Concerning the Oscars

So the Oscar Nominees were announced, and as someone who is, as some would say, “a fan of movies” (which if you do actually know me, that’s putting as lightly as one could possibly put it), and as someone who has been to and experienced the Oscar blitz (not as a nominee, as a fan) I should weigh in.

Not speaking as a fanboy… not speaking as someone who doesn’t really know how the Oscars operate (and there are several on the message boards I regularly visit)… I say this with as much authority as a 23 year old film critic can… WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!

The Dark Knight was more or less shut out. That movie more than deserved the 8 nominations it got (7 in technical categories, more on the eight later). But it deserved Picture, Director, Writing and Supporting Actor, as well.

I’m not going to claim that I’ve seen all the nominees, or even all of the eligible films. But for The Dark Knight to go relatively unnoticed in the artistic categories, it’s an insult. And it really shows how out of touch the Academy is with mainstream audiences.

Now, mainstream films often are out of tune with what is generally considered “Award Worthy”. And I in no way consider, Paul Blart, last week’s box office champ, Oscar Worthy, in any category. So it’s not a “mainstream vs. indie” argument on my part. It’s on their part. The Academy’s near reluctance to recognize mainstream films for major awards is a history that is long and storied.

Think about it, remove the fact that it’s Batman, look at The Dark Knight as a straight crime saga. It’s up there. The performances and the execution were great.

Unfortunately when they do go for a mainstream film, it turns out that film is Rocky, winning best picture over Network, Taxi Driver and All The President’s Men. Really? WTF? Don’t get me wrong… Rocky is a great film. Better than those other three? Certainly not.

Same with Wall-E. Point of fact, the only animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture was Beauty and the Beast (and deservedly so). But with the recent addition of the “Best Animated Film” category, the liklihood of that ever happening again significantly dropped. With Wall-E not making the cut, I doubt it will ever happen again.

Those two films were widely considered the very best of the year. From highly respected critics to bloggers like me. And the box office receipts proved it. Instead the Academy opted for the generally safe historical dramas. Nothing against Frost/Nixon, as I have yet to see it, but what could it possibly bring to the filmmaking table that The Dark Knight did not? It’s a dramatization of TV interviews. You could pretty much Youtube about half the movie.

I guess Ron Howard is a good standby, as opposed to going for directors who experiment and explore the boundaries of filmmaking. No nods for Darren Aaronofsky or Christopher Nolan for The Wrestler and The Dark Knight, respectively.

There is no greater proof of that than Howard over Peter Jackson in 2001 for A Beautiful Mind over The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Or in 2004, Clint Eastwood over Martin Scorsese for Million Dollar Baby over The Aviator.

I’m not going to say that they’re political, though they have made “I’m sorry” choices in the past, like Scorsese finally getting that ever ellusive (unless you’re name is Clint Eastwood) Best Director Oscar for The Departed. Sure it was well deserved, but Scorsese’s Best Director Oscar has been well deserved for over 30 years.

And while it may be Robert Downey, Jr., I’m glad to see them finally recognize mainstream comedic work for acting (Best Supporting Actor for Tropic Thunder). When it comes to recognizing comedies, the Academy will slide more in the line of “dark comedy,” “black comedy,” or “dram-edy.” It’s a trend the’ve missed going on many years. Perhaps the first major missed opportunity is Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And now they’ve nominated Downey for Tropic Thunder. They’ve certainly come a long way, but I agree with most critics and bloggers… James Franco in Pineapple Express, anyone?

I of course will still watch. I of course will still enjoy and severely geek out. But… they really need to look beyond the usual Oscar fair. Recognize the great films. Not just what is deemed Oscar worthy.

Because quite frankly, “Oscar worthy” is quickly becoming a sub-genre, rather than an honour.

On the flip side… major kudos for Slumdog Millionaire. Totally deserves it.

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