Friday, January 25, 2008

The Academy Awards Club.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences boasts between 6,000 to 6500 members. According to the Academy's own publicity, only members within a particular branch (of which there are 14) may vote to nominate candidates within that branch. Once the nominations are decided, all members may vote on the final award recipient. I'll relinquish my skepticism momentarily and concede that, perhaps, these members actually make choices with an eye and ear to their expertise, with their final decisions based on the knowledge and acquired experience that qualifies them as experts. That's about as far as I can stretch it. Here's my gut... it's all based on the buddy system.
OK, I'm a cynic. Ever wonder why the best hosts of the annual Academy Awards® ceremony are all comedians? Because you have to take all of this with a laugh. Unfortunately, we don't. This is very serious business. And not just for the Hollywood Hype spewing from the studios and distributers. You and I take this seriously as well. Why? Well, for me personally, last year's ceremony was life changing.
The 2006 Best Picture nominees were The Departed, Babel (the most appropriately named motion picture in history), The Queen, Letters From Iwo Jima, and Little Miss Sunshine. Among the mix nominated outside of Best Picture were films like Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men, Little Children & Venus. V for Vendetta, one of the best graphic novel adaptations in the history of the genre received no nods and extraordinarily, Apocalypto, one of the best and most beautiful films ever made, only got technical notice. For me that meant that the films nominated for Best Picture had to be pretty amazing. You know where this is going, they weren't. I watched these films because they were nominated. I purchased the DVD of The Departed because it won Best Picture. I was infuriated. The Departed wasn't a great film. I wouldn't call it a good film. It certainly and unequivocally wasn't the best film of 2006. Moviedozer was born.

My point is that the Academy is a private club. It's members have personal and professional motivations and they behave as if their goings-on are sequestered in the secluded domain of a dark paneled, scotch and smoke filled private lounge. Yet you and I will buy movie tickets and home videos based on their fanfare filled Awards ceremony. So this year, right up front, here's just a touch of what I'm very skeptical about in 2007's Academy Award® Nominations. In no particular order, here are 3 nominations that reduce Oscar to paperweight status.

1. I saw American Gangster. Denzel was OK, didn't deserve a nomination, didn't get one. Russell Crowe was, well, Russell Crowe, in my book, not a compliment. Didn't deserve a nomination, didn't get one. The screenplay (read story) was serviceably standard. Didn't deserve a nomination, didn't get one. Direction was dull and ordinary, you get the idea. But wait, Ruby Dee (83 years old to my count) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Heart warming, if this were a private testimonial. If you haven't seen American Gangster, don't buy it or rent it based on the Academy's penchant for sentimentality.

2. Best screenplays relate great stories. Charming stories. Unforgettable stories. The engaging and adorable tale of Ratatouille, good nomination. The edgy, conflicted and tense Michael Clayton, good nomination. The hard and uncompromising adaptations for No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, good nominations. The asinine Lars and the Real Girl - 'nuff said.

3.  You could have nominated every song from Enchanted and done yourself proud. From the looks of it, the Academy seems to have tried. Next to shorts and documentaries, there aren't a lot of you out there deciding to catch a movie based on it's Academy nominated song. Well let me save you from wasting money on a CD or even a 99 cent song download. The nominated song "Raise It Up" from August Rush was much like the film, filled with empty hype, far-fetched promise and utterly (and happily) forgettable. Forget it's even on the Academy's list, it was awful.

There's more and we'll certainly be part of the cacophony of comment on the upcoming show, if indeed it makes it to our television screens in spite of the WGA strike. You're welcome to add your voice.

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