Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's a wrap: wise words from Jim Emerson

While I'm not spiraling out of control, hyperventilating nor writing any angry letters (except some tiny vitriol on here from the other night...mostly due to surprise) I can appreciate that other people, especially the longtime film and Oscars blogs, are really still shocked at what went down on Sunday night. And, for obvious reasons, the GLB communities are pretty upset - feeling very much that Brokeback Mountain lost because of its gay themes.

That's understandable.

In our current political clime, it's become quite socially acceptable to slam gay people. Horribly okay, actually, if water cooler chattering, the media and blogs are any indiction - and I do think unfortunately they are. When nearly every state is trying to fight you from having the same rights as everyone else, you're not paranoid. You're persecuted.


That said, I really can't say why the film didn't win.

Or why the didactic, bombastic Crash - better viewed as a racist extension pack of the Sims games - beat out true gems like GN&GL or Capote. Especially in a year where it looked like maybe we were finally headed back to a real return to film excellence, with 70's style gritty realism and excellent screenplays that respected viewers enough to allow for ambiguity.

Call it perverse face slapping, maybe: all the critics and precursor awards have rushed to place themselves prior to Oscar, negating what AMPAS views as their power.

Like a bunch of brash upstarts, all full of themselves and their ability to recognize excellent film. That's probably annoying to the Academy; moviegoers, especially junkies like me, are tired of the frontrunners long before Hollywood gears-up for its "big" night.

For whatever reasons, and there are plenty of potentially viable explanations, they shot themselves in the foot. Went from AMPAS to AMPASSE the instant Nicholson announced.

But que sera, sera. Next year when viewership drops another 10 percent, they can only look inward. And lovers of great film can look forward to Martin Scorcese's and Ang Lee's next projects, the BAFTA's (which seem to track much better in terms of awarding greatness the past ten years), taking comfort in the fact people still scratch their heads over How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane and wonder why John Ford shot every western he made in Monument Valley.

The best wrap on Oscars this year comes from Ebert's website's better half, Jim Emerson:








There are so many theories (or statistical correlations) to explain the mysterious collective mind (if such a thing exists) of the Academy -- whether it's the "Brokeback"-lash or the "Crash"-lash. They often say that the top box-office grosser among the nominees will lose (this year it was "Brokeback Mountain"), or that a film without an editing nom can't win ("Crash" had one -- and won; "Brokeback" didn't). My new theory is that the film that ranks lowest on the TomatoMeter will win, because the Academy really doesn't like critics. (Hey, I know I just made it up -- exactly like everybody else does.)

The numbers tell the story: "Good Night, and Good Luck." (94 percent); "Capote" (91 percent); "Brokeback Mountain" (86 percent); "Munich" (78 percent); "Crash" (77 percent). I was going to do this for last year, too, but I couldn't remember the nominees, and I figured if I had to go to oscars.org to look 'em up, the results probably didn't mean very much anyway.

I admit, I'm one of those people Jon Stewart mentioned who never gets to back a winner. And I'm talking about at the Oscars. Rarely do my choices for the best movies of the year even get nominated (like, say, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" or "Cache" or "Grizzly Man"; at least "Murderball" got a nomination). So, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not represent my taste, or my values, when it comes to movies, art, or entertainment any more than either of America's big-name political parties represents anything close to my principles, beliefs or pragmatic positions on politics, government or the issues. Yes, it's a lonely place.

If I had had to choose among the Oscar nominees, it would have been between "Munich" and "Brokeback Mountain," because they struck me as the most fluent and compelling in their use of the properties of film. Shot by shot, movement by movement, they were exciting to watch. I would have forgotten all about "Crash" months ago if it hadn't been for the Oscar nominations. (I tried to watch it a second time recently, but I'm sorry: To me it's almost exactly like listening to "When a Man Loves a Woman" sung by Michael Bolton. 1992 Grammy Award-winning Michael Bolton. Remember him?)

This is a time when perhaps we should all just take a deep breath, be glad the ceremonies and the hype are over, and remember the mantra that, as somebody who deeply loves and cares about the movies, has served me through many years of kudo-disappointment. Just keep repeating to yourself: "It's only the Oscars, it's only the Oscars..."

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