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The importance of being Oscar 
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Post The importance of being Oscar
With the Academy awards fast approaching I thought I'd start a couple of threads. I hope I am in the right place.

I was listening to Mick LeSalle the other morning on my bike ride. He is the critic for the SF Chronicle and whilst I don't often agree with his take on movies I find his opinions very interesting. I like the way he thinks and the intellectual rigor behind his arguments.

He made a point that we are often frustrated by the Oscar s because we don't understand the thought process behind many voters. They are genuinely not voting for the best film.

His argument is that within the film community people love to be able to discuss their votes and take a creative, moral and intellectually superior position versus their peers. The logic goes that a vote for The Dark Knight does not demonstrate anything other than following the masses. That is likely why it was not nominated.

Mick's point of view is that Milk will do well because of the gay element (I hope that's not a spoiler!) and the need to redress the Brokeback debacle. He also believes that Slumdog will triumph because Hollywood talent wants to identify with this type of story and setting. Benjamin Button is seen as a piece of creative brilliance by someone they want to embrace.

It made me think about how people cast their votes and why I am endlessly frustrated each year.

For me there were many glaring omissions this year, most notably the lack of Dark Knight and WallE in the best film category. What do you think?

Rob


Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:46 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
I think that the animated category exists only to not nominate anymore animated movies in Best Picture.

Then again, I usually focus on the good surprises of Oscar Nods like RDJ getting nominated for Tropic Thunder.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:51 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
I think LaSalle makes decent points, but a lot of that "not picking the best film" talk is often conjecture, similar to how Oscar predictions often speculate on the top two candidates "splitting the vote," leaving room for the underdog to come through, which never really happens.

I find it interesting that The Dark Knight has received little backlash. As far as it not getting a best picture nomination, I was not at all shocked (nor disappointed, personally). It's a very good film that's among the better action movies of the decade, but I'm more than okay with the nominated films. I feel like most viewers and voters enjoyed and respect The Dark Knight for what it does, but don't feel it's quite on the level of a best picture of the year. Although if only we had access to the votes, I'd reckon that The Dark Knight narrowly missed a nomination.

I do think that Milk's chances are much greater than they would otherwise be based on the righting the wrong of Brokeback. While I think both are very good films, I find Brokeback to be among the very best of the decade, while Milk is more on the side of a solid movie with staggeringly good performances. Also, the one reason I think Milk will not in fact win is because it is not quite as emotionally resonant as Brokeback is.

I think the foreign film and animated categories should be dropped (even if that means expanding how many films get best picture noms). Voters can now use these as an excuse to leave Wall-E (the second best movies of the year, in my opinion) off the ballot.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:43 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Shade wrote:
I find it interesting that The Dark Knight has received little backlash. As far as it not getting a best picture nomination, I was not at all shocked (nor disappointed, personally). It's a very good film that's among the better action movies of the decade, but I'm more than okay with the nominated films. I feel like most viewers and voters enjoyed and respect The Dark Knight for what it does, but don't feel it's quite on the level of a best picture of the year. Although if only we had access to the votes, I'd reckon that The Dark Knight narrowly missed a nomination.


I'd say there's been a huge backlash against the Academy for not nominating The Dark Knight. The IMDb forums are blazing with fanboy hatred and even Rotten Tomatoes got a lot of comments related to The Dark Knight regarding its Oscar nominations entry. A few people have pinpointed Frost/Nixon and Milk as culprits, but it's really The Reader that doesn't deserve to be there. The Reader's a fairly weak Holocaust drama that succeeds on a great female performance more than anything else. Its emotions are tepid and its filmmaking is nothing worth squawking about. The fact of the matter is, Harvey Weinstein's got a big mouth and no one wants to nominate a comic book movie.

Sort of, anyway. I've been reading Brad Brevet's entries on the Oscars and he's explained the voting system the best way a human can. Basically, the Academy votes, and the higher ups look at your top two, maybe three, and weight those the most. It's highly probable that The Dark Knight was in most voter's top five, but at number four or five. I'd buy that if it weren't for the fact that The Reader would have needed to be in more people's top three. That doesn't really make sense to me, but I guess it does to every other voting figure. The Reader got in at the Globes and the BAFTAs; why not the Oscars? I don't know why the vast majority of Oscar bloggers thought the Academy would be the guild to nominate The Dark Knight. I fell for the viewers argument, but I suppose viewership shouldn't be taken into account when judging the quality of a film. Again, though, the quality of The Reader is decent. It's a good movie, but there's nothing extraordinary about it outside of Kate Winslet. If Best Picture nominations were based on a performance, they should have nominated The Wrestler.

