Oscar wild
// Jonty Davies

Woody Allen doesn’t go to the Oscars. The writer/director/actor that’s responsible for Annie Hall (1977) and this year’s Midnight In Paris has only been to the ceremony once – in 2002 to encourage filmmakers to continue production in New York City following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that so altered its character. One of America’s greatest ever filmmakers and commentators on love and neurosis, nominated 23 times doesn’t go. Instead, every Oscar night he plays jazz clarinet at a small cabaret in New York. I think Woody Allen sees that for all the pomp, the Academy can be less than reputable when it comes to acknowledging artistic merit.

Truthfully, the Oscars are about three things: money, political/social posturing, and, at a distant third, artistic merit.

To illustrate, let’s consider the 2009 Academy Awards. Best picture, director, and screenplay – all went to The Hurt Locker. In case you don’t remember, The Hurt Locker sucked. Chances are, you haven’t even seen it.

I bet you’ve seen what it was up against, though. Likely half the population of the planet has seen the blue-people space movie Avatar, despite tepid dialogue, a cookie-cutter plot, one-dimensional characters, tired clichés, and a formulaic approach; it was unlike any movie made previously. It effectively changed the landscape of what a big-budget movie could be. And the budget was staggering, primarily footed by director James Cameron – and this would ensure that most of the profits would see their way back into his pocket, bypassing anyone in the Academy (money). James Cameron is also, as many in the industry know, kind of a jerk. He’s condescending and superior so everybody really wants to stick it to him. How best to do that? Give the award to another director.

They didn’t give the award to just any director, however. They gave it to The Hurt Locker’s Katheryn Bigelow, who coincidentally was also Cameron’s ex-wife (also known as politics). The Hurt Locker was mildly topical but by no means a game-changer. You don’t have to like Avatar (I don’t) to recognize its colossal value in the realm of the blockbuster (I do). Avatar should have won – and that’s still disregarding the real best movies that year.

District 9 was an unbelievable twist on the alien invasion. Moon was directed by David Bowie’s son and was great. Even Star Trek was fantastic and I’ve always thought Star Trek was lame as all hell. Sadly, evidence has shown that the Oscars do not always recognize the films that deserve to be recognized, as a result of a series of unnecessary conditions.

That being said, I will be watching the Oscars, despite the fact that basically everything up for the top brass is highly uninteresting. Apart from The Tree Of Life, the only thing worth checking out is Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight In Paris, and that has as about as much chance of winning as me giving a shit about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

None of the actors are very appealing either, with the exception of Gary Oldman in the British snorefest Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Oldman is one of the best in the biz, but Tinker Tailor is glacial, ambling along at a snail’s pace. We might as well just save the Academy the trouble and give this year’s statue to Daniel Day Lewis’ upcoming stand as Lincoln; the most guaranteed Oscar ever rendered.

For fun though, here are my big picks for this year:

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)
Best Actress: Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady (duh)
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln (hasn’t even been released yet)
Best Director: Martin Scorsese for Hugo (now that he’s successfully got all his best work out of him, let’s start giving him Oscars)
Best Picture: The Artist (the academy loves to look “progressive”, without being threatening, and any festival movie that features a gimmick is without question the most progressive thing ever)

Enjoy the show!

Jonty’s Top Oscar Snubs

3. Apocalypse Now (1979) – How come all the Vietnam movies (which were great) got showered with Oscars and Apocalypse Now was told to go to hell? It was the best one. The movie was innovative, harrowing, humongous and it damn near killed them as they were making it. It’s a film that, as you’re watching it, you can’t imagine anybody being capable of even making. Well, leave it Francis Ford Coppola to make it. Then leave it to the academy to give all of that year’s gold to a weepy flick about custody battles.

2. Martin Scorsese (a bunch of times) and the great xenophobia of 2006 – Scorsese is sweet. He’s responsible for many of America’s greatest ever crime movies. Goodfellas (1990)? Down with it. Taxi Driver (1976)? So good. Casino (1995)? Yup. He’s the man, but until recently had gone completely unawarded. His big wins actually came in 2006 in the form of The Departed which was dynamite, but not the best movie of the year. The three best movies of the year were interestingly all by Mexicans. I dare you not to love Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro. Children Of Men by Alfonso Cuaron is absolutely virtuoso filmmaking and among my favorites of all. And the big slated drive for the win was Babel by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu. Turns out Hollywood would be damned if they were gonna let a bunch of Mexicans walk away with it, so they gave it to Scorsese as something of a lifetime achievement award. Innaritu was justifiably pissed and I’m pretty sure the camera showed him swear when he heard that he lost.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) – When Pulp Fiction came out it was a shockingly unique movie. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. It was and continues to be awesome. It was not only unquestionably the best movie of the year, it was the defining film of the decade and one of the coolest ever. It walked away with the Palme D’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize and perhaps most important movie award in the world. It lost best picture at the Oscars to Forrest Gump. Listen, man: I like Forrest Gump. But under the circumstances, fuck Forrest Gump. It so ultimately did not deserve to win over Pulp Fiction. It’s like giving the “band of the 90’s award” to Hanson over Nirvana. Mmmbop, Jenny.

//Jonty Davies, columnist
//Graphics by Sarah Taylor

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