Tuesday, February 26, 2013

And the Winner is--NOBODY!

The Oscars have come and gone. I don’t watch all of the Oscars (just the big awards at the end), but I am interested in who wins because I am a fan of film and it is generally agreed that the Academy Award is the highest honor in film.


After the Oscars there are two questions on everyone’s mind:

1. Why didn’t [film/actor] I like win?
2. Why did [film/actor] I didn’t like win?

Because you don’t get to vote, the Academy does. And the Academy members are not representative of “the people”, that’s why things like The People’s Choice awards exist.

The Academy members are probably mostly white men, who tend to vote for liberal artsy movies. Every once in awhile they lose their heads and vote for something like Titanic or Gladiator, but for the most part they like a compelling liberal art piece. If a Danish director had made a film called F**k You, George Bush, which consisted of our former leader dressed as a sad clown getting hit with raw meat by a dancing man in an old timey strong man outfit with his penis hanging out, it most certainly would have won Best Picture, and maybe best supporting actor by the strong man’s knob.

So quit complaining that Twlight or The Avengers didn’t win any awards. I’ve done this already. I’ve made this point before, so I’ll move on to my reactions.

With that out of the way I’ll go into my reactions, but be warned I’m only covering the stuff that interested me.

Writing

These are such hard categories, because a film is so much more than just the story. It’s hard to say a film had a great story, but bad acting and directing, because how likely are you to remember it? Or a film had great everything else except writing--ok, that was Beasts of the Southern Wild for me, but I am not too proud to admit maybe I just missed something about it.

I will start by saying Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Flight didn’t even deserve nominations. I liked all of the movies, but their stories were not that compelling. Lincoln lacked any hint of narrative drama, and the other two were just clumsy at times.  Notice I didn’t list Beasts of the Southern Wild there--it’s assumed I just missed something.

In Adapted Screenplay; between Argo and Life of Pi my vote would go to Life of Pi. Its story was more engaging than Argo. Argo was made great by the direction. It’s a film where all the pieces work well and the result is a really good film. Life of Pi still sticks with me now weeks after I watched it.

In Original Screenplay; I have to tip my hat to Django Unchained. It got a little unwieldy like many Tarantino films do, but it was his tightest work in a long time. I really adored Moonrise Kingdom, but I’d have to see it again to refresh my brain on it.


Documentary Feature

I actually saw the winner in this category, Searching for Sugar Man. I liked it. It’s well constructed in the modern format of slow reveals and then the big “aha” moment. However, after it was done I did some research and found that the guy upon whom the documentary is based, Rodriguez, was not nearly as forgotten as they led the viewer to believe. He didn’t vanish into total obscurity, he maintained a decent profile in some other countries where he continued to perform. In any other category this isn’t a problem. Argo got some facts wrong, but its primary purpose is to entertain, not inform. A documentary’s primary focus should be to inform, and if it can be entertaining that’s the sweet spot.

I’m not denouncing this film or saying the others were better (I didn’t see them), just voicing an annoyance that a documentary shouldn’t be leaving out facts that distort the truth. It’s not a Randall Wallace (Braveheart, Pearl Harbor, etc) movie!


Directing

This is a tough category to judge. I didn’t see Amour, so I can’t comment. Of the four I did see only two of them deserved a nomination; Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Thankfully Life of Pi won. Argo and Zero Dark Thirty deserved nominations. Those were brilliantly constructed films, and that’s down to the director. Lincoln was a paint by numbers Oscar-Bound-Spielberg-Epic, that alone should disqualify it. And Silver Linings Playbook was incredibly clumsy.


Cinematography

I didn’t see Anna Karenina (surprised?), but the other films in this category deserved to be there. It’s not surprising that Life of Pi won, 3D and CGI hokery aside, it’s a beautiful looking film. However, because of those faults I feel like the academy should have invited the cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, up to the stage to accept the award, given him one mighty club with it, and said “that’s for the 3D sh*t, next time take your craft seriously--and congratulations.”


Supporting Actress

You know, I didn’t really have a horse in this race. I liked Amy Adams in The Master. She really carries the film, but having not seen the winning performance by Anne Hathaway I can’t comment on whether I think she deserved it. Being that it was for a musical it’s unlikely I’ll ever form an opinion. Sally Field was ok and Jacki Weaver I don’t even understand why she was nominated. I did not see The Sessions (though I had the opportunity, but knowing Helen Hunt goes full frontal prevented me from going--there are some horrors to which I cannot bear witness) so I can’t comment.

Let me revise; I did have a horse in this race, it was Jennifer Lawrence’s ass, but the nomination was mysteriously missing!


Supporting Actor

I saw all of these films and Christoph Waltz was the clear choice. Philip Seymour Hoffman was good in The Master, but he’s constantly upstaged by Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix and that can’t do anything but distract the viewer from his work. The rest were just phone in performances for guys playing to type. That should never be rewarded.


Actress

When Jennifer Lawrence was announced I was a little surprised, but compared to the other two actresses I did see she was the clear pick. I did not see Amour or The Impossible, so for all I know those were dynamite performances, but the Academy obviously didn’t think so.

Does this make up for her ass getting snubbed on the supporting nomination?

No.


Actor

Of course it was Daniel Day-Lewis. Every second he was on the screen in Lincoln I forgot I was watching an actor, he was Abraham Lincoln. Even seeing the clips during the nominations I was taken aback. I didn’t see Wolverine in that musical, so I can’t comment there, but the rest were all phenomenal.

I would like to see a breakout performance award at the Oscars in each category. For sure Bradley Cooper would have gotten it for 2012. It’s a bit of a dummy prize, but he needs to know his work didn’t go unnoticed, he just had the misfortune of turning that performance in a year where Daniel Day-Lewis made a movie. Maybe that should be the name of the award?

“And the ‘Sorry Daniel Day-Lewis Made a Film This Year’ award goes to--”
“And the ‘Sorry Meryl Streep Made a Film This Year’ award goes to--”


Best Picture

For me this was down to Argo and Life of Pi. While I did like a lot of the other films I saw that were nominated, these two had all of the right elements. Argo winning didn’t upset me any more than Life of Pi winning would have thrilled me. They were both quality films and I’m glad one of them won.

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