Thursday, June 25, 2009

I don't like this one bit

I've only known about this for the past 90 minutes, and I'm still at work, and both of my bosses are around, so they could catch me blogging at any time.

But I'm going out of town tonight, I doubt I will post while I'm gone, and gosh darnit, I must register my shock and disillusionment with what I've just heard.

There are going to be ten (10) best picture nominees for next year's Oscars.

Ten. Twice what there has been for the last, oh, 70 years.

I don't like this one bit.

The Academy Awards have been all about re-examining themselves the past few years, hence, the cabaret-style Oscars we got this year with host Hugh Jackman. I liked those changes just fine.

But start messing with my categories, and you start messing with me. Especially best picture, which is the movie lover's holy grail of awards -- regardless of how rarely it honors the actual best film of the previous year.

I know they are trying to return to the roots of Oscar. The story I read -- surely anticipating an onslaught of blogosphere complaint, like the kind I'm making now -- went into an immediate defensive stance, explaining (actually, quoting Academy president Sid Ganis) that the Oscars of 70 years ago contained the following ten nominees: Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Love Affair, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Dark Victory and Ninotchka. (Darn good year, 1939). Ganis' theory being, I suppose, that it would have been difficult to deny contention to any one of those august movies, let alone five of them.

Whether he's got a point or not -- and whether movies like The Dark Knight and Wall-E could have gotten nominations had this been introduced a year earlier -- misses my point in objecting to it.

Namely, we already have a system that nominates ten films for best picture. It's called the Golden Globes. And trying to be more like the Golden Globes is not something anyone should aspire to.

The Golden Globes spoil enough for us already. They rob the Oscars (by more than a month) of our excitement of discovering which films might be on the verge of enshrinement with the other greats that came before them. No, the Golden Globes (famously) do not always forecast Oscar's best picture winner, but I think I'm pretty safe in saying that no film has ever won best picture without first being nominated for a golden globe. (And if you find an exception, well, kindly inform me in my comments section, I don't mind).

Accepting the Golden Globes as an institution that's here to stay, the interest then becomes in determining how Oscar will deviate from the Golden Globes. After all, they've got to cut the Globes' ten (and sometimes more) choices in half.

Well, not anymore.

You could argue that half the Golden Globes' nominated pictures are musicals and comedies, and that this will leave Oscar the leeway to nominate five more dramas that would not ordinarily get recognized. But see, that's what Oscar intends to do, too: honor comedies, musicals and animated films, in part as proof that they're not stuffy, stodgy or out of touch.

So then what's the difference between the Globes and the Oscars?

It's just wrong. There's something magical about those five best picture nominees -- they've got a glow around them, and all the sudden, they demand to be seen by all serious film fans. (Those who haven't already seen them, that is). The writers, directors, producers and stars of those films can point to this as the ultimate form of validation, where being nominated truly is enough.

With an extra five nominees hanging around, however, it all just gets watered down. And feels like overload. I can just see the host at next year's Oscars: "Now, a two-minute clip from the first of our TEN nominees," and then collapsing to the floor over the enormity of it all.

Sure, there's a part of me that would have loved to see my favorite movie of last year, The Wrestler, crowned as one of Oscar's gold standards. And with another five slots open, it almost surely would have been.

Well, I want the movies I love to be good enough to make the top five. The six through ten spots ... then you're really getting into territory where reasonable people can say that those movies stink. It's hard enough to find five movies each year that are truly slam dunk nominations, let alone another five good enough to make the cut.

But this is Hollywood, and we should hardly be surprised at Hollywood demonstrating its love for itself. Implicitly, Hollywood is saying, "We are producing so much quality material these days, why would we want to deny ourselves the chance to bask in our own brilliance?" More nominees means more opportunity for self-love.

But mark my words now. Next year, on February 2nd, when those nominees come out for a March 7th telecast -- two weeks later than this year, and two weeks even less interesting as a result -- we're going to be running to our computers, getting on the internet, and cattily dismissing at least three or four of the nominations as unworthy. Yeah, we all liked The Hangover, but does that mean there should be a spot in the best picture nominees for it? Just because it may become the most profitable movie of the year?

Maybe they are trying to design the Oscars for the common man, to pat the common man on the back for liking The Hangover more than he likes Sense and Sensibility. Maybe it's all just a big ratings stunt.

But I like the idea that the Oscar nominations force the common man to see good movies, movies he might not realize he should want to see. The Oscars, at their very best, are intended to point us to the best cinema out there -- and since many of the nominees hit theaters in December, in most cases, you can actually still see them in the cinema.

If the Oscars just want to pat us on the back for liking The Hangover, how does that make them any different than the People's Choice Awards?

1 comment:

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Of course it's a ratings stunt. The number of viewers has gone down year after year, so this is a grab to get more "popular" movies into the system. The thinking is if "Dark Knight" was nominated, more people would pay attention. If there were more slots to nominate movies, more popular ones would get through.

Personally, I think it's all crap. I just don't think the masses care as much about the Oscars anymore. It's just another awards ceremony amidst a dozen other awards shows. The pomp and circumstance isn't as special because we have 24/7 access to our celebrities.

I'll still watch 'em, but it's my religion.