Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Who really cares about Oscar?

I have a friend who won’t even read my columns at this time of year because of the Oscars. Indeed, he has it in mind that I need to take some kind of boycott stance on the whole thing. In many ways, I understand his ire. It’s only two columns ago that I wrote, “When I start thinking like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, I’ll know I’ve been doing this too long.” This past Wednesday I remarked on the radio that a Best Picture win for Avatar or The Blind Side would be embarassing, and that the last thing the Oscars needed was another embarassment.

I cannot be counted among Oscar’s biggest fans. I follow them and am as capable as anyone of being delighted when I see virtue rewarded and cheesed when I see mediocrity hoisted into the pantheon of supposed greatness. But do I take them seriously? Not really. At the same time, I don’t especially feel like waging a pointless war against them. If George C. Scott refusing his Oscar for Patton (1970) or Marlon Brando sending the utterly bogus Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse his Oscar for The Godfather (1972) didn’t do any serious damage to the Oscars, I doubt I’d have much impact. And what would the point be anyway? Taken as nothing but a fun event, the Oscars are enjoyable and harmless. Getting worked up about them in a negative sense seems as foolish as thinkiing they mean very much as a barometer of genune quality.

The question naturally arises as to whether or not there really are people who place great stock in the question of who does or doesn’t take home the little genitally-challenged naked man stauette. I suspect there may be—especially in a world where there are folks who are so nervous about their own judgment that they get actively belligerent if anyone dares to say something against a movie they like. I just don’t happen to know any such people personally. But then the people I know let out a collective groan each year when Turner Classic Movies does their 31 Days of Oscar schtick. The only thing that keeps that from becoming trapped in the cinematic equivalent of oldies radio “Greatest Hits” packaging hell is that a movie can get included because it was nominated for best sound mixing. (That’s not really a stretch. Frank Borzage’s magnificent Moonrise [1948] was run this year based on a nomination for sound recording.)

Actually, the whole 31 Days of Oscar frenzy has an educational component that’s quite at odds with echt Oscar-lover Robert Osborne’s Academy worship fest. Why? Because you get to see that Louis B. Mayer’s little brainchild (aka: the Oscars) has always evidenced some peculiar tastes. The first few years are confusing, owing to their split year layouts that have 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931 and 1932 appearing on two sets of nominations each. In other words, you look at the nominees for 1928-1929 and think, “What the hell? Where is The Love Parade?”—and then you find it’s on 1929-1930.

That to one side, the very first year—or years—1927-1928 tells us a lot. The Best Picture is William A.Wellman’s Wings. If you’re up on the era, the first thing you’re apt to wonder is just what poor, benighted group actually thought this was superior to F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise, which isn’t even among the nominated. Then you find that for this year only, there’s a separate category for “Unique and Artistic Picture,” and that Sunrise won that—beating out Chang and The Crowd. (Chang is obviously in there on the unique tag more than the artistic one.)  The issue, however, is that Sunrise is so far and away the Best Picture of the year in any capacity that this feels like it was being thrown a bone.

Seems the original idea was to make a distinction between commerical movies and artistic ones, which isn’t unreasonable as a concept. But that concept finds Frank Borzage’s 7th Heaven tossed in with the hoi polloi. If ever a picture deserved the accolade of “art,” 7th Heaven is it. And even at that, it gets beaten by Wings. Wings, on the other hand, apparently made itself because Wellman isn’t among the nominated directors. (This Oscar thing was obviously the love child of a studio boss and the producers.) Instead, Borzage won Best Director—a category that also managed to include King Vidor for his “Unique and Artistic Picture” nominee, The Crowd.  (Where is Murnau in that case?) That year they also divided the directors into two categories—those who made real movies and those who directed comedies.

OK, so it’s possible to excuse the first year as a case of teething troubles. That doesn’t excuse the fact that The Broadway Melody won Best Picture for 1928-1929.  Even without trying to sort out what other films might have been up against it due to that split year concept, The Broadway Melody is a stiff. Leaving it at the nominated films, Roland West’s Alibi and Irving Cummings’ In Old Arizona are clearly superior by several hundred miles. Ernst Lubitsch’s The Patriot (the only nominee I haven’t seen) is probably better, even if Josef von Sternberg called it “scheisse.” A case, however, could be made that The Broadway Melody is better than Hollywood Review of 1929, but not much of one. And considering that Borzage’s Street Angel secured an art direction nomination—meaning it must have been eligible for a Best Picture nomination—the whole thing gets sillier. But the fact was that The Broadway Melody was a big backstage musical drama—no matter how inert—and that made it big talking picture news.

