MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

Frenzy on the Wall: How to Fix the Oscars

I am an unabashed fan of the Academy Awards. I have watched every telecast since I was a young boy and I still anticipate Oscar Day as much as I always have. Historically, I have never really been a fan of the choices the Academy has made, but I still see the show itself as a celebration of cinema. It’s really the one day a year that American audiences can reflect on the past year of film; whether we agree with the choices or not, the Academy Awards offers a remarkable insight into the politicking at the time.

Future generations will look back and try to deduce how Crash could have won Best Picture, but if they dig hard enough they’ll find that the Academy at that time was most likely squeamish about giving the award to a “gay” film like Brokeback Mountain and were overwhelmed by the publicity machine behind Crash.

Aside from the massive changes I would make to the awards themselves (oh, how I’d love to implement campaign finance reform in regards to the Oscars), I’d like to talk about what we can do to make the show itself better. Ultimately every year, I’m surprised by the lack of creativity behind the folks that produce the show. It’s shocking that so many creative people would be so reluctant to mess with a crappy formula.

Anyway, here are some changes I’d like to see:

Go Back to Five Best Picture Nominees

I don’t know whose bright idea it was to expand the category to ten nominees, but it’s made it much less of an honor to achieve a Best Picture nomination now. This is supposed to be something that is difficult to attain. Remember that old cliché of “it’s an honor just to be nominated?” Well, now it’s not.

I used these silly statistics last year when I first found out about the 10 Best Picture nominees, but if you think about the fact that 300 or so films are eligible for nominations every year, that means that if there are five nominations to be had, then there’s a 1.6% chance of getting one. If you double the field to ten, then there’s now a 3.3% chance. Still not a great chance, you say? I’d say that if you consider there are about 200 films or so that have no aspirations to get an award, those chances seems much higher.

I don’t like that we live in a culture that wants to reward as many people for their “achievements” as possible. This isn’t elementary school soccer, where everybody gets a trophy. You’re the Oscars, start acting like it.

Tell Us the Vote Count … or at Least the Order of Finish

William Goldman constantly pleaded with the Academy to tell us the vote counts. His contention was that it would make it so much more instructive and fascinating if we found out how close the races really were. Did The Hurt Locker barely edge out Avatar? By how many votes did Roberto Benigni win his Best Actor Oscar? When Robert Redford beat out Scorsese for Best Director, was it even close? The answers to these questions would be utterly fascinating to film nerds like myself.

But let’s say that for some reason, the Academy is really against that. I don’t see why they would be, but for the sake of argument, let’s go with it. Why wouldn’t they at least let us know the order of finish? Better yet, why wouldn’t they incorporate that into the broadcast? If you’re going to go with the idiotic notion of having ten Best Picture nominees, then wouldn’t it be fun if you announced them throughout the evening in reverse order? Can you imagine how exciting it would be if last year, we counted backwards until it was just The Hurt Locker and Avatar?

Beyond the excitement that it would bring the ending of the show, it would be incredibly interesting to see where each film finished. Hell, why stop with just the films themselves? Why not do the same thing with all of the major categories? I don’t really see any argument against doing this; who wouldn’t sign up for this in a heartbeat?

Is someone really going to be embarrassed if it turned out they gave “only” the fifth best supporting performance of the year? And anyone who says that it would be wrong to make it such a competition…well, it’s a competition anyway. It would be like watching the Olympics – it’s always most interesting to find out who wins the race, but if you’re a fan of a particular racer, it’s nice to know where they finish.

Make the Show Longer

This is something I’ve been harping on forever. Every year, there are the same idiots who complain about how long the show is. Let me tell you something: the show is going to be long! Get over it. I mean, if you don’t like how long the show is, then stop watching the damned Oscars. Personally, I’ve never once felt like the show was too long – I’ve found parts that were boring, but that’s when I grab a snack. You see, nobody is actually forcing me to watch the whole thing and I’m usually in the comfort of my home, where I have other things to do if I’m bored.

But I always say that the show should actually be longer. If this is supposed to be a real celebration of the movies, then let’s give the cinema its due. Let’s get longer clips of the performances and the films, let’s allow the hosts to be more fully integrated into the show (more on that later), let’s allow the winners to speak (more on that later), let’s not cut the original song performances for time. We have all the time in the world and the ability to fast forward with Tivo.

Allow Actors to be Nominated in the Same Category in the Same Year

I don’t understand this rule at all. If an actor gives two wonderful lead performances in the same year, then they aren’t allowed to be nominated in the same category for those performances. So, even if you give the two best lead performances of the year, you have to put one of them in the supporting category or else it gets lost forever.

I think back to Kate Winslet, who had to choose between The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Unfortunately, she won the Oscar for the wrong role, but she never should have been in that situation. The same thing happened with Leonardo DiCaprio with The Departed and Blood Diamond. Again, he got nominated for the wrong role, but why couldn’t he have been nominated for both? They were both worthy of nomination, so what’s the big fear? That he’ll compete against himself? Um, who cares? He has to compete against four other performances and if one of them happens to be himself, then so be it.

Silly, silly rule.

Pay No Attention to What the Nominee Wants

Along the same lines as the last change, I don’t understand why actors have the right to choose which category they got nominated in. Julianne Moore – or her people – were lobbying for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Kids Are All Right despite sharing equal screen time with Annette Bening, who is lobbying for Best Actress. Apparently this was scrapped and now she’ll be campaigning in the lead category.

Still, I just don’t think the actors or their PR people or the studios should have that kind of input. I think I’m smart enough to understand the distinction between a lead performance and a supporting one, I don’t need anybody to guide me in that department.

Show Us the Short Films

Every year, the same idiotic people who shout for the show to be shorter talk about getting rid of the “stupid” categories, like Best Animated Short or Best Live Action Short or Best Documentary Short. Well, I like the fact that the filmmakers behind those works of art get equal footing – or close to it – on Oscar night as the feature filmmakers and famous actors. I just think if we were to have a dog in the race, then everybody would be much more interested and invested in who wins, just like with the other categories.

Right before the Oscar telecast, whichever channel is broadcasting the Oscars should show us the short films. Take like an hour or two before the famous people show up for the red carpet and just show us these films. It would help these little-seen films get viewers and it would give us the ability to watch these movies and therefore care more about the outcome of the awards.

Bring the Honorary Oscars Back to the Show

I really hate the idea that Lauren Bacall, Gordon Willis, and Roger Corman didn’t give speeches at the actual Oscar ceremony last year and instead had to settle for the Governor’s Awards. I want to see those speeches given at the Oscars themselves. Same goes this year for Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola, and Jean-Luc Godard. Some of the best speeches I’ve seen at the Oscars were given by folks who received honorary awards – Peter O’Toole comes to mind.

I think it’s a travesty that this practice of giving the honorary winners their own separate non-televised dinner was not only implemented, but is in practice for yet another year.

Let People Speak

Going back to the idea of making the show longer – let these winners give their speeches. This is supposed to be the highest honor for their profession, so why not allow them to have more than 45 seconds without that annoying orchestra shooing them off the stage? I hate boring speeches as much as the next person, but these people have earned the right to thank whomever they feel like. It’s not like people are going to get up there and ramble for three minutes.

The most annoying part of it is that the knowledge of the coming orchestra cue takes up an inordinate amount of time in a nervous winner’s speech. They always waste at least a few seconds talking about the music and how they have to speak very quickly. If they weren’t living in fear of the orchestra coming, they might be relaxed enough to give a coherent and interesting speech.

Hire One of the Following People to Host — and Let Them do Their Shtick

My biggest problem with the hosts has been that the show always follows the same format: the host does a monologue and then pops up for about two more bits throughout the evening and sometimes drops a witty bon mot here and there. That’s it.

I want the host of the show to be more fully integrated into the proceedings, to not only guide me through the evening, but to keep me entertained during the parts of the show that are just never going to be that interesting. I liked Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin last year, but they were used so sparingly after the opening that I was left wanting a lot more.

