Joe’s Blog

Oscar Nominations 2009

January 23, 2009 3:17 am


 It must be January,because the cinemas are filled with ‘worthy’ films. Biopics of people who made the front page, once, in 1976; real life stories that normally end up in TV movies on Channel 5 on a wet Tuesday afternoon; actors ‘playing against type'; and Will Bloody Smith in a bloody black bloody suit looking at me all smug and mysterious.

Yes, Oscar season arrives with all the attendant banality that goes with it, namely, the films.

Until a few years back, I loved the Oscars. It was something about all that glamour, shininess and the fact you had to stay up all night to watch it. Legends would be honoured, and occassionally get overlooked in favour of saying ‘well done’ to a rookie (Fact: Martin Scorcese lost out on Best Director Oscars TWICE to actors directing their first films, Robert Redford and Kevin Costner… think on).

But now, rather than being a celebration of the best Hollywood (and occassionaly Britain; those damn foreigners can have their own category) has to offer, it is now just a love-in for all those heartfelt dramas, true-life tales, and costume epics that appear in the last two months of the year.

Of this years Best Picture nominations, only two, Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader, were on release in Britain at the time the nominations were announce, and they both came out this month. Of the others, Milk and Frost/Nixon are both out today, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button isn’t out until February.

“Aaaah”, I hear you exclaim, “But this is for films released in America last year”.

Indeed. To qualify for the Oscars, a film needs only a ‘limited’ release in 2008. As FOUR of the five films did. Only The Curious Case of Benjamin Button had a full release. A limited release can consist of just ONE public showing normally either in New York or LA. So at the time of the nominations probably about 200 people have seen each of the nominated films. Hardly worthy of best film of the year, is it?

Another aspect of the process is the use of ‘screeners’. These used to be specially arranged screenings of films for voters, who, as they all work in the industry, are normally two busy to have a spare evening to go to the cinema. Or they just can’t be arsed to see a pretty actress wearing shock-horror prosthetics.

These days, the ‘screener’ has been superseeded by free DVDs and (it wouldn’t surprise me) downloads. So the people voting haven’t even made the effort to actually go and watch the films. The films come to them.

Now, call me picky, but surely if a film is any good people will WANT to see it, rather than be COERCED into seeing it? (This is the point where I remember that good films do get overlooked… but it doesn’t fit my argument so I’m going to ignore it)

I remember years ago, when MOVIES got nominated. You remember ‘movies’? Films that are entertaining and take you away from the real world for a couple of hours?

Just going back a couple of decades, consider that these films got nominated for Best Picture: Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fatal Attraction (!), The Fugitive, The Full Monty.

You can argue the toss about their individual merits, but at least they were films that were wildly popular and to this day are still loved. (if you’re interested they were beaten by: Annie Hall, Chariots of Fire, The Last Emperor, Unforgiven and Titanic…)

Titanic and Lord of the Rings are probably the only populist winners in the past thirty years. And both were wrong.Titanic is a superb spectacle wrapped inside a dreary costume drama, and LOTR: The Return of the King (the final part, the one that actually won the Oscar) was the worst of the three films.

Some classic films never even got nominated. Off the top of head there’s Seven and Heat which both qualified for the 1996 awards. Then there’s groundbreakers like The Matrix. Yes, now it’s become a bit of a cliched dud of a series, but the original film was like nothing that had been seen before. I remember reading an interview with William Friedkin saying he thought it should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. It wasn’t even nominated (and he should know having won for French Connection and being nominated for The Exorcist.. The Exorcist! Can you imagine a horror movie getting a Best Picture nomination these days, even if they DID make decent ones?)

At the end of the day, I shall not be popping Pro-plus with Red Bull chasers to watch it this year. There is no point.

I haven’t seen any of the main contenders, and frankly, bar Frost/Nixon, I couldn’t give a toss about any of them either. So how can I get excited about it?

I’d like to see Robert Downey Jnr win in Best Supporting Actor for Tropic Thunder, but that’s had heath Ledger’s name engraved on it since last March; I’d like In Bruges to win Best Original Screenplay just because it contains so much swearing, I’d love to know what clip they’re going show.

But, for the record, here’s what I think will happen:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: Danny Boyle

Best Actor: Frank Langella

Best Actress: Kate Winslet (finally)

Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger

Supporting Actress: Not a fucking scooby since Marisa Tomei is the only one I’ve heard of, and she’s already got one

Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire

Original Screenplay: Happy-Go-Lucky

There… you don’t need to watch it now, either.

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