Oscar Thoughts…

You can read a full list of nominations here, but I thought it best just to note a few little aberrations and nice surprises which the Academy threw our way this year.

  • The Blind Side for Best Picture – I don’t know how, why or for what reason this has happened, but awards boards and ceremonies are becoming increasingly too interested in rewarding the most popular rather than the quanitifiably ‘best’ films of the year. How this syrup-fest slice of mawkish shit has managed to score a few nods, I really don’t know. This nomination does give hope however to all those Hallmark/Lifetime movies about retarded children in inner-city schools or single mothers dealing with cancer that they could one day make the leap up.
  • District 9 for Best Picture – Rewarding a film which was not only popular, but broke all the present rules of blockbuster filmmaking – intelligent plotting, no on wearing catsuits and made on a budget which didn’t allow egomaniacal directorial masturbation. Blomkamp strikes on for all the people out there convinced that summers can be better.
  • Lee Daniels, Best Director for Precious – Not that Precious isn’t specifically well-directed, but there seems a much better argument to have Neill Blomkamp in there for District 9 given his handling of his material. Some of the decisions in Precious make the film play a little flat, which means that some of what should be the most powerful scenes lose much of their intended force.
  • Penelope Cruz for Nine – Yes, she is the only person that comes out of the film with real dignity left intact. No, this does not mean she should be rewarded over Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds. Julianne Moore in A Single Man and Rosamund Pike in An Education would also have been more deserving.
  • No Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – A film which not only should have been given a nod in the expanded animation category, but also for its sparkling script. Probably one which many Academy members failed to see on the same terms as a film like Up which, my opinion only, it is just as successful as.
  • An Education for Best Adapted Screenplay – The characterisations are not what made An Education a decent film. That is a movie saved from flat direction and a weak script by great acting, so the script getting a nomination, over the wonder that is Where the Wild Things Are, is a travesty.
  • In the Loop for Best Adapted Screenplay – A fantastic, completely deserved nomination for a film which has some great performances but, like The Thick of It, is driven by the foul-mouthed poetry of the script.
  • Avatar nine, but no script – Avatar gets nine nominations in all the right places. Undoubtedly a breathtaking cinema experience, I’ll allow its Best Picture nod. But the Academy had the sense only to reward Cameron’s direction in the upper categories, meaning that it rightly competes to take home, deservedly, every technical nod it can be given.
  • Nine for Hurt Locker, Eight for Inglourious Basterds – I’ve had a short-term turnaround in Inglourious Basterds, a film I didn’t enjoy in first watch, liked more on second and now fucking love. Eight nods is right. The Hurt Locker, the only film from the past year considered for my Best of Decade list, is a deserved recipient of nine nominations, with the script and Bigelow’s direction the most likely places for it to be triumphant.

6 responses

  1. I was a bit disappointed with The Hurt Locker, I was expecting something more documentary-like and realistic but it turned out to be rather Hollywood-ized (maverick main character taking silly risks that wouldn’t be allowed in real life, that scene where he leads the three of them into a stupid little hunt to find the bomber, the film being basically a string of action scenes, that ending) and if you read what real serving US soldiers have said on it’s IMDB board there are tons of major inaccuracies. I thought Avatar was nothing more than a special effects extravaganza with cardboard characters but I feel this just doesn’t deserve to beat it to Best Picture because of how it handles such a serious subject in a fairly cavalier manner. But I don’t know if any of the other 8 contenders stand a real chance. I wonder what A Serious Man was like (missed it when it came).

    1. I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy A Serious Man, actually. Very tightly-wound Coens but really well worth it if you are a fan.

      Now, with The Hurt Locker. I do understand that there are moments in the film which stray into Bourne-like action territory, something Tom had a problem with too, but I don’t think those moments should be viewed within that context. They are part of a wider thesis that the film is putting forward which has little to do with realism at war etc. The film is not about the war, it’s about soldiers and the ethos they live by. People are born to do what Jeremy Renner’s character does in the film and he is a representation of that rare mindset. As to soldiers talking about inaccuracies, who gives a fuck? Inaccuracies are part of fictional filmmaking, which is what this film is. It is not purporting to be a documentary in any way. The characters are amalgamations of people that the writer met whilst imbedded in Iraq and the set-pieces etc. are there for dramatic tension, not to provide an instruction manual on how people defuse bombs in a war zone. I think criticising any fictional film because they aren’t documentaries is a pretty pointless exercise.

      Avatar is definitely worth of inclusion amongst the Best Picture nominees. As an experience, it was unlike anything I’ve seen thus far in my life. But as a film, which is what this is supposed to reward, it’s incredibly flawed. The characters are wooden and the story boneheadedly simple – probably by design to allow the audience to imprint themselves on what’s happening on screen – it just will not hold up when watched on 2D screens in homes. He deserves huge credit for his vision and for his ability to direct action and immerse the viewer in his world, but that winning best picture would be a complete indictment of the Academy for rewarding the high-grossing, industry-saving film and not the high-quality exploration of character and subject.

  2. Right, it’s a film about soldiers and their “ethos”, so who gives a fuck if real soldiers aren’t satisfied with it? They weren’t just complaining about all the little inaccuracies that every military film has, they really seemed dissatisfied with it. I know you can’t make war films for soldiers in the same way they can’t make courtroom dramas for lawyers but even so this felt too much like a mainstream action movie.

    All I can say is I don’t think it’s a bad film but it’s not a serious enough film to deserve winning Best Picture (and it’s no Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket or Platoon), if it it does win (perhaps the Academy is too keen to celebrate a Iraq war film) I think it’ll be the weakest one since Crash (although it wasn’t as bad as Crash).

    1. Well I think it being serious enough shouldn’t play into the decisions. It went out to make a film which explores the psychology of soldiers and the addictive nature of war for people with a compatible worldview and did it. The film that wins should do so because it managed to meet all of the aims it set out for itself, and I would say that The Hurt Locker completely achieves this. I think that a similar argument could be made about Avatar, but that film is soooo confused in its politics and the characters so incredibly underwritten that it doesn’t meet enough of the targets to deserve to win. The only other film nominated this year which I felt managed to do that would be Up in the Air, though I know you weren’t such a fan of that one.

      I suppose it mostly comes down to taste and interpretation. For me, The Hurt Locker does everything I want it to do, for you it doesn’t. Also, I would say it is more than a match for those classic war films that you mention, especially the extremely heavy-handed, though still very good, Platoon.

  3. Hah! No way.

  4. To me Avatar felt like a fable to teach kids that it’s wrong to demolish rainforests and uproot tribespeople, or exploit any other third world country for it’s natural resources. And I’m not sure I found it to be a unique film experience, I wonder if people are just saying that because of the 3D (which is really just a gimmick).

    One film I rather liked although I doubt it’ll win Best Picture, was District 9. And to think it only cost $30 million to make. Although it did have some curious parallels with Avatar, including a climatic end battle involving a power suit and a psychotic army colonel.

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