Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oscar Symposium Day Two

Nathaniel R: A note of warning for rabid symposium enthusiasts. This year's symposium is shorter than usual. There's a brief wrap up tomorrow but it was basically a two and half day affair this year due to time constraints and the golden malaise that was well covered in day one.

Where did we leave off, let's see... previously on the Symposium the Academy was deemed a passive and/or reactionary collective. There was handwringing about the terrors of the distribution system and the limited amounts of movies people actually do see. Ed struggled with loving performances in films he hated. Rachel Getting Married proved divisive... no kidding. And Kris felt battered by Harvey Milk's halo. So here we go again.


~ Day Two ~

To give Kris a halo-proof film and to cover all the ground you request Tim, I suspect Milk would have to have been as long as Benjamin Button (The Curious Case of Harvey Milk?) and who needs that? Harvey Milk is such an underappreciated and crucial figure in the history of civil rights and what biopics can't also double as hagiographies? Make a miniseries if you want to cover a whole life. If we must have biopics -- must we? There are so many other genres that would like some face time at the Kodak -- shouldn't they be tightly focused like The Queen and Capote were and now Milk is. And if they're smartly made they can hire a brilliant actor to fill in the blanks of the life before the events focused on and the ones inbetween and the ones you don't have the running time to go into. This is the kind of thing actors should be rewarded for. Not for adequately meeting the demands of a meaty role.

Timothy Brayton: One of the things I noticed looking over the acting nominations is that the two male categories, in my opinion, are substantially stronger than the female categories. In both Actor and Supporting Actor, I love three nominees, and I'm perfectly fine with the other two; in both Actress and Supporting Actress, I actively dislike one of the nominees, two leave me cold, and two are pretty good, but not world-changing. Did anyone else feel the same way? Is this a sign of male screenwriters' perpetual inability to write compelling female characters? Am I just being absurdly picky because my beloved Sally Hawkins was snubbed?


Watch the participants dart away from Nathaniel's question about "heat of the moment" errors in judgment (guess he's the only one that makes mistakes!), learn what Iron Man says about stardom, why we're suing Kris, how David Fincher messed with Timothy and Ed's heads, why marketing execs should hang it up post Frost/Nixon, and why AMPAS ignoring public opinion can be a good thing. Plus: more nostalgia for 2007 and unnecessary dreaming about 2009. Return and comment if you'd like to join in...
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26 comments:

adam k. said...

Well I certainly regret being nutso for American Beauty way back in the day. But most of the other nominated films that year were mediocre anyway (or else I hadn't seen them) so Beauty was always the exciting choice and still sort of is.

That was one of my first oscar years. But as an oscarwatcher, I really cut my teeth on 2000 and 2001. And is it just me, or are the oscars just not that exciting anymore? They just don't make 'em like they used to. There hasn't been anything truly suspenseful, at least in best picture, for many years. The only real shock has been Black Sunday in '05 and I'd rather not think about that ever again.

It seems like there hasn't been a bona fide masterpiece in the best pic race in some time, and there also hasn't been any real suspense. Even though the ultimate outcomes in '00 and '01 were rather depressing, there were such good films in the mix, and so much uncertainty, that awards season seemed truly magical ('02 was not bad either). But now it's just really gone downhill.

'06 was a good year for quality, but even the really good films were so relentlessly depressing that I couldn't love them. Plus there was zero suspense. The only thing I really cared about that year was Once, which at least won best song.

Maybe I just look back fondly on those other years because I was in college and I had my art theaters and my college friends and that sense of new discovery and wonder. But I think a lot of it's just that the movies and the awards now are just not worth caring about as much.

ed gonzalez said...

I want to say real quick that I'm embarrassed by my lack of input on day two, but Valentine's kept me away from my computer for most of the day. Had I chimed in some more, I would have praised Nat for his lovely comment about actors adding "notes" to films. I'm also embarrassed that I completely forgot Fincher's fantastic "The Game" when (briefly) discussing his cinematic canon. And I regret that we didn't take a little bit of time to chew on "The Reader." The subject of the movie is really fascinating but there's something about Stephen Daldry's tony aesthetic that troubles me, as in that really offensive pan across Lena Olin's luxe and expansive pad at the end of the film, almost immediately after the camera leaves the dingy confines of Kate Winslet's cell. The implications of that juxtaposition are very problematic, to say the least. Thanks again, Nat, for the invite.

NATHANIEL R said...

thanks for adding that in here Ed. I was avoiding The Reader and I probably shouldn't have... but I also find it fascinating though not great in any significant way.

That pan may be disturbing (I hadn't thought of it but hearing it now I see why it would raise eyebrows) but I think Lena Olin's scene in its entirety actually makes the movie work. It's like she's an immovable force, decimating any trace of sentiment or misreadings one could attempt in viewing Hanna's arc as redemptive (funny that everyone misread it anyway... but the reactions are what they are)

John T said...

