Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Oscars Syndrome

I LOVE the Oscars! I love everything about it, the glitz, the glamour, the ceremony, the hosting dramas and the red carpet. Most of all I love the tingling feeling I get every year with the anticipation for my favourite films of the Oscars' year to be called on to the stage to accept the statuette meriting their merits, and I love getting angry and waving my fists at the TV when they don’t, because despite knowing better, every year I am foolishly hopeful that one of the films truly worthy will actually win. There have been years in which I have been pleasantly surprised, which made the Oscars all the more joyous. Other times I was simply happy that some films did not win, more than I cared about who did; like in 2010 when a certain ex wife snatched an Oscar from her former husbands' inferior film. Mostly, like Oscars losers’ cliché: it is an honour just to be nominated, and by that I mean I am always excited if and when the best films, my best films, get nominated.  Sometimes it is better to be nominated then it is to win; Oscars' winners of the past are often insignificant and luckily with time, are forgotten. The Oscars nominees, however, just by being that, get watched more than they probably would otherwise, and so get the attention they deserve, which is what really matters. 

In an attempt to infect others with the Oscars' spirit, and admittedly galvanise my own enthusiasm, which hasn’t reached last year's levels yet, I shall take a look at this year’s Oscars nominees for Best Picture, the ones I have seen that is, and try to understand what is it about this year’s Oscar's that hasn’t quite ignited that fire within me yet.  

The Descendants: While it is not a bad film, and that George Clooney survived a whole film without tilting his head once is definitely a landmark in this perfectly adequate and never exciting acting career, I don't really see The Descendants as worthy of a nomination for an award of merits. The script is ample and the film is decent. I particularly enjoyed the different kind of Hawaii shown in the film. However, it is what I would call a television drama, a good one, but a TV drama none the less.Those can be easily recognised by their actors acting their heart out dramatically in their humane drama about real life dramas, because real life is always so dramatic. Like many great TV dramas, The Descendants has excellent dramatic value, but no real cinematic one. I and everyone else would have enjoyed it just as much, or maybe even more, if we watched it on DVD, I’m not sure I would even bother with Blu-Ray. The problem is that the Academy loves those TV dramas and tends to forget it is an Academy of films not TV. This is why The King Speech won all the awards that Inception and The Social Network should have won last year.   
Vertical head all the way!

No one could be happier than I to see a comedy, especially a Woody Allen one, amongst the nominees for Best Picture. Like I have written in the past, Midnight in Paris was a real joy to watch. True I am biased when it comes to Woody Allen, and tend to love some of his film that no one else does, but I think Midnight in Paris is, rightfully, one of everyone’s favourite Allen film. Though it is not my personal choice for Best Picture, I can't help feel an elated thrill to see my Jewish hero’s name at the Oscars. It's not because of the Jewishness, Hollywood is full of us, it's more because even after all this time and the changes in attitudes it still feels like a little triumph every time this self made and truly independent filmmaker, once shunned by Hollywood and never really belonged to it, being embraced by it. I also love that he almost never come to a ceremony, every respectable glamour industry should have it's trophy wacky "rebellious" son. I wonder if the Academy will ever give him a life time achievement award, that would be interesting. 

My grievance about the lack of comedies nominated in the Best Picture category over the years, or of comedy actors never acknowledged for their comedy merits, will be expanded upon with in my upcoming post about comedy films.   

Tree of Life is the kind of film that can criminally snatch an Oscar from more deserving films, just so the Academy can show the rest of the world they understand quality. Terrence Malick is considered to be the filmmakers’ filmmaker. Worshipped by his colleagues and professionals in the industry, Malick has an added aura of a man who is so invested in his filmmaking it takes him years to make one. His visual sense is without a doubt outstanding, and his films are often stunning to look at, but what can I say, Malick’s films do not rock my boat. His lingering poeticism, over expressive sceneries and incredibly meaningful voice overs exhausts me after about five minutes. Sometimes I wish he would just tell me what it is he wants to say without piling all these excessively decorative metaphors on to his films. When it comes to dramatic visual expression, I prefer the more interesting Ingmar Bergman. I did, however, enjoy the bizarre dinosaur moment in Tree of Life, I think it was my favourite in the film.   

