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A decent Oscars ceremony + a self-plug

Watching the Oscars ceremony is always a special feeling for me. No, not because they’re “magical” or anything like that. Rather, it’s because they start in the middle of the night in my timezone. I went to bed around 9 PM, eventually settled down to sleep, then woke up at 1:30 AM or so to get everything ready for the viewing experience. With few hours of sleep followed by a couple more hours staring at a screen, swapping between watching, tweeting and forum discussions, my eyes get a bit exhausted, as does my brain. It’s a state I don’t often find myself in apart from this one day of the year, so I kind of associate the Academy Awards with it. So with that in mind, I apologize in advance for any weird typos or rambling thoughts in this blog post.

I thought this year’s ceremony was… okay. Not great, not terrible, but okay. There was a lack of really special moments, and not all of the humor worked. But there wasn’t much outright bad about the proceedings. The whole thing moved at a fairly brisk pace, finding a suitable balance between giving people time to thank everyone and not enough to get boring. Billy Crystal as the host did a decent job. There were stretches were his presence wasn’t felt much even when he was on the screen, and he had a few awkward “waiting for applause” pauses, but he was kind of funny, kind of charming, and certainly a step up from the past two years’ hosting duos. And now I resume my hopes for Kevin Spacey to host next year. Or maybe Fred Willard?

Some random thoughts on the show:

  • Speech of the night: The long overdue Christopher Plummer. Such a charming and funny man. “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?”
  • The Wizard of Oz focus group skit was quite funny, but more than anything, it was just a really pleasant surprise to see the Christopher Guest crew together again on my screen.
  • The Cirque du Soleil number was quite spectacular and impressive, though I question its relevance to the Oscars. The time could have been better spent elsewhere, I feel.
  • The interview montages with people talking about why they love movies were kind of a drag. No real insight or emotional impact was offered, so more than anything, this felt like padding.
  • Not everything in Crystal’s mind-reading spiel worked, but it was all worth it for the mumbling Nick Nolte bit which provided one of the few real laugh out loud moments of the broadcast for me.

I don’t have any strong personal feelings either way about what won and what didn’t, although I’m happy for all the winners. Respect and amiration from one’s peers is always great, so congratulations to everyone who went home with a statue. There were one or two real surprising announcements; sole non-BP nominee The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo picking up Best Editing was something few people had predicted, and I certainly did not see Meryl Streep‘s Best Actress win coming personally – she was always a possibility, but I still felt Viola Davis had that award fairly secured. Apart from those two, everything else fell within the realm of what could be expected. That’s not to say I did great with my predictions, ending up with 15 of the 24 categories right. An okay result, but not enough to win any pools or contests. It says something about how open many of the categories were when I can get 9 things wrong and still think there weren’t many proper shockers.

So now that the Oscars are in the books, Awards Season is officially over. Time to go back to my main interest: Movies.

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Oh! But before we move on, there is one more set of awards to take in: The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards. I talked a bit a while ago about being part of the nominating voters, and yesterday/tonight/today the winners were announced. There’s a post up about it on the Flickchart Blog where Ross Bonaime, Jandy Stone Hardesty and myself offer our thoughts on the categories. I think the internet will like our winners more than those of the Academy, so go have a look to end Awards Season on a highnote!

The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards Winners

What did you think of the Oscars this year?

 
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Posted by on 27 February, 2012 in Links, Oscars

 

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“Final” 2011 Oscars Predictions

I haven’t been keeping quite as close a look at the Oscars race this awards season as I have the last few years. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but the result is that I find it hard to make confident predictions in quite a few categories. And it’s not even like last year, where a lot of uncertainty basically boiled down to whether The King’s Speech or Alice in Wonderland would pick up the most arts and crafts wins, or just how strong The Social Network still was. This year, there are plenty of categories where I have trouble even boiling things down to two possible winners. Then again, I did really poorly with my guesses last year – thanks to overconfidence in The King’s Speech, stubborn and ill-conceived faith in Annette Bening, and those damn short categories – so perhaps being a bit aloof about things will turn out to be a blessing.

So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in the various categories. They’re final, unless I change my mind. My predicted winners are in BOLD CAPS.

BEST PICTURE

THE ARTIST
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Back in September when the race was still wide open, I made a baseless guess that the unseen War Horse would turn out to be the eventual Best Picture winner. At the end of 2011, The Artist had established itself as the front-runner, yet I had a hunch that it would run out of steam and not end up the victor. Well, here we are a few days away from the ceremony, and I have to concede that I was wrong on both of those occasions. It’s hard to see The Artist losing at this point.

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris
MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS – THE ARTIST
Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne – The Descendants
Martin Scorsese – Hugo

Most of the time, Best Picture and Best Director go hand in hand. Yet year after year, there’s always people predicting a split between the two. This is rarely wise, as when a split does happen, it’s always a major surprise – think Crash / Brokeback Mountain. So I’m playing it safe and going with Hazanavicius.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22 February, 2012 in Oscars

 

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Why I remain zen about the Oscars nominations

Me on Twitter, being a fool

Click here for a full list of the Oscar nominations.

As I was watching the live stream of the Oscar nominations announcement, here is what went through my head:

“Wow, this is fun. A screenplay nod for A Separation, Rooney Mara getting nominated for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Tree of Life up for both Best Picture and Best Director, Gary Oldman finally scoring his first acting nomination… A fair share of surprises and interesting oddities. I bet there’s going to be a lot of happy people on the internet today.”

Re-read that last sentence. Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking either.

