Month: February 2013
Obligatory Oscar Post: My Ideal Academy Awards
As opposed to posting my predictions, ideal winners, or even fantasy Oscars, I’ll take a different route primarily because I am as uninterested in those things about myself as you are. Instead, I’ll lay out briefly my issue with the Academy Awards and how, if I were omnipotent, I would fix it.
There are a plethora of supposed issues with the Oscars, from the feverish campaigning, to the bizarre winners and nominations, et cetera, et cetera. There’s the issue of the Academy itself, made up of a majority of old white people, mostly men, who themselves have never won an Oscar. And, finally, and possibly most “glaring” of all is the issue of the “snubs”. When your favorite film gets shut out of the race, not even acknowledged on technical awards never mind for any of the major categories. It seems that expanding the Best Picture category hasn’t really helped. This was originally done, supposedly, to make up for the lack of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in the Director and Picture categories. That year, the first time that the Best Picture nominees racked up to ten since the studio era, had stuff like Avatar and The Hurt Locker, The Blind Side and Inglourious Basterds, and Up and District 9. The following year, (2010) had a very odd array of stuff from Toy Story 3 to The Fighter, from Black Swan to Winter’s Bone, and from Inception to The Social Network and The King’s Speech. The next year, the Academy changed the rules again, stipulating that, as opposed to ten films being the total number of Best Picture nominees to “anywhere from 5 to 10”, which basically meant nothing. So, there was The Artist and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Moneyball and War Horse, and The Help and The Tree of Life.
What is clear about this method, or any method of nominating a specific number of films (still even evident in this year’s nominees, with picks like Amour and Les Misérables) is that there’s always the exclusion of “better films” and the inclusion of “lesser films”, or, at least films that one wouldn’t normally think of as Best Pic material (I loved Toy Story 3 as much as anyone else, but Best Pic? Really?). And with the inclusion of such films and the exclusion of others, the race becomes more and more obvious, indicating that your favorite will probably not win.
The same can be said of all the other categories, from the tech ones, featuring people who’ve been nominated 9 times and never won (I’m lookin’ at you, Deakins), to the acting categories.
And another issue comes down to the politics of it all. In a world where Doctor Doolittle, the unmitigated disaster from 1967, can score a Best Pic nomination over, say, In Cold Blood, I sense a problem. Do we really live in a world where winning these things is so important that you have to campaign for them? And they have smear campaigns? Yeah, essentially the Oscars have just become career boosters and good PR, but really? That just feels really desperate to me.
And finally, the Academy members themselves: old, white, mostly non-Oscar winners. So, their tastes aren’t exactly contemporary, they like sap and nostalgia and very shallow explorations of social issues. (Some exceptions, though, include Midnight Cowboy winning and being the first and only X rated film to win Best Pic.) If the industry is about trying to appeal to you young audience (with so little attention span, mind you), why are your Academy members so old and pretty much blah?
So, I have a solution. Mind you, it’s democratic, kind of sappy in and of itself, but if I were running the show, I would ideally fashion it a certain way.
My first move would be to make a Cannes style jury vote on the films each year. This technique, of a dozen or so people within the industry vote on certain films in competition, isn’t just limited to the legendary Cannes Film Festival, but remains, pretty much, a staple of most film festivals. So, why not make the Oscars the same? A rotating jury for the major categories, and the smaller juries for the smaller, tech, short, and foreign categories (maybe have some members overlap). These jury members, though, wouldn’t vote on one film. Instead, they would be asked to list their, say, 10 to 15 favorite performances, films, technical accomplishments in film that year. The lists would be compiled together. And the final 25 that received the most votes would all get plaques! Yeah, it may not be as prestigious as a golden boy (maybe a mini Oscar would be a substitute if people are that fussy), but imposition of restraint works against the idea of recognizing great films. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m indecisive.
Another rule would be: absolutely no campaigning beyond the usual screening and post-screening question and answer. Go away, Weinsteins! We don’t need your pandering. (Maybe there should be a rule against Harvey setting foot near the jury members? And no baskets of mini muffins either.) Again, if this is supposed to be a celebration of great film, there really shouldn’t be any need to start running weird ads whining about factual inaccuracy or affairs.
So, in my Utopia, where I run the Oscars, everyone would be happy. Hopefully. I mean, you can’t please everyone, but we can at least do the art the favor of recognizing it appropriately without what feels like corruption. Celebrate film!
(For the record, I’m totally on #TeamHaneke.)
P.S. I’m just glad that, when it ends, people will forget Les Mis existed and I hopefully will never hear the words “Argo fuck yourself” again.”
Why I’m a Cheater: A Note About My Top 10 List
If you saw my personal top ten list of films, my personal favorites, you may have noticed that, instead of the standard ten, on there were technically thirteen. Some films were grouped together like thematic double features, while others stood on their own ground. Numerous (well, what I consider to be numerous) people asked me about this, specifically why. The reason: I’m indecisive.
Although it is my deepest desire and aspiration to become a professional film critic, I know my least favorite thing will be to compile any sort of end of the year list. That hasn’t really stopped me from making one for 2011 (though I published it in July 2012) or one even for 2012. But to make a list of my favorite films ever? I haven’t seen Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, but I assume that’s what they were talking about during the torture debate.
So, I’m indecisive. I know it isn’t comparatively a lot next to people like Alex of And So It Begins, Tyler of Southern Vision, or Matt of the No-Name Movie Blog, but I’ve seen something like 1200 films and to reduce all of my favorites to a simple ten? A nightmare. It was hard enough compiling a list of 101 (where, again, I sort of cheated with some films). I have a running list on my computer of my favorite films and it has nearly 350 films on it.
