Saturday, March 9, 2024

Nightcap 3/9/24: Why the Oscars aren't about the best films but the best PR

I'm going to restate the obvious that the Oscars are useless in highlighting the best of each year's cinematic achievements. They are only highlight the "best" films that the studios can manage to get before the voting body and over sold by their high priced PR firms.

I’m totally cynical, because more and more the Oscars are going farther and farther away from the best films. Over the last few years so many of the best films and performances haven’t been anywhere near the Oscars or the other award shows that I stop caring. 

Admittedly I’m seeing a hell of a lot more films that are outside of the studio/Oscar system that I’m coming across so many great films on no one’s radar. It’s kind of like I’m traveling the back roads and discovering all these hidden views  and mom and pop hotels while everyone else is going to the big and splashy tourist trap places like Disney and Vegas. The Academy doesn't want to pick the best only the most flashy and gaudy films it can find because it's all about the glitz.

The reason I’m bringing it up again is that I’m really pissed that Anne Ramsey is not in the Oscar Mix for Best Actress. Ramsey’s performance in BROOKLYN 45 is as good as film acting gets. The quiet turn as she goes from regular person to tortured torturer is frightening. Watching her demeanor turn on a dime is chilling.  Of course it wasn’t noticed by any awards bodies, it was in a small “horror” movie  that wasn’t seriously pushed (sorry Shudder you were pushing the wrong films in your FYC campaigns - BROOKLYN 45 was good enough that it should have been your Oscar contender). And even if BROOKLYN 45 was pushed I'm certain the acting arbiters wouldn’t have picked it because the performances aren't histrionic and over the top. Ramsey was not flashy, but very real and close to the vest giving a performance that crushes in the small moments. Small moments aren't real to the Academy. The awards people want big and showy because that is what they see on on their screens because that's what they award. I wouldn’t care  except that these people claim they want realistic and yet they go for the over the top and mannered shit almost every damn time.

If you want to take it a step further Virginie Efira had several films released in the United States in the last year and outside of the critics who recently packed a Rendezvous With French Cinema screening of JUST THE TWO OF US, there seems to be no buzz about a woman, whose work in films like ALL TO PLAY FOR, REVOIR PARIS or OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN is light years beyond the work of people in Hollywood, especially people like Meryl Streep whom she resembles. Efria is hitting it out of the park in film and no one I know outside of a few seem to have really noticed her in the US.

Let's take it farther and let me point out a performance the Oscar is going to ignore next year Noubi Ndiayein HUNTING DAZE (soon to premiere at SXSW). This quiet and pained performance is as great a performance as I have ever seen, yet it will be ignored because it isn’t in English, and it’s in a small film. In all seriousness the moment when Ndiayein stares into the camera, totally confused after getting shot damn broke me in half. This young man is shaking the pillars of heaven and no one will care.

And beyond the acting awards Oscar is not noticing so many things.

Not to harp on it but the set decoration of BROOKLYN 45 should be up for an award. The one room the film takes place in is one of the greatest sets you’ll run across. It’s a stunningly designed place that is more real than real.  Because it’s a real place and only one room no one looked at it despite it is one of characters in the film.

This year the effects crew for GODZILLA MINUS one is up against the big Hollywood films like CREATOR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and NAPOLEON. While I hope it wins, I'm not going to hold my breath because it doesn't have the money to sell it, even if t does have momentum and more realism than any of the other films. To be quite honest had GODZILLA not come out as the nominations were being considered it never would have made the grade because it could never have mounted a campaign to be considered. Being in the box office top ten for eight weeks got it the nomination.

But to be honest the many technical awards are suspect anyway. Long ago I read an interview with some special effects guys and there was a point where they were asked who was doing the best visual effects in films, and the guys all said the best work was being done by the people working on the small films. The fact they are subtly changing signs, backgrounds and other real life things in films that people think were all “real” is the greatest trick. Sure a big budget’s car chases with monsters gets noticed because we know that stuff isn’t real, and we even give weak effects a pass because we know they aren’t real (think any superhero film), but the real trick is to create something we all know and get away with it. The effects guys all said that’s where the magic is and who should be getting the Oscars. As such why would anyone notice the realistic set in BROOKLYN 45 or the realistic destruction of a city?

The way the Oscars should work is that their is no campaigning, no flooding everyone with screeners and every locations with ads. Instead they should just have people who watch every film that comes out and let them make notes and pass certain films on. They should be handled like film festivals submissions where layers of programmers pick the best films. It's a plan that has made many festivals the places you want to go see the next great thing. AT the same time you can see the deterioration of the festivals that  stopped that process and take any studio's money to flog their film.

This year, as with most years, I only have limited interest in the awards. Frankly outside of the Supporting Actress award I'm guessing they are going to get it all wrong... which is prelude to another discussion which is how so many of  the Oscar winners of the last few years are disappearing into the void and we are left to ask why did we pick that film/person when other films from the same year shine brighter in retrospect. Trust me in a few years we will be wondering why Anne Ramsey, Virginie Efira and Noubi Ndiayein didn't get noticed sooner.

Frankly while I would love to win one because of the hundred year long rep, the Oscar's are now a losing proposition.

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