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Oscars 2012 Pet Peeves – Top Five

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5. If it doesn’t make you cry it won’t win Best Picture. Sure, it always helps if you cry but it is hardly a pre-requisite.  Every year there are movies that make you cry in the lineup and they don’t win. War Horse left me a soggy wreck, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close produced sobs and standing ovations. Little Miss Sunshine, The Reader, you name it and they aren’t tears-producing. What does win? Movies that people don’t hate. The more people that hate your movie the less of a chance you have to win. The Artist, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men – these were really hard films to hate and only two of them were sob-inducing.

4. Hey Adam Lambert criticizing the singing in Les Miserables – when your only claim to fame is runner-up on American Idol you aren’t exactly an authority on what constitutes great singing. Sure, I loved you on American Idol – you were my favorite – really wanted you to win. And maybe I agree with you about Russell Crowe but the rest of the singers?  There might be ten things wrong with Les Mis but the singing ain’t one of them.  It isn’t clear what possessed you to make such a claim against actors who really did give it 100% and all of whom could outsing any winner on American Idol any day of the week.

3. Folks who accuse critics who criticize Les Miserables “just not liking the musical.” It really isn’t true. Those who love the musical seem to split right down the middle as to who likes it and who doesn’t. The same goes for people who never saw the musical at all.  It is assumed that because critics were hard on the book and then hard on the play that they’re being hard on the film for those same reasons.  This film is splitting minds like Moulin Rouge did. It’s one of those you either love or you hate. And if you love, you REALLY love and if you hate, you REALLY hate. This self-imposed victimization by devotees makes it seem like there is no legit reason not to like the movie so there must be ulterior ones.   I think it’s possible to judge the film as a film and still love the musical itself.

2. “Critics don’t vote for the Oscars.” While it’s true, literally proven in 2010 beyond a shadow of a doubt, that critics can say one movie is better than the other and that still won’t make Oscar voters, or industry voters, turn their backs on a film they “like” more.  They are moved by one and not the other, they like to see this movie win because in their minds that means that the stuttering king wins or the poor kids of India are really winning some award.  Or the obsolete silent film star finally gets his due on stage at last with a shiny gold trophy.  But that doesn’t mean critics don’t matter. They still lend legitimacy and they are the ones who tend to write the books about film history. What they think does matter, otherwise no studio would ever quote them or their awards on ads.  In the end, the film that has won Best Picture going back ten years, with the exception of Crash, has had very very good to great reviews.  What people mean when they say “critics don’t vote for Oscars” is simply that their awards matter less than their overall take.

1. The ending of Lincoln – it has been frustrating that anyone with access to the internet or has seen a film or two really wants to tell Steven Spielberg how to direct. From Roger Ebert to Samuel L. Jackson to several people here and there (you reading this are probably one of them) they all seem to want Spielberg to have made the movie they wanted him to make. That would have been a great movie. To me, though, Spielberg make the movie HE wanted to make and THAT makes it a great movie.

It is not the job of the critic, or the viewer, or the blogger (god forbid) to attach perfection to art. That’s the artist’s job.  Give the people exactly what they want and your work with do nothing but satisfy them, which may be the definition of entertainment but it ain’t the definition of art.

My experience of watching movies age these 14 years on the job has taught me that these so-called imperfections not only smooth out over time but often, they become the very reason the film turns out to be great.  It didn’t take long for No Country for Old Men’s many endings to become one of the best things about it. Since I watch it three times a year or thereabouts I can tell you that the very thing people complained about in 2008 is the thing that makes it an exceptional work.  The characters in The Social Network aren’t likable.  Well, yeah.  Ain’t that the point? A social network created to help unsociable people become sociable. And anyway, Andrew Garfield WAS likable.   Can you imagine if people continued, all of these years later, to complain about how no one in All About Eve was likable or that Eve Harrington should have been redeemed in the end? If Ingrid Bergman had gone off with Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca would you like the movie more?

Spielberg chose to take us through several key, memorable moments in the life of Abraham Lincoln. These points are often referred to in memory – how hard it would be on Tad, Mary’s crying, and the president’s head atop a blood-stained pillow. No, I didn’t need Spielberg to remind me of the bloody, brutal way some nutjob with a gun took out our most beloved president but the juxtaposition of that image next to all the good things we just saw him do is an important reminder all the same.  Spielberg could have ended it as every Tom, Dick and Harry wanted him to but then he couldn’t have included Lincoln’s greatest speech.  And if you include his greatest speech how, then, do you show the jarring nature of having given that speech very shortly before some awful human being puts a bullet in the president’s head? Spielberg and Kushner juggled those three important details of Lincoln’s life extraordinarily well. The price they’ve had to pay for it is the price I have to pay to for it – hearing everyone tell it to me as if they’ve just invented the thought.

And when I hear someone say Spielberg should have done this or Spielberg should have done that I want to bitch slap them.  Guess what, this IS what Spielberg did. Like it, don’t like it, hate it, love it but please, the guy’s been directing films for 30 years. The movie is about to make $150 million at the box office.  You’ve been blogging for five minutes.  Give the man his due.