Oscar Time!

posted by Michael Zoldessy on January 26, 2007 at 5:15 am

With the Academy releasing nominations this week, it’s hard to think about the actual awards without thinking about the PR circus its become. What at first comes off as a display of recognition for some great work has mutated into just another way for those rich studios to take your money.

How often are your favorite films, perfomances, etc. up for the top honors? So much is left behind because of course, all these voters seem to have short term memory loss and nothing pre-October is seriously considered. Yeah, they’ll be the one dark horse that sneaks in out of nowhere like this years “Little Miss Sunshine” but the Fargos, Seasbiscuits and Cinderella Men don’t get much ink after those initial “and the surprise of the year nomination went to…” articles.

Increasingly all this seems to be fueled by marketing. Basically, the Oscars have become the foundation for boosting that dark wintery season where people just don’t go out to the movies much. The big movies for the younger crowd have to be released in the summer cause kids have to go to school. It’s up to us older people to go out and keep the box office alive by watching these prestige films. Show me an intellectual film in June and I just wouldn’t appreciate it. I sure wouldn’t tell my friends about it.

Since studios spend so much money making new films, they’re absolutely terrified of not making that money back. So why even take a chance. Instead, just like the plots are formulaic, the release schedules are as well. At this time of the year, we’re supposed to be in serious mode. And if we’re in the mood for something light, well let’s just remind you how much you want to be in serious mode by talking and talking about this great movie that’s up for all the awards.

If a great franchise pic were released in February, would it really not perform? I doubt it. It might not make $400 Million cause not as many people are on vacation but it certainly wouldn’t do poorly. But some people don’t to see it that way and as a result, winter is the dumping ground. Not much sense behind it. Studios never release important films on Labor Day weekend cause that’s supposedly cursed. Give me a break. Show a great movie and people will come out in droves on Labor Day.

Now I’m not saying come February 25th, I’ll be doing anything but sitting on a couch with my favorite people and foods soaking up every minute of that show. I might not even be near a tv on February 4th but come the 25th watch out. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t forget what the key motivations are here(some people patting each other on the back and hoping you don’t catch them).

These shouldn’t detract from your year of moviegoing and what you think the highlights are. Too often I just hear so many people complain about the outcome of these awards. So many years, the nominations and/or winners just don’t reflect the atmosphere of the time. Hopefully, in the end, you remember the performances on the big screen a bit more than the performance you see on the small screen in late February.

(Thanks to iShot71 for providing the photo.)

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Comments (9)

JodarMovieFan on January 26, 2007 at 7:35 am

As someone who enjoys watching movies in a theater, I cannot say that the release patterns of films and the PR campaigns used to promote a film’s box office or potential award stature phases me. It is agreed that sometimes the pros make mistakes with certain films. Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” comes to mind in its ‘05 summer release mistake. It should have been released at the end of the year closer to Oscar time for both the accolades and better box office it deserved.

When award season rolls around, people should keep in mind just who exactly is handing out the award before they start complaining and/or passing judgment. A People’s Choice Award is just that, an award bestowed upon the Best (fill in the blank) based on the number of votes received by Gallup poll voters. Oscars are given by professionals in the industry, who are not John and Jane Q. Public.

Keeping all this in mind, let’s continue a sane, civilized and respectful discourse this Award Season.

By the way my picks are:

Best Actor: Peter O'Toole (long overdue, if seldom seen movie

Best Actress-Helen Mirren (all hail “The Queen”)

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson (and I am telling you..she deserves it, but the others wouldn’t upset me to win, especially Abigail Breslin as the endearing Olive in “Little Miss Sushine” or Rinko Kikuchi as the hauntingly repressed mute in “Babel.”

Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine.” Now Eddie is good in “Dreamgirls” but his performance didn’t draw me into his character. I kept thinking I was watching him do one of his extended SNL characterizations. Sorry. Dijmon? No. Mark Wahlberg? Are you kidding me?

Best Director – Toss up between Clint Eastwood for the moving “Letters From Iwo Jima” and Scorsese for “The Departed.” Now Eastwood already has got his due two years ago for “Million Dollar Baby” and, my hunch is this is the year that the usual losers (like O'Toole above) finally get their just desserts..so this year its Marty!

Best Picture – Not sure, but if Scorsese takes it for directing “The Departed” and gets the DGA, he should get Best Pic, but if not, I’d go with Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima.” I’d like to think Oscar rewards movies that are as moving but it would be a pleasant surprise for “Little Miss Sunshine” to win though for its lighter fare, eclectic cast and story.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 26, 2007 at 9:06 am

I don’t understand.

The Oscars were designed as a way for studios to publicise their movies and stars. That was always their purpose.

