The Academy Awards Never Win

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

The nominations are in and the stage is set for another Academy Awards next month. Strangely enough, the Oscar nominees elicit a weird reaction every time they’re announced. Critically the Awards are treated as the hallmark of excellence for film, acting, directing, etc., but often we as a society tend to dismiss them when we don’t agree with the nominees and/or winners. In my discussions with peers, I’ve even heard that awards ceremonies in general are rather pointless due to bias and personal opinion, yet when they talk about an award-winning movie with revere, they’re quick to point out that it won an award. This bi-polar emotion just goes to show that the Academy Awards will never truly win in the court of public opinion.

Perhaps I’m pointing out the obvious here as these are likely feelings or thoughts we’ve all had at one point in time. Of course, there’s also a good bet that most people don’t even think about the Academy Awards at all. Regardless, I believe the Oscars, though flawed and prone to nominate similar films each year, serve a good purpose as far as awards go.

  1. Giving attention where attention is due

Often we can know a film will be on the nominee list before it even hits theaters. Some, however, surprise us and make it on the list with little to no fanfare. Off the top of my head, Winter’s Bone comes to mind as a film that was nominated for Best Picture and yet few had heard of and likely fewer had seen at the time of its release. It’s a fantastic movie – and notably Jennifer Lawerence’s first big role – that deserved the nomination and one that I might not have discovered otherwise. Often I hear family and friends argue that’s it’s precisely unknown films like Winter’s Bone that turn them off to the Awards because they haven’t seen them (nor, for that matter, do they want to see them).

These feelings were most pronounced in 2008 when the Academy nominated a relatively unknown movie, The Reader, for the fifth Best Picture slot over commercial and critical smash hit The Dark Knight. At the time, I counted myself as one of the many who were upset over what I saw to be a gross bias by the Academy of choosing weird, independent films over superhero ones. I realize now that I’ve never seen The Reader nor can I vouch for its quality, but what I can say is that, whether or not the Academy was mistaken in their nomination, a new movie is on my radar that would otherwise have flown by unnoticed. This list has grown over the years and gives me something to look forward to when considering what I want to watch over the weekend.

1783285_et_oscar_photo_feature_ALS_ALS_

  1. And the winner is …

Sometimes the Academy gets it right. Occasionally their eyes are open, their minds unbiased and the quality of the winners is undisputed. When it happens, I can’t help but sit back, grin and think to myself, “maybe humanity is worth saving.”

Again, this is obviously relative as different people will think different movies/actors/directors deserved to win over the actual winner. However, there’s a distinct difference between a great movie beating another great movie, such as No County for Old Men beating out There Will Be Blood, and a not so great movie like, oh I don’t know, let’s say Chicago beating out the likes of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. A good friend of mine was rooting for There Will Be Blood back in 2007 as we played a good round of Oscar bingo and, while he was disappointed with the final results, felt satisfied knowing that a worthy contender took home the big prize.

If all else fails, the Academy tries to put on a good show. I would wager that anticipation for the dresses and outfits on the red carpet are a bigger deal than the awards themselves sometimes. And if, at the end of the day, you still don’t like, agree with or enjoy the Academy Awards, there are always other awards ceremonies out there to satiate the desire to see your favorite films recognized and honored: the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards and – possibly the greatest joke of an awards ceremony – the People’s Choice Awards. But I can almost promise you’ll never see anything as cool as this photo at one of those ceremonies.

Ellen-DeGeneres-Academy-Award-Twitter-Oscar-Selfie-Photo

Advertisements
The Academy Awards Never Win

Share the Love, Share a Movie

couple-watching-movie-in-bed

For every person there is a movie classic that’s deemed by society as a “must see” film that they have never seen before. For me, it’s The Godfather Part I and Part II, although some of my friends would argue that Dumb and Dumber is the true classic I’m missing out on. I don’t have any empirical proof to back up this brave assertion, but common sense would suggest that there are just too many movies for one person to have seen all the classics that they should.

I was generally hesitant in my youth to admit that I hadn’t seen a movie because of the ridiculous response it tended to elicit. When I revealed to people years ago that I had never seen Braveheart, the response I typically got went something along the lines of “Wait, you mean you’ve never seen Braveheart before?! How have you never seen it! It’s like a classic! How can you call yourself American if you’ve never seen Braveheart!” OK, so I might have exaggerated a little with that last sentence, but the rest is fairly accurate.

