Can anyone think of a more ridiculous drivel-fest than the Oscars? (OK, not counting American Idol)...Seriously though...what is it about this pompous group ass-lick that gets people so bloody excited? I just don't get it. The films are invariably the same – overwrought tragidramedies of Gumpian proportions that would bore any real film fan into a rocking fetal position. And yet... billions watch, hanging on every scripted utterance as though something profound was happening.
Oscar nominations are typically political and rarely relate to film as an art form. This year's Best Picture nominations fall into approximately the same groupings as they always do. We have a vaguely British film (Slumdog by way of U.K. director Danny Boyle), a social conscience movie (Milk), a political/media flick (Frost/Nixon), an epic-length slice o' Americana (Buttons), and a quasi-literate drama relating to war (The Reader). You have to go back a long way to find an Oscar Nominee list that doesn't contain some minor variation on these same 5 kinds of movies. It isn't that this year's films are particularly bad (they're no worse than last year's or the year before) but rather that they remain dull and predictable choices. More importantly, they also don't matter in any real way. The Oscars have and continue to be about the colossal waste of time that is celebrity worship. The industry is only too happy to form a giant yearly circle jerk and blow a big Hollywood sized load all over their worshipers. That what it's all about.
I'm going out on a limb here because I haven't seen a good number of the films that follow but I'd like to see an Oscar nomination list that manages to include some innovative and boundary pushing works for once. How about films like Synecdoche, New York, Tell No One, The Pool, Elegy, My Winnipeg, Gomorrah, Let the Right One In, The Wrestler, Waltz with Bashir, Son of Rambow, Funny Games, A Christmas Tale, Happy-Go-Lucky, Rachel Getting Married, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Wendy and Lucy, Trouble the Water, Ballast, Che, Chop Shop, Doubt, Shotgun Stories, The Fall, Frozen River,
The Flight of the Red Balloon, Alexandra, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Class, Encounters at the End of the World, I Served the King of England, Still Life, Young at Heart, Silent Light, Hunger, etc. If you want to really push the envelope why not Martyrs, Cloverfield or the Orphanage?
When I think back on the best film performances I saw in 2008, the one that sticks out for me is Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. I couldn't shake his nuanced and completely believable take on a shattered soldier. Stallone may not be a great actor in any traditional sense but this was a deeply moving and utterly sad portrayal of a man trapped by his own ruthless prowess as a killer. It wasn't a theatrical turn (a la Ledger's Joker) but a more complete assumption of character. It probably sounds ridiculous, but I bought it. I never once thought I was watching an actor. I was watching a serial killer.
My point in all this nattering is this; film award shows are boring because the choices are canned. The film experience should be a varied and challenging one and the Oscars do not take this into consideration. The Academy Award nominees are beige Toyota Camrys year in and year out. It's dull and boring as a result.