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NOTES ON OSCAR 2007

January 25, 2007
by

It must be me.

Is anybody else feeling a yearly-growing sense of ennui about the Academy Awards? I mean, World War III is on the TV… and I’m supposed to care about nominations for a bunch of films that I largely have no desire to see? (Then again, I could be mistaken; I initially wrote off CAPOTE as just another of last year’s lefty agenda flick nominees, and  that turned out to be a great, devastating movie.)

There were three movies this last year that I actually loved – not just liked, loved: CHILDREN OF MEN, THE PRESTIGE and UNITED 93. None of them is nominated for Best Picture. And one movie-movie that I liked a ton, CASINO ROYALE, was just totally ignored. Instead, we’ve got…. freakin’ LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA..? The title alone makes me drowsy. What is it about Clint Eastwood’s slow, boring, dreary directing style that gets him nominated time and time again over innovative, exciting directors like Alfonso Cuaron and Chris Nolan?

So, enough with the ranting. As others have noted, this year’s Oscar noms are so all-over-the-map that it’s hard to see much of a theme, beyond “globalization.” So, let me try to focus on the positive, on the gems, on the "little flowers springing up from the fertilizer," if I may:

• Recognition for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. It’s been overhyped, sure, but it’s great to see a little comedy recognized in so many categories. Comedy is so hard to do well. It’s good to see the Academy appreciating that reality more often.

•CHILDREN OF MEN got 3 nominations, including for the screenplay. I understand from those who know that it’s a horribly unfaithful adaptation of the P.D. James novel, but it’s a great movie script.

• There’s a certain perverse pleasure that one must have in reading on the nominee list BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN. That title’s gotta break some kind of record.

• The “Three Amigos” – nominated buddy Mexican filmmakers Cuaron, del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH) and Inarritu (BABEL) – have shown rare camaraderie. Apparently, when Cuaron was out of the country for the official Academy screening of C.O.M., del Toro and Inarritu jumped in to co-host the event and talk up the movie. That’s cool – kudos to the Amigos!

• It’s great to see Meryl Streep get nominated for a performance in a “light” comedy, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. It’s just a great performance, period.

• Peter O’Toole nominated for Best Actor in a movie I’ve never even heard about, VENUS.

• The sound and make-up geniuses who worked on APOCALYPTO weren’t punished for the misbehavior of their boss, Mel Gibson.

Well, that’s about it from where I sit. Now, time to get out there and see… THE QUEEN, I guess…?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim C permalink
    January 27, 2007 4:51 pm

    A very cool list of movie reviews for the Chambers tribe’s pay-per-viewing to come…
    Sadly we still don’t get out to see movie’s so much since having a kid…

    But that said, I’d like to sorta re-touch on a subject we may have beat to death last year but using a specific movie you referenced.

    You wrote: “I initially wrote off CAPOTE as just another of last year’s lefty agenda flick nominees, and that turned out to be a great, devastating movie.”

    What about that movie moved it beyond your fears for it? How did it achieve being a great movie, vs being an lefty “agenda movie”?

    BTW, I thought last years “Good Night and Good Luck” — viewed using Netflix — was better than your fears for it as well…

    Timmy

  2. Duke Ray permalink
    January 29, 2007 11:41 am

    Timmy, thanks. Legit questions. Didn’t really have “fears” so much as “aversion,” if that’s not too fine a distinction — same as I’d have for a “right wing agenda movie”. I just find that most movies whose initial purpose is to “make me see the truth” instead make me want to slit my wrists as I’m watching them. Even if I agree w/ the truth of them. Whereas I’ve been very edified by movies that started from story and character and then found the Truth along the way. (For example, the color version of BEN-HUR succeeds so movingly as a Gospel movie probably largely because it was made by a bunch of brilliant Jews who foremost wanted to tell a great story and have a killer chariot race).

    Anyway, I’m not answering your question. So, yeah, CAPOTE was talked about in a way that made it seem like “the sensitive gay man will make you cry when you see that capital punishment is part of the very mean and punishing and bad American culture” or something to that effect. I’ve seen enough thematic variations thereof from Hollywood and Indiewood to make this more than a blind assumption. Happily, though, while CAPOTE certainly isn’t a “hang ’em high” picture, it turned out to be really about exploring the question of “at what price greatness?” Capote himself is also portrayed in such a fascinatingly complex way that some liberal critics mischarecterized the movie as “moralizing” because it so honestly showed his own faults and ability to manipulate. I found it just to be a very multi-dimensional and I empathized and was distraught by him in equal measures, so that I was forced to look at my own ambitions in a powerful way.

    I have “Good Night…” in my DVD queue, so I will eventually catch up with that one. The history of Hollywood portrayals of that era is so cartoonish and hysterical that when I saw “Good Night”‘s trailer, I felt like “Again? Oy, vey.” I’m dubious that the film does what I’d like to see, which is portray the reality as I’ve come to understand it (while being far from an expert) — I’d love to see a movie where McCarthy was a bastard, AND there were all kinds of dupes who were so against McCarthy and his ilk that they were blind to real Communist agents in their midst who really did subvert democracy, get people killed, etc. That kind of complex portrayal of the Blacklist, etc. would be so compelling. But the Blacklist was so unjust and traumatic to Hollywood that they seem incapable of this kind of maturity. “Good Night” just looked like more of the “Red hunters bad, 1st Amendment good” soap they’ve been selling for decades. But, if you’re telling me I’ve got it wrong, I’ll even more quickly throw “Good Night…” into the DVD tray when it arrives. 🙂

    Thanks, and sorry I don’t have time to write a shorter reply.

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