Sunday, January 30, 2005

Clint & Marty and the Lifetime Achievement Problem

So, Clint Eastwood won the DGA for Million Dollar Baby and that's a result of three things 1) Love for the movie and his accomplishments there 2) Timing --the movie hasn't peaked yet...and 3) Clint's 'legend' status and honoring his whole life in the movies. That this lifetime achievement comes at the expense of Martin Scorsese is the central problem of the upcoming Oscar race as well.

You'll hear in any given awards year these two arguments about any particular heated race...
Pro "Due" / also known as Career Longevity
Yeah, so maybe it's not his/her best work. It's still better than most people can or will ever do and he/she still hasn't ever won an Oscar and this is getting ridiculous! Tons of people win for this reason, why not him/her?
Con "Due" also known as Career Longevity
Yes, he/she has a great body of work. And yes, it's not fair that he/she may never win. But the award is for the best of the year not the best of all time or the best of these careers of the nominees!

Now, where you stand on the issue is usually based on how you feel about the person that the question is about. The problem is that it needs to be one or the other. The problem and the anger that crops up is that the Academy and other awards giving entities are always flipflopping about their answer to this 'honors' problem. And, here's the other problem... given that sometimes two achievements are pretty much on the same level of accomplishments, why not give it to the more overdue person?

To some degree Clint already had his "due" year with Unforgiven so if he's up for the prize again --against someone who is widely considered to be among the greats of all time (that'd be Scorsese) should he really win again if he's the best of this one particular year? It's just a hypothetical question when it comes from me because I don't feel like Clint deserves it this year but it's an interesting quandry. If Clint can win several Oscars in honor of good movies and his longevity why can't Marty? This question is also particularly hard to deal with when it comes to the Best Actress race. Inexplicably many people have decided that the least of the five performances (Swank's) is the best the argument rises up there too: It doesn't matter if she previously won, she deserves it! But do you really award a non-interesting non-accomplished career Two freaking Oscars when you can never figure out a way to give one of America's greatest living filmmakers his first? Or two of the screen's best actresses ever (Julianne Moore and Kate Winslet) their first prize?

This question "career or year?" is a good one to ask. But nobody seems to ever answer it the same way twice.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. The lifetime achievement problem is definitely a weird one, especially for me this year. Unlike you, I do think Eastwood's direction on Million Dollar Baby is the best of the nominees, and that Hilary Swank gave the year's best actress performance in Million Dollar Baby. But I find myself oddly depressed at their chances of winning. When I found out Clint won the DGA, I was disappointed, only because I so desperately want Marty to have one. Ditto for Best Actress. If I were a voter, I would probably pick Winslet, if only because it's sort of ridiculous that Swank should have two before the (immensely superior) Winslet gets one, even if I thought Swank was better this year. And you're right about the flipflopping. If Ron Howard is considered "due," he wins even if he's the worst in his category, but when Martin Scorsese is "due," will they actually give it to the most deserving this year (Eastwood)? I'll definitely add that it doesn't always depend on the person in question, because this year I find myself strangely rooting for none of my favorites. I feel the same way about Thomas Haden Church, easily the year's best supporting actor, but it's about time Morgan Freeman gets one, so who do you vote for? This is the first year in memory I'm really glad I don't actually have to vote for these things, because the "due" factor seems bigger than ever this year.

Anonymous said...

The Academy has never given a Life Time Achievement award in the best director category! They do it in the acting categories all the time, but not in the director's category! That is the reason why so many legendary directors were defeated by directors in the likes of John G. Avildsen, Barry Levinson and Kevin Costner: in this particular category they go for the MOVIE they admire, not the person!
Spielberg begged to get an Oscar ever since he lost for E.T., but they only gave it to him, when he made a film they really loved.
The acting category is a total other ballgame. That is the category where they go out for Life Time Achievement awards, celebrating legendary actors for oké performances in dreadfull films. The reason is - IMHO - that when a legendary actor acts in a forgettable film, people can always blame the director for the movie's weakness. A director has no excuse, I guess.

I'm never a fan of that Life Time Achievement thing, not in the director category and not in the acting categories. Yep, I'm a 'best of the year' kind of guy. So I hope that, if 'The Aviator' wins best film and/or best director next month, it will be because the Academy loved the film, and not because they felt obliged to vote for it.


adam k. said...

