Posted by: dougery | February 8, 2012

Oscars, We’re Through

It has finally come to this. After long years of (perhaps) foolish loyalty bordering on compulsive, slavish devotion, The Academy Awards? We’re through.

An explanation is in order.

I’m a fan of lists. I’m also a fan of awards shows. Even when said awards are largely self-congratulatory meaningless gestures designed to boost the sales of underperforming films that more often than not focus on cursory discussions of race, Nazis, domestic violence, the mentally handicapped, the physically handicapped, mid-life crises, the small-town-person improbably makes it big (usually in Sports) phenomenon, corporate corruption, seemingly random but predominately British period pieces, gay rights, the hubris of man, political corruption, or war. These films are often just challenging enough to get under one’s skin (and not appeal to unwashed masses, thus the underperformance) but hopelessly insufficient in terms of actually exploring any of the above topics with any degree of complexity.

But mostly I like awards shows because they feature attractive people wearing fancy clothes, and someone like Tim Gunn gushing over said clothes or delivering the dreaded raised eyebrow of disapproval.

That said, during most years I go out of my way to see as many Best Picture nominated films as I can. This has led me to see some truly horrible movies, I’m looking at you, The Reader. When the Academy expanded the list from 5 to anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees (This is apparently the minimum and maximum amount of important films released in any given year) in 2010, I raised an eyebrow of vague intrigue. Maybe a more diverse selection of nominees would be included. Initially things looked promising.

We went from 2009’s horrible five-sided polygon of dreck (including Slumdog, Benjamin Button and the aforementioned The Reader) to 2010’s list which had two, count ’em, two actual genre pictures (District 9, however flawed it might be, and Avatar which I have somehow managed to avoid, genre or not), an animated feature (Up) and whatever you might classify Inglorious Basterds as. Yeah, there were also more typical Oscar Bait like Precious and The Blind Side, but no way would the quiet reflection of An Education or the strangeness of A Serious Man ever have made a 5 nominee list.

2011 stayed in step with this newfound diversity, maybe even lockstep, if by diversity one means the obligatory Pixar animated feature (Toy Story 3) and the smarter than normal blockbuster (Inception). Yet nobody actually thought the reserved brilliance of something like Winter’s Bone was gonna defeat The King’s Speech, did they? Spoiler alert, it didn’t.

Unlike 2010 and 2011, for 2012 only 9 films were judged sufficiently important. Why only 9, or why not less? Who knows. As you might guess from the title of this blog post, my feelings on this particular list of nominees are not favorable. 9 seems like a huge stretch, if we’re talking just these ‘fine’ pictures. My bullet thoughts on each, very quickly. Keep in mind I have not seen a majority of these films, some because of toxic press, some because I don’t much care for the themes, etc:

The Artist, a silent film, gasp, how outre!
The Descendants, something something George Clooney something Hawaii? I dunno. Looks pretty ordinary.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, UGH! I mean, whaaa? The book was all the 9/11 exploitation I needed for several lifetimes.
The Help, not even the comely charm of Ms Emma Stone, frizzy hair or not, could lead me to see this movie.
Hugo, everyone is on Scorsese’s dick, everyone, all the time. Last year’s Shutter Island was a mess and yet since it was Scorsese, well done!
Midnight in Paris, a fun completely inessential piece of fluff. If this is what passes as a Best Picture nominee, good gravy.
Moneyball, one of the few I will end up seeing, eventually.
The Tree of Life, where the Oscars acquire their street cred,
War Horse, I mean its Spielberg and war, can’t be that bad, right?

Of that list I have exactly 2 films. Put a gun to my head and I might see 3 others. Of the remaining 4, 2 of those I will never ever see, not even out of morbid curiosity, and this from a man who just rented and kind of liked Sucker Punch (that is an entire blog post of its own, caveats and all). There doesn’t seem to be any consensus between these 9 films and the critical community whatsoever.

If we take a look at this excellent piece from HTMLGiant’s A D Jameson, only 2 of the top 12 best received films of 2012 is up for Best Picture. What Jameson astutely points out is that the single unifying characteristic of these nominees is the fact that they all saw a relatively wide release and brought in some bank, though obviously it was determined that an Oscar nom might bump that gross a wee bit. The average worldwide gross for these films was 84 million. A far cry from Meek’s Cutoff and Uncle Boonmee‘s paltry mil (approximate) or Certified Copy and A Separation 5 and 9 mil respectively.

It seems The Oscars like bet on films with a track record of success and there certainly is a financial floor whereby a film won’t be considered. That floor looks to be about 30 mil, bearing in mind IL&IC (currently at 15 mil) was only recently released and horrible reception or not, will almost certainly eclipse say, the Tree of Life and its modest 50 mil.

Lastly, and kind of a left turn, a reader has asked me to kindly post which western I’ll be watching next. In the future I will include this at the end of every My Year of Western column.

Up Next: 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Listening to: Fugazi’s The Argument


  1. Midnight in Paris was magical. Also I hate you forever.


  2. Totes agree about “Hugo.” It had some really great parts, but a lot of it was a cliched, uninspired, sub-Harry Potter mess. I mean, it had extremely fake looking 3-D CGI and fucking dog reaction shots to shenanigans. But b/c it was Scorcese and b/c the movie basically told film critics “what you do is magical” it got amazing reviews.

    If Scorcese made a biopic about Pauline Kael healing lepers through the power of film criticism, the entire critical community would be instantly raptured.

  3. The Descendants was actually pretty good. Some of the acting is cringe-worthy, but all in all, intensely sad but giggle-out-loud funny. Also, I love any movie where the character you most want to punch in the face gets punched in the face.

  4. Points noted, people. Peltz, I’ll get to work on a time machine to send you back to the magical 20s. Sensei, I’ll begin a treatment of your movie idea, retrofitted into an action thriller of course. KAO, look for a youtube mash-up of characters in movies getting punched in the face a la that Andy Samberg SNL skit where he punches folks just before they eat something:

  5. I think we should combine all our comments and make a movie where George Clooney, playing Pauline Kael, travels back in time to 1920’s Paris to punch lepers in the face.

  6. directed by Scorsese, screenplay written by Sorkin, lepers all CGI constructs of Andy Serkis = OSCAR GOLD

  7. So are the Oscars the grouch… or is it you, La Fav?

    First off, I have not seen: The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close & War Horse so I won’t comment on them other than to say I would like to see the Artist and I’ve heard nothing but good things. That being said, I did see: The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball
    & The Tree of Life

    Of the movies I saw I actually preferred Hugo (maybe because I am still a 10 year old boy with a dog at heart), liked Midnight in Paris and the rest were decent but not that memorable. So I guess Scorcese can knock on my door and unzip his pants (for the record, Shutter Island was an “Epic Fail” {to use my nephew’s nomenclature} but the Departed before that was enjoyable). I also agree that this random number between 5 and 10 is ridiculous. Especially when not one of my top 5 for the year are in the chosen 9. And you didn’t even mention that they shunned Steve James again… the nerve!

    IMO, the Indpendant Spirit Awards have been much better than the Oscars for years… but I’m still going to be watching the Oscars.

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