08 March 2010

A Few Oscar Thoughts

Posting is likely to continue to be sparse-to-nonexistent here for at least another week, but that really shouldn't cause you any sadness, because you've got a whole big series of tubes out there to explore.  You'll survive without me for a little while longer, I'm sure.  I have faith in you, dear reader.

One of the things you should certainly read is the great Steve Shaviro's marvelous post about Kathryn Bigelow, who last night became, as y'all know by now, the first woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar.  I'm all for it, even if the whole situation, like The Hurt Locker itself, is complex in its meanings and implications.

The Oscar show itself was pretty awful, but that's part of the fun of watching.  Every year, we get to say, "Wow, it's even worse than last year!"  A decade or two from now, I expect it all to be broadcast via the future equivalent of the Wii and to require all presenters to make fart jokes.

I don't expect the Academy voters to nominate many of the films I tend to most like, nor do I expect the stuff I like among nominations to win much, so this year surprised me overall.  The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, and A Serious Man were all Best Picture nominees and all movies I like and respect quite a bit.  Were I an Academy member, I would have had trouble voting, because ranking those three films against each other seems pointless to me -- they're very different in their accomplishments.  I probably would have put The Hurt Locker as #1, simply because Tarrantino and the Coen Brothers have had moments of Oscar glory themselves, and it's nice to spread the wealth.

The only winners that deeply bothered me were Avatar for Cinematography and The Hurt Locker for Best Original Screenplay.  (I haven't seen enough of the Adapted Screenplay nominees yet to feel qualified to judge the results, though I bet once I've seen them all, I'll think In the Loop deserved it.  But we'll see.)  The Cinematography award for Avatar annoys the grumpy old man in me who thinks that when even a supporter admits that 70% of what is on screen was not the cinematographer's doing, then we're not talking about cinematography when we talk about what's beautiful and striking in that movie.  But I know that's just me clinging desperately to the idea that cinematography is about how the frame ends up looking, and is, ultimately, about light through a lens.  Oh well.  Get off my lawn!

Adapted Screenplay bothers me more, not because I hate The Hurt Locker (obviously), but because I see its script as good and solid, even worthy of nomination, but it's not a demonstration of truly exemplary or innovative writing -- certainly not when it's in a category that includes at least a few scripts that are exemplary and even innovative.  What was truly great about The Hurt Locker didn't have as much to do with its script as with its filming, performances, and editing.  So I'm perplexed.  It feels like the voters who chose Mark Boal's script did so because they really liked the movie overall, rather than because of the words on the page.  In comparison to something like Inglourious Basterds, where the writing is very much a central part of what makes the film successful, I just don't see what the voters saw.

I've now written more than I intended to about all this, so it's time for me to head off and work on the 1,000 things I need to get done...

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