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Forget The Oscars


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#1 of 24 Bob Banka

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Posted July 06 2003 - 02:01 AM

In conversations with some freinds, as well as posts on forums on the Net, I'm occasionally suprised by how much faith folks put into the Academy Awards - both winners and nominations.

Yes, it's a lot of fun to watch the ceremony every year and see all the actors, directors and so on under one roof and sharing the stage, but the meaning of the awards themselves is very little with respect to how good a film was when compared to others nominated, or how good a performance was when compared to others nominated. Quite often, those who win are those who played the right kind of role in the right kind of movie at the right time of the year - and in a film with a theme that suits the movie industry's desired image at the time.

Of course, Adrien Brody was going to take the Oscar over Daniel Day-Lewis last year. No shock. True, both performances were very good, but when one compares the effort required to play the characters, and be beievable on screen, Day-Lewis clearly had the more challenging role. It's not really a question of which actor was most believable - they both were. For me, it's a question of who had the most difficult part to play. Day-Lewis - hands down.

I'm not trying to imply that the awards always go to less deserving performances, but at least as often as the do - they do not.

Other examples:

Robert DeNiro lost to Peter Finch for Best Actor in 1976. His Travis Bickle was not the type of character one honors with Oscars. Finch's nomination was posthumous. Who doubted he would get the Oscar instead. Fine work in NETWORK to be sure - but DeNiro's Travis clearly was the more difficult and brilliant performance.

Also on 1976 - Best Picture went to ROCKY. Now that's the type of feature the Oscars love to had the big prize to. ROCKY beat out TAXI DRIVER, as well as ALL THE PRESISENTS MEN, NETWORK and BOUND FOR GLORY. And best director went to John Avildsen for ROCKY. Martin Scorsese didn't even rate a nomination for TAXI DRIVER!

Martin Scorsese & Alfred Hitchcock never won Oscars, yet John Avildsen did! So did... excuse me - Kim Basinger. Oh my... and she won over Julianne Moore's stupendous work in BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Al Pacino was never "honored" with an Oscar for his work in the first two GODFATHER films. He lost to Joel Grey in CABARET, and Art Carney in HARRY AND TONTO. Instead he finally got a statue for SCENT OF A WOMAN - of course he did, he played a blind man! He just HAD to get the Oscar that year.

And Paul Newman - a great actor virtually incapable of a poor performance was passed over for his fine work in THE VERDICT, and then almost as an apology, he got the Oscar for his work in THE COLOR OF MONEY - one of his weakest perfomances to date, IMHO.

Excellent work was done by Russell Crowe in THE INSIDER, ROMPER STOMPER, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and A BEAUTIFUL MIND. But did he get an Oscar for this work? Well, of course not. Instead he got "honored" for his comparitively simple work in GLADIATOR. Ugh!


The list goes on and on...

Ultimately all the Oscars do is up the asking prices for actors and directors when they begin signing contracts for new films after the night of the ceremony. Oh sure, they also - sometimes - bring people out to see a few movies they may have missed prior to the awards ceremony. That's it.

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#2 of 24 Adam_ME

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Posted July 06 2003 - 04:44 AM

I'm not gonna argue that 90% of the time, the Academy seems to give the award to the wrong nominee. But I have to defend some of the aforementioned winners.

First of all, Kim Basinger is a terrible actress. I've never thought otherwise. But I had absolutely no problem with her winning Best Supporting Actress for L.A. Confidential. It was a great performance(Curtis Hanson is the only director capable of getting one out of her), and she brought a lot of sympathy to her character. There were of course other reasons she won. She was the only actor nominated from that cast, so it was the Academy's way of rewarding all of them for their brilliant work. And with regards to Julianne Moore, she's almost never been bad in a movie so I think the voters took her greatness for granted in Boogie Nights, whereas Basinger had always been so bad and in so many crappy movies that her work in L.A. Confidential was a revelation. Plus, who doesn't love a comeback story(albeit a shortlived one)?

Adrien Brody is another instance where I was pleasantly surprised to see an actor rewarded for an amazing performance. I disagree that Daniel Day-Lewis had the more challenging role. Brody not only did a great acting job in The Pianist, but his physical transformation is often overlooked. Yes, many actors have done this before(Tom Hanks in Cast Away being the most recent example), but that doesn't make it any easier.