If you’re going to hire a host, let them run wild and do their own shtick. That means that if you hire Jon Stewart, let him do political humor because that’s what he does. If you hire Chris Rock, let him take about race because that’s where he excels. If you want someone who appeals to a broader audience, then don’t simply hire the funniest guy.

I mean, I love Louis C.K. but I don’t think he’d be the best choice for the Oscars because he’d be hamstrung. I like Jim Gaffigan too, but he’s way too droll. Whitney Cummings would be great, but there’s no way she’d be able to keep it clean enough for the fuddy-duddies. Here are my top choices for hosts:

Steve Martin – I think he’s one of the sharpest comedians who has ever lived and he’s never disappointed me as a host. He’s always in command of the room and his jokes are always incisive and cutting. A personal hero of mine.

Tina Fey – I didn’t really think of her as someone for this job until I saw her speech when she won the Mark Twain Prize for Humor and she just killed it. She absolutely slayed the room and owned it. I think she’d be fantastic.

Conan O’Brien – It would be a mutually beneficial move for both parties. The Academy can hope that the Team Coco train is still rolling and Conan would get a big boost of legitimacy for his fledgling new show. Also, the Masturbating Beat could hand out an award.

Justin Timberlake – Love him or hate him, the dude is a born performer. He can sing, dance, and sell a joke. Watch him on SNL and tell me he’s not capable of being a flat-out outstanding Oscars host.

Martin Scorsese – Nope, not a particularly funny guy. But he’s a film historian who has forgotten more about cinema than I will ever know, and I think it would be interesting if the show was hosted by someone who actually was coming from a place of love for film rather than comedy. It would be interesting to see how he’d navigate the proceedings, perhaps throwing in clips of old films to compare to the newer ones, showing us how we got from there to here. I’d sign up for that.

Of course, I know many of you will disagree with my thoughts on how to make the Oscars better, particularly about making the show longer rather than shorter. I’d love to hear what ideas you have, and what you think about mine. Should the Oscars be shorter or longer, or would you rather they just went away? Would you like to see the shorts, or should Oscars not be given for short films at all? Sound off with your own Oscar thoughts; I’ll share your best ideas, and my own thoughts on them, in a follow-up post on the Frenzy On blog later this week.

P.S. On the Hathaway/Franco hosting news: I’m fairly astounded by this news. Part of me likes the fact that the producers are thinking outside the box and I have enjoyed Hathaway and Franco’s hosting skills on SNL. However, I’ve also written columns in recent weeks on both of them and how I think they are over-rated as actors and performers.

There is precedent for this, of course. In the ’80s, Chevy Chase hosted with Goldie Hawn and Paul Hogan one year and another year had Alan Alda with Robin Williams and Jane Fonda. However, considering that Hathaway and Franco are being bandied about as possible nominees this year, it rubs me the wrong way. It seems a bit like a bush-league move, something that MTV would do for their VMAs, trying to capitalize on the fact that the “kids” love James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

I’m usually more in favor of someone who is naturally funny doing the hosting or – as with my Scorsese suggestion – someone who is knowledgeable about film. But, I will reserve judgment until I see them perform. One suggestion: if you’re going to go this route, then lose Bruce Vilanch as the head writer and hire someone like Judd Apatow or Jody Hill to craft some more appropriate jokes for hosts of a much younger generation than the normal emcees.

20 Responses to “Frenzy on the Wall: How to Fix the Oscars”

  1. Chris says:

    The Hurt Locker
    Slumdog Millionaire
    No Country for Old Men
    The Departed
    Crash
    Million Dollar Baby
    LOTR – Return of the King
    Chicago
    A Beautiful Mind
    Gladiator

    Does Crash really jump out at you as an extreme outlier when you look at that list?

    Also, how many years will it take before the media stops using homophobia as the main reason Brokeback Mountain didn’t win Best Picture? It won 3 awards that night including Best Director. If anything, Brokeback Mountain almost won the Oscar because of how anti-homophobic the Academy is, not the other way around.

