This Great Evil

Month: February, 2012

Oscar predictions

You know, for kids?

Best Picture: The Artist

As inevitable as the cancer I’m going to get from my addiction to Diet Pepsi. 

Best Director: Terrence Malick

There are some causes you abandon and some ships you go down with. This is the latter. See Roman Polanski, 2002. 

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin

Fuck the French!

Best Actress: Viola Davis

Meryl Streep’s a close second, but The Iron Lady is just kind of shit

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

The Max van Sydow campaign is a total non-starter. 

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer

Year of the shit: Melissa McCarthy gets nominated for shitting into a sink, Spencer’s going to win for shitting into a pie.

Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris

Fuck France!

Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Fuck Hawaii!

Best Cinematography: Hugo

The Academy’s all about fucking Emmanuel Lubezki. 

The rest: who gives a shit?

Quasi-obligatory Oscars post

(Repost, lengthier[?] version from The DBK)

The Oscars aren’t relevant anymore. To prove this point, allow me to crudely (and offensively) split moviegoers into three broad categories.

The first category are the people who go to the movies entirely for escapism. To them, movies are a lot like popcorn; agreeably tasty while being consumed, utterly devoid of nutritional content and completely forgotten after you’ve finished.

They comprise the majority of American moviegoers and they mostly watch big blockbusters, animated films, rom-coms, etc. Nothing wrong with that. Let’s call them the Rockers.

The second group of people are the hardcore cinephiles. They’re type of people who sneer at films with budgets more over $30 million, whose list of favorite movies contain only a handful of American movies. They like movies a lot, and they watch a lot of movies. Call them the Mods.

And then there’s the third and last group of film watchers: folks who have more discerning taste for films than the Rockers but aren’t quite as esoteric as the Mods. These people like to watch movies that make them think and make them feel. They’re not quite ready to fully dive into the kooky world of subtitles, but they’re on the verge. They shall be dubbed the Proletarians.

The movies enjoyed by the Oscars rarely line up with the movies favored by the Rockers. How many blockbusters have been nominated for Best Picture in the past decade? You’ve got Avatar, Lord of the Rings and Inception. Maybe Gladiator? That’s five out of 74 nominees.

So, the Oscars don’t really have anything to do with mainstream entertainment. The Los Angeles Times recently found that median age of the Academy was 62 and that only 14% of the voting body was under the age of 50. Your doddering old grandfather isn’t going to have the same taste in films as you, especially if you’re a Rocker.

But even if the Rockers’ favorite film of the year gets nominated, everyone will have already seen it by then. The Oscars have never been relevant to the Rockers, except as, perhaps, an interesting bit of trivia about their favorite movies.

The Oscars might be just slightly less relevant to the Mods. Partially because the Mods have already seen all the films nominated for Best Picture, and partially because a large portion of the Mods are smartasstic cynics.

If you watch enough films to call yourself a Mod, chances are your taste in film is more refined and diverse than the modern Academy’s. I love War Horse, and I adore The Tree of Life, but the rest of this year’s nominees aren’t within spitting distance of my personal top ten list.

When you’re a Mod, your favorite movies aren’t likely to be recognized by the Academy. Your favorite movies are likely to be idiosyncratic in a way that polarizes audiences. You might admire Antichrist for its brazen, genital-mutilating artistic bravery or respect the restraint and pacing of Mysteries of Lisbon.

So, for the Mods, the Oscars exist solely as a thing to bitch about. “The Artist is the frontrunner for Best Picture? Man, those geriatric Academy members are so out of touch. Fuck ’em.”

That leaves us with the Proletarians. They’re the people with tastes that most closely align with the Academy; they like movies that have depth, are accomplished but not intimidating or abstruse enough to be off-putting. They loved The King’s Speech, and will probably eat The Artist up.

They are the reason why the Oscars were relevant, and the reason why the Oscars are no longer relevant.

Before the internet and before Rotten Tomatoes, the Oscars were a good tool for the Proletarians to hear about new, intriguing movies, and to provide a basis for discussing movies.

Now, with the proliferation of armchair film critics and Facebook, there’s no real reason to use the Oscars as advice. The awards might still somewhat reflect your taste in movies, and you might still watch the awards ceremony, but they’re pointless now. If you’re a Proletarian, the Oscars are just a bit of movie trivia, and some form of validation for the more pretentious among them.

I’m not going to say that the Oscars should be abolished, or even drastically revised. The point of the Academy Awards isn’t relevancy – they’re just a reflection and celebration of what its members (veteran filmmakers slash some people with really good connections) liked and loved.

Long ago, in the past, when movies like The Godfather were winning Oscars, the Academy Awards had some connection to a good chunk of society. Now, they’re just the reflection of a specific, if vocal, group within society, largely useless to and detached from the rest of us.

