With Oscar season right around the corner,
I am writing another blog about it. Not about the nominations and my personal picks or about how Blade Runner 2049 was snubbed for Best Picture, but about the Oscars themselves.
Growing up, I remember my family would always watch the Academy Awards. My father would print off a list of the nominations and check off his predictions and the actual winners afterward. As a kid and teenager, I usually didn’t see many of the nominations, so my guesses were just blind shots in the dark, mainly on the name. Later, I figured out how my dad was picking his nominations and getting a better win rate than I, even though he saw about the same amount as I.
He would take into consideration stuff outside of the movie itself. For actors and actresses, he would look at their track record, who has or hasn’t won yet, who’s been nominated the most and are they Meryl Streep. A modern example of this is Leonardo DiCaprio’s win for The Revenant. Yes, he deserved a nomination for it, but when you compare it to some of his recent nominations like Wolf on Wall Street or his best performance - in my opinion - Django Unchained he would have had an Oscar already. Even his performance in The Revenant was under the shadow of Tom Hardy’s jaw-dropping performance in the same movie.
So, why did DiCaprio win for a good performance but not one of his best performance? Outside factors. Many voters finally felt like he was due a win and of course, for your consideration campaigners. Check out this clip from Adam Ruins Everything for more about that and how companies will spend ten million dollars on marketing just for a nod as that can get them twenty million more at the box office.
Now, if this were completely true, then the biggest movie of the year would win the Oscar every time, but they luckily don’t because they aren’t what some would say “Oscar stuff.”
What I mean by that is two things: First, the Academy loves movies about the movies. A great example is the 2012 Best Picture winner, The Artist. Personally, I love the film and think it deserved it, but I can’t deny the targeting the movie was doing. The film is a silent film about a silent actor during the age when talkies were coming into the market, and silent actors were fading into the background. It is a beautiful film that pays homage to films from the 1920s to the 1940s and to older actors that were brought up during that time; it’s sort of a no brainer why it wouldn’t win. The Academy sadly likes to stoke its own pride.
Second, the Academy likes to be a hipster. The example for this one is La La Land. It was similar to The Artist as it was a movie about actors and actress and paid homage to movie musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, and like The Artist, it is a great movie, but it had one thing going against it that it couldn’t shake. It was popular. Starting only in New York and L.A. and no marketing at all, it quickly spread by word of mouth because of the quality of storytelling, and before you know it, everyone saw it. This became a hurdle it couldn’t jump even when everyone “thought” they won in the greatest Oscar blunder. Moonlight, of course, was the winner of that year which lends to a bonus point on being “Oscar stuff” tone.
You can answer this quickly by watching the trailer and asking the question, “does this look Oscar-y?” Mainly, is it a historical movie? Does it romanticize the film industry? Does it look artsy? And biggest of all, is it a drama? Drama is the genre with the most nomination and wins for Best Picture than any other genre.
You may be asking now, “Is the Best Picture winner really the best picture of the year than with all these factors?” Maybe unsurprisingly, not really.
According to Metacritic, from 1994 to 2014, only three of the Best Picture winners were also the highest rated film of the year. Seven other years the highest rated film was nominated but didn’t win, while the other ten years the best-reviewed movie of the year wasn’t even nominated. A good example of this is the 2005 awards with Crash winning but was one of the weakest reviewed movies of the year.
With all that said, should we throw the Oscars out as some sort of Hollywood pride as they promote their ideas and egos? If you want to, I won't blame you, but I’m personally not going to throw it away yet. With all the flaws it has, the Oscars I still find fun by looking at the nominations and guessing who will win while still rooting for my own personal favorite. Yes, sometimes we get politically stuffed-acceptance speeches that aren’t really enjoyable to hear, but they have that right as anyone else does. Or we get a year like 2005 where there just were not that many great films up for nominations or just a lack of diversity every once in a while. But then we get a good year, like 2007 when we had several great films up for Best Picture: There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and Juno. Or you get a great, funny, family-filled speech from J. K. Simmons encouraging people to call their parents and tell them you love them. Or a genuinely surprised and humbled speech from an underdog like Eddie Redmayne who was truly surprised at winning when he was up against the acting titans of Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Bradly Cooper.