  2. Samuel Deter says:

    Chris, like it or not Crash won because it was the politically correct film. Homophobia? I wouldn’t go that far. But it certainly was the safest choice.

    Also, looking at that list makes me hopeful. The last three winners have been deserved. Good call academy. Lets see what happens this year.

    Hopefully The Social Network wont win. That would be another Departed for me… “film from awesome director that everyone falls in love with but i kind of hate”

    Oh well. so far it looks like i’m gonna have to suck it up

  3. Martin Pal says:

    Chris, there’s not enough space for alot of analytical detail in a comment section here, but the way the award season played out in the spring of 2006, there is no other “beyond reasonable doubt” explanation for crash’s win other than a strong element of homophobia. For one, every single prognosticator that has been used since the oscars began for predicting what would win the Best Film Oscar was shattered that year. Let me repeat that: Every single one. For two, academy members were expressing privately their uncomfortableness with BBM winning Best Film and journalists wrote about that beforehand. In the case of ampas member Tony Curtis, he expressed his negative opinions of BBM on television during the voting period. Unheard of, right? Bad-mouthing a film up for best picture in public? Did ampas censor anyone for doing this? Not that I’ve heard. And since then, there are occasional reports of voting ampas members who still haven’t seen the film: Ernest Borgnine, Mark Wahlberg, Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall and Sarah Jessica Parker among them. Third, an article was written about crash’s publicity machine that specifically targeted one of the technical branches because they noted a distinct homophobic element in their support beneficial to their film.

    I could go on, but I’ll conclude with a comment on your statement that “If anything, Brokeback Mountain almost won the Oscar because of how anti-homophobic the Academy is, not the other way around.”

    That is patently absurd when you note that Brokeback Mountain won 25 or more Best Picture awards from the Golden Globes to BAFTA to Hollywood Guilds, Film Critics Organizations and other institutions. And in ALL of the instances that Ang Lee won Best Director, BBM also won Best Film–the ONLY exception: AMPAS is the only organization that split the director and best film awards that year. And if Hollywood is so anti-homophobic, why aren’t all the gay actors in Hollywood, that gay people in Hollywood know to be gay–why aren’t they out?

    So the answer to your query of “…how many years will it take before the media stops using homophobia as the main reason Brokeback Mountain didn’t win Best Picture,” is “always,” because it is the reason.

    Thank you.

  4. Chris says:

    Why would a member support Ang Lee for Best Director and not BM for Best Picture if they are homophobic? Several journalists implied (with really no evidence) that the reason was because they thought it would further alienate the public from the Academy Awards. Do you really believe that happened? Tony Curtis certainly didn’t vote for Ang Lee so I don’t see how his comments support homophobia as the reason BM lost. Now if Ang Lee also lost for Best Director, I might be on your side Martin.

    Crash ran a stronger Oscar campaign. I think that’s the overwhelming reason why Crash won. Did they target a specific technical group because they “smelled” some homophobia among that group? Maybe but that doesn’t mean homophobia cost BM the Oscar.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I agree with almost everything in this column, and am baffled by the Academy’s decision to let Franco and Hathaway host the show. Are they really that desperate to get people to watch?

    The Academy has to stop trying to get better ratings and focus more on putting on the best show they can. There’s going to be serious reformation of the way the awards are done in the next couple of years, because the institution is growing really brittle. Lest it crumble, they have to fix it–and ten nominees is NOT the way to do it.

    And why haven’t they had Ricky Gervais as the host yet? He would be BRILLIANT! And college students like me would all tune in to watch him.

    PS As much as I hate that Crash won, and that Brokeback lost, the movie that should’ve won Best Picture in 2005 was, for me, The Squid and the Whale. Love, love, love that movie.

  6. Noah Forrest says:

    Amen to that, Jeremy. Last Days or Kings and Queen or The Constant Gardener would also have been acceptable choices.

