Tuesday, February 26, 2008

80th Annual Academy Awards: The Aftermath

Nothing makes me want to yell "STFU!" at the top of my lungs than the annual post-Oscar show bashing. It seems like a time honored tradition for TV critics and conservative pundits to get together and whine about how boring the telecast was and how no one has heard of any of the nominees or winners.

Take, for instance, this jewel of a quote from Robert Bianco of the USA Today:
Maybe settling the strike in time for the Oscars wasn't such a good idea after all. True, Oscar has been less than scintillating before, but has it ever felt like more of a padded bore than it did Sunday night? If so, blame the writers' strike, which left the producers with only a few weeks to prepare for the ABC broadcast and persuaded them to lean less on the host and more on old clips. The goal, no doubt, was twofold: to distract us from a crop of nominees who, to put it nicely, failed to stir much popular interest; and to make up for the writers' inability to create more elaborate, host-driven bits.
People like this make me want to scream. If you think the telecast is so boring and so painful to sit through, then quit your bitching and turn off the TV. Reviewing the Oscar telecast does little good because no one is ever going to see it again - there is nothing to warn anyone about. If you don't like the Oscars then why watch them?

And why is it such a problem that the nominated films "failed to stir much popular interest?" That's the public's fault, not the nominees'. This year's crop of nominees was one of the best ever. The fact that few people saw them is their own damn fault. Conservative pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Brent Bozell love to crow about how liberal Hollywood is so out of touch with middle America and doesn't make or honor movies that real Americans actually like.

To that I say - tough. Its not Oscar's fault that most Americans have no taste. Does the fact that There Will Be Blood is the lowest grossing of the Best Picture nominees make it any less of a masterpiece? Does the fact that Marion Cotillard is French make her performance any less of a cinematic miracle (Bozell seemed to find the lack of American acting nominees this year offensive). Hell no! It's that kind of ignorance that is partially responsible for the dearth of intelligent filmmaking in the multiplexes (the studios' constant pandering to the lowest common denominator is also to blame there).

Bozell points to a time when the Oscars went to popular hits like Casablanca, The Bridge On the River Kwai, and The Sound of Music. But he fails to point out that today's popular hits are nowhere near as good as those three films. Could you imagine handing the Best Picture Oscar to Transformers or Spider-Man 3? It would be a joke. For someone who constantly touts the virtues of Amazing Grace ($21,250,683) and The Ultimate Gift ($3,438,735), he never mentions the fact that the lowest grossing Oscar nominee, There Will Be Blood ($35,112,557) far out-grossed them both.

The simple fact is that people just don't go see the best films anymore, they want re-heated left overs. Which is a real shame, because 4 of the 5 Best Picture nominees this year were absolutely fantastic (the worst one, surprise, surprise, was the highest grossing of the nominees).

Some even have the gall to complain about the nominees being too dark. "Style Columnist" Tom Shales of the Washington Post whines that "The Coens generally make cynical, gloomy movies."

Well boo-hoo for you. The world is not a happy-go-lucky place . Not every movie has to be a feel-good romp that puts pat band-aids on the world's problems, or ignores them completely. Some of us like our movies to be emotional journeys that explore the depths of humanity and make is think. That's not to say that all films should be dark and depressing, and that there isn't room in the world for lighthearted films, but for me the most satisfying films are the ones with great depth of feeling that make you look at cinema and the world itself a little differently. I think Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood-Elsewhere put it best:
These are some of the best movies that the filmmaking culture is turning out now. Every year there are at least 20 or 25 films that are somewhere between excellent, very good or good enough to watch and think about later. If regular people in Boston and Saskatchewan are living such insulated and cut-off lives that they can't be bothered to go to some of these films unless it has an advertised 'happy pill' vibe then the hell with them. They're children. I have no time for childishness, and neither does anyone else of any worth. Life is short.
Tom O'Neill has a rundown of the critical whining about the telecast over at his GoldDerby blog. I for one thought this year's Oscar telecast was one of the breeziest, most relaxed, most entertaining shows in years. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and most of the presenters didn't even try to keep a straight face while reading off the lame overcooked intros.

Sure there were some rough spots (the CGI opening was pretty rough, Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie bit even more so), but there always are. Seriously, you try mounting a show like this in 11 days.

It's the Oscars, it's part of their charm. This is why I love them. This is why I look forward to them every year, no matter what.

Here's to you Oscar. 80 years old and still going strong.

1 comment:

Craig said...

To that I say a heartfelt ditto.