Shade wrote:
I think the foreign film and animated categories should be dropped (even if that means expanding how many films get best picture noms). Voters can now use these as an excuse to leave Wall-E (the second best movies of the year, in my opinion) off the ballot


I half-agree with you here. I just don't see why there aren't more entries like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that get Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film nominations. That film, I imagine, had marketing on its side, though. Correct me if I'm wrong; it was before my time.

Shade wrote:
I do think that Milk's chances are much greater than they would otherwise be based on the righting the wrong of Brokeback. While I think both are very good films, I find Brokeback to be among the very best of the decade, while Milk is more on the side of a solid movie with staggeringly good performances. Also, the one reason I think Milk will not in fact win is because it is not quite as emotionally resonant as Brokeback is.


Totally agree with you here. Even though Benjamin Button has thirteen nominations, I think Milk's got a greater chance of winning based on the Brokeback argument. It's also got timing on its side, with prop eight recently passing and gay rights being a big issue right now. However, it's an argument that's questionable because I'm not sure if the Academy realizes they made an egregious error by shutting out Brokeback Mountain. Ultimately, I still think Slumdog Millionaire is going to win, but it's not a clear-cut as it could be.

At the end of the day, I still think The Dark Knight and WALL-E should have been nominated. Think of it this way: Slumdog Millionaire is going to be remembered years from now for its quality. Benjamin Button will be remembered. Milk will be remembered. Who's going to remember Frost/Nixon and The Reader? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed both films (the former way more), but have they really made an impact in the filmmaking world? The Dark Knight and WALL-E have set new standards for their genre. Has Frost/Nixon done that? No. Has The Reader done that? No. The other three have done that at least to a degree.

But maybe I'm just bitter. XD


Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:18 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
I'm just disappointed that The Wrestler didn't get nominated for best picture, best director, or Best Song. They nominated two Slumdog songs but not Bruce's song from The Wrestler. Terrible.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:21 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Yeah, I'm a little confused about Springsteen's snub, especially considering he won Best Original Song at the Golden Globes. Pay respect to the Boss, man! Jai Ho and O...Saya are great, but at least one of them should have been iced to make room for "The Wrestler". It's such an underappreciated motion picture that's going to be respected a lot more as it ages.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:49 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Well if I had my way the Best Picture nominees would have been as follows

The Dark Knight
Doubt
Gran Torino
Revolutionary Road

The Wrestler (winner)

Truthfully, I have never been this disappointed with the Oscars. Even in past years when better films or favorites were passed over or were nominated but didn't win, I was fine with it. This year, though the inclusion of four films that don't even come close to being Best Picture material absolutely flabbergasted me. Only Slumdog Millionaire is a film good enough to be in there. This is the first time I am not looking forward to the ceremony since I started watching it 10 years ago. The Academy shot themselves in the foot this year.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:51 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Pedro wrote:
I'd say there's been a huge backlash against the Academy for not nominating The Dark Knight. The IMDb forums are blazing with fanboy hatred and even Rotten Tomatoes got a lot of comments related to The Dark Knight regarding its Oscar nominations entry. A few people have pinpointed Frost/Nixon and Milk as culprits, but it's really The Reader that doesn't deserve to be there. The Reader's a fairly weak Holocaust drama that succeeds on a great female performance more than anything else. Its emotions are tepid and its filmmaking is nothing worth squawking about. The fact of the matter is, Harvey Weinstein's got a big mouth and no one wants to nominate a comic book movie.


I should have been more clear -- my point with The Dark Knight (TDK) not getting any backlash was in reference to how it's seemed to have avoided being picked apart by the masses as its popularity has grown. Had it been nominated, that's probably what we'd be seeing, just like how Slumdog is now being ripped for being manipulative and poorly directed (calling this the "Juno Effect) makes sense, although the phenomenon has existed for several years). I can't take anything on the IMDB forums seriously, but there are valid and intelligent arguments that TDK missed out. Obviously Weinstein can swing votes -- Chocolat got a best picture nomination, for goodness sakes -- but I'm not sure the superhero/comic book tag is why TDK missed out. Some (like me) found it simply an engaging, visceral movie experience withou depth (I still don't see the classicly tragic undertones that some do). I imagine that some voters also found it dark for the sake of being dark, and while the Acadamy certainly can handle depressing movies, they tend to like their mainstream picks a bit more bright.

