Thursday, 21 January 2010

Signing Off...

By nature, I am an obsessive soul. Thus, whenever I get interested in something my appreciation of it is not often tempered and usually veers into the neurotic. Neurotic is probably an ideal way to describe my relationship with the Academy Awards. Even though the actual results were less than perfect that first time [re picture] I was hooked from the beginning. There was a time I could list [from memory] Oscar winners in the major categories from the mid-seventies onwards. I told you – neurotic. Even though I’ve gotten wiser in the missteps of the Academy I still [inadvertently sometimes] end up regarding that day in Spring as the culmination of all things cinematic. This year, however, the nominees have not even been announced and I’ve already become disillusioned, I fear.
The state of the race [a word more pertinent than we realise] had exasperated me before it even began. The fĂȘting of Meryl Streep from the get-go already annoyed me. Sometimes it really doesn’t help not being a fan of Streep because she is the most ubiquitous actress [actor] at the moment. Nevertheless, despite my general my general apathy towards her I wouldn’t deny excellence if I see it. I'm always ready to recognise a good performance form her, which is why Julie & Julia disgusted me so much. Of course all these adjectives – best, excellent &etc – are completely subjective, but the only thing Julie & Julia did was confuse me as to the validity of its place in the Oscar race. I’ve never been fond of the accented Streep preferring her more subtle performances [her Clarissa Vaughn remains as one of my favourite portrayals of the last two decades]. Of course, she’s accented quite often but Julie & Julia regurgitated memories of Bridges of Madison County a film that only makes me see red. I finally realised my issue with Streep when I read this lucid article on the woman. It gets a bit snarky, but is a startlingly good read. It’s not that her Julia Child is a horrid performance. But, chameleon or not as someone who knows absolutely nothing of Julia Child her performance made me cringe at points. I couldn’t help but imagine the more unaffected Sigourney Weaver in the role. What really irked me was the residual belief that Meryl had been robbed of a third Oscar, this entitled to this win for Nora Ephron’s diverting comedy. It’s as if they had forgotten that La Streep has two Oscars – the entire debate of her comeuppance being extinguished by woman after woman was lost on me. What turned my disappointment in the Best Actress race into the deepest dredges of disgust was the addition of a certain Sandra Bullock. I’ve never bore ill will towards Ms. Bullock – her work in countless comedies from the inspired Ms. Congeniality and While You Were Sleeping to even the dubious Two Weeks Notice has always charmed me in their placid way. I saw The Blind Side late in the game, and although the term abject horror would be an over-exaggeration of my response it wasn’t far from it. I couldn’t even write a proper review the thought of the film annoyed me so much. Of course I’d prefer Streep’s flawed but superior Julia to Bullock’s uninspired Leigh Ann, but the very fact that that’s the end all of it is quite dismal.
I’m yet to see the heavyweights for the Actors’ race. Bridges and Firth are not my favourite actors, but with the good roles I’m willing to board either train; but I can’t help feeling cynical and thinking that perhaps Bridges is not being rewarded for a [possibly] good performance in Crazy Heart but for lifetime achievement. Noble perhaps, but still annoying. When people like Ben Foster and even Sam Rockwell are ignored at ceremony after ceremony while Morgan Freeman – a man I admire without fail – can be nominated for his unimaginative Nelson Mandela only puzzles me, but is nothing compared to George Clooney’s moderately charming but lifeless Ryan in Up In the Air. But then I realise that with so many celebrating these pieces it’s not so much as unoriginality from the awards’ ceremonies than actual belief that these performances are the best of the year, which is even more disconcerting. If Freeman gets love for coasting in Invictus, why not Johnny Depp for Public Enemies?
Mo’Nique’s Precious win has many citing it as one of the imminent saving graces of the next award ceremonies and with her eclectic Mary Jones it wouldn’t be completely undeserved. But that category has become so auto-tuned that voters just seem to throwing the usual suspects together and ignoring quieter gems with potential to disturb the waters – Samantha Morton, Marion Cotillard [not only for Nine] on some days even Patricia Clarkson. I’m not saying that all of these women trump Mo’Nique, perhaps none of them do. I realise the ball’s completely in her court, and since I’m an undeterred fan of the comedian I don’t call foul. I’m worried that I’m missing something when Anna Kendrick keeps appearing on so many best-of lists, Seriously? We're touthing this performance? But, I won’t go there.  Again.
The race seems to have come down to Avatar and The Hurt Locker and scores have cried foul at Avatar’s Golden Globe win. Not me. I’m still undecided as to which of the two I’d give my vote to, but Cameron’s Avatar has turned into the film I’m rooting for. Not because it’s my favourite film of the year. It’s not. But despite it’s gigantic box-office it’s ironically tuned into the underdog. Someone, I can’t recall who, called it the tendency to hate the popular kid – which Avatar has turned into. I won’t deny the ostensibly potency of The Hurt Locker – it’s probably even more profound for Americans who know its themes all to well. Bigelow and Boal have crafted something wonderful, but the relegating of Avatar to some strange names “video-game movie”, “Pocahontas redux”, “stilted dialogue”, "stodgy acting" and on and on and on confuses me. Some people just don’t like it. That’s understandable, but I’ve never been a film apologist yet I can’t recall the ludicrously horrid dialogue of Cameron. I’m sure it wasn’t Oscar winningly quotable. But since when has Best Picture turned into a screenplay award? I understand the correlation between the two, but I can’t help calling foul when Avatar’s screenplay is advertised as one of the worst this year. But that’s probably one in the long list of things eluding my poor brain this Oscar season.
I’m signing off from this season. I doubt I’ll continue my four year long tradition of skipping school to hear the nominations live [embarrassing], and I’m definitely not inclined to join in predictions, though it’s always fun to read others. I’ve already committed to the LAMB’s 2010 production of Devouring the Oscars and will be writing on a Best Picture nominee. I’d love to see an off-kilter choice like Bright Star, The Messenger or Coraline. I’d prefer not to write on Invictus, Up In the Air, Inglourious Basterds or Precious. I don’t want to write a bashing post since nominations should be a happy thing. I’m sure at least a few of the nominees will be pleasing. Watching the Golden Globes though, I couldn’t ignore the number of sad [and sometimes angry faces] – Lee Daniels, Jason Reiteman, Quentin Tarantino, Jeremy Renner all looked peeved throughout. I wouldn’t have been backing many of them but I realised that each of the nominees want to win and deserved or not I wish them the best of luck. Being nominated has become less estimable and I can understand their apparent melancholies. But as far as Oscar is concerned, I've lost the drive. Let's hope next year is better...


