In the beginning, I didn’t mean to shun the most celebrated day in the film community; usually, I prepare for weeks ahead of time and make predictions on the winners. I even have a 101/1001 goal relating to the event, where I’m supposed to watch all the nominees for Best Picture each year before the ceremony (I have yet to accomplish this, however). This year, of the 9 films nominated, I saw two: The Descendents and The Help. While both films were decent, I didn’t think either was worthy of Best Picture, a distinguishment previously awarded to classics including Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and On the Waterfront. The past few years haven’t been particularly strong in the quality of filmmaking, true (films just aren’t what they used to be) but I just wasn’t interested in this year’s crop.
I found the weeks slowly ticking by until Oscar night, and despite my claims that I would watch as many as I could before the show, I made no improvement on the list. It didn’t help that because of my lack of television, I wouldn’t be able to watch them from the comfort of my own home, no one was having an Oscar party like my LA friends, and I was in Snowshow falling on my ass during the ceremony.
What really tipped the ballot against the Oscars this year, though? The lack of respect for Harry Potter. While I admit that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is not the greatest film of all time, and probably not the greatest film this year, the complete shunning it received this year is ridiculous. Two years ago, the number of nominees given out for the Best Picture award increased from 5 to up-to-10. With only 9 nominees this year, that left one open spot that could have been given to DH2, even as just a throwaway nomination. It’s not like Hugo or The Help was ever going to win, but they got nominated. Harry Potter has been a huge part of not only popular culture, but the film community for over 10 years, and on the last one, it’s given only three nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, and Best Make Up. No Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Cinematography, Editing, Score, or Sound Editing. Definitely no Best Picture, Directing, or Acting, when at the very least Alan Rickman should’ve received a montage of his performance from the past ten years. And maybe an award for Best Character Development Over The Longest Period of Time. Did HP win any of the three awards it was graciously nominated for? No. Hugo took Visual Effects and Art Direction, and The Iron Lady took Makeup.
I get it, turning Ralph Fiennes into Voldemort wasn’t just Makeup, but Visual Effects as well, and aging (and de-aging) Meryl Streep is actually showing skills in the powder department. Does it still piss me off? Yes.
In addition to the lack of respect toward the Boy Wizard and it’s record-holding performance in Opening Weekend Box Office, the Oscars have just gone away from respecting and recognizing the Best Films (which are hard to find anyway, since filmmaking these days is at best mediocre and borrowed). Did The Artist deserve to win? Absolutely. It’s the only film this year that took risks and challenged the General Public. A silent film in an age where people can’t sit still for 15 minutes without fast edits, thanks to the Digital Age and ADD? It’s a miracle it was even made. To make it black and white on top of that? Unheard of. I’m impressed, and disappointed in myself that I haven’t yet seen it. It’s a throwback to the classic age of cinema, where Hollywood had Stars and respect. It’s a celebration of filmmaking, and I have no qualms about its winning of Best Picture.
But look back over the past few years… The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionare, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby… While some of these are enjoyable, even good, films, do they stand up to West Side Story or even American Beauty? No. While I admit I’m stuck in an I-Hate-Modern-Films-In-Comparison-to-the-Classics filmic void, I can appreciate good modern films too. Brokeback Mountain, anyone? Which leads me to the 2005 Oscars, when Crash stole the title from the gay lovers. Crash, on a whole, was a pretty good movie. It made me think, it got me involved, and it did a great job weaving together all the different stories as a commentary on Racism. Did it deserve to win over Brokeback? No. Simply because Brokeback took chances; excelled in its acting, directing, and cinematography; and was a great, simple, yet heartfelt story. It’s like the Academy was afraid to award a film about gay lovers the coveted title, so it gave it to the lesser of the two controversial films. Should The Departed have beaten out The Queen or Letters from Iwo Jima? Probably not, but the Academy decided it needed to award Scorcese a Best Picture, and it was slowly losing its chance. Thank God they didn’t give it to Avatar though (however, this is another slight on the HP front – Pocahontas Fern Gully with blue people gets a nomination, but a story about good triumphing over evil despite the easiness of temptation gets ignored… humph).
I just hope 2012 sees some improvement with its films, because although this time of year is slumpy for films, I haven’t been intrigued by any of those in Bright Lights. On a pop culture front, I am excited for The Hunger Games (I’ve been living it at work this past month, so that’s expected), John Carter and Battleship (Or, as I like to call them, Taylor Kitsch Shirtless and Taylor Kitsch With a Haircut), The Avengers, and The Lucky One (Zefron in a Nicholas Sparks movie). On an Excitement of Filmmaking and New Ideas level, The Sound of Noise takes the cake. And of course, there’s also The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Brave, which both look super awesome.
“Hollywood is still the mecca for good or bad, but it isn’t the beginning or end for filmmaking.” – Robert DuVall