That fact that so many years later they are still the big prize is credit to the fact they are not afraid to recognise some amazing non-Hollywood “product” (DAYS OF GLORY, VOLVER) and include some movies that count on Oscar to justify their wide runs (BABEL, PAN’S LABYRINTH) that may otherise never get noticed outside the arthouses of Manhattan and Seattle.

TheaterBuff1 on January 27, 2007 at 6:57 pm

If “Letters From Iwo Jima” gets any awards at all it would indeed totally seal it that our country has totally lost it in terms of any sort of greatness. I’m not saying it’s not a great film. As movies go I’m sure it blows all the others away in terms of artistry and so on. But then in terms of artistry it can be said that Leni Reifenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” is one of the greatest cinematic works of all time. So imagine this is 1935 if you will, and the Best Picture award goes to….“Triumph of the Will”… [Loud, thunderous applause; Wagner music suddenly flaring up as Leni and her small team of cameramen go up on stage to proudly accept the Oscar.] Is that really what we want? For it’s exactly what it will symbolize if that movie gets any awards this year. It will really drive home the fact that America is now officially dead in terms of anything worthwhile about it at all, when all we see is artistry, but nothing else.

For the several weeks that “Letters From Iwo Jima” has now been being exhibited at theaters all around the country it’s fared very poorly at the box office, and that’s actually very reassuring I feel. Not that box office figures should influence the judges' decisions in any way. But in passing ultimate judgement message should count as well. And the ultimate message of “Letters From Iwo Jima” is: “Oh those poor Japanese soldiers and all the hardship they went through at the hands of the evil U.S.” It’s like these newly built American houses that rise up in what for thousands of years had been bear country, and when the bears put up resistance, the new housing residents and the local media combined put forth the message, “Why don’t those bears go away? What is wrong with those crazy bears?!”

If we can look past what happened at the micro level, Japan was damn lucky it had the U.S. to put it back in its place again. And if only the U.S. of today could be so lucky. But instead we see the U.S. of today — in many ways following the same path that Japan once did — conceding with films such as “Letters From Iwo Jima” that Japan was “right after all.” For this movie certainly serves as an official apology to them. And if it gets any Oscars that will really seal it.

But given the Academy Awards' track record of getting it right so far, I trust that won’t happen. But then, we’ll see…

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 27, 2007 at 11:16 pm

Getting it right?

Wasn’t ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT about the poor German soldiers getting a beating in WWI?
Was THE DEER HUNTER a good message to send Vietnam veterans?
Weren’t GIGI, MY FAIR LADY, THE APARTMENT and TOM JONES promoting the exploitation of women?
Wasn’t GONE WITH THE WIND too kind to slavery?

Don’t get me wrong, I love all these movies, but I think the Oscars should be about quality achievement not politics. The Oscars would have nothing to be ashamed of if they had rewarded TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. As you inadvertently point out, everyone already knows it was the BEST PICTURE of that year anyway.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is a product of Hollywood and now that it is going into wide release will ironically most likely outgross FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS.

What should have us concerned is the nomination and box office success of the Al Gore documentary AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Why are we buying tickets for party platform power point presentations anyway?

alex35mm on January 28, 2007 at 11:16 am

Because its an interesting movie with a very important message. Did you even see Inconvenient Truth?

-5 points for everyone being so negitive. Its just an award show..

TheaterBuff1 on January 28, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Ultimately you could say that anything is “just” this or “just” that. But I personally have always felt the Academy Awards was a cut above being just another “just” because it’s always rubbed me the right way personally. Sadly though, right now it’s looking like the last smokestack sticking up out of the water of a fast sinking Titanic. Not meaning to sound so negative, but I’ve always had a thing about being perfectly honest. And you just saw a nice healthy dose of it right there.

And if a movie about the Japanese right now should be up for an Oscar it should be one that depicts the traditional honor contained in Japanese culture that has it so corporate heads and other leaders resign in total disgrace of their own willingness when they screw things up big, rather than be greatly rewarded for having failed, as it’s been for corporate heads and other leaders in this country, the U.S., for the past 39 years or so. The Japanese as they became in the years right before and culminating with World War II is the only time I really know of when that country historically faltered. And leave it to Clint Eastwood to make a movie about that particularly low moment in Japanese history when the U.S. could really do with something very learningful to look to right now in terms of how to change if it’s ever going to be great again.