We could keep playing this game year-by-year, but it doesn’t really change much and it rarely gets better. Oddities do occur. There’s the sudden expansion from five Best Picture nominees in 1931-1932 to eight (at least five of which are better than the winning film), and ten nominees in 1932-1933 (where the worst of the lot won), while in 1934 and 1935 they went really wild with 12 nominees before settling on ten up till 1944 when they went back to five. (There’s nothing revolutionary about this year’s ten nominees.) But the pattern of the midcult mindset was quickly established—that and the fact that outside factors would always figure into the mix.

If The Broadway Melody was carried into “greatness” in 1929 because of the novelty of sound, then William Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver (1942) got there by sheer topicality and advancing the war effort. The movie is typical MGM fare—complete with Greer Garson (once described as “Louis B. Mayer’s ideal of antiseptic sex”) and the dullest actor of all time, Walter Pidgeon—presenting a thoroughly Hollywooden view of middle class (or maybe upper middle clas) English life. Today, the choice seems pretty ludicrous. It certainly boasts none of the pure joy of cinema found in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons—even in the mutilated form that that film reached the screen. Neither does Miniver have the thematic complexity or the cinematic punch of George Stevens’ The Talk of the Town—the film that ought to have won, despite Stevens’ typical tendency to go for big laughs that aren’t there on occasion. (There would come a day—post-1943—when you’d kill for a laugh in Stevens’ increasingly self-serious work.)

These aren’t isolated cases really, but it’s very easy to find fault in hindsight, especially when the mood of whatever moment has long passed. It doesn’t even have to be all that long. I can find fault with my own decisions in reviews written in the past decade. (How I gave Signs [2002] four stars is the classic embarassment. That Far from Heaven [2002] made my ten best list has baffled me for years.) But sometimes the Academy choices seem absolutely insane. Why was Love Story (1970) nominated for anything? Does anyone still think that Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) is better than Apocalypse Now (1979)? Did they really think so then? Or was it just a safer choice? (That’s a question you can replay for 2005 with Crash and Brokeback Mountain.) And none of this takes into account industry push and politics involved—the flood of “For Your Consideration” screeners and the full-page ads in the trades like Hollywood Reporter.

You might wonder—and rightly—why then do I bother with the Oscars. Well, again, they’re fun. It’s fun to dope them. It’s even fun to get annoyed with them. On those rare years when you really care about one of the nominees winning, it’s fun—and suspenseful—to watch. But there’s a little bit more than that. They do offer a snapshot of the mindset of the time—in what wins, in what’s nominated and in what’s overlooked altogether—and that has its merits. Moreover, there are the special awards and segments.

The awards themselves often seem a little shallow—like they’re trying to make up for decades of neglect. But there’s another side to this—the introduction of a major figure in film to an audience who has perhaps never even heard of him or her. From personal experience I know this can have a huge impact—notably Charles Chaplin’s honorary Oscar in 1972. I was still a kid at the time, though I knew who Chaplin was and had seen most of his Mutual two-reelers (1916-1917) on TV and even owned an 8mm print of The Cure (1917), but what really fired my interest was the absolutely gorgeous—and brilliantly assembled—montage of clips Peter Bogdanovich put together for the Oscar show. This ushered me in to a whole world of Chaplin I’d only ever seen represented in books. I count it as a pivotal moment in my cinematic education—and that’s a pretty big statement for an awards show of any kind.

OK, so that’s one moment of epiphany from 38 years ago, but it’s a moment I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I suspect I am not the only person who had it either. But more than that I suspect that there have been other such moments along the way for others. This is no small accomplishment, no matter how foolish the straightforward awards may get. I’m not quite ready to dispense with Oscar altogether on this basis alone.