Of course everyone was angry. My Twitter feed quickly filled up with outcry about what was snubbed, what undeservedly got in, and how the Academy members are a bunch of idiots with no taste. “Why no love for Drive!?” “No Michael Fassbender!? #OscarsFail” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for Best Picture!? #lol #smh” “Melissa McCarthy and Jonah Hill are now Oscar nominees? Kill me now.” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon – 3 nominations. Shame – ZERO. WTF?” “Somewhere in a bar, Tilda Swinton is drowning her sorrows. What the HELL, AMPAS?”

I do not begrudge people for being passionate about films they love. It’s what being a movie fan is all about. Here it was mostly expressed in negative ways, however. Many were happy about so-and-so being nominated for this-or-that, but a majority of the comments I read were focused on complaining about the nods and snubs they disagreed with. It got a bit tiresome. Surely we should be celebrating the good stuff instead of dwelling on the bad, no? But whatever. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Speaking of opinions: did you know that they’re subjective? And that there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong” when it comes to taste? And that not everyone likes the same stuff that you do? And that the Academy members are people with their own opinions?

I like awards season. At times, I even love it. But it’s for the brain, not for the heart. I like seeing the ebb and flow of the race, sussing out which films have buzz going for them, spotting the dark horses, and trying to determine which of my hunches should be followed up on. This is completely separated from how I feel about the movies themselves. The truth is that I haven’t seen most of the films nominated for anything yet. Hell, I’ve only seen two of the Best Picture nominees at this point: Midnight in Paris and The Help, both of which I enjoy but wouldn’t put on my own ballot were I an Academy member. Don’t take my lack of personal viewing as a reason for why I remain so detached, though. I was more caught up last year and had more horses I loved in the race, and I still had no problem remaining zen about the nominations.

The Academy voters like what they like. There is no reason for me to be neither overjoyed nor sad if their opinions do or do not match my own. I don’t need Nicolas Winding Refn to be nominated for Best Director to know that I thought Drive was a great piece of movie-making. I thought Super 8 had jaw-dropping visual effects and a teriffic performance by young Elle Fanning, but I’m fine with AMPAS not nominating that film for anything. And the fact that Corey Stoll wasn’t nominated in Best Supporting Actor for playing Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris doesn’t mean he didn’t steal in the film in my eyes.

If there is such a thing as “objectively good film” – and I doubt it more for each passing year – it’s clear that the Academy voters don’t concern themselves too much with the concept. I assume that’s what gets people so riled up: that “Best Picture” is supposed to go to what is objectively the year’s best movie – hence the outrage that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was surprisingly nominated when most critics found it lacking. It’s currently at 48% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a fact that many people have cited the past few hours. Many haven’t seen it themselves, probably because of the lukewarm critical reception and, if I may be a bit presumptious, because it was written off as not likely to score any Oscar nominations.

But now more people probably will check it out, if only to see if it’s “worthy” of its Best Picture nomination. Which brings me to the good aspect of awards season: the way it brings attention to movies that otherwise wouldn’t be seen by as many. If not for awards season, there’s little chance that something like The Artist – a French black & white silent film – would have ever been talked about outside of hardcore cinephile circles. Smaller films from previous years like An Education and Winter’s Bone also garnered more attention thanks to the whole Oscars thing, which has lead to more interesting roles being available for their stars Carey Mulligan and Jennifer Lawrence. The Oscars and other awards ceremonies can thus do good things for movies. Perhaps this is why many people get so emotionally invested. We all want the films we love to be seen by as many as possible. Both for the sake of people seeing good movies, and so that the men and women who made them will gain added exposure and be allowed to make more great films in the future. Still, the point is diluted when you go from “I hope Fassbender gets nominated so that he’ll get more awesome roles” to “By snubbing Fassbender, AMPAS once again proves that their members have their heads up their asses.”

To me, words like “worthy” and “deserving” tend to be misused in Oscars discussions. It’s a contest to get the most votes from the Academy members. If you do well in this contest, you get in. That’s the mark of being deserving of an Oscar nomination. I get what people are saying, though: this or that movie does not deserve to be called one of the best films of the year. What I feel often goes wrong is that the sentiment gets warped by the wording and context. A movie can be worthy of attention, accolades and acclaim in our eyes, yes. But what tends to be conveyed instead is that “this film does not deserve to be liked by the Academy members”, which is something I don’t think we have any right to say.

By all means, express love for the films you adore and spew bile on the films you hate. You are definitely entitled to. Your opinion is as important and valid as anyone’s. But allow the same courtesy to the Academy members. They’re often the same people who make the movies you enjoy seeing.

A few closing notes on the nominations…

Max von Sydow

  • A big congratulation goes out to my fellow Swede Max von Sydow, who got an unexpected Best Supporting Actor nomination for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s always nice to see Swedish actors recognized internationally.
  • Drive, which I’ve seen at the top of more 2011 Top 10 lists than any other film, got its sole nomination in the Best Sound Editing category. 12 years ago, this very same fate befell another film with lots of devoted fans: Fight Club. They both made roughly the same amount of money at the box office, too.
  • It has been 30 years since a film won Best Picture without also being nominated for Best Editing. If this holds true this year too, there are only four conceivable Best Picture winners: The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, and Moneyball.
  • Yes, Transformers: Dark of the Moon got three nominations: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. Don’t be upset about how it doesn’t deserve to call itself an Oscar nominee. The Oscars are meant to reward great crafts work within their respective fields. The overall quality of the film is irrelevant.

What nomination were you the happiest over?

 
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Posted by on 24 January, 2012 in Oscars

 

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