So, I chose the films that I go back to, or would go back to, on a fairly regular basis. Such films included Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, which is his most enjoyable and even most optimistic film; Clue, a delightful murder mystery comedy; Manhattan, Woody Allen’s gorgeous masterpiece; and Stranger Than Fiction, a touching examination of human life and the writing process. Other films I included were ones that left me thinking, that I could literally not stop talking about or thinking about: David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., his surreal poison love letter to Hollywood; Metropolis, arguably the most important film ever made; Holy Motors, Leos Carax’s deadpan eulogy for film; and Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s majestic, adult fairy tale. And some film are just gorgeous and the kind of thing you want to watch over and over again: Fanny and Alexander, Bergman’s most whimsical film (even at five hours); Modern Times, Chaplin’s last outing as the Tramp; Vivre sa Vie, Godard’s most humane film; and Nights of Cabiria, Fellini’s own fairy tale.
Bringing Up Baby is sort of a default answer as my favorite film of all time. It was one of the first films I ever saw and one that continues to make me laugh. I suppose I’m fortunate that the first film I fell in love with happens to be a staple of classic cinema, and one of the best screwball comedies ever made.
Now, onto why I grouped films together. I understand that such lists and their limitations (10, 20, 30, 101, etc.) are basically self-imposed, as a way to make the critic more decisive and definite about what he or she may declare their favorite or the best of cinema. I can barely do this because I am a weak person. I have no will power. I have no intention in investigating the philosophy or nature of lists, their arbitrary nature, etc. I also hate ranking things, which is why you can see most of my lists are in alphabetical order instead of something numbered. I am a terrible person.
So, grouping films together was my compromise. Lang’s Metropolis and Chaplin’s Modern Times were together as they represent political idealistic, almost utopian films, sort of social commentaries. The juxtaposition of drama and comedy, of silence and sound (sort of) is, of course, a little intentional. Mulholland Dr. and Holy Motors are the surreal companion pieces, both as much about the medium as they are about the industry, both incredibly intoxicating to watch, and both masterpieces of cinema. And finally, Nights of Cabiria and Vivre sa Vie, one a film out of the magical realism that Fellini had crafted out of the neo-realistic movement in Italy, the other a more humane drama or tableaux that Godard put together during the French New Wave. Both are, to me, companion pieces, both about women whose dreams have come crashing down into a world of almost lewd hedonism, something neither Giulietta Messina nor Anna Karina want. They’re both about prostitutes, and while their execution and detailed stories are different, their paths and the tragedy of both characters are extremely similar.
So, I grouped and doubled films generally by theme. I knocked some films off the list, which sort of hurt, but I’ll get over it. (I will miss you, galaxy far, far away…) It hurts to take off films that mean a lot to you, but I think list making is like some sort of masochistic activity that film buffs really enjoy partaking in. I also knocked off Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, and Casino Royale. The first two, I suppose, had more merit (to me) in terms of knocking them off because I didn’t go back to watch them as often as I did the Bond film. As a lifelong Bond fanatic, it pains me to knock something sort of unique on my list off in favor of what could be considered fairly canon material. Which, I guess, is the sham of the whole thing. It’s a combination of the canon and of the off the beaten path, but all of which fall under a personal meaning to me.
Though, I think that’s the point. Regardless of the masochism, the self imposed confinements and restraint, it’s about finding what means the most to you, even if that goes past your originally intended limit. It’s about sharing the films and experiences with others and finding both similarities and differences in those experiences. It is, I think, about enjoying what you are passionate about, engaging in your passion with other people, and continuing to explore that with those people. It isn’t a contest. It’s constant exploration, conversation, and broadening of understanding and depth and taste. And, most of all, cinephilia.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!
Shout out to Alex Withrow!
My Top 10 Films of the 2000s
If you haven’t checked out the website Movie Mezzanine, you should. Great website with smart writing and wonderful articles. Today, they released a column with several critics listing their top 10 films of the 2000s, so, naturally, I wanted to jump on the band wagon. This time, I didn’t cheat. So, enjoy, and let me know what you think. I’d write my reasons behind each choice, but a) I’ve done it all for each film in the past (with the exception of, like, two films) and b) I’m super lazy.
- Dogville (2004) | Directed by Lars von Trier
- Mulholland Dr. (2001) | Directed by David Lynch
- There Will Be Blood (2007) | Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
- Memento (2000) | Directed by Christopher Nolan
- In the Mood for Love (2000) | Directed by Wong Kar-Wai
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) | Directed by Michel Gondry
- 4 Weeks, 3 Months, and 2 Days (2007) | Directed by Cristian Mungiu
- Requiem for a Dream (2000) | Directed by Darren Aronofsky
- Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) | Directed by Guillermo del Toro
- The White Ribbon (2009) | Directed by Michael Haneke
Honorable Mention: King Kong (2005) | Directed by Peter Jackson
My New, Revised Personal Top 10 Films
In alphabetical order…
- Bringing Up Baby (1938) | Directed by Howard Hawks
- Clue(1985) | Directed by Jonathan Lynn
- Fanny and Alexander (1982) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman
- Manhattan (1979) | Directed by Woody Allen
- Melancholia (2011) | Directed by Lars von Trier
- Metropolis/Modern Times (1927/1936) | Directed by Firz Lang/Charlie Chaplin
- Mulholland Dr./Holy Motors (2001/2012) | Directed by David Lynch/Leos Carax
- Nights of Cabiria/Vivre sa Vie (1957/1962) | Directed by Federico Fellini/Jean-Luc Godard
- Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) | Directed by Guillermo del Toro
- Stranger Than Fiction (2006) | Directed by Marc Forster
(Films that were knocked off the list:
- Star Wars
- Casino Royale
- Singin’ in the Rain)
Feel free to comment and let me know what you think! (Yes, I cheated. No, I don’t care.)