Still, this is apart from the original question, so I’ll ask it again—does anybody really take the Oscar seriously? Does a Best Picture Oscar sway your opinion on a film? Does it make you run right out and see the winning film?

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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36 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Who really cares about Oscar?

  1. brianpaige

    What disturbs me greatly is that the myth of The Broadway Melody being a great movie still persists. For instance, when the Warner Archive site put out a series of early talkie musicals recently (Rio Rita, It’s a Great Life, On With the Show, etc.) there was a notice in the LA Times that hailed the 1929 Melody as a great film rivaling Love Parade and that these new releases are mere curios. I know for a fact that Rio Rita is a better movie than The Broadway Melody, as are several of these other outings. Well maybe not Golden Dawn. The Broadway Melody won best picture and it might well be the worst movie in its own series.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I know for a fact that Rio Rita is a better movie than The Broadway Melody, as are several of these other outings. Well maybe not Golden Dawn.

    Well, Golden Dawn is at least funnier than Broadway Melody. I could sit here for some considerable time compiling a list of 1929 movies that are better than Broadway Melody — and I can’t think of another 1929 film I wouldn’t rather watch. I wish you could recall who made the statement in question. If nothing else, we could ring his doorbell and run.

  3. Fran

    I guess, Ken, I mostly agree with everything you said. My own most recent Oscar story that helped me to that conclusion is kinda sad.

    Some years ago I was invited to an Oscar Party where I was given a sheet with all nominees for Oscars listed under their respective categories. Each person at the party was also given a sheet and we all circled our choice for who we thought would win under each category. Then we all watched the Oscars together. Well, the TV was on. Some watched but more just socialized until the best male/female actors, directors, movie was announced.

    I came in second that year, mostly by happenstance. The following year, the invitation came again, in late January. I figured I was gonna be prepared this time so I could win the whole thing, so I could come in first. Through the month of February, I either rented or went to see all the films I could that were nominated for anything. I often saw three or four films a day. I left work early to catch movies. I upped my Netflix total to 7 films at a time. I watched films I would never have watched otherwise and that I felt no pleasure in watching. At the party, after the best film was announced and the final tally was made of our circled choices, I was at the bottom…I was the loser. Watching all those movies and going with my own likes, guts, intuitions, etc. got me nowhere. A guy who had seen maybe one movie all month, but who read the paper that morning with the predictions and voted by said predictions won the game by a landslide.

    I don’t assume any skill or knowledge to back up my preferences of films and artists for the various categories that year. I just learned that I tend to know what I like, that I am willing to be challenged…on occasion but not as a steady diet, and that I seldom agree with the films that come in first. The best part of the Oscars that year for me was the yoga group assuming poses that matched some theme of the movies nominated. I was frankly shocked and disgusted by the ultimate winner that year.

    The guy who threw the party got married and had a baby and doesn’t even throw the party any more. I don’t think I’ve watched the Oscars since. I don’t know that I’m inclined to see the winner any more than another film. I think that when I see who won the best film each year, the most that will cause me to do, if I haven’t happened to see the film when it was released, is to read about it and consider if I want to view it or not.

  4. luluthebeast

    “does anybody really take the Oscar seriously? Does a Best Picture Oscar sway your opinion on a film? Does it make you run right out and see the winning film?”

    No, No and No.

    I do like seeing the dresses, though.

    Otherwise, it’s just another promotional gimmick.

  5. Arlene

    I was , note, WAS, an Oscar addict from the time I was about 10 years old . I wasn’t allowed to watch the entire pageant, I listened at my bedroom door. I think I was hatched a film geek.

    And through these many years, I was more disappointed than not. MUCH more disappointed

    I nearly gave up (and threw all sorts of objects at the TV) the year Brokeback lost to Crash. I foolishly thought that since the old guard was mouldering in their graves, Brokeback was a shoo-in.

    I said last year, for the first time in my life the Academy got it right.(Slumdog, Sean Penn) And I could die happy.

    Well, I assume I will be alive and watching next Sunday. But do I care- NO!