And your theory on how the voting cards actually looked seems very right, in that TDK probably appeared on a lot more ballots than the Reader, but on average was ranked a bit lower.

Pedro wrote:
I half-agree with you here. I just don't see why there aren't more entries like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that get Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film nominations. That film, I imagine, had marketing on its side, though. Correct me if I'm wrong; it was before my time.


It did indeed have marketing. And also, what is the point of a movie being nominated in both categories? This is another reason I'd like to see the category dropped.

Pedro wrote:
At the end of the day, I still think The Dark Knight and WALL-E should have been nominated. Think of it this way: Slumdog Millionaire is going to be remembered years from now for its quality. Benjamin Button will be remembered. Milk will be remembered. Who's going to remember Frost/Nixon and The Reader? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed both films (the former way more), but have they really made an impact in the filmmaking world? The Dark Knight and WALL-E have set new standards for their genre. Has Frost/Nixon done that? No. Has The Reader done that? No. The other three have done that at least to a degree.


I see your point, but I don't like the "impact on the filmmaking world" argument. I'm not being mocking with this question, but do you think Terminator 2 should have been nominated for Best Picture? It was hugely influential and at the time was a masterwork of its genre. I think TDK aspires to be much more than a genre pic (and it is) so I don't think it can fall back on that as a defense for why it should be nominated. In the same way, it shouldn't be held against Frost/Nixon simply because we've seen similar films in the genre. This doesn't always happen, but in an ideal world the best films get nominated, politics and genres aside. Of course we know that this isn't true, and that the Acadamy favors Holocost movies, for example, but this should be the goal, and that's why I don't like the genre argument for TDK. I do think Wall-E is a landmark film period -- the fact that it is animated is secondary.

Certainly you can disagree on where TDK falls on the list of great films of the year, but this is why I have less of a problem with the nominations (although I do agree that The Reader is the weakest).

I agree that The Wrestler got snubbed in general, especially in best song. When I saw the nominations, I genuinely assumed that there was a reason it was not eligible. This is the oversight of the year in my opinoin.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:11 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
I really don't know where the Milk love is coming from. Sure, it's a very good and moving film, but it won't win just because it's about gay people. Brokeback Mountain lost fair and square because Crash was the better film (so was Munich.) I doubt the academy regrets that decision. I think they decided early on to give it to Slumdog. They didn't want to nominate Dark Knight because it is clearly the better film, and they at leasted wanted to make the winner the best of the five nominations, which Slumdog is. Slumdog will get for sure, so the only reason to watch the telecast would be if you want to see Ledger get the oscar for Joker.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:33 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Yeah, it's interesting that The Dark Knight's mostly gotten away without too many stabs to the gut. I'm sure there's a vocal minority that hate it, but it's largely loved. Most of my friends who saw the movie really dug it. Comparing it to Terminator 2 is fairly accurate, though looking back at the nominees, it probably deserved a Best Picture nomination over The Prince of Tides. Maybe. I haven't seen the film, so I probably shouldn't comment. I guess I'm just silly for having faith in a body of people that's gradually becoming a joke. XD


Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:33 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Patrick wrote:
I think that the animated category exists only to not nominate anymore animated movies in Best Picture.

Then again, I usually focus on the good surprises of Oscar Nods like RDJ getting nominated for Tropic Thunder.


I simply cannot understand why the Academy can't get it's head around the idea that an animated film cannot be the "best film" period. Wall-E is the highest critically rated film of the year.

Rob


Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:11 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Ickibod wrote:
I'm just disappointed that The Wrestler didn't get nominated for best picture, best director, or Best Song. They nominated two Slumdog songs but not Bruce's song from The Wrestler. Terrible.


Indeed, the song decision is even stranger when they only nominated three songs!
Rob


Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:14 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
MGamesCook wrote:
I really don't know where the Milk love is coming from. Sure, it's a very good and moving film, but it won't win just because it's about gay people. Brokeback Mountain lost fair and square because Crash was the better film (so was Munich.) I doubt the academy regrets that decision. I think they decided early on to give it to Slumdog. They didn't want to nominate Dark Knight because it is clearly the better film, and they at leasted wanted to make the winner the best of the five nominations, which Slumdog is. Slumdog will get for sure, so the only reason to watch the telecast would be if you want to see Ledger get the oscar for Joker.


Bay Area and LA is where the love for Milk is coming from :-)
The SF Chronicle not surprisingly made Milk their film of the year.

