Monday, February 25, 2008

No Ceremony For Old Blockbuster Fans

Watching the Oscars last night, I was really struck by the discrepancy that I think exists between the taste of the moviegoers that Hollywood caters to and the taste of Hollywood itself. You see, the Oscars could never please everybody. On the one hand, you've got film critics who always complain that the Oscars are a popularity contest and that they never nominate the right movies. But on the other hand, as this year's crop of nominees surely demonstrates, you've got the American public, who is thinking, "Like, who the hell is Marion Cotillard?" I watched most of the ceremony with two of my roommates, Paul and Betty. At the start of the show, as they announced all the technical category winners first, Betty kept saying in amazement, "Wow, The Golden Compass! I saw that," and "Wow! Ratatouillie! I saw that one too." Then when they got around to the bigger categories, my roommates were just looking at the screen, going, "Never heard of it." I think the rest of America must have felt the same way: according to Nielsen, the ratings were the worst ever.

But come on, what are the Oscars supposed to do? Nominate popular movies that don't really deserve nominations just so more people will watch? Guess what, there's a ceremony called the People's Choice Awards, and you know what it's for? Yeah, that's right. See, this is why I could never really hate the Oscars: not because they're so great, but because they could be so much worse than they really are. You can't tell me that it's just a popularity contest when Marion Cotillard wins Best Actress for a movie that nobody, not even me, has seen. And I may not have agreed with No Country For Old Men as Best Picture, but that was not exactly a safe, cuddly choice. In fact, it's probably the most unapolegetically nihilistic Best Picture winner in Oscar history. Quite how it became the movie with the "Oscar buzz" is unclear to me. Yes, at least it was attempting to be a "real movie" and not just a shameless "Oscarbait" movie, but even after a month of reflection, I still feel that, when all is said and done, it was essentially a very, very well-made piece of crap. Kim Morgan on MSN feels that the movie "was an entirely deserving winner for both Best Director (in their case Best Directors) and Best Picture. [The Coen's] bloody, beautifully acted, poetic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel was soulful, inventive, mysterious and truly horrifying." Soulful? In what way was the movie soulful? This had to be one of the least soulful movies I've ever seen. The one specific element that the Coen Brothers lack in their art is soul. I still have yet to hear somebody explain why the movie was great other than by saying that the movie was really well-made. The closest that anybody's ever come to doing so was some user on IMDB who said (*possible spoilers*) that the last scene, where Anton Chigurh almost gets killed in a car accident but walks away alive, is Cormac McCarthy's (and the Coens') way of saying that eventually, no matter how you try to outrun it, death comes to everybody, even the guy who tells people that he's death coming to everybody. While a halfway decent insight, that is not nearly enough, I don't think, to carry a feature-length movie. Or at least not enough to carry a Best Picture winner. I'm curious how its win will sit with the average moviegoer. I think a lot of people are going to rent No Country For Old Men after it won all these Oscars and think, "WTF?"

Other thoughts:

Best Jon Stewart jokes: "There is a great variety in the nominated films this year. Even Norbit, got a nomination, which I think is great. Too often the Academy ignores movies that aren't good." "Tonight we look beyond the dark days and focus on happier fare. This year's slate of Oscar-nominated psychopathic killer movies. Does this town need a hug? What happened? No Country For Old Men, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood. All I can say is thank God for teen pregnancy." I also liked the shout-out to Lawrence of Arabia, via a joke about watching it on an iPod/iPhone/whatever it was.

I loved how they had the armed forces present best documentary awards to films about same-sex rights and army torture, respectively. Somewhere, somehow, somebody cringed.

I didn't like any of the song nominees, not even the "indie-ish" song from Once that actually won. Agree/disagree?

My favorite presenter was probably The Rock: "Special effects artists create movie moments that take us beyond reality. Of course, nobody told this to an 11-year-old boy who thought that the faces melting in Raiders of the Lost Ark were real! (Long, comically awkward pause) But, he's over it now."


herr zrbo said...

I missed the first hour, but dear God almighty those Enchanted songs were truly awful. That one about the 'diversity of people in New York' didn't even have a proper melody, it was just a bunch of akward noise. In comparison the song from 'Once' seemed amazing.

I still don't get the difference between 'Sound editing' and 'Sound mixing'.

Little Earl said...

You don't? Oh my God, you're so uncultured Zrbo.