  6. Ken Hanke

    I don’t assume any skill or knowledge to back up my preferences of films and artists for the various categories that year

    It sometimes happens in odd ways like that. For instance, I once won a football pool. Now, I know you know that abominate most sports and that football is at the top of that list, so I most certainly had no clue about any of this. What I did instead was make my choices based on what animals I prefered if the teams had animal names, or which city I prefered, etc. This greatly amused me. It perturbed those who took this very seriously and studied things like (I think) point spreads.

    The best part of the Oscars that year for me was the yoga group assuming poses that matched some theme of the movies nominated. I was frankly shocked and disgusted by the ultimate winner that year

    Well don’t leave us hanging on the meathook like that, what movie won?

    The guy who threw the party got married and had a baby and doesn’t even throw the party any more

    I suspect the whole Oscar party thing is what keeps a lot of people going with this and once that vanishes, interest wanes. My days of partying are pretty much over anyway. Arlene can tell you that in a party atmosphere (at the Monster Bash), I’m good for one Guinness — maybe two if I’m feeling reckless. I’m also usually the first to announce his intention of going back to the room and going to bed.

    I don’t know that I’m inclined to see the winner any more than another film. I think that when I see who won the best film each year, the most that will cause me to do, if I haven’t happened to see the film when it was released, is to read about it and consider if I want to view it or not

    That seems a very sane approach to me. It doesn’t really apply these days since, for obvious reasons, I’ve seen all the nominees (except possibly documentary and foreign language), but I am not coming up with an instance where I went to see a movie because it won an Oscar.

  7. Ken Hanke

    No, No and No

    Well, that seems to settle it.

    Otherwise, it’s just another promotional gimmick

    One that has perhaps outlived its usefulness. Oddly, it didn’t start that way. Louis B. Mayer’s notion was more that it would distract the stars and make them more tractable. (The studio bosses never seem to have really bought into the idea that this had actually merit, as witness Irving Thalberg’s famous, “It’s crap like The Sin of Madelon Claudet that wins Oscars.”)

  8. Ken Hanke

    Well, I assume I will be alive and watching next Sunday. But do I care- NO!

    I’ll go as far as saying I’m interested. I have no great emotional investment this year. I’d like to see Inglourious Basterds win, but I don’t think it will. I do not want to see Avatar or The Blind Side win — and that’s probably the strongest feeling I have about it.

  9. I said last year, for the first time in my life the Academy got it right.(Slumdog, Sean Penn) And I could die happy.

    Half right. Mickey Rourke was robbed that year.

    The only year I saw it right was I believe 1997. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THERE WILL BE BLOOD were the top winners, and rightfully so.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Mickey Rourke was robbed that year

    No.

    The only year I saw it right was I believe 1997. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THERE WILL BE BLOOD were the top winners, and rightfully so

    If they were 1997, I might agree.

  11. Fran

    Responding back to your question to my posting of who won the Oscar that year…I thought that the yoga thing would remind everyone of the year and so the winner. The yoga group, for that winning movie, rolled themselves into a human gun.

    The movie was “The Departed”.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I thought that the yoga thing would remind everyone of the year and so the winner.

    I vaguely remembered the yoga business, but not in a way that would clue me in on the year or the winner, but then I wasn’t appalled by the choice. There were better movies that year, but of the ones that were nominated, The Departed would have been my choice.

  13. Steven

    [b]But sometimes the Academy choices seem absolutely insane. Why was Love Story (1970) nominated for anything? Does anyone still think that Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) is better than Apocalypse Now (1979)?[/b]

    ..Why did Stanley Kubrick never win an Oscar?

    [b] That Far from Heaven [2002] made my ten best list has baffled me for years.[/b]
    I have to admit, I laughed.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Why did Stanley Kubrick never win an Oscar?

    There’s a long, illustrious list of people about whom you can pose that question — Chaplin (one “special” Oscar, one honorary one), Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, James Whale (never even nominated), Rouben Mamoulian (never even nominated), Michael Powell (one nomination for writing), Richard Lester(never even nominated), Ken Russell…the list goes on.

  15. The year that did me in was 1991, when Kevin Costner and DANCES WITH WOLVES won everything over Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS. I’ve treated them like the joke that they are ever since.

