Thursday, 26 January 2012

Incoherent Oscar: Two Days Later Reactions (Five Vaguely Vexing Issues)

So….Oscars. Curiously, enough I had not planned on posting an official reactionary post to the Academy Award nominations announced on Tuesday morning. I’d just planned to take a few days, and return with some discussion on where the race is headed. But, then, that’d make my somewhat truncated Oscar coverage even more truncated and a few things have occurred in the past few days that have, unfortunately, increased by ire at the state of the race, not only specifically in regards to actual nominations but the way in which they’re being regarded. So, the thinnest layer of dust settles on the nominations I offer my thoughts – some on the nominees, and some on people’s reactions to them
Five issues that give me pause.

The Importance of the Screen Actors’ Guild
Prognostics were surprised by a number of notable omissions, among them the exclusion of Albert Brooks, Shailene Woodley and Michael Fassbender. Always happy to be “in” on the game, even if retrospectively, the common narrative now is that one should never underestimate the Screen Actors’ Guild because Brooks, Woodley and Fassbender were absent there, as well. Precursors play their part, each of them in their own way – and certainly there is some significance to extrapolate since the actors are a part of the AMPAS. But, there’s something along the lines of overreaching when the running thread is SAG is indelibly important when it’s the same SAG which nominated Tilda Swinton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer – all performances which went unnoticed by the Academy. In short, it’s a two-way street, precursors – like the SAG – can be accurate, and they can be inaccurate.

Only Late Releases are Remembered (a fallacy)
A mere glance over the list of nominated films, particularly the slate of nine best picture nominees elucidates the silliness of such a claim. Is it a point that could be made about previous Oscar nominations’ line-up before, perhaps….but we’re talking about the presence, so let’s ahead. War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - the two December released to be nominated for Best Picture. We’ve got The Tree of Life and Midnight in Paris released in May, The Help released in August, Moneyball released in September, The Artist released in October, The Descendants and Hugo both released in November. Bridesmaids and Beginners are two films up for acting prizes, released in May and June. So, yes, only late released are remembered.

What’s more, three films which missed out on key nominations that most seem to be up in arms about (admittedly, not without reason) were released in December - Shame, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Young Adult. So, at least assess both sides of this rather thorny fence. They’re not all f0r late releases, nor are they all against them. Worth noting.

The Atrocities of the Music Branch
Joe Reid presents the issue in a much better written article (here), but I still have to mention what is perhaps the most galling development when it comes to the slate of nominees. I tweeted on Tuesday that the real upset of the nominees’ list was the two original song nominees, and not only because I was hoping for Alan Menken Oscar win. Something needs to be done to revamp the category. The current way of choosing nominees is not working. It’s not working for the potential nominees and it’s not working for the Academy’s rep and really if they’re not going to do it right they might as well just toss out the category, as much as it pains me to admit. Truly, some of my favourite moments of the ceremony came as a result of the category and I shall be sad to see it go, but with the way it is right now…it’s as if it’s already gone.

Best use of talent not best use of talent in a good film
“X film has this many nominations, when Y film only has this many.” It’s an understandable sentiment when some of your favourites are overlooked, but when that sentiment leads to the “agreement” that the Oscars are silly because of it, it’s a bit ridiculous. W.E. and Transformers are two easy targets that too many have been railing against. I haven’t seen this instalment, but the film always had excellent sound work and visual effects. And, I haven’t seen W.E. either but the stills of it do suggest some excellent costume designing. So, what gives? Should only “good” films be eligible for craft nominations?

The Oscars Don’t Mean Anything (fallacy)
Few things have absolutely annoyed me as much as Gavin Polone’s article (link) on (his words) “The Great Oscar Farce”. Obviously, like any event the Oscars’ are not for everyone but his entire article sits poorly with me, for an array of reasons – a number of which I wouldn’t bother entering into dissertation on because these things are subjective. But, one bit particularly annoyed me. In his desire to establish that the Oscars’ “value” had denigrated he notes:

If possessing a statuette was actually worth something, shouldn’t there be some direct correlation between casting an Academy Award winner and higher box office? If you were financing a drama that starred a man in his mid-¬forties, would you feel more comfortable with your investment by offering the part to Sean Penn or Kevin Spacey, each with two Oscar wins, or to Will Smith or Johnny Depp, neither of whom has won?

I think it speaks for itself, no? Especially when compounded by the fact that the suggestion that Depp and Smith would be the sounder “investment” when in the same article he lambastes Hollywood for thinking only in terms of numbers.The AMPAS has never shied away from their function, peers judging their fellow peers...and if nothing else, they'll mean that.

Am I sorry to see some of my favourites left off the ballot? God, yes. No Alexandre Desplat is particularly sad, when he’s had such a kick-ass year especially in the face of TWO John Williams’ citations. The exclusion of Michael Shannon, too, is unfortunate even though the Best Actor lineup is generally fair. But, really, I’m really okay with the nominations. Prognosticating shall be back to normal this weekend.
Two days later…what are you thinking about the nominees? What do you think of my issues?


Candice Frederick said...

as for your second point, oscar does usually always looks out for the late releases. this year is no exception. of course there are a few that were released earlier, but the vast majority is always late releases.

Nick Prigge said...

Lovely post. Lovely points. And I love how in a world where every year there seems to be more venom spewed at the Oscars you continue to defend them. Thank you.

JBT said...

Great post. I'm disappointed to see Michael Fassbender absent from the ballot.