Adam, I have to completely disagree-we got a bonafide masterpiece with a trophy in both 2003 (Lord of the Rings will rank alongside GWTW and Lawrence someday, if not right now), and No Country is noir worthy of Polanski.

I think the thing that the Academy has lost is that they've lost the movie star/comedians as hosts things; this is said every year, but they desperately need to get Billy back. People always talk about how many people watched 2003, and how it was the year of LOTR. What they don't talk about is it was Billy's return to hosting after four years, and how five years later, he's still everyone's favorite host.

adam k. said...

I agree that ROTK is great and deserved to win, but the total inevitability of it, along with the total inevitability of EVERY major category, totally killed that year for me. I just couldn't bring myself to care.

Same with '06. Everything (save the actress categories) was a snoozefest. And though I respect the hell out of No Country, it wasn't something I could bring myself to care about in any significant way.

Maybe it's just me. Everything just seems cooler and more unpredictable when you're 18/19. But sometimes it feels like the oscars are hard to care about anymore.

adam k. said...

In a nutshell:

Every year now it's boring because either you know with certainty exactly what's going to win (in best pic and most other categories) or you just don't care because all the movies are pretty unexceptional anyway.

That's my take.

(sorry for being a spoilsport)

Glendon said...

Can we not assume everyone has seen One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and spoil the ending? I know there are some movies like Star Wars where the general public knows what happens even if they haven't seen it, but I doubt that film is one of them.

gabrieloak said...

The only way the Oscars are going to stop being boring in the future is to stop following what happens during the months preceding the Oscars. For the past few years I have stupidly followed the Oscar campaign season faithfully and watched every stupid award show--and the result is being completely jaded by the time Oscar night rolls around. This year is no exception. I couldn't even enjoy Kate Winslet finally winning some awards because so many people have trashed her and her performance in The Reader.

(I'm not sure why I even cared about the Oscars this year after spending so much time glued to the TV following the presidential election.)

Amanda said...

I agree with the person who said that the Oscars aren't exciting anymore. I've been watching since Titanic won... I was 9 years old and saw, at most, one nominated film a year... but I watched, wide-eyed, at the glamor and the suspense of the winners. I haven't felt that way for years now... maybe it's my own fault... I essentially know who the winners will be based on precursors, but still... it just has lost its magic for me.

Anywho, I agree that 'Button' lacked emotional relevance... I liked it when I saw it because I enjoy a sappy romance, but less than 24 hours later, I could barely remember anything but flaws. Loved Nat's comment about 'notes', and I thought Henson did just that, but unfortunately wasn't in the movie enough-- She was as close as they got to emotional resonance, for me--

Good job, guys.

adam k. said...

Can I also say that, though I very much disagree with Kris Tapley's taste in movies, he IS quite a good-looking fellow.

NATHANIEL R said...

glendon that won't really spoil that movie experience for you. the movie is too potent to be defeated that way.

amanda i still enjoy the suspense but in a really abstract way because the part i'm enjoying is not "who will win who will win" but 'what will their face look like when they win' and how quickly will they walk up to the podium and etcetera... but yeah, the precursors did spoil the party to some extent. It's hard not to watch them if you like awards shows (as i obviously do) but it also kinda ruins it.

this is why i treasure the globes because they will throw such curveballs from time to time that you know oscar won't repeat (like the CLOSER wins or the IN BRUGES love)

adam k. said...

*in my old comment where I mentioned '06, I really meant '07. The No Country year.

Oy, I'm already at the age where I start confusing years because they all seem the same. Depressing.

Sorry to hog the thread.

Scott said...

It's always good to see I'm not the only person who liked Infamous more than Capote (not that I hated Capote or anything).

RahulB said...

I feel the large chunk of the problem IS the precursors. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and so many awards are telecast on television that it diminishes the effect of the Oscars. For people who enjoy the Oscars, it will always be the end-all, say-all...but for others? The Critics Choice Awards on VH1 will do. Especially when the SAME FUCKING MOVIE is chosen each and every time.

Sorry for the language, but come ON. Think for yourselves people, stop trying to predict what's going to happen 3 months later and go with your gut. It's why I've come to respect LA and NY film critics associations moreso than others - they don't jump on the bandwagon, if anything, they start the bandwagon. And no offense to other cities out there, but I really can't take the Southeastern Des Moines Critics Association seriously (exaggeration, but you get my gist).

It's interesting to note, that at my work, the one film that many people keep discussing is The Wrestler. Is it the late release date? The studio? The theaters? The distribution? What prevented this movie from becoming one of the Top 5 is mystifying. I don't find 2008 to be any weaker in films released than 2007 or 2006, I find the Best Picture lineup to be one of the weakest I've EVER seen. When I can only root for 1 film instead of 2 or 3, something is seriously wrong.