  16. Ken Hanke

    The year that did me in was 1991, when Kevin Costner and DANCES WITH WOLVES won everything over Scorsese’s GOODFELLAS. I’ve treated them like the joke that they are ever since

    Not unreasonable really, but one keeps hoping that changing membership and new blood will ultimately make a difference. Still, bear in mind that there are Academy members who haven’t actually been involved with motion pictures for 50-plus years (and who weren’t even key players then) still voting…

  17. Fran

    “There were better movies that year, but of the ones that were nominated, The Departed would have been my choice.”

    So I went and looked back to 2006 and I see what you mean. I don’t know why they didn’t nominate Pan’s Labyrinth or Notes on a Scandal. I think I even would have preferred Pirates: Dead Man’s Chest. I think at the time I voted for Babel, but I get, at this removed point, why you would have chosen The Departed for best picture that year.

  18. Steven

    [b]Gran Torino was even worse and it was nominated [/b]
    It actually wasn’t nominated. Some people thought that this was a “snub.” I was pleasantly surprised to see it not be nominated. I expected it to be, seeing how Clint seems to be an Academy favorite.

  19. Ken Hanke

    Gran Torino was even worse and it was nominated … purely a popularity contest

    Actually, Gran Torino wasn’t nominated, though goodness knows WB pushed the hell out of it with critics and Academy voters. Calling it a popularity contest is too simple, because it’s a heavily promoted and politicized contest with studios spending tons of money on screeners and ads in the trade publications. Part of the popularity side of it is that so much is grounded in how popular the people nominated are in many cases. If — and it seems likely — Jeff Bridges wins for Crazy Heart, it will have a lot to do with his (apparently well-deserved) reputation within the industry as a really nice guy.

  20. Ken Hanke

    So I went and looked back to 2006 and I see what you mean. I don’t know why they didn’t nominate Pan’s Labyrinth or Notes on a Scandal. I think I even would have preferred Pirates: Dead Man’s Chest. I think at the time I voted for Babel, but I get, at this removed point, why you would have chosen The Departed for best picture that year

    I went back and found my original 2006 10 Best list —

    http://www.mountainx.com/features/2007/0103hankespicks.php/

    For simplicity’s sake, the list ran:

    1. Pan’s Labyrinth
    2. Shortbus
    3. A Prairie Home Companion
    4. Stranger Than Fiction
    5. Idlewild
    6. Volver
    7. The Departed
    8. The History Boys
    9. Venus
    10. Scoop

    I then noted this change after I’d seen Children of Men

    “I remarked just last week that Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men was one of the few 2006 films I had yet to see that might have altered the face of my ten-best list — and that turned out to be true. Had I been able to see it (thank you, Universal), I would have regretfully dropped Woody Allen’s Scoop to the number 11 slot, inserted Children of Men to the number 5 slot and moved everything else down a notch.”

  21. P stroud

    Movies are such a subjective experience that, within limits, there can really be no “best movie” IMHO. What’s good for Joe is terrible for Sally. I have gotten to the point that I avoid Oscar winning movies and even more the Cannes Award winners because I just don’t like them as a rule. I’m the type of person who thought that “Team America” was the best movie that year. Certainly it entertained me more than any other.

    The Oscars succumb to other pressures than movie quality as well. For example a movie that expresses the “correct” political view of the day stands a better chance than a better movie that doesn’t. Then sometimes movies awards are handed out as prizes rather than accomplishments. The ridiculous award of “Best Special Effects” given to the flawed “ET” over the far superior and virtually flawless “Blade Runner” is a prime example. There’s hardly a category where Blade Runner wasn’t superior except the all-important “Maudlin Tear-Jerker” category. Oh yeah, and the “Stuff-the-pockets” category as well. Oops. Sorry for the rant.

    However if keeping the Oscars in play works to draw the best performances because the actors think the award is valuable then I’m all for it. It appears to that many actors and actresses (can I still use that term?) do seek these awards and work harder because of them. For that reason I support the Oscars even though I don’t generally care for the winners.

    They could prove me wrong and give the award to “Up” though. I would like that.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Movies are such a subjective experience that, within limits, there can really be no “best movie” IMHO. What’s good for Joe is terrible for Sally.

