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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Do We Want Mainstream Oscars?

Over the last few years, the Oscars have tried to do more and more to appeal to the average moviegoer - who is generally the kind of person who has seen every Martin Lawrence but doesn't understand why the show spends all this time showing dead people they've never heard about.

The slow compromise has been more attention given to animations, special effects and sound effects. Then, the appeal of blockbusters started to take over - and we had what could be called "The Peter Jackson Effect". Make a movie big enough, make it pretty - and pack the audiences ... and the Oscars may just love you.

Don't get me wrong, I thought Lord of the Rings was pretty impressive movie-making, by nearly any measure. Not just special effects, but directing, screenplay and acting as well.

But this latest crop?

OK, it pushes the envelope in a lot of ways technically and the industry is putting hopes and dreams that it will bring in avenues of sweet 3D cash. And it was a lot of fun to watch. It was also derivative, cliche, predictable and about thirty minutes too long (if it wasn't for the effects - the length would have been very unwelcome). It was an interesting movie and a good movie, but not a great one.

Kinda like Inglourious Basterds. I haven't written a full review yet, but short version is that Tarantino may be finally hitting a stride, but that doesn't make a bombastic epic like Basterds much more than a shock film with really great sets. Again, this movie was fun - and certainly better drama than say, Kill BIll, but we're not really talking about a superior film in general. I can make similar hay out of District 9 and Up. I haven't seen The Blind Side, but ... it's a Sandra Bullock feel good movie. I'm not really planning on rushing out to do so.

The Hurt Locker is probably the one that deserves it the most that I've seen (which sadly does not include Up in the Air. Again, full review pending - but I found Hurt Locker fascinating. It had an almost horror genre mentality to war, with some really pretty great acting and impressive directing.

Usually, Oscar buzz gives rise to movies which truly deserve some attention but wouldn't normally have gotten it. I doubt Slumdog Millionaire would have been on my fast track if it hadn't gotten so much nomination hype. I think the slow degradation of that just got a massive kick in the pants. Then again, I don't have to pay for the Oscar Night extravaganza - which has seen lagging ratings year after year - but I do want to know what the industry are truly great movies ... not just truly popular ones.


sterno said...

It's just the ongoing problem that they face with ever fragmenting audiences. People have better things to do than watch the Oscars and so they expand the list and bring in more movies to try to broaden it's appeal. I can see the logic of it to an extent but to go from 5 to 10 is insane. 6... 7 maybe? But 10?

As for the choices, Avatar shouldn't be anywhere on that list. Cameron deserves a nod for director for sure, but the movie itself was not Oscar worthy.

I need to rewatch Inglorious Basterds and see if I'm missing something because, while I liked it, I didn't get nearly as much out of it as some people seem to. Having said that the best supporting actor nod here is a good one and he definitely deserves it.

Hurt Locker was an amazing movie and should win hands down. I saw Up In the Air and I think it was a really good movie, but not the winner here. I'd put it above Basterds and Avatar easily but Locker was much better.

District 9 was good but not Oscar worthy. Up I didn't see so I can't speak to it. I've heard mixed reviews of the Blind Side.

The thing is, it used to be that with 5 Oscar contenders you might have an incentive to go see the ones you missed. But with 10, I'm not going to hunt down all those movies.

The funny thing though is that this conversation is evidence of their strategy being somewhat effective. Would we be talking about this if they'd chosen the five they should have chosen? No. There'd be no controversy or discussion. But with those 10 now we get to argue about what was really worthy.

The downside here is that with 10 films to work through, we can expect the Oscars to now take 32 hours to complete.

Oh and they haven't entirely strayed from tradition. I mean meryll streep is nominated again :). They should just name it the Meryll Streep award, give her an honorary life time achievement award, and take her out of the running from now on :)

Josh said...

I think Basterds will become the staple Tarantino movie from now on. It doesn't have the dialogue of Pulp Fiction (lacking Avery), and is larger in scale in general - but has the budget for production value and utilizes an ensemble cast very well.