Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The New Yorker finds the Academy picks to be B_O_R_I_N_G

By Hollywood standards, the nominees for the 78th annual academy awards are old news. It’s been a almost a whole seven hours since word got out this morning at the crack of dawn, about who was in the running for those beloved little gold statuettes. Since then, chatter has been everywhere –the internet, the radio, people gabbing about how now more than ever the “serious” and “intelligent” films are really getting the recognition they deserve.

In case you haven’t look at the list of nominees yet, here is a brief run down:

BEST PICTURE

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
CAPOTE
CRASH
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
MUNICH

**The directors of each of these films were nominated for best directing, so we’re talking, Ang Lee, Bennet Miller, Paul Haggis, George Clooney, and Steven Speilberg.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
CAPOTE
THE CONSTANT GARDENER
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
MUNICH

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
CRASH
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
MATCH POINT
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
SYRIANA

As I was driving in my car this morning listening to NPR, I heard an entertainment commentator talk about how the “NPR audience” was “to blame” for the change in certain independent type films coming to the forefront. The NPR anchor (on the show Day to Day) then asked the commentator why he used the word “blame”? Wasn’t it a good thing that “real” and “smart” movies were finally being made and recognized?

Oh it was all enough to make me puke.

Don’t get me wrong, I like NPR, and being “smart” and all is great, but why does everyone, excuse my language, have to run around with such a stick up their a**. Because I thought Capote was terrific, and Munich was a very interesting film, and Good Night and Good Luck looked great, –but what about Batman Begins? What about King Kong? Batman Begins only garnered a single nomination in Cinematography, but I think it should have also been nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Directing, and Best Picture. I would have nominated the screenplay for Batman Begins over The Squid and the Whale, which was an intriguing movie but not particularly splendid. King Kong was nominated for Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual FX, but I also think it should have been nominated for Directing and Best Picture. In fact looking at the Best Actress nominations, I think if they are going to go ahead and nominate Charlize Theron in North Country, they should in turn nominate Naomi Watts for Kong too –because Watts was better than Theron.

I also thought that Star Wars: Episode III was sorely missing from some of the more technical awards. I would have bumped out the dreary, drab Art Directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and replaced it with Revenge of the Sith, for its gorgeous interiors, and beautiful spacescapes. Also how is it possible that Sith did not get a nomination for Visual Effects? How did that happen?!

Now I haven’t seen Crash and I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain yet, which are two major contenders in this oscar race. While I think it’s a good thing that Brokeback Mountain is getting recognition despite of its controversial subject matter, to me a love story is a love story is a love story, which might be well acted and beautifully portrayed, but is also typically boring. I think of all the films that was smothered in nominations the one that seems the most surprising is Good Night and Good Luck. I thought the most impressive element about this film was its visuals. So I think it properly deserved its nominations in Cinematography, and Art Direction. But McCarthyism isn’t exactly a novel topic, and while Edward R. Murrow’s story is both significant and interesting, the film was very heavy handed, and bordered on its own brand of propaganda. Another surprising omission to me in the nominees was Walk the Line in the catagories of Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directing and Best Picture. I am not usually one for a bio-pic but I thought this film was really quite good, and certainly Oscar fare. The way that James Mangold pieced together the story of Johnny Cash’s life was both compelling and original. I actually thought this film was better than Ray, which was nominated in all those catagories, and I think at the very least it should have gotten a screenplay nod.

Why is it that when the Academy looks at a film like Batman Begins they think, “Ridiculous –it’s about a man who dresses up like a bat,” instead of “This is really a movie about fear and violence and revenge. It’s about learning how to deal with one’s internal demons, in a way which might mean incorporating them into oneself instead of banishing them.” And why is it that when they look at King Kong they think “It’s merely a movie about a gigantic ape,” instead of “This is a film about alienation, about man kind’s fear and wonder of the wilderness within his own heart, and about the unavoidable conflict between man’s desires to cherish and destroy that which he loves.”

What makes a movie “serious” anyway? Is it a lack of comedy? That certainly seems to be part of it, as comedies are traditionally snubbed at the Oscars. Is it a lack of ground breaking visuals? That too, seems to be part of the package since, with the exception of the recent Lord of the Rings victory, films with massive visual FX are ommitted from the nominee list. Must it be grounded in historical events, and forego anything imaginative or fantastical?

The Academy seems to be narrowing down further and further its criteria for who it chooses to nominate. Cinema is such a vast medium, and there are such of a variety of different films out there. Shouldn’t the award show with the highest profile in the world properly reflect diversity? Isn’t the race more exciting and balanced, when you have a blockbuster fantasy extravagnaza, next to a small, independent bio-pic? Apparently, according to the Academy, the answer to these questions is no.

19 Comments:

Blogger The New Yorker said...

I intend to see Brokeback Mountain, and am the first to admit I can't comment properly until I have see it, I am however making an assumption based on its genre for the time being.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

You mention that you're not a fan of bio-pics, and then you saw 'Walk the Line' and decided that you liked it, and that you're not a fan of love stories, and you haven't seen 'Brokeback Mountain,' and without giving yourself the chance to like it, wonder why it's receiving all of the accolades it's getting.

