If I Had My Way: 2016 Awards
I’m also reminded of the time I was once invited to play fantasy football. It was with some friends, including Kevin Ketchum and Bryan King, and someone had tweeted that it was going to be “film critics vs film fans”. In my naiveté, I thought that suggested that we would be picking actual film critics and film people to play football against one another. I was imagining Richard Roeper and Peter Travers being pummeled and thinking it would be “warm and likeable” to experience. Signing up to begin playing was kind of how I imagine the shoot for The Revenant to be, if I am to believe the press tour. Arduous, stressful, dirty, and bloody. (I gave myself a papercut.) But, in the spirit of making fantasy picks for things that are as foreign to me as heterosexuality, and also an awards show I just suffered through, here are my ideal picks for awards things. Read the rest of this entry »
If I Had My Way: On the Awards
Hey, I don’t know why I’m bothering with this either. We all have our faults. But for picky cinephiles like myself, the Oscars are more of a burden than a joy, and doing all those predictions and watching the telecast are in direct opposition to the order your doctor gave to you to lower your blood pressure. They are that way because we do care about film and about the recognition our favorites do or do not get. But, hey, I wanted to shine a light on some of my favorite things from the past year that, were I Oscar omnipotent, would get recognition. Oh, but I changed the rules, and everyone gets a placard and win win for all y’all imaginary winners, woo! Read the rest of this entry »
I Do, But I Don’t: Caring About the Oscars
“I don’t know whether I want to write about the Oscars on my blog, because I would hate to give the impression that I care.”
I tweeted this about a minute before I started writing this, and it made me realize something. I do care, at least a part of me does. I think we all do, whether we want to admit it or not. I think that there were so many vocal and vehement reactions to the nominees is indicative of that. For as much attention as I’ve been paying to the race the last few years, and that’s been almost none besides early scrolls through nomination lists and peripheral chatter about the nominees, I still care about the Oscars. I’ve certainly, at this point, come to terms with the fact that the Academy Awards are, by no means, the sole metric of worth or quality on which to judge any movie, but at the same time, there’s something that aches in me about the Oscars. It sounds kind of silly, I know, but at the core of where my heart should be, I’m a tried and true cinephile, someone who wants to share this art with the world and everyone I meet (I’m great at parties!). And the Oscars have been, for as long as I’ve been paying attention to them (since Crash won Best Picture), always extremely frustrating. Awards by their very nature, I suppose, are meant to be that way.
This year, on the one hand, it seems to have been an extremely conservative list of nominations, filled with white people and very few women. On the other hand, I’m kind of vaguely impressed that smaller and/or artier films like Foxcatcher, Boyhood, and Whiplash are getting recognition, as well as cinema like Two Days, One Night, Mr. Turner (hey dad!), and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. But, nonetheless, there’s still the issue of representation. Such a blisteringly white year, and so male.
So, I care about the Oscars because I care about movies. It’s not the other way around. I know, the tedious methods by which people nominate and vote for the Academy Awards is a complicated affair (fun fact: we studied a bunch of voting methods in one of my university math classes; I thought one particular method was beyond ridiculous, only to discover that AMPAS uses it), and that old white people dominate the Academy. But, that won’t make me stop caring, at least partially.
So paradoxical is our, or rather my, relationship with awards: we dismiss them as worthless when the things that we love and admire don’t get support or recognition, but we root for the things we do care about or use things that have won as proof of greatness (sometimes). It’s a form of validation, to some degree, and there’s little reconciliation between the two.
As my friend David Neary said, to observe the Oscars is interesting to gauge what kind of taste the industry has and therefore what they’ll lean towards making in the future. But, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want the Oscars to be better. More flexible and open and open-minded. And if the Oscars are somehow indicative of Hollywood as a whole, I want the industry to be more open and diverse. That many important works seemed to be overlooked, seemingly, is disconcerting, but I want those works to be elevated by other people (hey ho, critics!) and for audiences to pay attention to them a little bit. I want great filmmaking to be championed regardless of its Oscar chances and for audiences to recognize that the Oscars are not the sole metric of worth. I want audiences to expand their entertainment palettes.
I know I’m asking for a lot, something nary impossible. But, I just want the Oscars and viewers and the industry to be better. Because I love movies. Who doesn’t?
Statuettes and Limitations: Oscar Predictions 2014
I haven’t really been paying attention to the race this year (long story), and I honestly didn’t remember who was nominated for what, and I haven’t seen half of the films nominated, but here are my two cents on some of the bigger categories at the Oscars this evening.
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.”