Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The “shameful new low” of the Academy Awards

While the incredibly prestigious and highly desirable Academy Awards has occasionally embarrassed itself with very mediocre films being nominated with this year’s 2009 crop, it has sunk to a disgraceful, all-time, shameful low – in two and a half ways:

  1. In a blatant attempt to compete with the escalating prestige and ratings of the Golden Globes, the Academy expanded the Best Picture Category to ten pictures instead of the usual five. By doing so, the Academy has watered down the prestige and respect of being a nominated film, by the same perverted logic the Academy could have used the same distorted and simplistic logic to expand the number nominated to fifteen, twenty, or even twenty-five. Just by asking yourself “Why ten rather than fifteen?” you already see how the value of being a nomination for Best Picture is weakened, watered down, and even prostituted by expanding it to ten, especially when you look at some of this year’s nominees – which contain some pictures that nobody wants to see even today, that are grossing only a pitiful $7 million and $11 million at today’s box office.
  • 2. But even more disgraceful, more shameful, is the truly horrific, even heinous, leaving off the ten best pictures list Clint Eastwood’s biographical masterpiece, the incredibly beautiful, supremely intelligent, magnificently directed, Invictus, the story of the greatest civil rights’ leader of all time, Nelson Mandella, who – though he was always a great hero of mine and Delores’s – this film showed it in a way we never saw before, that Mandella stands shoulder to shoulder with Gandhi and King as a true Saint in the Civil Rights movement, and in some ways even surpasses them. It’s an enthralling masterpiece that will take its place as one of the great film biographies of all time.

  • And it’s not even nominated??? As one of the ten best pictures of the year??? Leaving Invictus off the ten best nominated list is a true cinematic sin, a sacrilege, especially when you look at some of the embarrassingly mediocre, immediately forgettable films that were nominated, such as: An Education, A Serious Man, District 9, etc..

Ten out of ten people we interviewed did not even know what three of these Best Picture nominees were – never even heard of them - and certainly had no desire to see them. Clearly, unequivocally, they were light years beyond light years of having any chance of being remembered, let alone desired, two weeks after the Academy Awards are over, let alone two years, twenty years, or seventy years from now, such as the previously great Academy Award winners as Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird, Titanic, On the Waterfront, etc., etc., etc.

Compare 2009’s pictures with the films of 1939, such legendary classics that are still shown regularly on television today: The Women, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Destry Rides Again, Gunga Din, Drums Along the Mohawk, Golden Boy, The Light the Failed, The Man in the Iron Mask, Beau Geste, Three Muskateers, Young Mr. Lincoln et al

… and these films were NOT nominated!

When you see the films – the high quality of the films that were nominated - virtually every one is still remembered or even still shown today over 70 years later, you understand why back then, with so many magnificent films available, the Academy nominated ten pictures in the Best Picture category: Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Wizard of Oz, Love Affair, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Of Mice and Men. Do you honestly believe An Education, A Serious Man, District 9, Up in the Air and Inglorious Basterds will still be shown next year, let alone 70 years from now? No one is even going to see some films like A Serious Man and An Education in the theaters today.

There is no disputing the fact that by failing to even nominate Invictus as even one of the ten best pictures, cheapens the Academy and brings it to an all-time shameful low – all in a desperate attempt to try to catch up with the rapidly escalating popularity and prestige of the Golden Globe Awards.

Why Kathryn Bigelow's Directorial Genius will not allow her to make a hit movie

Why, in spite of director Kathryn Bigelow’s incredible intelligence, her extremely beautiful inside and out (knock out gorgeous movie star looks, matched by her beautiful soul within) and her amazing directorial genius, her personal neurosis, her severely damaged feminine capacity will never allow her – in spite of her directorial genius – to make a commercially successful film, a box office hit that people want to see.