But is this what I’m advocating a politicizing of the Oscars? No. Politics is inherently there already, in every single film ever made. And you can’t just rule out message completely. For in terms of artistry I can name some horror films that were very well crafted — “Dead and Buried,” “Bullies,” etc. — but which would have cost the Academy Awards all respectability if they were even so much as considered for Oscars. Underlying message absolutely has to be factored in. Which is why I don’t think anyone would object if Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the 1936 Munich Olympics would raise any serious objections if a posthumous Oscar were granted for that. But “Triumph of the Will”? The day the Academy Awards gives a posthumous Oscar for that I feel would represent the end of all civilization completely. And Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima” cuts very close. So if it gets any major awards, indeed, it will be a big step towards reducing every last thing we value and cherish and hold sacred to “just” this and “just” that. And do you really want to live in a world like that? Would it even be categorizable as “life”? And in time, if humanity did somehow come back from the dregs of that, the Academy Awards itself would be on record thereafter the same way Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” is. And it hasn’t made that blunder yet, and I hope it never does.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 28, 2007 at 11:22 pm

I have seen AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. It has an important message but I don’t think it is a particularly good film. As a visual educator and entertainment medium, HAPPY FEET did a much better job in sending the same message.

The Oscars should be about good filmmaking, not content. Movie history is littered with politically incorrect films, some good, some not so good. The Oscars have been quite good at rewarding good filmmaking even when the film was not politically balanced for the times. This has resulted in controversy over films such as THE DEER HUNTER, HEARTS AND MINDS, MIDNIGHT COWBOY, JULIA and FAHRENHEIT 911 which upset many in their day but were rewarded anyway.

I am sure many veterans of the Great War found ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT as offensive as some will find LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. I personally recall the outrage every time Jane Fonda or Venessa Redgrave were rightfully rewarded regardless of their personal endeavors.

TheaterBuff1 on January 29, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Just to clarify, I have never ruled out the importance of artistry and never will, no matter how great the movie’s message.

And no matter how much I support the message of “An Inconvenient Truth” I would be deeply offended if it got an Oscar, due to what it greatly lacks in artistic merit. As an artist myself, there’s nothing more offensive to me than anyone thinking they can step up to the plate of being artistic. Hey, I’m still getting over John Tesh! A very gifted artist can make it look like what they do is very easy, Michael Moore an excellent example. But it’s not easy in the least. And if someone doesn’t have that artistic touch they have no business being up for an Oscar. In Moore’s case with “Fahrenheiit 9/11” both the artistry and message were excellent, for time itself has now proven that the message part was right, while starting with “Roger & Me” Moore established that he was a very gifted artist, and he didn’t let us down with “Fahrenheit 9/11.” But as you so well put it, Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” was nothing but a PowerPoint presentation. And as great and urgent as its message was, please, anyone, don’t try to call it “art”! And no matter how right on target the message, it has no business being considered for an Oscar.

As for “The Deer Hunter,” its main reason for getting five Oscars did seem to be motivated more by message than artistry, but at least there was artistry there. The same with “Platoon” (which won four), “Full Metal Jacket” (which was nominated for several Oscars), and “Apocalypse Now” (which also was nominated for several.) “All Quiet On the Western Front,” meantime, I must concede, I’ve never seen. But in reading the reviews of it I can’t see where it has an anti-American slant the way “Letters From Iwo Jima” does. If anything, it expresses a German soldier’s disillusionment with his own country’s government and his reasons for being there. If there were a film about Vietnam told from the Vietnamese viewpoint with a strong anti-American slant regarding America’s government, I don’t think any American could be justifiably offended by that. But “Letters From Iwo Jima” crosses the line. I don’t deny the film’s artistry, but message-wise absolutely there’s a goal there to usurp America’s greatness that right now is hanging by a very slender thread. Right now, as I say, the Academy Awards is like the last smokestack sticking up through the water from a sinking Titanic while trophy hunters are everywhere. They almost got Gettysburg last year, and they’re getting Philadelphia this year like taking candy away from a baby. And they would love to ring down the Academy Awards if they could get away with it, either by “An Inconvenient Truth” getting an Oscar despite its fully lacking artistic merit, or “Letters From Iwo Jima” getting an Oscar based on artistic merit but with a horrible message.

TheaterBuff1 on February 26, 2007 at 7:58 pm

Since I posted the above I’ve had chance to become more familiar with Clint Eastwood’s LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, plus heard more what he himself had to say on the matter, and now admire the fact that Eastwood made this film based on how he was artistically driven, while gracefully accepting that it would not win any major Academy Awards. And seriously, you do have to admire that.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, meantime, did get the award for best documentary, which, artistically, it probably really shouldn’t have. But it did show that message does matter when it comes to the Oscars, and there is some high degree of reassurance in that. But still, I would love to see this topic taken on by someone who really is artistically gifted. For only then, I feel, will we see a real and serious effort toward stopping global warming. Alas, Walt Disney, where are you today!

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