Univarn said...

That's a pretty awesome post I have to say. I'm indifferent towards Meryl Streep's Julia Childs, but everyone I know who came from the era of Childs says it's hilariously accurate (I'll take their word for it).

So, since you're supposedly signing off this topic, does that mean we can expect your next post any day now :P.

Nigel said...

Glad I'm not only the one sulking because of the oblivion that has surrounded "Bright Star."

It's almost as if people have forgotten that Jane Campion is one the best female directors out there.......her films make Nancy Meyers' look like superficial reality shows. Which is funny, because critics sometimes call her films "guilty pleasures." lol.

I don't hate Meyers, I'm just saying she's a bit amateur when compared to the C[h]ampion.

Anonymous said...

I'd agree that Best Picture isn't a screen play award, it's an overall award. And I really don't think that a movie deserves an award unless it is - overall - a fantastic film. That includes performances, directing, special effects, set design, writing, etc... Like a college degree, I think that an 'F' in any of these categories should disqualify you from top honours.

TomS said...

Andrew, my disillusion with Oscar came Crashing down in the 2005 race (awards in March 2006).

I'll write more about that later, but I do understand your felings about the race this year. Most of the winners seem inevitable, and some truly great work will be overlooked.

Robert said...

I agree with almost everything you said. The fuss over Blind Side and Up in the Air, to me, is baffling. I'm a big fan of Inglourious Basterds but I wouldn't mind if Avatar won either.

As for best leading actress, it's too bad Tilda Swinton won't get nominated, because her Julia beats Meryl Streep's Julia by a land slide. (i know, two different Julias...but still. haha)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I love Julie & Julia and Up in the Air, but I dig where you're coming from. And I, too, throw my hat into the ring for the greatness of Avatar (it's not BAD dialogue, it's PULP dialogue, there's a difference). I'm sorry to see you giving up on the Race; hopefully some surprises come Nom Day will bring you back. Kendrick maddens me.

joe burns said...

Are you rooting for Mulligan for Best Actress

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

univarn but all i see is mimicry, not a person.

nigel well meyers and ephron too have been ridiculously successful, though i have a slight soft spot for meyers.

darren very good point about needing to pass all the avenues to be the best. i hope you're not insinuating that avatar gets an F for writing.

robert glad i'm not alone on UITA

walter don't make me get drawn back in, i'll see what nominations bring. interesting that kendrick maddens you even though you like UITA. she was my least favourite player.

joe thus far it looks as if carey is my favourite, but gah - don't make me talk about the race :)