When James Bond got out James Bonded

Have you noticed that Mission Impossible has largely become a better James Bond franchise than James Bond? James Bond spent the first half of the past decade going off into an insane, CGI-fueled nightmare, and the second half trying to channel the Bourne series’s gritty energy.

On the other hand, Mission Impossible, after John Woo’s execrable second installment, delivered the greatest action-spy movie of the decade in Mission Impossible 3 and followed that up with the highly entertaining Mission Impossible 4.

What James Bond has lost sight of is the franchise’s cinematic roots. James Bond represented a mix of everything in mainstream cinema – gunfights, car chases, sex, cool crap, cars, more gunfights and more women.

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace’s attempts at characterizing James Bond are noble, but they do the series a disservice. I mean, really, what good does characterizing James Bond do you? He doesn’t become a more sympathetic character. At the end of the day, 007 is still a crazy British badass who travels across the world with a near infinite amount of money to drive really fast cars, engage in casual sexual liaisons with supermodels and kill unambiguously evil villains. And, don’t forget, his job is to look like he’s enjoying himself.

His character has become so far detached from the reality that it’s almost impossible to relate to the character.

Jason Bourne? You can relate to him in a pinch – he doesn’t have the British government standing behind him. His choice of company are men who are trying to kill him and men who are trying kill him with funny accents. It’s cathartic to watch him muscle-MacGyver his way out of any scenario because it’s thrilling to see someone so utterly subjugated succeed.

James Bond? The point of James Bond isn’t to invest in the character, but rather attain some level of entertainment through kind of living vicariously through him. You don’t want to see rich badass sulking, you want to see him shooting someone with a silenced pistol while crashing an Aston Martin and tonguing a France femme fatale.

Mission Impossible hasn’t lost sight of this. The set pieces come hard and fast, the gizmos, though grounded in realistic-ish technology, are really damn cool and the cars are still shiny and sleek.

That’s not to say that Mission Impossible 4 is a perfect movie. The script is kind of bad, dead wife subplot and Jeremy Renner’s character being the most glaring flaws. Also, who the fuck would believe that Ethan Hunt, ostensibly an international superspy, would suddenly decide to ditch his team, and have to get taught a lesson on the value of teamwork by a Russian arms dealer who kind of looks like Lars von Trier? That’s an idea out of fucking Arthur or Magic School Bus, not IMAX’s Hardest Spy Movie.

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace did try to chart the interior life of James Bond. I suppose that it’s commendable.  And Mission Impossible 4 has much looser, shallower characterization. I don’t know if I would necessarily call Mission Impossible 4 a better movie than Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. I just know that Mission Impossible 4 fully embraces what it is.

Acting like a teen

The weirdest aspect of watching Chronicle was seeing a bunch of 20-some year olds act like teenagers. It’s more than a little odd that a movie which goes to so many extremes to portray a grounded and naturalistic group of teenagers featured, primarily, a cast way past adolescence. The performances are fine, but they looked nothing like the part.

I suppose it isn’t that uncommon in Hollywood to really not give a damn about casting people who look the part. Did anyone really believe that Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls was 17? Did anyone think that the cast of Prom really, convincingly physically resembled high schoolers? And who in their right minds would believe for an instant that Joseph Gordon Levitt belonged anywhere near a high school in Brick?

I guess that the rationale behind some of this casting is kind of reasonable. I mean most actors either start out really young or get into the business after high school. You get a good number of child stars, a fair number of 20-some year old stars. But who really gets into acting during high school? At minimum, most parents expect their children to graduate high school, so launching a career during that time seems counterproductive.

And, of course, most high school movies aren’t budgeted high enough to deck out their halls completely with former/working child stars.

There some movies that do feature a convincingly aged set of actors. Admittedly, these movies are typically smaller, faster affairs. Films like Gus Van Sant’s haunting Elephant had a cast entirely of 15-some year olds. Harry Potter, up until the fifth movie, had a cast that convincingly passed for teenagers. The god-awful looking Project X and similarly awful looking Virginity Hit also had a realistic cast.

Come to think of it, Project X and Virginity Hit were also found footage movies. Really, Chronicle, what gives? It’s true that the teenage actors had to show a lot more range than the party goers in Project X, but it’s not like there aren’t any good teenage actors. Chronicle is a film that deals with many emotions that most of us could have/can relate to (though, of course, skewered and made more extreme). I don’t think that it would be impossible to find good teenage actors to fill the roles.

But, even if the filmmakers had their hearts set on the cast, they could have done some make up work. Make up can do wonders (see Napoleon Dynamite). Add some bloody acne, dude.

Or, if they’re that determined to fuck with the minds of the hypercritical pricks in the audience, they could’ve been more overt. 21 Jump Street cheekily references the industry standards by featuring the most slapdash deagifying work I’ve seen. Want to see Channing Tatum as a jock? Slap on a douche-wig. Wanna know how pre-Superbad Jonah Hill would’ve looked? Fucked if I care, give him some braces or some shit.

 

Too soon?