War Horse: Like with Woody Allen, but for complete opposite reasons and with an enhanced Jewish camaraderie, I am usually happy when a Spielberg film is nominated for an Oscar. However, like with Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, this year the wrong Spielberg film was noted. Unlike in the case of those films, this year there was a choice between two Spielberg films and the wrong one was elected. 

Despite ideological conflict I have about War Horse, I did enjoyed it and it contains many a Spielberg characteristics which I just cannot resist. Nevertheless, that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn won’t be even nominated in the Animation category, never mind Best Picture, is the kind of scandal that makes me wave my hands more vigorously than usual at the Academy even before any award was presented. 

War Horse is an easy to dismiss kind of film. If you are not a hardcore Spielberg fan there is probably far too much over the top kitsch and saccharin in it for a normal person to sustain. The Adventure of Tintin on the other hand, is a all-encompassing roller coaster so rich and exciting it makes the heart jovial. Moreover, much like my favourite to win this year, The Adventure of Tintin is groundbreaking, significantly influential and definitely has much more important place in film history than War Horse, or achievement in music. Like E.T., which at least was nominated, Tintin is the kind of Spielberg the Academy choose, sinfully, to ignore.

The Artist is one of the only two films nominated this year that gets my juices of exhilaration flowing. Like Midnight in Paris it is not my choice for Best Picture, but its place  in this category is more justifiable than most, and I will accept its Oscar win more graciously than I would any of the other nominees that are not Hugo. Not only is The Artist a stupendous film full of love for the art and the medium, it embraces its viewers, lures and flatters them and like the box office, critical acclaim and awards won and nominations show, it wins their hearts. If a film that rejoices in cinema and reclaim its audience in the simple beautiful way The Artist does, wins an Oscar, it will restore my hope for cinemas, their audiences and the Academy.

In a category titled Best Picture rather than best film or best movie, no film falls under this definition so wholly like my personal winner of this Oscar's year Hugo, and just like Inception the year before, I fear it will join the long list of Oscars’ outrageous blunders. I have elaborated in the past on the glorious revelation of Hugo. I would only add that it doesn't only celebrate cinema, understands and explores it like The Artist, Hugo does it most cinematically of all.

Looking at last year’s nominations, even though they didn’t win, The Social Network, Inception and True Grit all almost equally created the aforementioned tingling feeling, I am only getting from Hugo this year. Last year I passionately and naively wished for either of those films' victory, in spite of knowing that none of them will. I was emotionally invested enough to be disappointed with the choice of Toy Story 3 as a Best Picture nominee when it wasn’t even the best animation of that year. This Oscars’ year Hugo, closely followed by The Artist make all other films in this category and therefore the competition itself redundant. While I would add Tintin and The Muppets to the Best Picture category, there haven't been many films this Oscars' year that would make this competition more challenging and bring that tingling feeling back. If Hugo was nominated with Inception, The Social Network and
Tintin, well… Then I think the tingling wouldn't know where to go.

I am still going to watch the ceremony live and I know I will get emotional as I did with the BAFTA not too long ago, but if any of the big winners are not one of the only two truly worthy, furniture will be thrown out of the window, faith in humanity would be lost and I shall turn my back on the Oscars… Until next year that is. 


  1. Nice jab at Avatar :)

    Here's wishing success for your favorites at the Oscars !

    1. :D well spotted! I did write a whole rant about it: http://notoriousvandenbussche.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-i-stopped-being-afraid-and-learned.html

      Thanks. I doubt Hugo will get what it deserve, but I'm keeping the hope alive.