    I didn’t think the whole Crash/Brokeback homophobia flap would still cause such passionate debate. I don’t know for a fact why Brokeback lost to Crash, but I know that a) Brokeback Mountain was and still is the better film and b) Crash had an incredibly well-funded and focused campaign. Homophobia was a reason that more well-researched journalists gave at the time and I’m inclined to believe them. If you don’t, that’s your prerogative.

  7. tyler says:

    For me, the thing that bothers me about the Oscars, is the word “campaign.” If a “winner” has to campaign and bribe people to be nominated, then, for me, that makes the awards silly, and having little meaning. Also, the fact that the voters only seem to take a movie seriously if it’s released during a certain part of the year and it has to have almost no appeal to the general public. I quit paying attention to the Oscars years ago.

  8. joshua black says:

    Love JT as host
    But, whomever it would be, why not let them/encourage them to bring in as many guest hosts as they want for various segments including, film buff types, comedians, musicians, actors or whatever. You know like, JT hosts the academy awards, featuring ellen Degeneres, Richard Roeper, Betty White and a dick in a box.

  9. movieman says:

    Richard Roeper??????!!!!!!!!!!!
    Talk about a “dick in a box”!
    I think I can taste a little puke in my mouth right now.

  10. jp says:

    Noah Forrest, Anne Hathaway & James Franco are very gifted actors, and they have both proven their talents repeatedly. Now , more than ever, it is not easy for talented thespians to find quality roles. So, these actors will not always be in great films working with incredible roles. This is the reality of Hollywood.

    I do respect James, but I do believe Justin Timberlake & Anne Hathaway should be co- hosting the Oscars.

  11. Sam says:

    “For one, every single prognosticator that has been used since the oscars began for predicting what would win the Best Film Oscar was shattered that year. Let me repeat that: Every single one.”

    So? What the hell does that have to do with homophobia? Yes, a whole lot of traditional prognosticators (not all of them — see the SAG Ensemble award — but a lot) fell short that year. But you’re using the FACT that they failed as a reason WHY they failed, which is a laughably huge logical fallacy.

    I could just as easily say, “Of COURSE Crash won because it had the shortest title! For one, every single prognosticator that has been used since the oscars began for predicting what would win the Best Film Oscar was shattered that year. Let me repeat that: Every single one.”

    Your second point is purely anecdotal. Tony Curtis was not the entire awards body. His vote was one among thousands. And as Chris already said to you, do you really think Tony Curtis got Ang Lee his Best Director Oscar? Obviously a whole lot of people split their votes between Picture and Director, and they did so for a reason. But they obviously didn’t fill out their ballots with the same reasoning that Tony Curtis used to fill out his.

    Your third point is that some Academy members still haven’t seen the film. Once again: no link to homophobia here. There are ALWAYS going to be some Academy members who have not seen ANY GIVEN Oscar nominee — except in the doc and short categories, where voters are required to attend special screenings.

    These cries of homophobia may or may not be accurate, but even it is, your reasoning is utterly sound. You’re simply latching onto the reason you *want* it to be and fitting the pieces around it. Proof by presumption doesn’t work.

  12. Sam says:

    *unsound, of course.

  13. Crash won because of one simple reason that all of you are overlooking. It was a great movie. Period. So was Brokeback. They were my personal 2 favorites that year. Only one could win. It’s not some big conspiracy or homophobic controversy. Crash = great movie. Great movie usually = Oscar. Do the math. It adds up. :)

  14. Martin Pal says:

    As I first wrote, a comment section here is not a place where one can spout a thesis on homophobia, but the reasoning is not unsound. (Although some of yours is, Sam–the SAG ensemble award is NOT a best film award, for example, and it has a spotty record at best equating to a best film oscar winner? Inglourious Basterds, anyone? And so is not one of the indicators to which I referred.) Go to the afterelton website and you’ll find a great article about why many are reluctant to think homophobia is a reason for BBM’s best picture loss at the oscars. Anyone who wants to pooh-pooh the notion outright, I’d ask first WHY you feel the need to do so and not be open to it? And, I would like to point out, that over time, I have learned that homophobia does not necessarily equate with “hate.” It can manifest itself that way, but it’s not an automatic link.

    First of all, you have to think there is no such thing as homophobia in Hollywood. If there were not homophobia there would be an out gay A-list movie star in Hollywood. We know for a fact there have been gay movie stars all throughout Hollywood history. Silent Films? Ramon Navarro. Early talkies? William Haines, the top Box Office Star of 1930. And on up through the decades–Dan Dailey, Van Johnson, Montgomery Clift, Tab Hunter, Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson, Brad Davis…so why should we assume there aren’t any modern movie stars in the closet? (Homophobia.) Be real! People in L.A./Hollywood don’t live in a vacuum. We work and play with people we know are gay, but the game gets played. There’s a reason there’s a joke in the Hollywood gay community when a gay person becomes successful–“Oh, I knew him before he was straight.” In a recent panel discussion at OutFest, a gay film organization, a noted Hollywood television writer/director (Todd Holland)advised young gay performers NOT to come out of the closet if they wanted to be successful in Hollywood. (Homophobia.) There are tons of instances of homophobia in Hollywood. I’ll give you another story of homophobia: Two girls that I know have a father who’s a member of the academy and they told me he said, when they asked if he was going to vote for Brokeback Mountain for best film that year, he said, “I’m not going to vote for that “fag” movie. (Homophobia.) Granted, that’s hearsay and you don’t have to believe it, but I used Tony Curtis as an example of the public dislike of the idea of BBM winning best picture being touted during the award season, and, as I said, writers like Nikki Finke were reporting it in papers, like the L.A. Weekly. Imagine if anyone had said they didn’t want Crash to win because it’s about black people? Or Munich because it was about Jews? Or happily said they didn’t even want to see the films! You surely would’ve heard outcries about that, but people publicly displaying their homophobia was acceptable. And crash became Lion’s Gate’s publicity alternative that was put out there to stop the idea of BBM winning. (It was even given credence by people like Roger Ebert, who advocated, for what must have been the first time in his life-awarding the director oscar to Ang Lee, but voting crash best picture–something he never was agreeable to in the past, spliiting picture/director.) Crash–A film that had garnered mediocre to mixed reviews, had all played out and was on dvd already and that hadn’t even gotten a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture and was on no one’s radar as even a nomination possibility the first week of December–see the charts on this site. (One of the pre-cursors shattered? Before Crash won, no film that had not even been nominated without reason for Best Picture by the Golden Globes had ever won the oscar.)

    The fact that many in ampas have not seen BBM is a very telling sign of homophobia. Some adamantly said they didn’t want to because it had a gay theme. If you don’t think that’s homophobia and if you don’t see how that could be equated with not voting for it, then you’re the victim of incorrect thinking. I mean, Mark Wahlberg was considered for the role and he’s made no bones about it being something he couldn’t handle at the time. You’d think as an actor you might want to check out someone else’s work, but, hey. If people didn’t want to see the film because of it’s themes, do you suppose they did not vote for ANY film then in that category, like they’re supposed to?

    If you think my ideas are proof by presumption, Sam, what proof are you offering on the opposite side except conjecture? This notion that there is no homophobia in Hollywood=not a reason BBM lost is ludicrous, especially if you are gay and live in Hollywood.

    I’ll just end with Mr. Forrest’s comment: “Homophobia was a reason that more well-researched journalists gave at the time and I’m inclined to believe them. If you don’t, that’s your prerogative.”

    Thank you.

  15. ssa says:

    Yes on bringing the winners of the honorary Academy Awards back to the main televised event – they’ve earned it. And I’d much rather see them than the overdone and over-long tributes to horror films and John Hughes on last year’s show. Stanley Donen’s song-and-dance-and- thank-you-for-honoring-me speech a few years ago was an all time highlight for me.