In the end, even with its sea of flaws, I still have fun watching the Oscars or looking over the winners, but in the end, you should never let them tell you what you should think is the best picture of the year. If it were me, I would say each film in The Lord of the Rings would win all the Oscars. The Academy helps us spawn conversations on what our favorite movie of the year is and not just follow their wins as law. It should help us look into why we think one movie is the best, examine them and ask questions. Because, the more we ask, look into, and learn the art of film the more we are inclined to appreciate the films we consider best picture even more.
Thanks for reading!
The Disaster Artist First Reaction
So, The Room.
The Room is considered the worst movie ever made, and The Disaster Artist is all about the making of it. The Disaster Artist follows Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/producer/lead actor of The Room, and Greg Sestero, the supporting actor and author of the book that they used as the source material for this stranger than fiction tale.
You may ask if you need to see The Room before this film to appreciate it. I would say watching one of the many videos on how bad it is, and you will do just fine. There is a reason it is considered the worst movie ever. But is the movie about the worst movie ever made also bad?
In short, no.
In the starting scene, we are introduced to Greg Sestero, our main line of connection, as we see him painfully stumble through an acting class. It isn’t long till we meet Tommy Wiseau and see an even worst acting performance but also something else that Greg desperately wants. Bravery. We see an awkward friendship between them form, and before we know it, Greg is moving from San Francisco to Los Angles with Tommy. A move that makes part of you agree with his mother as she protests to her nineteen-year-old son’s move to a new place to share an apartment with a man in his late thirties wearing two belts and sunglasses.
We progress through the film mainly focused on their friendship with a lot of laughs along the way. The movie’s jokes are not through traditional punchlines but in the similar spirit that The Room unintentionally got its laughs. Through conversation topics, awkward looks, or mainly Tommy’s accent. James Franco’s accent is spot on which helps with the comedy but hurts with the serious conversations that come in a few times near the end. It wasn’t till the last heart to heart talk in the movie where I finally didn’t laugh as much but just gave some chuckles. Putting so much of the comedy on the accent and Tommy’s character puts a lot of weight on Franco, but he carries it well being able to deliver all his funny conversations and speeches as you think about how old he really is.
The Disaster Artist pays large and small homages to The Room. From shedding light to the main inspiration of the most memorable line of the movie to visual continuity errors, like having several kids having the same football in the background. It is these things that make it more enjoyable to fans of The Room, and that is who the film mainly targets.
Though the lens of the movie is on the friendship between Greg and Tommy, the main idea of chasing your dreams is the heart of the film. It delivers the idea well with showing the two friends never stopping from encouraging each other on their quest to be actors. It also shows what happens when you don’t give someone constructive criticism and say everything they do is great. However, The Disaster Artist fails to drive home the point as Tommy can chase his dreams fully because he can finance a full film crew. The film stays true to life, but you still can’t seem to shake the feeling that you could throw caution to the wind and chase your dreams just like Tommy if you had six million dollars just sitting in your bank account.
In the end, fans of The Room will enjoy every bit of The Disaster Artist while casual moviegoers will either laugh along or feel quite uncomfortable just like if they were watching The Room.
Thanks for reading!
Sci-Fi's Best Chance Yet
This may not be new information.
This may not be new information to you, but the academy does not seem to like Science Fiction films. In the eighty-eight years the Oscars have been around only nine Sci-Fi films have been nominated for Best Picture, eleven if you count dystopian films. Star Wars, renamed Star Wars: A New Hope later, a renaissance film for the Sci-Fi genre lost Best Picture to Annie Hall, a Woody Allen romantic comedy. E.T. lost to Gandhi, Arrival to Moonlight.
Sci-Fi for over fifteen years is the only genre that does not have a Best Picture winner to its name. Fantasy used to have the same curse but broke it when The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won Best Picture along with almost everything else that year. The Shape of Water is gaining steam as possibly the second fantasy film to win as it scooped up several nominations at the Golden Globes and setting eyes on the Oscars.
But what about Science Fiction? Can they ever get that win?
I believe they will and it will be soon, just look at last year. Arrival wasn't just a film the Academy put up there for viewership on ABC, it was a heavy contender and one of the greatest Sci-Fi films ever. Go watch if you haven't! And it wasn't just a one-time thing as the same director who did Arrival also brought us Sci-Fi's best chance yet last year, Blade Runner 2049.
