No one needs awards coverage this deep
And other things rich white men like
Earlier this week the LA Times unveiled the fruit of 20 researchers’ labor: old, rich, white men dominate the AMPAS. I was as shocked as you are.
I kid. I do. There’s nothing wrong with the article as such, and the structural dynamics of the Academy do bear looking at.
One of the strange, self-devouring aspects of the internet is that it is now common practice for critics to reflect on, riff off, add to or otherwise deconstruct one another’s work. A positive element of the trend is that a conversation develops in our virtual realm. Of course, levels of discourse are, as ever, varied. We’ve not yet weighed in on the matter and I do so now with a grain of salt, and a bit more sass than I had originally intended. Is it earth shattering news? Clearly not. Does it seem to be indicative of an overindulgence of the paper’s resources? Ish.
A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs
Who doesn’t love watching a great fairy tale on screen? But how often do new ones arise that make us think “Wow, that’s something new,” while also being deep, funny, engaging and gorgeous to watch?
1990’s “Edward Scissorhands” manages to do all these things. While it landed only one Oscar nomination (for Best Makeup), it manages to show the very best of filmmaking in innumerable ways and ranks among my favorite films of all-time.
First, we have the story, already alluded to. Capturing the themes of loneliness, innocence, growing up, family, self-doubt, doomed romance and the ironies of life, Tim Burton’s story hits on multiple human themes to which we all relate. It also managed to do this within heavy genre. Fairy tales have never been Oscar’s cup of tea, but they make for a great narrative. Of course, they have also been done to death, so coming up with a story that is old-fashioned yet completely modern and remarkably original while true to the genre is a feat that deserves special recognition.
Will Martin Scorsese's film dominate the craft categories?
I’m scared. Why, you may ask? First, I’m wondering where on earth this year went. It seems like yesterday when Tech Support was beginning the 2011-2012 season. Next week’s wrap-up column will be the last of the season as the Oscars are given out Sunday night!
Second, however, I am scared because I am truly not confident in my predictions in the crafts categories this year. Only four – Art Direction, Makeup and the music categories – have me certain. Beyond that, things are quite open. I fear I may embarrass myself. That said, this does make things more exciting than is the case in the “major” categories!
So now, on to a final analysis!
Also: 'Drive''s lone Oscar nominee, and predicting by mathematics
Later today, I'll be serving up our Oscar Guide in the Best Actress category -- but if you want an appetizer for that subject, Andrew O'Hehir has written a good piece on the sincere, season-long show of mutual appreciation between the category's frontrunners, Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. ("This is your year," Streep apparently said to Davis at the New York critics' awards.) He gets a few things wrong (like saying that Davis wasn't a surefire nominee last month, when she's plainly been the frontrunner since August), and I'm not sure the title "how Viola Davis took Meryl Streep's Oscar" hits the right note, but O'Hehir's insights into Davis's canny but not cynical self-campaigning, as well as the value of her relationship with Streep, are pointed and sensible amid a chorus of more hysterical commentary about the race. [Salon]
Feeling strangely fine ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards
With four days to go until the Academy Awards, we've reached the point in the season -- indeed, given the season's inordinate length and predictability, we've been there for some time -- where everything that's potentially exciting or commendable about this year's awards can be turned against the institution behind them by sufficiently ill-tempered critics and observers.
Isn't it kind of cool that the Best Picture winner is almost certain to be a silent, black-and-white comedy with no household names involved, and the first Oscar champ in the category from outside the US or UK? Oh, I'm sorry, it isn't: assorted corners of the blogosphere have ruled that "The Artist" is disposable, middlebrow fluff, that the Academy is caving to the cynical philistinism of Harvey Weinstein, that voters are out of touch and un-American to boot. (Oh yeah, and Jean Dujardin is bloody Roberto Benigni all over again -- because all Europeans are the same, right?)
'Margaret' walks away with two acting honors
The International Cinephile Society may be the last of innumerable critics' groups to announce their top film achievements of 2011 before the Oscars finally call a moratorium on the practice -- but in a season that has long since fallen prey to fatigue, this fresh, imaginative list of winners couldn't come as a more welcome pick-me-up. As a voting member of the ICS, I'm pleased to say I'm as surprised as anyone by some of the results, which stray far from the Oscar pack and include a handful of unique choices.
I'm pretty sure, for example, that this is the first group to hand their Best Actor prize to British newcomer Tom Cullen for "Weekend" -- my own first choice in the category. And if the London Critics' Circle pre-empted the ICS by choosing Anna Paquin as Best Actress, this is certainly the first mention for Paquin's onscreen mom in "Margaret," J. Smith-Cameron, in the Best Supporting Actress category. Kenneth Lonergan's beleaguered little film just keeps chugging along -- who knows what could have happened had it received more critical and studio support upon its September release?
And is it maybe time to start considering other venues anyway?
Catch them on demand before Sunday's ceremony
Many of you would really like to see the Oscar-nominated shorts prior to Sunday's telecast but can't make it to one of the theaters currently running the package. Well, better late than never, I guess. I'll let the press release speak for itself:
"Just days after the February 10th theatrical release of The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012, and just in time for the 84th Academy Awards, ShortsHD, the only TV network dedicated exclusively to short movies, today announced the collection of Oscar nominated films will be available to cable subscribers on demand.
"Starting Feb 21st, the best of this year’s nominated shorts are offered in two special packages: Best Animated Short Films and Best Live Action Short Films, in both HD and SD. These films are presented to cable television subscribers by ShortsHD in conjunction with the nation’s leading Movies on Demand (MOD) distributor, iN DEMAND.
A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs
Nearly every year there are a number of films that Oscar simply seems to miss. Just recently Steve McQueen addressed some of the reasons he believes that Oscar ignored Michael Fassbender's performance in what was, for me, one of the best films of the year: “Shame.” Certainly Guy, Kris and I have all expressed our support for “Margaret” and our wish that the Academy voters had caught onto its value in time for it to make even a small showing.
Over the years there have been a number of omissions that have inspired either a quiet or riotous outcry from audiences and critics circles. In recent memory “The Dark Knight” and “Dreamgirls” were each considered shocking snubs by many given their momentum in the precursor circuit. In general terms, there are certain categories that tend to yield frustrating nominations and wins due to nonsensical and counterproductive voting practices.
On final approach, we look back at some of Oscar’s finer moments
There's a stand-by in Oscar season, if you're one of us who obsesses on guessing below-the-line categories, that I learned never to forget last year: Don't bet against a Tim Burton film in the Best Art Direction category.
Last year it was "Alice in Wonderland" that took the award, when I and a number of others thought "The King's Speech" might grab it in a bit of a sweep scenario for the eventual Best Picture winner. Three years prior, it was this season's expected victor, Dante Ferretti, winning the award for Burton's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." Eight years before that, the inarguable work of Rick Heinrichs and his team took it for "Sleepy Hollow."
That run started, though, in 1989, when Anton Furst and Peter Young beat out James Cameron's "The Abyss," Terry Gilliam's "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," Best Picture winner "Driving Miss Daisy" and Edward Zwick's "Glory" for their towering Gothic creations on the year's (and, to that time, the industry's) biggest hit: "Batman."