I just want to shake everyone in Hollywood. Shake them like a British nanny. It's like they're in a trance and they can't snap out of it. I feel like the only thing that'll change anything is if some "big, blockbuster" movie fails, i.e. Transformers 2 or the inevitable Batman sequel or something. But when something as awful as Indiana Jones 4 (which almost taints the entire legacy of the films) makes over $300 million, something is, again, SERIOUSLY WRONG.

Glenn said...

Speaking of Kris... where as he? It's a good think you weren't paying these people, Nat, because he would've been a rip off. No offence to him and I'm sure he was busy, but... ya know. The others at least tried.

I've been saying for years that the audience has changed for adult movies. And especially now with DVD, audiences don't need to trek to the horrible disgusting loud cinema to see something like Doubt. But, in contrast, 20 years ago Pursuit of Happyness - a huge hit with the biggest star in the world - would've been a Best Picture nominee and I think we can all agree that we're happy that never happened.

Noecito said...

Ben Button is a long movie. So what? It oozes pure beauty (and not only when Brad is young and hot)

Tormentor said...

where is the cinematic shame on everyone ?!

it should have been here by now...

Anonymous said...

So Karina thinks it's okay for the Academy to reject populist/critically acclaimed fare like "The Dark Knight" for shit like "The Reader"? That's sad. If the Academy's aims are really about their industry coming together to have a public, global discourse on the wide-ranging scope of cinema in a given year (and honoring it), then to exclude populist films for the uber-serious "adult drama" bait that's just plain bad defeats the entire purpose of their aims. I'm not saying throw a BP nod at "Iron Man", and I'm glad that they avoided miserablist fare like "Doubt" and "Revolutionary Road". But the stench from having "The Reader" in there is deafening. Something's very rotten in the state of Denmark.

Joe Reid said...

The stench of mixed metaphors is equally deafening.

Anonymous said...

And you mean what through your little snark there?

Anonymous said...

I think Australia and Benjamin Button fell in the same category this year...great to look at but both of them lost my interest half way through...It's really disappointing as both the directors had really grabbed me with their previous movies...

Robert said...

I'm worried.

If the death of the specialty divisions and the increasingly myopic view of the studios is going to result in more dull standard Oscar fare year after year, combined with an Oscar telecast that seems to be increasingly targeted toward the Disney Channel crowd, I fear that The Oscars will lose all fun.

And this is the first year I'm throwing an "Oscar Party" having wanted to do one for so long and looking forward to many in the future. I worry that The Oscars are going to get so bad, that it'll be just a quick wash out

NATHANIEL R said...

robert -- yeah, i don't really understand that Disney Channel targeting either. Because is that really their audience?

and if it is... and they think it is... than why nominate the type of thing they nominated.

of course this is probably more a simple matter of the producers of the telecast have a far different agenda than the membership at large.

but if you can't sell a broadcast that includes some of the biggest stars in the world (angelina, brad, kate, meryl, rdj, heath ledger in memoriam) without resorting to non movie celebrities as presenters... rather than other movie stars that might appeal to those watching in the first place...

i don't really get it.

tim r said...

Not much to add to your excellent discussion except that I'm with Ed on The Game. I've probably watched it more often than any of Fincher's other movies -- and I'd go so far as to say it has more emotional content, as well as really wizard Harris Savides cinematography. It's so underrated.

NATHANIEL R said...

i think i'll have to take your word for it because up until now it was my least favorite Fincher film. I just couldn't suspend enough disbelief.

i love everything else though (prior to Button)

Rich Aunt Pennybags said...

I agree that ROTK is great and deserved to win, but the total inevitability of it, along with the total inevitability of EVERY major category, totally killed that year for me. I just couldn't bring myself to care.

Same with '06. Everything (save the actress categories) was a snoozefest. And though I respect the hell out of No Country, it wasn't something I could bring myself to care about in any significant way.

Maybe it's just me. Everything just seems cooler and more unpredictable when you're 18/19. But sometimes it feels like the oscars are hard to care about anymore.


Sadly I agree. I don't know if it's me getting older and not thinking the Oscars are really that important anymore, the Oscars themselves, or both things, but I'm just really not excited about them like I use to be. I'll watch but by the time the ceremony is over, I'm sure I'll have flipped it to something else when I would have never done that when I was younger no matter how boring something on it might be.

Also, please no more Billy Crystal which is one of main reasons that 2003 was so hard to sit through for me. He was a great Oscar host at one time, but the last few times that he hosted really tarnished my fond memories of him.

glendon that won't really spoil that movie experience for you. the movie is too potent to be defeated that way.

The ending or big secret being known is probably not up there with the Star Wars trilogy or Citizen Kane, but The Simpsons did a parody of it, so maybe it's fairly known. I'm not really sure, but using that as a cultural barometer, I would say that it was.