouldn’t be shrugged off as a money making fad, it should be seen as something that is wonderful, and yet could be easily misused/abused for greed (as is most great inventions anyways).

All I’m getting at is that film is not dead, people simply try to make it that way. Yes obviously there will be less and less creativity out there, but that’s what makes the money now. Blame the people buying the tickets, not the studios.

But, deep down, in the farthest reaches of art houses, and indie theaters, original ideas are still being made, and there are still filmmakers that deserve a chance. And sometimes you don’t even have to look that far to see a new Tarantino or Coen movie. Just look harder. And maybe try out a REAL 3D movie. (well that last one is up to you, I’m sure no one will)

So, to close it out, I’m sure most of you know what I’m going to say about this year’s Oscars. I’m sure The Descendants will get a billion nominations, and a certain film that hopefully down the road will be looked at with more respect, will get completely shunned. Even though it represents the possible originality and creativity that remains in filmmaking.

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