Saturday, August 02, 2008

Oscar the Grouch

Rob here. As long as we're thinking about The Oscars (and when aren't we?), and are at the cusp of awards season I thought I'd pop out a few thoughts here. More and more I'm starting to dislike The Oscars.

Don't get me wrong, I still watch. But now more than ever, movies are forever defined by The Academy Awards. Do we want to see upcoming movies like Revolutionary Road and Milk because they look great or to see how they fit into the upcoming Oscar race. Take a movie like Brokeback Mountain. It is forever defined as the movie that lost to Crash. The actual quality and historical significance of the movie is almost a footnote.

And who do we blame for this? The studios who saw a marketing opening and cater all of their quality films to the Oscars? The oodles of associations who've jumped onto the awards bandwagon thus making Oscar season into a marathon? Ourselves? When we watch a trailer is our curious response, "will it be good?" or "will it be nominated?" When we watch a movie do we consider more whether a performance qualifies for our personal Oscars or how well it actually contributes to the experience of the film?

I know I do these things. I can tell you my Best Whatever winners for each year. I can give you my personal predictions for this year. I get wrapped up in it. But each time I hear a lazy critic describe a great performance as Oscar-worthy, each time a film friend of mine watches an old movie and gives me their "nominations" in lieu of any real opinion, I shudder a little more and more.

I wonder what a year would be like without the Oscars. Hypothetically, if all the releases stayed the same but without The Academy Awards? How would we, collectively react to all of the years movies without caring that they'd be vying for the title of "best"? Would it make things better? Maybe not, but I doubt it could hurt.

Later Jonathan will present the pro-Oscar argument (in the pursuit of being, you know, fair and balanced)



while i disagree that Brokeback's oscar loss is what it will be remembered for (unless you're talking in the anti-Oscar way of say Citizen Kane's loss ;) ) I do agree that it gets in the way.

in fact in the write up conversation about Million Dollar Baby last month I was hoping to write a note about how I realized watching it a second time that I had really let the Oscars get in my way of enjoying the film the first time around. It had a lot to recommend it. My criticisms of it still hold but I thought I was too harsh on it because I was so caught up in the competition and the strange handicap Oscar gives other competitiors when Clint is in the race.

anyway... interesting topic.

adam k. said...

I think if it'd been anyone else but Swank in that role, Nathaniel, you wouldn't have been nearly so upset ; ) Even Sandra Bullock, who, as I recall, was originally cast.

TylerPratt1 said...

I think people really are beginning to overrate Brokeback Mountain. As I remember it, many people were predicting Crash to win the big O in an upset and that really didnt seem to be a big deal back in 05-06. Crash had many supporters, was generally a more audience liked film that regular average joes enjoyed. Brokeback Mountain was critically beloved and capitalized on the fact that it starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two gay cowboys, which was the real reason the film became a sleeper hit. i thought Brokeback Mountain was the better film, but I dont think it deserves it's place as the biggest snub in Academy Award history. The movie basically became a "Boo-Hoo we unfairly lossed" bandwagon that people jumped on simply because thats what many bloggers and oscar sites were doing. Crash is and has been a decent film since it's release back in may 05, it deserved it's nominations and I hate the fact that people are so anti-crash now that it won, when weeks and even months before the Oscars people were predicitng the film to earn a deserved nomination. I just felt like I needed to get that out because Crash is a good film that does not deserve such hatred, even after three years people still havent gotten over it's win and Brokeback's loss. Come on guys, were talking about a film award not September 11th or some war. Lets move on, the Academy has.


tyler i've always found the notion that CRASH was better liked to be a media driven fallacy that showed their slight discomfort with BROKEBACK and their indisputable love of the drama of a real competition (who doesn't love a fight?) Brokeback winning everything was boring and the media kept stirring the pot. But the fact is that Brokeback was BY FAR the most successful picture in the race. Ticket sales are generally regarded in the media to mean audience love but in that case they pretended that people liked Crash better... to stir up the drama.

Crash is certainly easier for people to take. But Brokeback is and was more successful in general and more beloved by its constituency when you speak specifically. The media helped Crash win by making it the only choice for the anti-Brokeback people. And they existed.

ARGH... i always promise myself i won't talk about this anymore. ARGH ARGH ARGH

as for hating the movie because of its win... well, that happens to a lot of movies. It's one of my favorite things about Sasha Stone at AWARDS DAILY. It's a theme she returns to and mentions when appropriate and I think it's so true: some films just can't handle the weight of a Best Picture win. They're better off if they don't win. Crash was one of those. Little Miss Sunshine would have been another had it triumphed in its year.

Janice said...

Well since we've come back to that is it that Crash was worthy of a BP and not "Magnolia", the far, far superior film that Crash basically rips off?

Anonymous said...

I agree with tylerpratt1. "Crash" didn't then, and doesn't now, deserve the bashing bandwagon that it received, especially since most were considering the race to be a one-two ponyrace anyway between "Crash" and "Brokeback Mountain", and with the former winning, the latter gets vaulted into this snubbed paragon status that it doesn't really deserve. Yes, "Brokeback Mountain" was a groundbreaking film that deserves credit for breaking boundaries that mainstream America needed to see, but it wasn't a perfect film, and there were four other nominees that year that would have made very deserving best picture winners too. The Academy didn't owe anything to "Brokeback Mountain" just b/c it had amassed precursor wins. Voters will vote in the idiosyncratic ways that they will in EVERYTHING, from politics to silly movie awards. That's just the way that it goes. You don't have to like it or respect it, but I at least see where they're coming from, realize that it's their award to do with as they please, and then move on with my life.

Murnau said...

I didn't really care because A History of Violence wasn't nominated. But Brokeback was robbed, although Crash is merely mediocre rather than terrbile in my opinion.

When I watch a trailer the first thing I think is "will it be good?" Following the Oscar race is fun for me, but it's not the end-all-be-all. When I think of a past movie I don't really think about it's oscar-ness (unless it is defined by winning an Oscar, like Around the World in 80 Days) so I'm not sure I really get it.

JA said...

I'm on the record as thinking Crash was a total piece of shit from the moment I saw it, well before there was any Oscar talk, well before it was Crash vs. Brokeback, so I feel justified in continuing my "Brokeback was ROBBED" meme.

Cuz Brokeback was fucking robbed. Crash is a piece of shit.

That said, as much as I hate on the Oscars, I watch them every year and get giddy when they get something right. I danced around my livingroom this year when I saw Tilda Swinton holding an Oscar, and same with Glen and Marketa.

Anonymous said...

Crash was fine and deserved best picture. Get the hell over it already.