    Well, up to a point, that’s obviously true, but if what Joe thinks is good is, say, White Chicks, then he probably isn’t actually interested in discussing the concept of the Oscars and their value to begin with.

    For example a movie that expresses the “correct” political view of the day stands a better chance than a better movie that doesn’t.

    OK, I’ll accept that as a theory. But I’d be interested to see some specificity here. I’d like some examples of “politically incorrect” movies that were slighted in favor of inferior movies that were, however, “politically correct.” Without those, this is just a broad and unsupported statement.

    The ridiculous award of “Best Special Effects” given to the flawed “ET” over the far superior and virtually flawless “Blade Runner” is a prime example

    I’m the last person on earth to defend E.T., but, if memory serves, this is one of those awards that’s in the hands of people who work in the field. (Somebody correct me, if I’m wrong on how this one’s handled.) That may mean you’re looking at it differently. Is Blade Runner a better, more visually striking film than E.T.? Yes, I wouldn’t argue that point at all, but whether that’s the result of effects work or production design, I’m not sure.

    However if keeping the Oscars in play works to draw the best performances because the actors think the award is valuable then I’m all for it. It appears to that many actors and actresses (can I still use that term?) do seek these awards and work harder because of them.

    Why limit it to actors and actresses? Why would they find them more valuable than directors or writers or producers would? I don’t see the distinction. I do, however, see a downside where people don’t try to do their best, but instead try to opt for projects with tested Oscar appeal (like playing a mentally-challenged character).

    They could prove me wrong and give the award to “Up” though. I would like that.

    And that wouldn’t displease me in the least.

  23. If—and it seems likely—Jeff Bridges wins for Crazy Heart, it will have a lot to do with his (apparently well-deserved) reputation within the industry as a really nice guy.
    I think quite a bit of awards voting goes to people who are thought to deserve ‘an Oscar’, as opposed to have given the best performance/direction/whatever of the year. Jeff Bridges has done really good work in a lot of films over the years and he seems like a really nice, decent guy. So he should get an Oscar, and here’s a good star turn where he almost does the playing-a-real-musician thing, so they can feel justified in voting for him for this. Plus, he’ the Dude.
    It’s like The Departed. Everyone loves Scorsese, he’s been nominated a trillion times, he probably should’ve won for Goodfellas or Raging Bull and everyone pretty much liked The Departed, so let’s give it to him now.
    That’s not to say either of those awards were undeserved.

  24. Ken Hanke

    Plus, he’ the Dude

    While I recognize that (without entirely understanding it) as a major thing in certain circles, I’m not sure it has much to do with Oscar voters.

    But don’t underestimate the fact that Crazy Heart offers him a role that is Oscar-bait at its finest. It’s unglamourous. He gets to throw up on camera, show off his paunch and just generally look bad. All it lacks is a prosthetic nose to make it a sure thing.

  25. But don’t underestimate the fact that Crazy Heart offers him a role that is Oscar-bait at its finest.
    He’s essentially playing the same role that Micky Rourke was supposedly a shoo-in to win for last year (replace boxing gloves with a Gretsch). Maybe Colin Firth will be this year’s Sean Penn?

  26. P stroud

    Movies are such a subjective experience that, within limits, there can really be no “best movie” IMHO. What’s good for Joe is terrible for Sally. I have gotten to the point that I avoid Oscar winning movies and even more the Cannes Award winners because I just don’t like them as a rule. I’m the type of person who thought that “Team America” was the best movie that year. Certainly it entertained me more than any other.

    The Oscars succumb to other pressures than movie quality as well. For example a movie that expresses the “correct” political view of the day stands a better chance than a better movie that doesn’t. Then sometimes movies awards are handed out as prizes rather than accomplishments. The ridiculous award of “Best Special Effects” given to the flawed “ET” over the far superior and virtually flawless “Blade Runner” is a prime example. There’s hardly a category where Blade Runner wasn’t superior except the all-important “Maudlin Tear-Jerker” category. Oh yeah, and the “Stuff-the-pockets” category as well. Oops. Sorry for the rant.

    However if keeping the Oscars in play works to draw the best performances because the actors think the award is valuable then I’m all for it. It appears to that many actors and actresses (can I still use that term?) do seek these awards and work harder because of them. For that reason I support the Oscars even though I don’t generally care for the winners.