Umm...hello??! Go see 'Brokeback Mountain' is the obvious response, but I'm not sure you're ready to hear it?

12:30 PM  
Anonymous crazymonk said...

Wow, KV, I'm going to have to diverge from you this year. I'll agree with you that Batman Begins could've used more recognition, and that Star Wars was snubbed in the technical categories, but otherwise, I think the nominations this year are far superior to the last two years.

For one, I thought Capote, Good Night & Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain were all great films (Crash I think is overrated, and Munich I have not seen. Also, I had similar thoughts about Brokeback before I saw it as you -- I was wrong, it's not a sappy love story, it's a great movie with great acting and great filmmaking. Lee had a similar but more tempered reaction. You really have no excuse at this point in avoiding it.) Still, last year Finding Neverland and Ray were nominated, and the latter was one of the worst movies of the year (IMHO). And the year before that Mystic River and Seabiscuit were nominated, both of which were sappy crap. So I'm glad that the sappy film of the year is Crash -- even though I didn't think it was great, I at least thought it was good.

I also have to diverge on Squid & the Whale -- it really worked for me, and I think the older son should've been nominated for best actor.

What else can I disagree about? Ah, yes, King Kong. Looked beautiful, but was boring at times, overly long, and not interesting in its themes and dialogue. It got the nominations it deserved. "Film about alienation" -- true, so was Mighty Joe Young. It doesn't make it Best Picture-worthy.

Sorry, KV, I think the nominations came out very well this year, although I'll agree with you on the "serious" thing -- it's a stupid and arbitrary adjective.

12:45 PM  
Blogger DoorFrame said...

Good Night and Good Luck was lousy. It took a historical story full to the brim with tension and sucked every last gasp of life and interest out of it. And what was the weird-o love story with the couple hiding their marriage? What was the point? There were no parallels, there were no connections, there were no analogies and, worse of all, there was no tension. The only tension was from a character that we didn't really know or care about. Boring.

10:36 PM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

uuuhhh -- K? are you fucking KIDDING ME? you decided to spend 500+ words complaining about how "Munich" and "Brokeback Mountain" were nominated for academy awards -- and fucking "BATMAN BEGINS" wasn't?!

first of all, i LIKED "Batman." does it even in ANY WAY resemble a great, high-quality film?

sorry, kid, not a fucking chance. you seriously think THAT'S a great movie about fear and revenge? no, sister, that's a fucking comic book movie about, yes, a man dressed up as a bat. it in absolutely no way even begins to aspire towards what you think it aspires to.

i'm disappointed with you, i really am, because my beef with the academy is that they completely disregard comedy in favor of yes, "serious" movies. what a great thing it would have been for them to nominate jeff daniels, or steve carrell, or "me and you and everyone we know."

but apparantly, "king kong," a ridiculously expensive toy commercial, deserved more hardware to go with the millions of dollars it made for a fat, hairy aussie.

2:02 PM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

one side note, crazymonk:

"mystic river" was SAPPY? uh, are you sure you didn't accidentally sit through "a river runs through it??"

2:07 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Actually Jbgg, if you go back and read the review, you will not notice a single detrimental remark about Munich. I thought Munich was a strong movie and enjoyed it, and I always volley for Speilberg. Now I certainly don't think its one of the best movies he's ever done, but an admirable work none the less. As for Brokeback Mountain, I can't properly comment on it because as I admitted above, I haven't seen it yet --HOWEVER, I am using the fact that I have a general knowledge about the film and its genre to comment on the overall trend of the Academy this year. There is very little variety in the types of genres that were selected, and I think that is a pity, because I think as the foremost award show it should reflect all the different kinds of movies that are made. Why can't a comic book movie deal be taken seriously? Why shouldn't it? I thought Batman Begins was one of the strongest movies of the year, and just because its exciting, and has come cheesy lines in it, and action sequences does not mean it is any less adept at dealing with certain thematic elements. However a slow, solemn, fairly joyless film like Good Night, and Good Luck (which I TOO LIKED) is taken seriously because it fits into the prototype of what "serious" is supposed to be. Nobody dressed up in silly costumes. No monsters or aliens. Just "real life". Well it's this sort of mentality (like one which thinks of King Kong as a mere Toy Commercial) which annoys me because I think it throws allegory and metaphor out of the windown, and disqualifies films based on stereotypes. Stereotypes like "creature films" are B-movies, and sci-fi only has camp value. It is a marvel that Lord of the Rings was able to finally ganer the awards it deserved, and wasn't shoved aside as a bunch of silly wizards and warriors on horses fighting over a ring.

2:16 PM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

"spider-man II" was one of the best films of 2004, capably and confidently handling a young man's life crises with complexity, subtlety and humor. he also wore tights. i am not disappointed that it wasn't dealt an oscar.

batman begins deals amateurishly with the so-called themes of "fear" and revenge.

