Tag Archives: Oscars

Funhouse Transparency: The 2011 Oscar Nominations

The 2011 Oscar Nominations

January 25th, 2011

On Twitter, I suggested that I was relatively bored with this morning’s Oscar nominations…or, more accurately, I tweeted “Oscar nods = yawn,” which frankly says more about how much I enjoy being up at 7:30 in the morning than it does about the nominations themselves.

Still, though, I must admit to being fairly unexcited by the whole affair. While there were a few pleasant surprises, and a few snubs which raise my ire in the way that I more or less enjoy, something about the nominations just doesn’t sit right. While the nature of the 10 Best Picture nominations means that a large number of major films from the year enjoy a moment in the spotlight, I would actually argue that there are subtle ways in which this is ruining some of the other categories where voters should be more willing to go out on a limb. With the Academy’s populist and avant garde recognition now done in the main category, the ability for a director like Christopher Nolan to earn a Best Director nomination has been severely diminished, as the legacy of the five-film Best Picture race continues to hang over the remainder of the awards.

And while I wouldn’t quite call it a travesty, I would say that it demonstrates how awards voters only break out of patterns where they are absolutely required to do so.

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A Day Fo(u)r Movies: Black Swan, Tangled, True Grit, Harry Potter 7.0

A Day Fo(u)r Movies: A Field Report

January 5th, 2011

It is not really a secret that I’m not much of a moviegoer. I like movies, and even like going to the movies, but it was never really part of my social fabric growing up, which made it more of a family activity (and thus something that I didn’t do often once the family was dispersed into various locales in the post-secondary years).

While I’ve written about a few movies over the course of the blog’s existence, it hasn’t happened very often. This is both because I haven’t seen very many movies while they’re in theatres, and because I don’t necessarily respond to movies the way I respond to TV shows. While I generally tend to lean away from highly evaluative discourses when looking at TV, perhaps objective to the point of stripping away my own opinion on occasion, with film I lean even further away from the subjective: usually I end up really wanting to have a discussion about a film instead of wanting to “review” it. And since there are various other locales to have conversations of that nature, this blog rarely ends up hosting them.

However, I figure that I tweeted enough about by moviegoing adventure yesterday that I should at least offers some reflections. Taking advantage of the $6 tickets available on Tuesdays, I figured it was time to get to the theatres for the first time since Inception in July – however, since I’m only on holiday vacation for so long, I was in a bit of a rush. As a result, I lined up a four-movie marathon: four movies in a single day is difficult to juggle at even the largest multiplexes, but I found the four films that made it work.

And so, some thoughts on Black Swan, Tangled, True Grit, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One after the jump (and some thoughts on what it was like to see them all in one day, as well).

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Snubpocrisy: The 2010 Oscar Nominations as Disappointing and Not Disappointing Enough

Snubpocrisy: The 2010 Oscar Nominations

February 2nd, 2010

There are times in this life when I realize that I can be quite cynical, which I know flies in the face of everything that Conan O’Brien instructed me to do during his final episode of the Tonight Show. However, it’s not something that can be cured overnight, and during Awards season it’s hard to resist that cynicism when it is just so damn apt.

But with the Oscars this year (whose nominees were announced this morning, and can be found here), we have pretty much the definitive litmus test. It’s the first year (in a long, long time at least) with 10 Best Picture nominees, which means that the favourite films of a large swath of viewers have made it to the dance, so to speak. You’ve got your blockbusters like Avatar, your breakout hits like The Blind Side, your art house selections like A Serious Man and An Education, and even your animated selection in Up. Combine with your intelligent science fiction like District 9 and your prestige pictures like The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Precious and Inglourious Basterds, and you have something for everyone.

And it makes me sick.

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Song, Dance, and Commendation: Turning the 2009 Academy Awards into a Television Event

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Song, Dance, and Commendation:

Turning the 2009 Oscars into a Television Event

When the Academy Awards brought on a set of new producers, there was the usual buzzwords: on time! Big surprises! Excitement! On time! Thrilling! And yet, we all doubted that it could live up to the expectation, especially after the year’s most populist films were all but shut out of major awards, and the chance for big surprises was more or less out the door the second that the runaway train of Slumdog Millionaire pulled into the station. The odds were stacked against this show from being something that felt like a real television event, which is really the point of this whole affair.

Or, well, one of the points. In reality, this is an event that is about celebrating the best in the year of film, but that is an idea that is always so subjective and often disconnected from what the movie-going public actually experienced. At the very least, then, it’s supposed to be a celebration of the talent in Hollywood, something that is always tough with the red carpet affairs and the grasps at star power drive attention towards those with the most cache. And all the while they have to be entertaining, keeping us moving between awards and keeping our attention.