Beyond all the praises I gave the film in my review, it also has a few other things that can help sway the voters as we always have to take in what they are thinking.
The talent in front and behind the camera is staggering and many of them have been nominated multiple times. The cinematographer Roger Deakins has been nominated thirteen times and hasn't won once even though he is considered the best in his field. Ryan Gosling, one of the most diverse and greatest actors of our generation, has been nominated twice and still got nothing. The director Denis Villeneuve has cranked out a film a year for the past five years. After seeing four of those the man knows how to make a movie. Oh, and the score was done by the next John Williams, Hans Zimmerman, who hasn't won since 1995 for The Lion King, and Benjamin Wallfisch, who also did the haunting score for IT.
Another thing Blade Runner 2049 has going for it - that I think the producers don't like - is that it was considered sort of a flop financially, but the critic scores were the opposite. The Academy is not fond of blockbuster films that everyone knows and loves. They sort of like to be hipster about their winners. That is one of the reasons Avatar lost to The Hurt Locker in 2010, that and The Hurt Locker was a far superior movie but back to the topic at hand.
On top of that, the majority of people who watched Blade Runner 2049 opening weekend were middle-aged men who are fans of the original. And there are a lot of middle-aged male voters in the Academy.
With all that, I think this is the best year yet for a Science Fiction film to win Best Picture. However, this is still speculation, and looking at possible contenders this year, it will be fierce. The Florida Project, Phantom Thread, Get Out, Dunkirk, The Post, and Lady Bird are just a few. The past year of news will also hurt Blade Runner 2049 as voters may want to favor a great film that speaks more to the events we are dealing with now. Blade Runner 2049 does do a wonderful job of representing a bleak future of what happens when we continue to view others human beings as objects to be used and abused. That is just one of the many questions the movie asks as it does not focus on the political climate or latest trend but on questions that every person of every generation ask themselves. But if it doesn’t win, this is still good for Sci-Fi in general as Blade Runner 2049 raises the bar for future Sci-Fi films. Even Citizen Kane lost to How Green Was My Valley. Sometimes the best ones lose, but the best ones don’t fade away as time goes by, just look at the original Blade Runner.
Thanks for reading.
Update: It didn't even get nominated for Best Picture. So, Blade Runner 2049 is following the example of the original really well.
The Greatest Showman First Reaction
Yes, there is singing and dancing.
If you don't like musicals, you may want to stop reading as this is a musical. A musical about the real-life P. T. Barnum, the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Following his ideas, rise and dips along his journey to creating the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Since I am now only talking to those who watch musicals, let's go straight to the meat of it. The songs.
If you did not know, the songs were written and composed by Pasek and Paul, their most notable work before this was a little film called La La Land. Pasek and Paul do an excellent job; there isn't one song during the whole film that you can point out as bad. They all have a show tune vibe to them yet have a modern feel which is smart as it carries over the theme of what Barnum is trying to do with his new business. Are they as great as La La Land, no but you won't be disappointed.
To the people singing the songs and doing the dances, there wasn't an off-key voice or an out of step foot anywhere. Huge Jackman's voice carries just as it did in Le Miserable, but with a much lighter and happier tone, just like the entire movie. Zac Efron shows that he still has a healthy career ahead of him but Zendaya, though still relatively new to the film industry, goes the extra mile that shows she has the potential to be a heavy hitting actress.
The story took a different route than I expected, but then again, I didn't know anything about P. T. Barnum before this so, it had that going for it. However, the story is similar to 'a man who learned' story, but The Greatest Showman partook of the rise. They do a great job helping you root for Barnum until two thirds in when you find yourself saying to Barnum "Come on man," as you wonder if he will come to his sense.
Not going to lie, the CGI animals threw me off along with some human shrinking they did for one character. My family didn't notice it that much, but it is off-putting if you can see it. Though, this is a musical and not Star Wars. And the history The Barnum & Bailey Circus has with animals, it was a safe path to take using CGI ones.
All in all, a fun ride that I enjoyed. Fans of musicals will love it, and any moviegoer will walk away delighted as it was what seemed like one of the few well-made feel-good movies of 2017.
Thanks for reading!
© 2015 S. W. Ellenwood. All rights Reserved.