"king kong" had about as much metaphor and allegory as your average episode of According to Jim.

the characters were weak and predictable, the forced romanticism and sentimentality among the shipmates was laughable, the dialogue was beyond cheesy, it was fucking cheez-whizzy, and the only good part was when the monkey smashed shit and climbed the empire state building.

neither "batman begins" nor "king kong" make an adequate case for blockbuster hollywood tripe being taken seriously.

3:04 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Spiderman II was one of the best films of 2004 and I don't understand, why you would think that and not be miffed that it was not nominated for an Oscar. Is it because it's more "Hollywood Blockbuster Tripe?" Stop being such an elitist snob.

3:09 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Also Jbgg, you surprise me. You say you are a Stephen King fan, but were you appalled when he won the National Book Foundation's annual award for excellence in 2003? Because it seems this would be tantamount to me to Spiderman II winning the oscar. A well made, well written genre pieces getting the recognition they deserve.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Clearly a good genre film can make it, even sci-fi/fantasy, or else you wouldn't have seen awards for Lord of the Rings or Star Wars (which was nominated for best picture, although it didn't win). I'm not sure how many people would qualify them as stereotypical "serious" pictures. I think Jbgg is right on this one - Batman Begins was a pretty good movie, but not one that is remembered for months afterwards.

The comment about comedy, however, was dead-on, or else Team America would have swept last year.

6:31 PM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

i wasn't disappointed because i wasn't expecting it to be nominated, nor do i think that it will go down in the annals of great films (because Spiderman III will be INCREDIBLE).

mostly, i'm just surprised that you:

a) honestly think that these movies have a chance at being nominated

b) think BB or KK (that's funny) deserve it.

but please, can we stop this fighting for a moment to acknowledge that it is continuingly RETARDED that neo-con-fuck-up pundits have taken up the LIBERAL AGENDA cause from these nominations? it's the fucking War On Christmas redux, as they try to detract from:

a) the president's shitty state of the shitty union

b) the committee findings that Bush is, in fact, responsible for yet more deaths (this time in New Orleans)

c) charles barkley's continuing hating on the Celtics.

7:24 PM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

ps comparing across media is very difficult. stephen king is one our greatest writers, his DT series is one of our greatest works of fiction. maybe Raimi will get the DeMille award one day.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous crazymonk said...

I'm seeing a lot of superlatives here. Can't movies just be very good, or mediocre?

Then again:
Mystic River: Yes, jbgg, it was sappy. It sucked. The music was terrible.

Me & You & Whatever: Ok film, handled the children well, Miranda July is a grating personality.

Team America: One of the worst movies I've seen in the theater in the last 5 years -- and that's no exaggeration.

Good Night, & Good Luck: Yes, brian, it wasn't a masterpiece, but I think you do it a disservice when you criticize it for being about McCarthyism and not being tense. The film isn't about McCarthyism -- it's about how one newsroom handled a situation in a very specific time in American history, and it did this extraordinarily well. I loved how all of the action took place in the newsroom, and seeing how dull yet exciting it can be in there even when working on such an explosive story. I found it interesting, and that's about as much as I need from a movie.

9:45 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

My 2 Cents

Mystic River -- Decent but kind of boring. I actually liked the score but found Sean Penn and his "THAT'S MY DAUGHTER!!!!!!!!!" performance to be overblown.

Me, you and my hammy --haven't seen it

Team America -- enjoyed some parts thoroughly, could have done without others. the score was brillant.

10:58 PM  
Blogger jeremybgg said...

whether or not one liked Mystic River, i can't believe you're actually using the word "SAPPY." most people i know who didn't like it found it HARSH, HEAVY, PESSIMISTIC and CYNICAL. not "sappy."

"sappy" is a fucking tomhanks/megryan movie that's not Joe Vs. the Volcano.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous crazymonk said...

take the first scene, where the kid gets molested by the priest. it was melodramatic, poorly filmed, and sentimental, even if in a cynical light.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous t-rex said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note up front that I'm an elitist ass. So it's probably unsurprising that I was vaguely happy with this year's picks.

That said, Brokeback Mountain was less than stellar, but not because it was a love story. It's worth seeing, but be prepared for some awful acting by Anne Hathaway (not to mention the worst aging effects ever in the form of a blond wig that just keeps getting bigger). Jake Gyllenhaal was also disappointing, and the ending was a let-down.

As far as I'm concerned, Capote is the best movie on the list, but I didn't see Crash and I might re-evaluate if The Squid & the Whale had Made the list. Also, I can't comment on BB or KK b/c as I mentioned, I'm an elitist ass and therefore didn't see either of them.

As to Mystic River - that movie was the most contrived piece of crap I've ever seen. I think I'll agree with Crazy on this one - the movies starts out dark, but after that it just turns into one big long whine, and a cliched one at that. The only thing good about the movie was Sean Penn.

3:11 PM  
Blogger The New Yorker said...

Capote was outstanding. And yes, I still haven't been able to see Brokeback Mountain yet, though a friend has made similar commentary to me about both a Hathaway's performance AND the aging. I'm hoping to get to it this weekend.

Though I only thought Mystic River mediocre, not downright bad, I somehow find it comforting that others seem to think so. Perhaps its because I'm so a member of the masses.

3:22 PM  

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