Sunday, January 22, 2012

Miscellaneous Musings – On Reasons not to Nominate

January 22, 2012

On Reasons not to Nominate

This week the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards will be announced. They will not please everyone, and as always, there will be the standard argument over whether the preferences of average moviegoers have been ignored in favor of films that appeal to critics. This is to be expected. We all have our favorites of the year, and it’s a rather remarkable thing that a film can stir in us the kind of passion that we usually reserve for political arguments or professional sports. From time to time, I too have been guilty of getting unnecessarily worked up over whether a certain film or performance deserves to be nominated for an academy award. In fact, one shouldn't get me started about The Ice Storm (not nominated) and Gladiator (nominated and awarded). However, what has confounded me recently have been the reasons given for a film being nominated, for it appears that the members of the academy are not always singling out a film or performance for the reasons they should. Therefore I will now list ten suggestions for the academy, specifically, ten reasons not to nominate a film or performance for an Oscar. These are in no particular order.

1) “It’s a make-up nomination.”

I don’t care how much of a miscarriage of justice a loss at the Oscars was. It does not justify nominating an inferior film or performance later.

2) “It’s his or her time.”

This idea is as ridiculous as it would be for the NBA to hand a great player like Charles Barkley a championship ring simply because he meant a great deal to the league throughout his career. In sports, great players don’t always get to hoist the championship trophy over their shoulders. They have to be content with having just achieved fame and fortune. The same should be true for Hollywood. If an actor like Fred MacMurray can go his entire Hollywood career without winning an Oscar, so can great actors like Tom Cruise and Harvey Keitel. There’s no shame in having just had an amazing Hollywood career.

3) “I liked his speech at the Golden Globes.”

I can’t believe I have to write this one down, but apparently some members of the Academy view the Golden Globes as an audition for the Academy Awards, and as such, they are more inclined to vote for someone whose acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was to their liking. In fact, rumor has it this was one of the reasons that Eddie Murphy didn’t win an Oscar for his excellent performance in Dreamgirls.

4) “It doesn’t appeal to everyone.”

Now it can be tough to award a movie or performance that confuses or divides people, but the Academy Awards should not be a popularity contest. If a challenging film like A Separation or The Tree of Life is truly the best film of the year, it should have the award to show it.

5) “It’s not in English.”

Simply put, getting an award should not depend on its audience not having to read subtitles. Moreover, we need to end the tired charade of it being an honor for a non-English language film just to be nominated. A nomination should be a recognition of excellence, not a consolation prize. Pictures such as Letters from Iwo Jima, City of God, and Il Postino should have just as much chance at the big prize as English-language nominees.

6) “It’s too dark.”

Who ever said the best film of the year had to be uplifting or life-affirming?

7) “Nobody saw it.”

There seems to be a fear that the Academy will alienate viewers by nominating films or performances that most audience members won’t be emotionally or personally invested in, and if a film failed to catch fire at the box office, it is hard to see people being excited about its prospects of winning during an awards telecast. However, not everything that people are willing to pay to see is a masterpiece. Need proof of this? Look at the top film at the box office this week.

8) “It’s too popular.”

When you hear this argument, you should hear it for what it truly is – an indictment of the tastes of the masses. And while the masses have made blockbusters of some pretty atrocious films, they have also made box office hits out of such films as Do the Right Thing, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Traffic. Just because it was popular doesn’t mean it should be dismissed.

9) “It’s in recognition of the entire trilogy.”

If I understand this line of reasoning correctly, the third Lord of the Rings film, The Return of the King, was not really the best film of the year. Instead, its Oscar was an acknowledgement of the effort and craftsmanship that went into making three films that make up a single story. Fine, except I can think of other trilogies that the Academy passed up, trilogies that I enjoyed a bit more than The Lord of the Rings, such as the original Star Wars films. However, let it never be said that Oscar is consistent.

10) “It’s not serious enough.”

Let’s not kid ourselves. It takes a lot for a comedy to get a nomination and even more for it to get the win. In fact, the last pure comedy I can recall winning was Annie Hall in 1977. Hollywood prefers to award dramas, as if they were more difficult to make or more important. However, comedy is not a walk in the park for actors or directors, and that fact should be recognized more often.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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