    I don’t like Franco and Hathaway as hosts – it’s a conflict of interest for the Academy to pick two performers who are in the running for acting nominations for hosting duties, especially Franco, who seems like a shoo-in for a nomination. Giving him the hosting gig gives him the Academy’s seal of approval, which just seems fundamentally unfair to the other potentional nominees.

  16. Sam says:

    Martin:

    “If you think my ideas are proof by presumption, Sam, what proof are you offering on the opposite side except conjecture?”

    I’m not claiming that BBM *didn’t* lose due to homophobia. In fact I closed with the remark “These cries of homophobia may or may not be accurate…” I am simply saying that your three specific arguments are irrelevant, anecdotal, and irrelevant, respectively. No scientist or statistician in the world would accept any of it.

    “[My] reasoning is not unsound. (Although some of yours is, Sam–the SAG ensemble award is NOT a best film award, for example…”

    Granted, but it does reflect support among actors, which is, after all, the Academy’s largest voting branch. And the fact that SAG is made up of a great many more actors than exist in the Academy is indicative of Crash’s support being hardly limited to the much narrower Academy.

    But never mind — let’s say I concede this detail. Your arguments are not any stronger for it. The fact is that even if we say that EVERY Best Picture prognosticator failed, that says absolutely zero about WHY they failed. It is not, as you presented it in your original argument, evidence for homophobia being the reason.

    “The fact that many in ampas have not seen BBM is a very telling sign of homophobia. Some adamantly said they didn’t want to because it had a gay theme.”

    In your initial post, you didn’t say that this was the reason they hadn’t seen it. Now that you’ve added that sentence sentence, I concede that this is, finally, a logical argument. Still, I am very dubious of anecdotal evidence like this. The Academy is made up of thousands of people, and you’re talking about a few specific high-profile members. Whether they truly represent the Academy or comprise a vocal minority, who is to say? In polling lingo, this would be a selection bias: the sample is not representative of the whole, because they are simply the ones who have chosen to speak out about it.

    And again, I counter with this: do you really think any of these people voted for Ang Lee as Best Director? I don’t. Yet he won. Where did those votes come from? Maybe people like Roger Ebert, who are self-evidently not homophobes but legitimately felt that Lee did the best directorial work yet did not make the best film.

    None of this is a refutation of your hypothesis, only a refutation of your reasoning and conclusions. It is entirely possible that this was the reason BBM lost. But the anecdotal evidence that gets cited by you and anyone else I’ve ever seen make this argument like it’s an irrefutable proof doesn’t really care about how logic and proof works but is simply believing what they want to believe.

  17. Martin Pal says:

    Sam, I don’t know if links are allowed here, but read this article about this subject and then tell me what you think:

    http://www.afterelton.com/archive/elton/movies/2006/3/affair.html

    It is quite “logical” that homophobia played a major part in BBM’s best picture loss. Perhaps YOU don’t want to believe that for some reason. I don’t know. Since your posts are all about proof, I will ask you what proof would you need to be convinced? People are judged in courts on “reasonable doubt” all the time.

    In an article this week on Awards Daily, they have an annual oscar roundtable discussion. One of the questions asked there was: “Do you buy into this idea that there are some films that are just too weird for the Academy, or do you think that if the movie is good enough, if it succeeds at what it’s trying to do, that they will recognize it.”

    Critic Peter Howell answered thusly: “Howell: Is it “buying in” to state the obvious? The Academy historically avoids or marginalizes docs, comedies, animated films, foreign films and anything considered avant-garde or “weird.”

    The choice of “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture in 2006 was one indication of this; supposedly many older Academy types couldn’t stomach the idea of a “gay” BP. I wish it weren’t this way, but it seems to be. I’d be delighted to hear strong argument to the contrary.”

    http://www.awardsdaily.com/2010/11/oscar-roundtable-take-one/

    As for some things in your post, you write: “The fact is that even if we say that EVERY Best Picture prognosticator failed, that says absolutely zero about WHY they failed.”