    They could prove me wrong and give the award to “Up” though. I would like that.

  27. Ken Hanke

    Maybe Colin Firth will be this year’s Sean Penn?

    Well, I can’t say that would upset me, but I’m not expecting it.

  28. Dread P. Roberts

    I totally agree that the Oscars are not to be taken seriously, and merely to be viewed as casual fun. I like a good Oscar party as much as anyone, but I’m never going to lose any sleep over a win that I disagree with. To me, one of the most important things about the Oscars, is that small selection of off-the-radar categories like: Best Foreign film or Best animated Short. I don’t know if I’d ever have heard of some of these, much less had a chance to actually watch a few of these no-name artsy films, without the attention (however small it may be) that is generated by the awards. Would the animated shorts have come to Asheville otherwise? I doubt it.

    I think quite a bit of awards voting goes to people who are thought to deserve ‘an Oscar’, as opposed to have given the best performance/direction/whatever of the year.

    Yep. I’m just waiting for Johnny Depp to get his deserved Oscar, and I know I’m not alone. It’s not really a matter of caring if the person gets an award, so much as thinking that they deserve some credit for their career.

    One of my favorite parts of the Oscars is usually the ‘lifetime achievement award’.

    All it lacks is a prosthetic nose to make it a sure thing.

    You forgot going half-retard.

  29. Ken Hanke

    To me, one of the most important things about the Oscars, is that small selection of off-the-radar categories like: Best Foreign film or Best animated Short. I don’t know if I’d ever have heard of some of these, much less had a chance to actually watch a few of these no-name artsy films, without the attention (however small it may be) that is generated by the awards. Would the animated shorts have come to Asheville otherwise? I doubt it

    Oh, they most certainly wouldn’t have. What surprises me is the fact that they’ve actually found something of an audience. A little surprising is the fact that none of the nominated foreign language films have played here. Then again, the most highly touted — The White Ribbon — is three hours of German movie. Oscar nomination or not, that’s a hard-sell. Of course, last year’s winning film, Departures, played here months after the fact and, despite being a very good film, almost no one bothered to go see it.

    Yep. I’m just waiting for Johnny Depp to get his deserved Oscar, and I know I’m not alone

    Well, Depp deserves his deserved Oscar more than most.

    You forgot going half-retard.

    If I Am Sam (which could hardly be called “half”) didn’t take the luster off that concept, I suspect Tropic Thunder killed it off — for a while. (Funny thing is, the prosthetic nose refers to Nicole Kidman in The Hours — and that was a performance I felt fully justified the win.)

  30. Dread P. Roberts

    Of course, last year’s winning film, Departures, played here months after the fact and, despite being a very good film, almost no one bothered to go see it.

    I saw it. And while I thought I moved a little slow for my taste in parts, it was a superb film. At times gorgeous, and touching in an emotional way that effected me a lot deeper than I had expected.

    I almost forgot about that, but it’s a really good example of a film that I don’t know if I ever would’ve seen without the Oscar attention.

  31. Ken Hanke

    I almost forgot about that, but it’s a really good example of a film that I don’t know if I ever would’ve seen without the Oscar attention

    I probably wouldn’t have heard of it without the Oscar attention. And I’m not sure I’d have seen it had it not been brought to town. But even so, its box office performance is a sign of one of the limitations of the Oscar. Foreign language isn’t an easy thing to sell, and, unless it’s martial arts or has some significant hook, Asian films are an almost impossible sell. I know there are those who seek them out and rate the very highly (Marc from Orbit, for instance), but in the main, no. And, no, I don’t understand why.

  32. kjh.childers

    http://chronicle.com/article/The-Death-of-Film-Criticism/64352/?sid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

    as recommended by Ken …

    I have never fully appreciated the idea of bestowing an award for best picture, or actor, or supporting actor, etc. I think Oscars should simply celebrate all films that ran during the annual cycle … and stop all of this nonsense related to ‘competition’ among actors, or directors, etc. Just celebrate the freedom, the creativity, the ‘pushing of the cinematic’ envelope in regards to producing a film. Not everyone can be Sergio Leone, or S.Kubrick, or B. Wilder, etc. And, in my view, acting is just another profession that takes both talent and practice. But not everyone can slam dunk any more than act like William Holden in Sunset Blvd, or Eli Wallach in Good, Bad, and Ugly, or Peter Weller in Naked Lunch … I could go on … let us just enjoy film … instead of putting all of these people involved in making them, on a pedestal to worship like a horde of idolators.

