I’m not one of those people who thinks it’s a good idea to jump on everything people say. Outrage culture is a drag, most will agree. Political correctness threatens to strangle art. This we also know. But there is a reason why films about women and films directed by women hold little interest for the menfolk who rule Hollywood with their cocks out. Mostly they don’t deem stories about women to be interesting or of lasting value. Tarantino himself is great with female characters — well, not with Django Unchained but certainly with Inglorious Basterds, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. He’s saying what films he finds to be “Oscar bait.” He’s right to an extent. As Hollywood has moved away from making films for adults it has created its own separate genre specifically FOR Oscar voters and anyone still left out there who likes watching those kinds of movies — straight up dramas that revolve around characters. Real people with real problems. There is nothing flashy about them but they move the group of Oscar voters for whom they are tailor-made. The frustrating part of his thinking, though, is the blunt disdain he seems to have for films about and by women – two of them directed by women but almost all revolving around female characters:
He’s probably not that excited about Carol: “The movies that used to be treated as independent movies, like the Sundance movies of the ’90s – those are the movies that are up for Oscars now. Stuff like The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter. They’re the mid-budget movies now, they just have bigger stars and bigger budgets. They’re good, but I don’t know if they have the staying power that some of the movies of the ’90s and the ’70s did. I don’t know if we’re going to be talking about The Town or The Kids Are All Right or An Education 20 or 30 years from now. Notes on a Scandal is another one. Philomena. Half of these Cate Blanchett movies – they’re all just like these arty things. I’m not saying they’re bad movies, but I don’t think most of them have a shelf life. But The Fighter or American Hustle – those will be watched in 30 years.”
First he says The Fighter might not have staying power and then he flips it around and says it will. So if you take if you take out The Fighter you’re left with The Town and then everything else about women. He’s wrong about The Town, I have to say. It’s Ben Affleck’s best film and people will be watching it for decades to come. Though he’s right that they’re all gorgeous.
“I really liked The Town, which also came out in 2010. It was a good crime film. However, next to The Fighter, it just couldn’t hold up, because everybody in The Town is beyond gorgeous. Ben Affleck is the one who gets away with it, because his Boston accent is so good. But the crook is absolutely gorgeous. The bank teller is absolutely gorgeous. The FBI guy is absolutely gorgeous. The town whore, Blake Lively, is absolutely gorgeous. Jeremy Renner is the least gorgeous guy, and he’s pretty f—ing good-looking. Then, if you look at The Fighter, and you look at those sisters, they’re just so magnificent. When you see David O. Russell cast those sisters, and you see Ben Affleck cast Blake Lively, you can’t compare the two movies. One just shows how phony the other is.
The bigger idea here, other than deeply ingrained sexist impulses that can’t be helped, is that none of us can really know which films will still be watched in 50 years because we don’t yet know the fate of the filmmakers or the talent involved. For instance, James Dean died way too young. That meant his films were destined to be watched forever, whether or not they were good. (And, as it happens, all three are classics in their own right.) Lisa Cholodenko, who wrote and directed The Kids Are All Right might find her way out of television and direct some kind of crazy masterpiece and thus people will watch her work forever (I know, wishful thinking there). Even Clueless, the film I complained about last week as not deserving to sit atop a list of the 100 best films directed by women, might find its place in film history 50 years from now. We just can’t know these things.
Still, Tarantino is kind of right in that there is a genre for these kinds of films and that genre is what we like to see around here on Oscar Island. Oscar Island is the reason many films get made at all. Were it not for the Oscar race they would be sent (and some even still are) straight to VOD. Occasionally you have a year where all of the films in the race are huge blockbusters and films that bleed into the social fabric of our country and even manage to make a big splash internationally. But those aren’t the films Tarantino is talking about. He’s talking about movies that can barely get made and do so only because they have a chance at awards buzz to use as leverage. It’s hard out there for a pimp.