Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oscar is always wrong (except when it's right) Part I

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly launched its "Recall the Gold" survey - which involves around 7000 forms being sent out to Hollywood insiders to redo their votes on various Oscar categories for the years 2003, 1998, 1993, 1988, and 1983.

It's a great idea. The Academy Awards are great because they get it wrong so often - how boring would it be if every year everyone thought "yep, that's the right pick". I own a great book by film critic Danny Perry called "Alternative Oscars" that looks at the Best Picture, Actor and Actress categories from 1927-8 to 1990. Sadly it is now out of print (it's not even on, but it is a brilliant read and displays how biased the Oscars are towards big serious dramas.

And so in lieu of getting a form from EW (geez, if someone who has had a blog going for over 3 months isn't a "Hollywood Insider" then something is very much amiss!), I shall be taking a look back at selections in the Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor & Actress, Director and Writing categories. (I'll only point out the categories I think are really wrong, or I think are wrong enough to be bothered about, or I've seen enough of the other films/performances to actually know what the hell I am talking about.)

I won't bother with the last 2 years, because I must admit to not having seen many of the nominees from this year, and 2006 is still too close to really look back with any good overview of which performances/films have stood the test of time. And I'll come back to this at irregular times (like when I can't think of anything else to write!) and for irregular years. Admittedly my knowledge of film gets better the longer ago it is - I watch far too few movies nowadays.

Also remember with the Oscars the date is always a bit tricky - the awards held this year in Feb 2008 were actually the 2007 Oscars.

Best Picture: Crash
Nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
Should have won: Brokeback Mountain

Easily one of the worst choices of the last decade. Crash is an anti-racist movie that seeks to show that we're all a little bit racist. It manipulates the viewer to all get out and features Sandra Bullock acting as "Sandra Bullock serious actress", it is horrible to watch. And worst of all two great films were denied the prize - Good Night and Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain.

Both films were made for adults - they in no way dumb anything down, and they assume the watcher will pay attention, listen to the words spoken, and watch the expressions of the characters for signs of things unsaid.

GN&GL recreates the era of 1950s newsrooms brilliantly and features great performances all round. But Brokeback Mountain was the truly great film of that year.

The cinematography, the direction, the script (Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurtry adapting Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx - and no, I am not 100% sure how to pronounce her name), the music (what a fantastic score), and, above all, the acting is astonishing. That a movie about two gay cowboys could rise above expectations of campness to become a tragic drama about 2 men forced to lie to their families and to themselves is a great achievement. It should have won, not because it would be a "statement" but because it was a film where every aspect came together to produce a work of art.

Plus it has a requisite famous line that everyone can quote for maximum comedic effect: "I wish I knew how to quit you".

Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote).
Should have won: Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain).

Ok full admission - I haven't actually seen Capote. But I find it hard to believe PSH's performance could be better than Ledger's. Ledger does so much with so little - he hardly speaks - every word he utters seems like it has been forcibly ripped out. He does all his acting through subtle movements of his eyes, his jaw. It isn't showy acting - but he disappears completely into the role - he ages well during the film, and his accent is perfect. It's as good a performance as anything Brando did.

Ledger's performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight was very good - and may win him a posthumous Oscar - but this is the role he deserves to be remembered for. There are not many actors who could pull off this role.

No comments: