Of all the films that came out last year, from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 to Maleficent, from Need for Speed to The Nut Job, at the beginning of the year, the good were separated from the great and the fantastic separated from the flops, as our Oscar nominees were announced in the second week of January. These films represent the ‘best’ that the film industry has to offer in each individual category from Make Up to Sound Mixing and Screenplay to Best Motion Picture. But let me ask you this: of the last ten years’ Best Picture winners, how many of them have you seen? Let’s take a look at that list:
2013 – Argo
2012 – The Artist
2011 – The King’s Speech
2010 – The Hurt Locker
2009 – Slumdog Millionaire
2008 – No Country for Old Men
2007 – The Departed
2006 – Crash
2005 – Million Dollar Baby
Of that list, there is maybe one or two that can be watched and enjoyed by your average movie-goer as well as the film critics and ‘distinguished’ academy members who voted for them. So, isn’t that the film that should win; the one that is most liked by the most people? Should Avatar, that made over two billion dollars at the box office and became a global phenomenon, not have beat The Hurt Locker, which was only seen by a handful of people, becoming the lowest grossing best picture winner in over eighty years of Oscar history? Are the Oscars truly worth the hype?
In October last year, The Vent.tv introduced you to several films that were generating some ‘Oscar Buzz’, that was 4 months ago. So for four months, people have been predicting what will happen next, nominees have been shmoozing up to Oscar voters and maliciously starting smeer campaigns about their fellow nominees. Selma, a Best picture nominee, was slammed for misrepresenting an American president as racist – it was the 1960’s for heaven’s sake, every second person was at least the teensy-bit racist! But I digress. My point is that year after year we go through this long, tedious process called ‘Awards Season’, where people win critics’ awards in December and Guild Awards in January, all the while practicing their speeches for what they all hope will eventually lead them to an Oscar win at the Kodak Theatre in February. In the end, is it worth anything? Do we come through it all with a film that will stand the test of time, or one of the previous years’ most unwatched movies, that when the general public actually do get round to seeing, hate anyway?
Now let’s look, for a second, at the last ten winners of the MTV Movie Awards:
2014 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2013 – Marvel’s The Avengers
2012 – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
2011 – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
2010 – The Twilight Saga: New Moon
2009 – Twilight
2008 – Transformers
2007 – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
2006 – Wedding Crashers
2005 – Napoleon Dynamite
Okay, so now what is your number, seven, eight or maybe even all ten? Aren’t these the kind of films that should be winning Oscars (apart from The Twilight Saga films of course)? The Popular films that the general public are passionate about and can root for?
Another problem with the Oscars is that people often haven’t seen them because they have yet to be released in their local cinema. This year, seven of the eight Best Picture nominees will be released before Oscar night on 22 February, but many of them have only been in cinemas for a week or two. Are we then meant to bankrupt ourselves just to see the films and be a part of this conversation that less and less people seem to care about? Even some of my film friends have serious beef with the academy and its past decisions.
Then there’s also the case for those films that not only miss out on Oscar wins, but lose out on nominations too. From this year’s ‘Oscar race’, we have two main casualties: Gone Girl and The Lego Movie. Both films were loved by critics and audiences alike. Both got people talking: Gone Girl, because it looked at ‘the perfect marriage’ and interrogated what that was exactly in a dark cynical fashion; and The Lego Movie, for its fantastic script and clever blend of pop culture references. Both have only scraped together one nomination each (Gone Girl for its lead actress, Rosamund Pike; and The Lego Movie for its weird, but extremely catchy, song “Everything is Awesome”). Is that it, seriously? Gone Girl’s script was flawless, the music was dark and subtle, and the direction by (one of my favourites) David Fincher was right on the money, capturing the novel on which it was based perfectly. The Lego Movie’s script disguised itself as absolute hogwash, but by the time the climax hit, the veil was lifted, and the joke was on us, the audience. Boom! And after each viewing I fall more and more in love with it. Why not give it an Original screenplay nomination? And why the heck did it not get nominated for Best Animated Feature?? It was considered a front-runner in that category, having one just about every second precursor award leading up to the big night.
The evidence is overwhelmingly against you, Oscar old chap. You’re eighty-six years old now, and many of us think that you are slowly becoming irrelevant, out-dated and just plain old boring. For something that’s meant to be the climax of a year of film, you seem to ride in on your high horse and declare this picture ‘the best’, and we should simply trust you with your decision. Well, despite this, I am not one of those people.
Yes, I know how could I? But this is the way I see it: In any sport you have your winners and your losers, your favourites, your enemies and the underdogs. We have World Cups where the front-runners get kicked out in the semi’s. We call foul and say it wasn’t fair. Where others say, Brazil lost 7-1, move on and get over it! So when it comes down to it, The Oscar Race is exactly that, a race. It’s brutal, it’s the real Hunger Games, and when your favourite loses, do you stop watching? Do you vow to never watch another film again? No, your favourite will still be your favourite, whether the Academy thinks it’s the ‘best’ or not. You don’t stop loving a film because it’s someone else’s number two. You try to convince that person that it’s the world’s number one. You argue your case, you take bets, you stand your ground, you have fun along the way, and at the end of the day, the movie will still start and end the way it always did, before the critics, or you, ever formed an opinion on it.
Thomas Riest @FilmFanaticZA