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!
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 Oscars are this Sunday or a better title "How many Oscars will La La Land win?"
I was thinking about writing a blog about how La La Land has a great chance to win a majority of their nominations and has a possibility of setting a record for most wins. All they need is twelve. But instead of talking about how La La Land will win most of them or the dark horse movies that could surprise everyone with a win like everyone else is talking about, I want to talk about something else that I hope will help you enjoy movies more.
The cinematographer in the movie department is the person in charge of the scene. They will help the director decided every single shot of the movie and then make that happen as they direct the camera and light crews. When you're watching a movie and notice how pretty or cool it looks, a lot of that is because of the cinematographer. Now, you can have the best sets and best customs, but if you have an awful shot of what is happening or poor lighting, it's all worthless because the bad cinematography will draw you out of the movie.
Good cinematography has the opposite effect as it only helps you draw into the film, into the story.
Great films have great cinematographers and they sadly don't get the recognition they deserve. That is why I want to highlight one of the greats.
He has been nominated for Best Cinematography thirteen times. Five of those have been during the past six years and twice in 2008. He did the cinematography for great films like Unbroken, True Grit(2012), O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Shawshank Redemption, and a host of other great films. He is, in my opinion, the greatest cinematographer of our time and one of the greats of all time! And he has yet to win a single Oscar. (Dumb)
It was actually a film he did the cinematography for, Skyfall, that was the first time I started to really notice the beauty of the scenes he was crafting and the importance of the cinematographer. Many blockbuster films have shaky cameras close in on their actors during action scenes or just boring shots Deakins is setting up paintings. Now, he isn't perfect as I am sure he has done over the shoulder shots for conversations and shaky cams, but I don't remember those. I remember the scenes where he crafted a painting. The wide scenes where you could pause it and set it up as a picture in your home. Though you may not want to do that when it's the silhouettes of a sniper against a blue sign with a jellyfish(Skyfall), but it's still gorgeous.
This year the nominations for Best Cinematography has a great line up that I think Linus Sandgren for La La Land will win but Rodrigo Prieto will give La La Land a run for their money for his work on Silence. Though we are missing Deakins this year I believe we will see him nominated again next year for Blade Runner 2049 (I'm calling it now.) And let's hope the 14th time is the charm!
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps you enjoy movies a little more, maybe help you to notice good cinematography, or just makes you curious in seeing some of Rodger Deakins films, which I highly encourage!
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!!
Image courtesy of indiewire.com All rights reserved.
"And now God bends to my will"
Those words spoken by Lex Luthor nearing the climax of the film, Batman V Superman, is one of my favorite lines during one of my favorite scenes of the entire film.
The scene: Lex is on a helicopter pad with Superman, he talks about how Superman will do his bidding because of a 'special lady' that is in danger. Superman thinks he is talking about Lois, who he just saved when he is truly talking about his mother. Lex doesn't know where she is but says she will not die if he brings him the head of the bat. Lex does this in hopes of Superman being killed by Batman because Lex hates even the idea Superman brings. The idea of God.
This speaks so true of man's deepest want. To have control. To be there own god. To be God.
This want can be traced back to the Fall of man(Genesis 3). When Adam and Eve took a piece of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In a perfect garden full of many other fruits that they were allowed to eat from, they were told not to eat from this one tree, but they ate from it. Why? Because the serpent, the most crafty beast told them a lie. "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:4-5. Then Adam and Eve bit (pun intended) and fell. Why would they fall for this lie? Because they couldn't resist the idea of being on the same field as God. They wanted to be God.
With that in mind, with the beginning of this want found, we can start following it and see a pinch of it in every wrong done (sin). Now, back to Lex.
Unlike many of the past films, Lex Luthor in this film is the only one who doesn't go after land or real estate. Though, at the core of those wants, you can say it is because of a sense of control, of being God. The Batman V Superman Lex, however, goes straight to the core of it, which is the perfect way to go at it as Superman has such heavy tones of a messianic figure and needs a villain with that strong anti-god motives.
"See, what we call God depends upon our tribe, Clark Joe, 'cause God is tribal; God takes sides! No man in the sky intervened when I was a boy to deliver me from daddy's fist and abominations. I figured out way back if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be." - Lex Luthor.
Just from that simple line, we can see that the point of Lex's belief was because of his abusive father. He experienced an evil that sadly far too many people know and for many brings them to his same conclusion that people usually ask "Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen?"
This question asked time and time again throughout history only to receive too many times the answer of silence. Lex here voices what all the people asking this question feel but can't describe or don't want to say. "I want to be God."
This want though is the answer to the question. It is because of the fall, of that want Adam and Eve had, that want of being God that brought sin and all the evil into the world. Any bad thing you can think of happening is because of sin. Yet, in His loving nature, even when we decided to rebel against Him. He still gave us a way back towards Him, using all our sinful mistakes to save us so we can glorify Him.
Now, with that answer we reach a much deeper question. "What is your god?"
We all have one and will always have one. It may be obvious, money, power, sex, or more secretive, technology, friends, family, or like Lex for most of the film, yourself. However, until we give up ourselves and our fake gods and declare the one true God of the Bible our God, we will always be moving from one god to another, just like Lex who at the end of the film found himself a new god to glorify on the polar opposite of Superman, Darkseid.
So, we should learn from Lex's faults and pains as to not fall into a similar road and find ourselves at the end of life with nothing but proclaiming evil with a senseless mind and hoping we had picked the right side when deep down we know we didn't.
"The bell's already been rung. They heard it; the creatures among the stars. They'll come... He'll come. He's angry... Ding-dong... Ding-dong... Ding-dong..."
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and the image above are the creative properties of Warner Brothers and DC Comics.
© 2015 S. W. Ellenwood. All rights Reserved.