Sunday, 27 February 2011

Oscar Reaction and ranting (mostly ranting)

This is a a difficult argument to phrase, but I'll give it a shot. A good film won best picture tonight. There are times when that hasn't happened, and I suppose we should be grateful for that. But its that old Oscar problem of rewarding the workmanlike over the flamboyant, the familiar over the revolutionary. It never really seems to go away, and it means that when you look back at their choices, and perhaps more importantly what they didn't choose. They always seem out of touch. Oscar seems to bounce between the stubborn and apologetic and can occasionally come across Larry David-esque in its attempts to rectify situations. Annoyed we didn't nominate The Dark Knight, here's 15 nomination for Avatar! you're happy again right? That film is popular! But the problem was it wasn't ignoring the popular movie, but one of the best ones, that just happened to make 550 million or so. Misinterpreting people's frustrations with Oscar seems to be the worst thing about them, because each year becomes about putting right mistakes of the year before and so forth.

But the most persistent mistake I think is the never-ending embrace of the Biopic. I've made no secret that I find the biopic to be the most mundane and ultimately pointless of film genres. Almost all of them are good, but none of them, or very, very few of them, are extra-ordinary. It takes much less work to make them good and they seem to get much more praise for it, seemingly because they're important, unlike pesky original stories. And for Oscar to reward them with such consistency is to a dis-service to film-making. What use is ambition or the ability to tell a story when you can be a filmed version of a Wikipedia page. It means that era-defining films, particularly the daring ones, are always ignored, something we all just accept at this point. And The King's Speech just seems to me to be yet another one of these films. Proficient, well acted and entirely forgettable. The Social Network is of course also a biopic, but it feels so much less like one out of the factory, one that covers things in the same old way with the same emotional arcs and makes an effort to be a film rather then just a piece of visualized information. Its that film, Inception, Winter's Bone and Toy Story 3 that will be revered long after The King's Speech is a footnote on the Oscar IMDB page. That's fine. You can say the Oscars don't matter and that no-one cares and move on with your day right?

Well no, because they have a prestige, a value that all other award shows lust after. They are almost as old as cinema itself, and so they have a legitimacy you can't take away with all your words of scorn and derision. Films can be forgotten or remembered on the basis of this shit. And I know back when I was watching films for the first time, I used the Oscars as a gage of what to see, particularly with older films. So it matters when they make the wrong call and I think this is one of the more egregious examples of that in a while. I was pretty open minded about the winner, I think anything but The Kids are all right, The Fighter or The King's Speech I would have been with. But fuck, yet again we're told the pinnacle of film-making is chronicling figures from history, and if Oscar could just once make it through three years without re-enforcing that message, I'd be a much happier man.

Elsewhere everything went pretty much as expected, the only surprise really being Fincher losing best director to Tom Hooper. I think this is possibly a much greater outrage then the best picture thing, but I'm too burned out on resentment to say anything else at this point.

1 comment:

Nicholas Prigge said...

I think you phrase the argument very well. A spot on analysis of the whole annual Oscar ordeal.