  33. Ken Hanke

    as recommended by Ken

    Yes, I did. I think it’s a fascinating article — even with Richard Schickel’s more recent revelation that he “never really loved movies.” I particularly liked the online critic who bragged, “What sets me apart from the Siskel & Eberts of this world is a simple truth: I don’t read books!”

    I have never fully appreciated the idea of bestowing an award for best picture, or actor, or supporting actor, etc. I think Oscars should simply celebrate all films that ran during the annual cycle … and stop all of this nonsense related to ‘competition’ among actors, or directors, etc. Just celebrate the freedom, the creativity, the ‘pushing of the cinematic’ envelope in regards to producing a film

    I don’t think you could build much an audience for that. And honestly, I see nothing to celebrate about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Paper Heart, etc., so I’m not sure where the idea could go. Then again, I don’t see that much to celebrate about a couple of this year’s (well, any year, honestly) Best Picture nominees.

    let us just enjoy film … instead of putting all of these people involved in making them, on a pedestal to worship like a horde of idolators

    But the minute you start having preferences and favorites and offer a critical opinion, you’ve already done something like that, haven’t you?

  34. kjh.childers

    Well said, Mr. H.

    I innocently forgot to tell you that I, too, commit idolatry.
    Linguistically, the German says zu vergöttern — but first note
    the sense of negativity present in the prefix ver-. Then, what
    follows are but gods and the worship of them. Klaus Klinski and his Nature in Herzog’s Aguirre: der Zorn Gottes … immediately comes to mind! I also thought well of the unscrupulousness of every actor in the Guy Ritchie classic, Snatch. Notably:

    Turkish: F… me, hold tight. What’s that?
    Tommy: It’s me belt, Turkish.
    Turkish: No, Tommy. There’s a gun in your trousers. What’s a gun doing in your trousers?
    Tommy: It’s for protection.
    Turkish: Protection from what? “Zee Germans”?

    Or how can one forget the devilish determination of Rodney Dangerfield’s Father Figure in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers?
    Recall his “what’a my watch’n” […] comment as he ruts for his favorite grappler!

    I eagerly await the bio-flick on Jeff Buckley.
    oh to be the one to portray him through his music…hallelujah!

    Ken Russell has earned my ‘Should Have Won An Oscar” award. Thanks to you, Ken … I considered your recommendation and viewed his ‘The Devils’ – I can think of no greater grim ending.

    As for this year, Sherlock Holmes ought to have a chance to sit on the Best Picture Oscar seat … as it was quite kick ass!

  35. Ken Hanke

    I eagerly await the bio-flick on Jeff Buckley

    Let’s hope the director’s script for The Rocker is not a barometer of his talent.

    Ken Russell has earned my ‘Should Have Won An Oscar” award. Thanks to you, Ken … I considered your recommendation and viewed his ‘The Devils’ – I can think of no greater grim ending

    I hope you tracked down one of the quasi-letterboxed dupes with “The Rape of Christ” put back in. Interestingly — for me at least — though it’s certainly a grim ending, I find it somewhat less shattering than the ending of The Music Lovers, if only because Fr. Grandier attains a measure of redemption through his death.

    As for this year, Sherlock Holmes ought to have a chance to sit on the Best Picture Oscar seat … as it was quite kick ass

    I won’t say I don’t rate it higher than several of the nominees, but I also know it’s not the kind of movie that wins or even gets nominated.

  36. Stephanie Perkins

    “No” to all three questions.

    I enjoy watching the Oscars anyway. And I get excited about the costume and screenplay categories, because they often DO have stellar nominees and winners.

    OH! Best Picture doesn’t sway me, but I’ll often rent a movie from the Best Foreign Language Film category, because there’s usually something good in there that I missed or didn’t hear about.

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