When a co-worker mentioned after work the other day that they had never seen the The Dark Knight, I was sorely tempted to react in such a manner as described above. Instead I viewed this as a perfect opportunity to both introduce a friend to a truly incredible film and to hopefully relive some of the feelings I had when I first saw it at midnight on opening night six years ago.

kids-watching-movie

Thanks to the human brain’s ability to remember things, we can never truly experience a beloved film the same way we did when we saw it the first time. Having said that, watching a movie with another person for their first time and seeing the look of wonder on their face as they process each scene comes pretty close to our original experience. However, such wonderful opportunities to share films with one another are easily lost when mockery comes into play.

If by chance you have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, I invite you to perform this experiment: For the next 24 hours, try to mention in conversations the fact that (whether true or not) you’ve never seen the original Star Wars trilogy before. For added effect, mention that you only saw the prequel trilogy. I can almost guarantee that within the aforementioned time you will receive at least one exasperated individual who will act incredulously toward you and explain that everyone has or should see those movies.

More often than not I’ve found that such reactions on the part of the disbeliever tend to dissuade rather than convince a person to watch something. At the very least, it will likely embarrass the person on the receiving end who may end up watching the film, but certainly not with the mocker. I’ll admit here that I have been on both sides of this scenario, and I regret the times that I was the disbelieving mocker.

When I tried to show Star Wars to a friend over a year ago, the experience didn’t go quite as smoothly as planned, probably due in some part because of my annoyingly over-the-top reaction to her admission that she had never seen the movies. I can only hope that she gives it another chance someday without someone mocking her like I did.

While I failed with my friend, I intend to correct my mistakes in the future. And if worse comes to worse and I can’t find anyone to show a movie to, I can at least look forward to sharing The Empire Strikes Back with my future kids and seeing the the look on their faces when they find out Darth Vader is really Luke’s dad.

Share the Love, Share a Movie

Of Apes and Men

Dawn of the Apes

*I must apologize for the lateness of this article as I was expecting to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes earlier but due to unforeseen circumstances I only just managed to see it late Saturday night.*

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – which I will hereafter refer to simply as Dawn – received a hearty welcome from critics and viewers alike this weekend, myself included. It’s always a special moment for me when I view a sequel that’s better than a good predecessor, and in terms of quality Dawn is to Rise of the Planet of the Apes as The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins.

What caught my attention though was a line from Christopher Orr’s review of the film: “I can’t help but think that it might be wiser still to forgo our species altogether and make the next movie all-ape. It is, after all, the logical next step in this particular cinematic evolution.” Truth be told, the apes are the more interesting characters in this movie, and the opening scenes alone makes one stop and think if Orr might be on to something.

The first 15 minutes of the film primarily focus on the apes and the home they’ve built for themselves in Redwood National Forest. We see them hunting and fishing, teaching the younger apes the alphabet and in general attending to their family lives. During these opening scenes, all dialogue is subtitled as the apes use a mix of ASL, body language and grunting to communicate. I worry that describing these scenes will make them sound boring, but believe me when I say they are nothing short of engrossing. To be honest, for a moment I felt like I could have watched the whole film like that and been satisfied.

Dawn of the Apes 2

But there’s the catch, it’s only the “dawn” of the planet of the apes, meaning they haven’t taken complete control yet. And if you’re like me, by the time the first human shows up you think to yourself, “Oh yeah, I forgot you people were in this movie.” Luckily the interactions between humans and apes drive the story and action and the relationship between the two never gets boring (I can’t say the same for the human to human relationships), but all of this begs the question: “Could Hollywood make a financially and critically successful movie like this without humans at all?”

I know what you’re thinking, there’s not a great demand for movies without human characters. And, you know, seeing as how all actors are human (that we know of), there’s generally not a huge market for this kind of thing. But bear with me here, this is the second movie that I can recall in memory that’s not animated where humans take a back seat to non-human characters, the first being Avatar (Although Dawn, in my opinion, is vastly superior to that film). The first 15 minutes of Dawn certainly give a convincing argument for a future Planet of the Apes movie without a human in sight.

Humans and Apes

Unfortunately, despite how good the argument may be initially, a Planet of the Apes film without even a single human runs the risk of losing its audience (humans) who naturally identify with their own race rather than a race of aliens or in this case apes. People may identify with certain characteristics of the apes. They may even root for them over the humans. But take the humans out of the picture and I fear audiences will lose interest. I could be wrong of course, but I haven’t seen a director tackle this idea head on yet.

There will likely be a Planet of the Apes film in the future that uses only one human character with the rest of the cast acting in motion capture, and I look forward to that film. If they do decide to make a film with all non-human characters, I’ll be interested to see if Orr proves me wrong. First, we have to find a director that’s willing to take on such a challenge.

Of Apes and Men