Rob


Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:16 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Robert Holloway wrote:
MGamesCook wrote:
I really don't know where the Milk love is coming from. Sure, it's a very good and moving film, but it won't win just because it's about gay people. Brokeback Mountain lost fair and square because Crash was the better film (so was Munich.) I doubt the academy regrets that decision. I think they decided early on to give it to Slumdog. They didn't want to nominate Dark Knight because it is clearly the better film, and they at leasted wanted to make the winner the best of the five nominations, which Slumdog is. Slumdog will get for sure, so the only reason to watch the telecast would be if you want to see Ledger get the oscar for Joker.


Bay Area and LA is where the love for Milk is coming from :-)
The SF Chronicle not surprisingly made Milk their film of the year.

Rob


Yeah, it's definitely got love down here. I saw it the night before it opening at the first public screening. That was an experience, with the theater being in the Castro District and all (San Francisco gay central). There was a lot of love in the room; you could feel the audience reacting to this film that's all about what they are and what they've been through. A lot of people cried and a lot of people hugged after it was over. I'm really glad I went.

I guess that makes it an event movie? The environment definitely influenced how I felt about the film, at least to a certain point. I was not oblivious to its flaws, but the crowd definitely added to the experience.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:23 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Ickibod wrote:
I'm just disappointed that The Wrestler didn't get nominated for best picture, best director, or Best Song. They nominated two Slumdog songs but not Bruce's song from The Wrestler. Terrible.


Springsteen wasn't nominated because he disqualified his song by putting it on his new album. Academy rules state that the song can ONLY be placed on the film soundtrack. Stupid, I know.

Yes, it's disappointing about The Dark Knight and the ghetto-ization of WALL-E, but I'm more upset about Doubt's snub from the best picture category as well. Yes, I loved it nearly as much as James did.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:27 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Ryan wrote:
Ickibod wrote:
I'm just disappointed that The Wrestler didn't get nominated for best picture, best director, or Best Song. They nominated two Slumdog songs but not Bruce's song from The Wrestler. Terrible.


Springsteen wasn't nominated because he disqualified his song by putting it on his new album. Academy rules state that the song can ONLY be placed on the film soundtrack. Stupid, I know.


I did some research, and this actually isn't true - it was in the running, but it didn't get the required score of 8.25/10 to get nominated. Same thing with Clint Eastwood's song.


Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:31 pm
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
I have not seen any of the films nominated for Best Picture. I really don't have any interest to see The Reader. All the other noms I am quite interested in. I have a busy work schedule so getting time to go the movie theater doesn't come around as often as I'd like. I am though, a big fan of Batman in general. The Dark Knight was the movie of the year. Anybody can tell you that. Whether it is the BEST picture of 2008, of course, is debatable. I however agree with J.B. regarding Ledger's nomination. Without a doubt, his performance will never be forgotten, and I believe he does deserve recognition for the exceptional job he did. But Oscars are for the living. I believe his nomination is recognition enough. Somebody deserves to walk across that stage and accept the award for the job they did. Giving Heath Ledger the Oscar is a waste of all other nominated supporting actors.


Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:17 am
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
slmaldonado wrote:
I have not seen any of the films nominated for Best Picture. I really don't have any interest to see The Reader. All the other noms I am quite interested in. I have a busy work schedule so getting time to go the movie theater doesn't come around as often as I'd like. I am though, a big fan of Batman in general. The Dark Knight was the movie of the year. Anybody can tell you that. Whether it is the BEST picture of 2008, of course, is debatable. I however agree with J.B. regarding Ledger's nomination. Without a doubt, his performance will never be forgotten, and I believe he does deserve recognition for the exceptional job he did. But Oscars are for the living. I believe his nomination is recognition enough. Somebody deserves to walk across that stage and accept the award for the job they did. Giving Heath Ledger the Oscar is a waste of all other nominated supporting actors.


Welcome!
Hollywood is more interested in showing how cool they are- not finding the best performance or film
In this case however, they can have it both ways
I doubt RDJ or PSH are worried they will never see another good role :-)
Rob


Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:11 am
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
the only Best Picture-nominated film that I've seen and that's been released in Peru is Benjamin Button. the rest I want to see but have no idea when they're gonna be released here. most people won't watch the Oscars here because they don't know anything about the nominees. the average Peruvian isn't addicted to visiting imdb or rottentomatoes every day... the "if the Dark Knight had been nominated for Best Picture ratings would be much better" situation applies here too, and in a stronger fashion.


Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:19 am
Post Re: The importance of being Oscar
Im most disappointed in the TOTAL Eastwood snub. Nothing in Milk or Frost/Nixon compares to the emotional punch that Gran Torino packs.


Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:02 am
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