And while it didn’t run on time (who ever expected it to?), and there weren’t many major surprises (here’s a full list of winners), tonight’s Academy Awards will go down in the books as one that provided entertainment you’d see nowhere else, a celebration of the year in movies and not just those movies which happened to be nominated, and one where the fine line between indulgent self-aggrandizing and commending the year’s finest actors was walked with great control. And that, at the very least, created three and a half hours of engaging television.

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It is Written: Slumdog Millionaire, Reality Television and the Power of Inevitability

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It is Written:

Slumdog Millionaire and the Power of Inevitability

Around these parts, it usually takes two things to make me write about a piece of cinema: first it has to be really, really good, and the second is that it has to have some connection to television as a medium. This is a self-imposed standard: I know that there are very few “pure” television readers of this blog (and comparatively “few” readers period), and that everyone is usually interested to hear about a great film. But I’m not a film reviewer, and my critical eye for it hasn’t really been developed, so being able to link it back into the world of television gives me a bit of a comfort level.

It was a comfort level that was in full effect as I watched my first “awards season” film of the year, the powerful and stunning Slumdog Millionaire from British director Danny Boyle. The film is about a Mumbai slumdog on the Indian version of “Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire?”, and diverges throughout the film into how Jamal got to the point wherein he could be on this show, answering these questions, and placed in this position. The structure of the film is clear within the first few minutes: you nod your head, accept what the film is trying to accomplish, and then begin the process of appreciating the stunning cinematography, the wonderful direction, the great child acting performances, and the stunning music.

The film’s conclusion is inevitable, not in terms of result but in structure: you know how the film will progress, and by the time you reach that moment you are capable of choreographing every step of the way. But by the end, presuming you’ve been watching all along, Slumdog Millionaire will rouse an audience like few other films. It is about the smallest of realizations, the broadest of events, and a fine example of how very powerful a film like this can be.

What struck me in that moment is that the film owes more to the trivia game show at its center than just a convenient setting for this tale: its storytelling operates in much the same fashion as does a reality show, introducing a fairly simple structure and following it to the point there the structure is secondary to character, to personality, to humanity. Reality shows in general are only as good as their contestants: every game of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was entirely the same, and every season of Survivor is really the same basic game outside of a few different twists and turns.

I know that some will view this comparison as something almost sacreligious, but it should be seen as a compliment: what takes most reality shows 13 episodes to accomplish is done here in only two short hours, less a rollercoaster than a steady climb up a lift hill. You know what’s about to happen: it is inevitable that you are going to reach the top and rush down the hill to the inversion below. But when this is all happening in such an emotional, engrossing and highly compelling environment crafted by Danny Boyle and the entire team who worked on the film, it feels like something so much more: by the time you’re rushing down, you’re caught between enjoying the ride and looking back with nostalgia on the climb itself.

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The “Winners” and “Losers” of the 2008 Golden Globes Awards

Last night, the 2008 Golden Globes were a ludicrous and fascinating experiment of NBC’s incompetence (Sepinwall tears them a new one here) and a sense that what we were watching was memorable not due to any of the winners but rather because it was just difficult to watch. I tried to LiveBlog it, which was a horrible mistake in every possible way, but it did get me thinking about something.

You see, usually we consider the concepts of Winners and Losers in terms of who won awards, but that really isn’t the question here. The real concern is that by not airing the awards, some of the Golden Globes buzz which could benefit these performers in their future award races or in their future ratings/DVD sales. The lack of hoopla actually hurt some of the winners, dampening the effect of what would have been an entertaining surprise victory.

So let’s look at a bit of an unconventional concept of “winners” and “Losers” after last night’s intriguing events.

Winner – 30 Rock

Yes, it lost Best Comedy Series. And yes, it also ludicrously lost Best Actor in a Comedy Series when David Duchovony beat Alec Baldwin. But Tina Fey’s victory shows that an American-made, New York shot comedy series with little to no connection to the international markets (Although Interrogation Bear might differ) is capable of winning even when it’s not Alec Baldwin, which may end up as all of the respect that the HFPA has to give.

Loser – Mad Men

I would have paid money to see the stunned reaction of the partying attendees to Jon Hamm’s win as Best Actor in a Drama Series, but instead we got Billy Bush’s quip about how it was humorous for an actor to have the name “Hamm.” The impact was entirely gone – it was a great endnote for critics and those who enjoy fine television, but the general population will easily shrug off both Hamm’s win and the series’ eventual triumph in Best Drama Series. Still, this is a qualified sense of loser – it’s a winner in my mind, certainly.

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