Monday, August 15, 2011

Oscars and Nolan rant


I dunno how many movies I'm going to see this month, or rather how many mainstream movies I'm going to see this month. I'm hoping to see Another Earth and Tabloid this week and I might end up seeing The Help this weekend, but the only one of those that's close to mainstream is The Help. Generally, there aren't many mainstream films I feel like seeing right now, that I haven't already seen. And most of my attempts to see Art House films fall through (I still haven't seen Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold).

The reason for this lack of mainstream films I want to see isn't hard to gage: It's August and while good things occasionally hit in August (District 9 for example), most of the big hollywood films hit in June and July, and since I'm not getting paid for this, I really can't justify going to see films I don't want to see.

But I'm still looking up, and not just because I begin classes at the NY Film Academy soon. No because in 2 weeks it'll be September and that means we start Oscar Season. One of the things that really sets me apart from many members of the 'geek side' of cinema is I actually adore the Oscars. No, I'm not kidding. It's not that I don't have problems with them, they tend to ignore the edgier films, they have terrible taste in foreign films and me talking up the genre bias is kinda irrelevant at this point.

Oh and then there's their guilt complex (this began as a simple sentence, but ballooned into a full paragraph so shut up). In case you're unaware of this, you'll occasionally see the Oscars give a Best Picture or Director to an older, well established nominee who hasn't won yet, even if it's not his best work or if there are more deserving nominees (I was going to bring up The Departed because the Best Picture winner that year SHOULD have been Pan's Labyrinth but I'm tired of that rant). The reason for this is guilt. See, even though they were always well liked at the time, everyone recognizes that Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick (and others, but we're focusing on them, because they're the biggest) were incredibly important, influential directors who both went to their graves without a single Picture or Director and the Oscar voters feel guilty about this. This makes the Oscar voters terrified that a really important actor or director will die without winning and they'll have to feel even more guilty.

Wow that turned into a fairly lengthy paragraph. Sorry.

But that all ceases to matter because of Oscar Season. I want you to go back and think of the films that came out in 2010 in and around Oscar Season. Oh you need some refreshers? Black Swan, True Grit, The Fighter, The Social Network, The King's Speech, 127 Hours... you get the picture. I mean, all of those films are pretty far outside the mainstream, and as Winter's Bone proved, even a small budget doesn't insulate you from failing at the box office.

So how do they get made, you ask, if they're outside the mainstream? Well the main way these movies get made (okay, besides being from Europe) is by saying, at some point in the pitch, 'It's Oscar Material.' I guarantee you in every one of those movies, from Black Swan to The King's Speech, the person pitching said at some point 'This movie could get nominated for an Oscar.'

That's why I love the Oscars, for all of their flaws. Because if they didn't exist, if the main film award was the Golden Globe, do you think these more intellectual, better made, more challenging films would even get funding? Hell no. But because every studio wants to be the big Oscar winner that year, they let these films get made. So that, above all other reasons is why the Oscars matter.



Incidentally (and this is beside my main point), I haven't made many comments about The Dark Knight Rises, but I feel this needs to be said, because bashing publicity around it is starting to become an annoyingly common pastime. See, I'm gonna go ahead and reserve every bit of my judgement for when it hits. Why, you ask, am I not going to condemn it when I'm often prepared to condemn films based on their premise, much less trailers (though I still give them a chance: The trailer for Source Code completely underwhelmed me, and it's still sitting large as the best movie of the year).

Because Christopher Nolan is directing. Now I'm not saying that I'm going to like the movie no matter what, but you know what? His last 4 movies were, in order, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight and Inception. You do 4 movies in a row like that, I tend to be willing to trust you know what you're doing. Incidentally, this is why I generally trust whatever the Coen Brothers are working on, because they've done such incredible movies with such alarming regularity that I just sort of assume they know their shit, no matter what. Apparently they're working on a remake of Gambit. And that's cool with me.

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