(In spite of all the right publicity surrounding her winning virtually every award possible, Kathryn’s Hurt Locker has done only $11 million, while her ex-husband, James Cameron, has two all-time record US grossing pictures – the first, Titanic, one of the greatest love stories ever filmed ($608 million US alone, $1,835 billion worldwide) and the greatest special effects love story ever filmed, Avatar ($688 million US alone (and counting), $2,456 billion worldwide (and counting!)).

Why the difference in the grosses of these two astonishing directorial geniuses?

Kathryn’s has no heart, no love story, little or no feminine compassion or kindness. She has the capacity to create tension in a film as almost no one else has. Kathryn has that incredible ability to make a film that transcends being a film and becomes, as the critic Rex Reed said about Billy Jack years ago, “… it becomes real life.” But with Kathryn’s films, it is the most painful slice of real life she gives us. In Hurt Locker your stomach is in a knot the entire time with one of the most negative, hostile and painful endings ever when Kathryn has our hero leave his loving, caring, responsible wife and his beautiful son to cater to his thanatos, his suicidal death wish and insatiable need to constantly prove his manhood by risking death and killing people while doing so.

The one thing you never do in a Kathryn Bigelow film is come out feeling inspired, good about yourself, or ten feet tall. You come out as if you’ve been not just kicked in the gut, but that you left the dentist’s office after having not just one root canal done, but four.

The brilliant director gives us an x-ray into her lack of feminine capacity at the very end of the picture when our suicidal hero comes home. First, in two scenes with his adoring wife, who has borne the gigantic horrid responsibility of raising their son alone while waiting for the phone to ring any moment, telling her of her husband or her son’s death. We never even see the warm greeting he gets from her and his son when he first comes home.

The only two scenes we see between this great looking couple is the wife ignoring him while busy cooking dinner, and shoving him some vegetables to cut up to help her. His boredom wreaks with doing this simple task. The next scene between the two is in the grocery store where he’s irritated by having to choose which box of cereal to pick off the shelf, lined with dozens of cereal choices. And the only scene we see with him with his son has nothing to do with the way a father who has agonized over being separated from his son for so long would behave. Instead, he gives a speech explaining why he hates being with his son and has to go back and be a killer.

Here Kathryn’s directorial genius and lack of ability to make an emotionally fulfilling movie becomes transparent. One of the key ingredients that people demand to see in a film is “credibility”, the “What if?” principle. “What if…” this character was in this exact situation, what would he or she do – what would I do if I were that character in that same situation? Every single person we interviewed said that when they first arrived home they would be overwhelmed with joy, overcome with powerful emotions at first seeing their spouse and their son, and maybe after a period of the thrill and ecstasis of seeing your most beloved family again, they could start to get bored. Kathryn gives us none of the ecstatic joy at seeing his loved ones. Not one moment! Instead, she concentrates only on his instant boredom – so anxious is she as a filmmaker to get him back to the killing fields, which she thrives on, and masterfully creates for us.

The final scene of him walking away from the camera excited about being back to continue his rendezvous with death is Kathryn’s way of proving her thesis that war is a drug, and incredibly insightful and superb insight into the human nature of so many soldiers, mercenaries and politicians to whom war is a drug. But because she has denied us even the most basic human emotions of love and joy between a soldier and his family, and because the ending of her film is such a negative downer, instead of being excited about this insight into the horror of war, we are irritated and disappointed by the ugly ending of the film which causes us to miss the point she is trying to make.

But she reveals to us another truth – making violent macho films about war is a drug for Kathryn. Tragically for the film world, and the entire world of film audiences, unless there is a radical growth in her psyche, Kathryn will never be able to use her incredible directorial genius to give us a love story – a picture people want to see, and can’t wait to see, a major box office hit. She should take a page from her ex-husband, her good friend, and learn the secret of making a runaway box office hit, a lesson Cameron can give to every one of us who want to make films that people want to see because we have something we want to say to either enlighten them or just enrich their lives by giving them a couple of hours of laughter to relieve the dull gray we all live in every day.