Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Hollywood’s biggest night is finally here! Just a few blocks from where I sit, the brightest stars in show biz are going to be all dressed up and celebrating the best movies of the past year. This is what it’s all about, folks.
Of course, as you may have gathered by the irreverently mocking title of this blog post, and possibly also by the accompanying photograph of a horse’s rear end, I don’t especially give a fuck. As with pretty much all the “big” awards, the Oscars aren’t so much about quality as they are about creating product that fits squarely within certain pre-established parameters. That’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional upset, and it’s always nice to see a truly good movie get recognized, but more often than not it’s just an excuse for the most mainstream of the mainstream to pat each other on the back for another year of bland mediocrity. Big names, big budgets, stories so polished you can see your vacant, dead eyes staring back at you, and a nice warm fuzzy feeling that everything’s going to be okay. This year is no exception. Let’s take a look at what our choices are for “Best Picture”:
War Horse – Until @Horse_ebooks: The Movie (starring Michael Fassbender) finally hits theaters, I refuse to get excited about a movie about a god damned horse, much less one directed by the Thomas Kincade of film, Steven Spielberg. Sure, his movies look pretty, but when’s the last time he made something that wasn’t 100 percent by-the-numbers? But then again, why should he ever take creative risks when the simple phrase “A Steven Spielberg Film” equals instant Oscar nominations? Unfortunately for him (and the horse, I guess), however, it’s not going to be enough to win this year.
The Tree of Life – This one is by the cicada of film, Terrence Malick, who emerges from the ground every seventeen years, sheds his skin, puts out a really long movie about nothing, then mates and dies. This time around he’s given us a movie with Brad Pitt in it. And a tree. I smell an Oscar! Of course, smelling it is as close as The Tree of Brad Pitt is going to get, as it won’t actually win.
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen. Next.
Moneyball – A.K.A. The Other Brad Pitt Movie. Except this one is about sports. Or money. I don’t know. Did anyone actually go see this?
Hugo – Okay. Hang on a second. This is a Scorcese picture, right? And Robert De Niro isn’t in it? Or Joe Pesci? Or hell, even Ray Liotta? Does anybody get curbstomped, or at least smacked around a little? Oh, right, I forgot, this is a Scorcese Oscar picture, so it’s about a little boy and a clock or some bullshit. I think I’ll pass, thanks.
The Help – This is this year’s “white people magnanimously help out the black folk and feel better about themselves” film. But like The Blind Side in 2010, it won’t actually win. Don’t want to help the black folk that much.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – A Tom Hanks movie about 9/11? The act of not nominating this for Best Picture would probably be considered an act of terrorism in itself. Then again, 9/11 is pretty depressing, and depressing movies don’t win Oscars in this post 9/11 world. Also, 9/11.
The Descendants – Who gives a shit what this movie is about? It has George Clooney in it. People like George Clooney. He is a very handsome man, even when he is grumpy, as he will be tonight when this movie doesn’t end up winning Best Picture.
The Artist – This movie will win Best Picture. Why? Because it’s artsy. Well, not too artsy. But it feels artsy, and that’s what’s important. People can go see The Artist and congratulate themselves for being so sophisticated and cosmopolitan (it’s in black and white, even!) while at the same time not actually being challenged in any way. It’s a happy movie, with no 9/11 in it. It already won at the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday, which is pure, absolute, unadulterated horse shit, considering what other movies it was up against. And it will win again tonight. Go art!
Believe it or not, there were actually other movies that came out last year. Some of them were actually pretty good! Of course you’d never know by looking at the Oscar nominations. Here are, in no particular order, some of my favorite films of 2011 that the old white men of the Academy are pretending don’t exist.
Drive – I was honestly not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. I was never a huge Ryan Gosling fan, and the film’s poster of him sitting in a car looking bored didn’t exactly send me rushing to the theater. But I finally got around to seeing it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it, but if I were to speculate on why this film was completely blown off by the Academy, it could possibly have something to do with the fact that it contains some of the most graphic depictions of people’s heads being demolished ever seen in a mainstream movie. Tom Hanks would not approve.
Melancholia – At the end of this movie, a rogue planet smashes into the earth and kills everyone. See, I can tell you that without ruining anything, since it’s pretty much a given that that’s what’s going to happen from the beginning. It’s not about a surprise twist ending. And unlike most other end-of-the-world movies, there’s no panicking crowds of people, virtually no CGI, no big explosions (unless you count the part where that planet crashes into the earth), and no Bruce Willis. But movies where everyone dies at the end are kind of a no-no in Oscarland.
We Need to Talk About Kevin – This is a movie about evil. Specifically, the scariest kind of evil, the kind that has no reason behind it. Tilda Swinton plays a woman who has a pretty okay life until she has a kid who decides essentially from birth that he hates her and is going to make her life an absolute hell. For no reason. It’s an extremely cruel movie with no warm fuzzies to speak of. But I guess the fact that it also happens to be really good doesn’t count for anything.
Bellflower – The most amazing thing about Bellflower is that it even exists at all. It was made on a budget of $17,000, which is about how much gets spent on one day of catering and craft services on a Michael Bay set. The guys actually built their own fucking cameras for this movie, but you’d never know it by looking at it. It looks every bit as good as movies with a thousand times more money. Oh, and the acting and the story is actually good too, which helps. And did I mention that it has the most awesome car in existence in it (which they also built themselves)? Fuck The Artist, watch Bellflower instead.
Martha Marcy May Marlene – This is another movie that I wasn’t expecting a lot from, but ended up being surprisingly good. It stars Elizabeth Olsen (sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley – yeah, I know) as a cult member who escapes and is trying to readjust to life in the real world. So it’s somewhat of a departure from her debut role as “Girl in Car” in How the West Was Fun (1994). Also, Martha Marcy May Marlene gets a bit rapey at times, and as anyone who’s The Shawshank Redemption can tell you, movies with rape scenes don’t win Academy Awards. Unless Tom Hanks is doing the raping, then I guess that might be okay. I’ll check on that and get back to you.
Kill List – Okay, I’m not exactly shocked that this one didn’t get nominated for, well, anything. Of course I mean that in a good way. A lot of people hated this movie, but then again, it’s pretty much impossible to be ambivalent about Kill List. It starts off fairly mundane, but gradually gets more and more — shall we say, “odd,” until finally landing squarely in WTF territory. If the Oscars had a “Most Fucked Up Picture” category, this would be the only nominee (and it probably still wouldn’t win because the Academy is a bunch of pussies). I won’t spoil the staggeringly mind-fucking ending for you, but in a nutshell, it’s about two hitmen on an assignment that goes somewhat awry. Whether you love Kill List or hate Kill List, trust me, you will definitely not forget Kill List.
What do all of the aforementioned films have in common? They all take risks. They all had the potential to be failures. Do you really think Spielberg went into making War Horse worried that it wasn’t going to make any money, or that he wouldn’t be able to find a distributor, or that it wouldn’t even get finished in the first place? Of course not. He knew from the very moment when he was sitting on his platinum toilet and the thought “I’m gonna make a horse movie” popped into his head that it was going to get nominated for Best Picture.
Art should be challenging. It should make you uncomfortable. It should take you places that you weren’t necessarily prepared to go to. But, then again, that’s just my opinion. What the hell do I know?