Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Sh!#ting on the Classics: Oscar, Shmoskar
Brad Pitt appeared in two films in 2011; in one, he gave a strange, nuanced performance that even people who hate the film have commented on favorably. In the other, he phoned in a grinning, “aw shucks” big star performance. Guess which one got the nomination?
The Academy does not like disturbing.
Many years ago, the fine television program Entertainment Tonight somehow sweet-talked its way into Dennis Hopper’s den the morning the nominations were announced. Hopper had appeared in two powerhouse films that year, and Entertainment Tonight thought that he was a lock to be nominated for something. They wanted to capture his reaction the minute the nominations were announced. (Perhaps if Hopper had been shut out, Entertainment Tonight would NOT have aired that footage, but who knows?). I can remember so distinctly Hopper’s reaction that morning. He was thrilled, to be sure, but also puzzled. I believe his first words were “For that?” Hopper got the Supporting Actor nomination for Hoosiers, playing a down-on-his-luck, recovering alcoholic. He was NOT nominated for his portrayal of Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, one of the most memorable movie villains of the twentieth century.
The Academy does not like disturbing.
The Academy seems to prefer big, bloated pictures with a strong liberal bent. The voting members of the Academy all seem to be rich, white Democrats in their waning, sunset years. They like to clap themselves on the back for nominating “quality.” They define “quality” in an exceptionally narrow way.
Maybe this is an obvious point. Maybe the Academy does not need one more Internet pontificator piling on. It just amazes me that in the 84-year history of the awards, the Academy has barely EVER gotten it right. Eminem was awarded a competitive Oscar; Charlie Chaplin, Peter O’Toole, Robert Altman, and Alfred Hitchcock were NOT.
Now, I realize that I am looking back on the Awards with the benefit of hindsight, but it seems to me that professionals in the film industry should be able to evaluate their own art with a view towards the timeless and not just vote for “Miss Congeniality” or the flavor of the month.
One must conclude that the Academy shits on the classics in a big way when so few films we now acknowledge as classics have won Oscars. Where is Psycho? Where is The Searchers? Where is Jaws? Where is E.T.?
E.T. is back on his home planet, on Skype with Elliott.
For the sake of brevity, I will ignore acting winners (a much bigger can of worms) and concentrate on Best Picture winners. By my count, the Academy’s batting average on this big prize is woefully low.
In 1979, for example, the Academy gives the statue to Kramer vs. Kramer. Also nominated that year? Apocalypse Freaking Now.
The 1980s were a decade bookended by Martin Scorsese’s bitter disappointment. I felt bad for Scorsese about this and still do. Plus, he is short.
1980: Winner: Ordinary People Denied? Raging Bull
The Academy loves films about the problems of rich white people—poor white people, not so much.
1981: Winner: Chariots of Fire Denied? Atlantic City, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Reds.
1982: Winner: Gandhi Denied? Blade Runner, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and Tootsie
Ironically, Gandhi is a big, bloated film, unlike its titular protagonist. The three films that were denied are masterpieces. Blade Runner was not even nominated.
1983: Winner? Terms of Endearment Denied? The Right Stuff and Local Hero
1984: Winner? Amadeus Denied? The Killing Fields
1985: Winner? Out of Africa Denied? Brazil (not even nominated)
1986: Winner? Platoon Denied? Hannah and Her Sisters
1987: Winner? The Last Emperor Denied? Broadcast News and House of Games
1988: Winner? Rain Man (The Academy should NOT have awarded a Best Picture Oscar at all in 1988. Seriously.)
1989: Winner? Driving Miss Daisy Denied? Do the Right Thing
(See comment above about rich white people and poor [black] people.)
1990: Winner? Dances With Wolves Denied? Goodfellas
Maybe this is just a case of “sore loser” syndrome, but the above only covers a SINGLE decade. By my count, the Academy has “gotten it right” ONLY TEN TIMES in 84 years: arguably All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), It Happened One Night (1934), Casablanca (1943), From Here to Eternity (1953), On The Waterfront (1954), The Apartment (1960), The Godfather (1971), Annie Hall (1977), Schindler’s List (1993), and No Country For Old Men (2007) all deserved to win.
Have you ever HEARD of the movie Cavalcade? It won Best Picture in 1932, beating 42nd Street and I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. King Kong was not even nominated.
For every Some Like It Hot, there is a Ben Hur to which the Academy is more than willing to give a statue. For every Hoop Dreams, there is an underserving Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, standing in the wings, waiting…
BETTER YET: Because it is impossible to take the Oscars seriously, they must only exist to give movie lovers an opportunity to throw a BIG AMERICAN PARTY. The F This Movie! crew will GO LIVE on the Twitter, Sunday night, February 26th—Join us!