When I look at how Oscar race 2014 turned out I see the worst case scenario, almost, all the way down the line. Every bad thing that could happen did happen.
What I see when I look at this year’s race is nothing but limitations. The legendary Patti Smith shut out of Best Song, Gillian Flynn shut out of making history as a female writer, Gone Girl itself — from the score to the directing to the writing — shut out all because they didn’t like the characters and the distibutor did very little publicity. And Selma, all of the doors that slammed shut as that film stepped up to the plate.
I look at the race and I see a much better race that might have been. I see a more reasonable embrace of films that depict characters both dark and uplifting. I see a directors lineup that might have confirmed a desire to make history. Instead, I see a case to be made for skipping the Oscars altogether.
It isn’t that these eight Best Picture nominees are bad. It’s that they are not representative of the year in film. I get that Oscar voters don’t pay attention to the noise. They brag about it even. We like what we like and it’s as simple as that.
Their protest vote, their unification, their rallying cry comes in the form of Birdman which says the artist who just wants to tell good stories is dying out to make room for the modern era of tent poles, superhero movies and stupid things like viral videos. Birdman makes them feel alive, both in its storytelling — a vibrant and exciting trick pulled off — the best acting of the year and the most important thing: its movie stars.
Birdman is a confirmation of all that Hollywood wishes it was. And hey, there is nothing wrong with that. From where I sit, though, I mark this year as the year I look to other awards shows that did really pay attention to what was actually happening.
The HFPA completely redeemed itself when it didn’t go for the star-powered Unbroken just to have Angie at their show. No one thought they would pass up that chance. Moreover, they decided to make history instead with the nomination of Ava DuVernay. I look to the Spirit Awards which has no choice but to be up-to-the minute since the people who vote on it are not elitists in a club that is by invite only, but rather, any film-lover with $99 who wants to join can become a voice with a ballot. It isn’t the People’s Choice awards but an expression of an engaged film community with their finger on the pulse of the changing landscape of Hollywood.
What we have our hand on this year, with the Oscars, is a dead shark. A shark has to continually be moving forward, as Alvy tells Annie, or else it dies. At the same time, it surely isn’t the end of everything. It’s a great year for documentarians and makers of short films. It’s a great year for international filmmakers who keep making movies the voters eat up. It isn’t that it’s so bad as it just feels like something went very wrong with the voting.
You could not really sit down with an average voter and have a conversation about film. You would find it to be a very limiting conversation, put it that way. Here we are on the last day and there isn’t much to talk about, really, is there? In the adapted race it’s one forgettable script versus another forgettable script. The best one in the category won’t win. And we have Alejandro G. Inarritu’s shining moment up on stage, his Oscar won at last. It’s too bad Keaton won’t be standing alongside him.
At this rate I will personally be overjoyed if Boyhood wins anything beyond Supporting Actress. I won’t care that much if Birdman wins. All in all it just feels like we’re all making a meal out what got left over in the fridge after a celebration weekend.
I know my own year in film will be defined by the films that mostly got ignored, namely David Fincher’s culture-quake Gone Girl, Dan Gilroy’s fantastic Nightcrawler, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Ava DuVernay’s Selma, and a couple of the films voters did pick. When I look back on this year I will see it as another year where Hollywood hugged itself, for better or worse.
Next to final but not final predictions
*you should pick Birdman for your office pool
play it safe and pick Inarritu?
Production Design, Makeup, Costumes
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Short, Live Action
*The Phone Call
How to Train Your Dragon 2
(Apologies for the brevity of this piece as I am a tad under the weather.)