Well, if everyone just voted for the right films in the first place, this lifetime achievement crap wouldn't have to come up. But alas. I kinda feel like if you wanna give someone a lifetime achievement award, give them an ACTUAL lifetime achievement award. Like the DGA did for Marty. Since they have in fact already given him one, I can forgive them for voting for Clint this time out. And actually I can forgive the globes too, since they already gave him a globe for Gangs. So, really, I think Marty's oscar chances are not so bad... the academy is the only one of these groups that has yet to give him his due in one way or another. And I think they know it. With regard to the actress situation, I think Nathaniel nailed it when he put out the "self-preservation" theory... they vote for what they can identify with. Hilary who is merely good but occasionally gets great roles is the kind of actress most of them are, and they all want to think they can win oscars if they get the right roles. While they may acknowledge that Moore and Winslet are great, they don't feel the need to hand them their award, since they may even figure if they're so great they don't need it anyway (which is basically true). It's a club that salutes their own. I think It's rather like how many people voted for Bush even when they thought Kerry did better in debates, has better positions, etc. People vote their identity in politics and in oscars. And they play it safe. But also with Moore and Winslet in particular, I think being taken for granted is a real issue. Voters must figure these two will just keep turning in great performances and eventually one year when no other "breakthrough actress" or whatever is standing in the way they'll say "OK fine, here's your oscar." But who knows how long it will be until that happens.

Anonymous said...

The weird thing is that, if Kate did indeed win (that would be the best thing ever and the world would implode because of it) would she be able to get away with a Julia speech? Like, Julia wanted to thank everyone she ever worked with... would Kate be able to do the same? After 4 nominations I think it would alright. But regular non-movie obsessive people would be all "pfft, nobody knows you girley." so I spose not... sorry, i went off on my own little tangent there.


I still actually think Scorcese will win the Oscar because as someone up there said, they're the only group to not give him any recognition. I predicted Clint to win the GG because Scorcese won it just 2 years ago.

But, yeah, the thought that Hilary Swank could have 2 Best Actress oscars on her shelf by late Feb when Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore, Signourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Annette Bening, Lauran Becall and Michelle Pfeiffer have none (and people like Ellen Burstyn and Susan Surandon only have 1) is very very very sad. "Wow, she made a second good movie. Good for her!"

I seriously believe than in 40 years or so when people are predicting Oscar nominations, that if Swank wins this year, people will say "It's not at all impossibly for someone who has only ever made 2 movies to get 2 Best Actress Oscars. A Young woman names Hilary Swank did so 40 years ago. Nobody has heard from her since..."


Anonymous said...

Luise Rainer, Bette Davis, Vivian Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Elizabeth Taylor, Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Ingrid Bergman, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster, Jessica Lange, Hilary Swank. What's wrong with this picture?

Don't get me wrong, I think Swank was perfectly good in M$B. Does she deserve two Oscars? No. But I don't think that's even the right question. Does she deserve the Oscar this year? I still think the answer is a resounding "no". (In fact, I can think of three performances that were more impressive that didn't even make the grade: Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 2, Julie Delpy in Before Sunset and Nicole Kidman in Birth.)

Of those who DID make the final 5, I thought Staunton was pitch perfect in every moment that the two-tone script allowed her to be (endearing dotty woman or sobbing wreck). I thought Winslet was a riot, but I'd rather see her win for a performance that stands unequivocally as the best of the year and of her career (Holy Smoke, if they'd bothered to notice). And Sandino Moreno was wonderful in Maria Full of Grace, but she's the recipient of the "thanks for throwing me the nomination bone" award this year.

For me, Best Actress is (or should be) all about Annette Bening, who gave us every shading of the emotional gamut in Being Julia. She was wacky, funny, attention-grabbing, clever, grand, fragile, and kept the audience with her all the way.

Meantime, over in the director category, Scorsese's nomination for The Aviator sits in a much more comfortable voting zone than his nomination for Gangs did a couple of years back. That's because the sense of "obligation" is far more removed this time. He's there because it was a terrific directorial accomplishment. He's earned the right to be nominated, and - should he finally get it - he's earned the right to be standing on the stage giving his thanks for THAT film.

I think Eastwood did his best work as director to date on M$B, but my assessment of how difficult his job was doesn't even sit in the same league as what Scorsese accomplished with The Aviator. I hope the Academy feels the same.

Anonymous said...

In some ways, I feel the hypothetical question you ask represents a common mentality in our society: people more often than not think in that irritating of-the-moment manner and never think about the long-run. In this situation, we have a chance to award both Martin Scorsese (finally!) and Annette Bening (finally!!) and people just don't seem to see this, opting to award Clint Eastwood (someone whose already won for Director AND Picture) and Hilary Swank (look at her career and look at Annette's...holy shiz...) because right now people are enthralled by both but, in my opinion, the love for Million Dollar Baby is destined to die, whereas with Annette and Marty, we know they deserve awards, we know they've lost undeservedly in the past (and have even missed nominations for deserving work) and even though we finally have a chance to put them in the history books as Oscar winners, people still disregard the facts. Our society is so conveluded, so twisted in the way that it thinks; in a lot of ways the Academy Awards (surprisingly) reflect much of the problems with the way most of America thinks (how preachy do I sound, right now?).

In the end, it pisses me off knowing once again people will vote for Clint Eastwood and then two years later bitch about his win and whine that Scorsese could have and should have won. Same goes to Annette, who may again lose to Swank. Let's hope Kate Winslet never has to deal with this crap.