Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Few Thoughts On The Academy Awards

The Academy Awards are finally here which will at long last bring the 2012 awards season to a close. So while we anticipate who will take home the gold this year -- we'll obviously be rooting for Joaquin, Amy & Philip tonight along with "Zero Dark Thirty" and co. -- let's take a quick trip down memory lane. Quick! How many of these films were nominated for Best Picture?

2001: A Space Odyssey, 8 1/2, 25th Hour, Adaptation, A.I., Alien, Aliens, Amelie, Back To The Future, Badlands, Barton Fink, Battleship Potemkin, Being John Malkovich, Being There, The Big Lebowski, The Big Sleep, Blade Runner, Blazing Saddles, Blood Simple, Blue Velvet, Boogie Nights, Brazil, Breathless, Bringing Up Baby, Casino, Children Of Men, City Lights, City Of God, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Cool Hand Luke, Days of Heaven, Die Hard, Do The Right Thing, Drive, Duck Soup, Easy Rider, The Empire Strikes Back, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The General, Ghostbusters, Goldfinger, Halloween, Harold & Maude, The Incredibles, Kill Bill, The Killing, King Kong, The Last Detail, Lolita, Lost In America, Magnolia, Manhattan, The Matrix, McCabe & Mrs Miller, Mean Streets, Memento, Metropolis, Miller’s Crossing, Minority Report, Modern Times, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Mulholland Drive, Night Of The Hunter, Night Of The Living Dead, North By Northwest, The Omen, Once Upon A Time In The West, Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Paths of Glory, Psycho, Punch-Drunk Love, Raising Arizona, Rashomon, Rear Window, Rebel Without A Cause, Requiem For A Dream, Reservoir Dogs, Road Warrior, Rosemary’s Baby, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rules Of The Game, Rushmore, The Searchers, Se7en, Shampoo, The Shining, Singin’ In The Rain, Sleeper, Some Like It Hot, Sullivan’s Travels, Sunrise, Sweet Smell of Success, This Is Spinal Tap, The Terminator, Three Kings, Tokyo Story, Touch Of Evil, The Usual Suspects, Vertigo, WALL-E, The Wild Bunch, Zodiac, The Master.
If you answered zero, you are correct. Yes, not only did these films not win Best Picture but they were not even nominated. Now here is a sampling of some films that have been nominated for Best Picture in the past 50 years (winners are indicated with an asterisk).
Les Miserables, War Horse, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, The King's Speech*, The Blind Side, Precious, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, The Queen, Letters From Iwo Jima, Crash*, Finding Neverland, Ray, Seabiscuit, Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, Chicago*, Chocolat, A Beautiful Mind*, The Cider House Rules, Shakespeare In Love*, Titanic*, The Full Monty, Babe, Il Postino, The Fugitive, The Remains Of The Day, Howard’s End, Bugsy, The Prince Of Tides, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Driving Miss Daisy*, The Accidental Tourist, Rain Man*, Hope And Glory, A Room With A View, The Mission, Children Of A Lesser God, Kiss Of The Spider Woman, A Passage To India, Places In The Heart, A Soldier’s Story, Tender Mercies, The Dresser, Missing, Gandhi*, Tess, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Norma Rae, The Goodbye Girl, Julia, The Turning Point, The Towering Inferno, A Touch Of Class, Sounder, The Emigrants, Nicolas And Alexandra, Fiddler On The Roof, Airport, Hello Dolly!, Anne Of The Thousand Days, Oliver!*, Funny Girl, A Lion In Winter, Rachel Rachel, Doctor Doolittle, The Sand Pebbles, Alfie, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, A Man For All Seasons*, A Thousand Clowns, Ship Of Fools, Zorba The Greek, Becket, Tom Jones*, America America, Cleopatra, How The West Was Won, Lilies Of The Field.
Now, some of these are good films and some are very good but few would argue that those selections stack up against the previous list. Which films would you choose to teach a Film History course with? Or bring with you to a desert island? Keep in mind, the former list doesn't even taking into account some of the great films that were nominated but lost out to another film: "Citizen Kane," "Raging Bull," "There Will Be Blood," etc. So with the Oscars as obviously fallible as they are, why do we continue to care? Basically because it's nice when they get it right. We root for the Oscars because we want them to mean something.

Looking at Best Picture winners like "Gone With The Wind," "Casablanca," "On The Waterfront," "Lawrence Of Arabia," "The Godfather," "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," "Annie Hall," it's easy to see why any filmmaker would be honored to have their film held in such company and there are certainly some great films nominated for that prize this year. But if you look at the list of films and filmmakers who didn't win, you'll realize that the awards themselves really have no bearing on a film's legacy. It's the films that will hold up (or not) and who won which award will eventually become just a bit of trivia.

One piece of such trivia is that in addition to never having won the Best Director prize, none of Stanley Kubrick's films ever won Best Picture. Think about that for a minute. Many consider him to be the greatest filmmaker who ever lived -- responsible for more masterpieces than not -- and yet none of his films were deemed the best of that particular year by the Academy. Would we have loved it if the Academy had showered "The Master" with nominations? Absolutely. It's exciting when the Oscars manage to "get it right" and it's nice to see good work rewarded. Having spoken with many of talented artists who helped make the film, it would've been fantastic to see them to be recognized for their excellent work.

More nominations would've no doubt brought more conversation and more eyeballs to the film, which is always a good thing. (Just think of the number of people who are now aware of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" because of its 4 nominations.) So while it can be exciting when they get it right, when they don't, it doesn't end up mattering too much down the line. The Oscars kick off in a few hours and there will be lots of griping about the outcome (we'll prob be doing a bit ourselves) but just remember to have fun, root for your favorites and regardless of who wins, try not to take the whole thing too seriously. History will decide which films will stand the test of time and we're fairly certain that "The Master" will be talked about for a long time to come.

"The Master" arrives on Blu-ray & DVD this Tuesday 2/26.   
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  1. Here here!

    Who I want to win: Life of Pi
    Who will win (probably): Argo


  2. The Master should have been given more attention.

  3. The best moment of the entire show was when the announced Joaquin for Best Actor, cut to him in the audience and he's just rolling his eyes, shaking his head, basically giving the whole thing the finger.

    Way to go, JP!

  4. Great article. The reason we care Mr. Anonymous is we love great films and the idea of a piece of art not getting a nomination is troubling. It's like Steve Nash winning back to back mvp's in the NBA, it shouldn't happen. It's upsetting when the deserving player doesn't get rewarded. The article shows that quiet comfort should be taken in knowing that masterpieces have been ignored before. While there are works that have rewarded rightfully, there will always be the Shakespeare in Love's which time exposes as lapses in judgment (Saving Private Ryan.) Know that when these movies are discussed 50 years from now that P.T.A. will go down as the best director and artist the last two decades that got snubbed the most. (Drops mic, walks away)

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