    When you ASK why, what answers do you get? Hmmm…the only time it happens is the first time ever a gay themed film is the presumptive winner? And that’s a coincidence? According to all measures Brokeback Mountain was as sure a winner as Titanic or Schindler’s List. It had more Best Picture wins pre-Oscar than both of those films combined! People think Shakespeare in Love was a surprise over Saving Private Ryan? Was it that big of a surprise? Not if you consider it had been nominated and won one of the Golden Globes best picture prizes. Many critics organizations gave it their top award. And, it had the most nominations. Interestingly, the films that get the MOST nominations usually win. Rainman had 8 nominations, the same as Brokeback Mountain, the year it won. I don’t remember articles being written about how lukewarm ampas felt about the nominated films that year like they were in 2005. The meaning being that they begrudgingly gave BBM nominations.

    The truth is, the academy does what’s expected of it most of the time. There’s probably a reason if they do not. That’s why people win oscar contests around here, guessing 19-21 categories correctly every year. Since they did not do what was expected of them that particular year, there must have been a good reason, a strong reason, not just ANY reason that you can think of. What do you suppose it was?

  18. Martin Pal says:

    I wanted to add something. People are always talking about this subject as though Crash was an equal and logical alternative to vote for that year. It wasn’t. No film was. For weeks in December of 2005 nothing was getting the attention or awards or nearly unanimous critical acclaim as Brokeback Mountain. Even A History of Violence and Cinderella Man were getting more Best film awards than Crash was. There was no “either Titanic or L.A. Confidential will win,” or “Hurt Locker or Avatar” or “Saving Private Ryan or Shakespeare in Love.” It was only “what could beat BBM?” Bored awards writers finally jumped on Crash when it won the SAG ensemble award in January to revive some interest as though there was a contest there. An award that has never been a reliable predictor of the b.p. oscar winner and even BBM fans thought was going to go to Crash. That’s when people started to promote crash as the alternative to the gay movie to all those rumored and publicly uncomfortable ampas voters. Subtly, to be sure, but unmistakable in this town. Oh, vote for Ang Lee for director, but then vote for Crash and you can still feel like you did a good thing. And if you look at the history of the oscars, the best picture and director oscars are ever so rarely given for two different films. And most of the times they are, one or the other isn’t nominated in that category. Shakespeare didn’t have a director nomination. Same with Driving Miss Daisy, Chariots of Fire and Shakespeare in Love. And if crash was such a beloved film all through 2005, why was it treated so shabbily until Lion’s Gate detected anti-BBM bias and began the alternative to BBM campaign? Why would they bother promoting a film all but played out and ignored year end, if they didn’t have some reason to continue?

  19. Nicole says:

    I think it is a fantastic idea to have 10 nominees, not just 5. This is how it use to be in the 1930s …

  20. Martin Pal says:

    I think the problem with TEN nominees is that they still don’t nominate the best ten! In 2009, AMPAS had a screening series of all ten films nominated in 1939 for best picture and even then I woulda kept 4 or 5 of them and inserted 5 or 6 better ones in the other slots. At least with 5 nominees you can think, well, my choices would’ve been in 6th place. History says, maybe not.

    As we saw last year, they still like to avoid comedies, documentaries and foreign language films. Would The Dark Knight even been nominated two years ago? I’m not sure given that everyone thought the crowd pleasing Star Trek would be last year and was not. I say go back to five.
    We knew at least six of the films nominated last year had no chance to win, so why nominate them in the first place?

    From the article: “Ultimately every year, I’m surprised by the lack of creativity behind the folks that produce the show. It’s shocking that so many creative people would be so reluctant to mess with a crappy formula.”

    The show used to be great to watch because we didn’t get to see all these people or even clips of the films and now we can see them at the punch of some buttons on the internet or phone screens. There’s also so many more movie award shows than there used to be. So it does need an overhaul, although I’m not sure what would ultimately work best. Someone suggested having an awards week, like the olympics, and have one saturated awards week where everything is done and the oscars are like the closing ceremonies, but you’d have to get alot of disaparate groups to agree.

Frenzy On Column

Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin