Frankly, I couldn't give two shits about the Academy Awards. One shit, maybe - but certainly not two shits. The Oscars was my Super Bowl back in my theater brat days, but I still enjoy throwing out my Oscar picks on movies that I mostly haven't seen (and usually don't care to see) just for the hell of it. I didn't watch the accursed thing, but I checked the Academy's website a couple of times last night between Dawn of War II binges.
So, as usual, a few thoughts:
* Best picture was especially strange this year, with several "important" films nominated that failed to capture the imagination of critics and/or audiences. I'm still surprised that The Dark Knight, Wall-E, and Gran Torino were not nominated.
Should The Dark Knight have been up for best picture? I don't know. Frankly, I thought it was about twenty minutes too long and all that "battle for Gotham's soul/the hero Gotham needs" shit got old - but, overall, the film works. And it works as well as a crime thriller as it does a costume film, with some amazing talent in front of and behind the camera. Not my favorite comic book movie, but I can't deny its power, its craft, or its moxie.
Wall-E is the one that really gets me. The fact that it had to sit at the kids' table (best animated feature) is complete bullshit. I still can't make up my mind about the best animated feature category. I'm glad animated films are now honored, but almost every Pixar film has deserved a Best Picture nomination, and two of their films were good enough to win that award (The Incredibles and Wall-E). Pixar's movies aren't just for kids, they're for all ages - and I think a separate animation award would reduce the value of these films if anyone took the Oscars seriously. Thank God they don't.
Lastly, Gran Torino. I'm biased here. It was my favorite film from last year, from my favorite filmmaker. A funny, touching, beautiful film that has stayed with me weeks after seeing it. This thing didn't get nominated for one freakin' award. Clint Eastwood needs to drag some Academy member out of his house and kick the living shit out of 'em. Well, maybe not kick the shit of 'em, since Gran Torino is all about the brutal repercussions of violence. But he should definitely drag one of 'em out of their house and growl at them. A lot.
* Yeah, even without that whole "death" thing, Heath Ledger was going to win. He was no Mark Hamill, but he gave a helluva performance. To me, it's a toss-up between him and Robert Downey Jr. The latter certainly gets my MVP award for last year. He made a movie I would have thoroughly despised (I can think of few things more loathsome or hypocritical than people like Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tom Cruise, and Matthew McConaughey taking a piss on Hollywood) into something I thoroughly enjoyed...every moment Downey Jr. was on the screen. The "full retard" speech was the funniest thing I saw last year.
* Hellboy II was only up for one production award? Yeah, it wasn't a "serious" film like Pan's Labyrinth, but Hellboy II was quite possibly more imaginative and beautiful than that film. All praise the Guillermo del Toro. Goddamn, I love that bastard.
* Is it just me, or has it been a few years since you've heard a musical score that really grabbed you? I was familiar with only one of this year's nominations - James Newton Howard's score for Defiance - but it's been a few years since I bought a score, which I listen to when working on scripts. Maybe I'm just not watching as many movies as I used to.
* Oh well, that's it. This rant got a lot longer than expected, and I'm keenly aware that I'm the last person to seriously discuss the artistic merit of films. Besides Gran Torino, my other two favorite films from last year were Hellboy II and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
End of line.