And speaking of Tom Hanks and Cast Away, I'm with you on Russell Crowe's win for Gladiator being a farce. It was considered a makeup Oscar for the year before, but here's what I don't get. NOBODY was hyping the guy up for his work in The Insider when he was nominated. Everyone was talking about either Kevin Spacey or Denzel Washington(who also got a makeup Oscar of sorts for Training Day). So where did all this sympathy for Crowe being "snubbed" come from? Maybe it was just the Oscar momentum of Gladiator(which never should've won Best Picture, BTW) that carried him to victory.

But this brings up an interesting dilemma. You mention people like Al Pacino being rewarded with "lifetime achievement Oscars" for overrated work in Scent of a Woman, but then you complain about Martin Scorcese and Alfred Hitchcock never having won the trophy. Which is a worse scenario as a fan of an actor or writer or director? Seeing them go through their entire career without ever winning an Academy Award? Or seeing them win a sympathy Oscar for a film widely considered one of their weaker efforts?
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#3 of 24 Blu

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Posted July 06 2003 - 06:40 AM

I haven't been a fan of the Oscars in quite a while.
The real water mark of how good a movie is reflects in the box office numbers.
Watch next time when Peter Jackson is snubbed for the amazing LOTR achievement but as far as box office is concerned it is a super movie that few others will achieve when completed.

#4 of 24 Bob Banka

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Posted July 06 2003 - 06:53 AM

Adam,

I don't think for a minute that Scorsese or Hitchcock should have gotten some type of trinket-like lifetime acheivment Oscar. No Way! They should've been Oscars for their films when they were released - deserving features. For example, Scorsese's GOODFELLAS, RAGING BULL or TAXI DRIVER. Hitchcock's VERTIGO is a deserving feature. But forget "lifetime" awards. I was pleased GANGS OF NEW YORK didn't win Scorsese an Oscar. He's done much better, more deserving work, and hopefully he'll be doing more.

With Pacino's SCENT OF A WOMAN, all I'm saying is he's done much better work than the material he did to finally get his statue. Of particular note, even better than his work in THE GODFATHER films, was his performance in DOG DAY AFTERNOON.

All of what you say about the reasoning behind Basinger's award I agree with in total, and again it only points out where I'm heading with all of this. The award was given out for too many reasons other than she DESERVED it most that year. The award was not given, in my opinion, to the actor most deserving - Moore.

Brody was excellent in the pianist. But remember - it takes no acting talent to loose or gain weight. Only a shift in diet and will power. People, other than actors, do this all the time. The ability to do this should have little to do with whether one does or does not get an award - Oscar or any other. I just do not think that as much of a character had to built from the ground up in the case of Brody's role as had to be done by Day-Lewis. Once again though, there were the political issues involved here. Brody was playing a sympathetic character in a Holocaust film, directed by an individual who had family perish in a concentration camp. On the other hand, Day-Lewis has already won an Oscar, and he played a dispicable character in GANGS OF NEW YORK. There was no way he was going to get the Oscar, no matter how deserving he was.

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#5 of 24 Mike Broadman

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Posted July 06 2003 - 06:52 AM

Blu, is box office really your benchmark for film "greatness?" Does that mean that Titanic, Spiderman and Star Wars are the greatest films of all time and of higher quality than the aforementioned Taxi Driver?

I'm sure there are many that would say yes to that example, and that's fine- I'm not knocking those films (at least not in this thread). But I think all of us can come up with dozens of examples of films that did poorly in the box office and were later considered to be masterpieces; and vice versa.

Heck, the other day I read that Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is the "#1 Movie in America." I highly doubt it's a "great" film.


But Oscars also don't mean squat in this regard, and I would only be repeating most of what Bob said if I went into detail.

There is not single measure for the quality of a film, be it $$ or little golden statue. Sometimes, it takes time, contemplation, and reflection for a film to be absorbed by the populace and be appreciated or forgotten. The funny thing is- there is nothing wrong with that. Why are we so eager to file and rank everything? Just take a film or any piece of art for what it is on its own merit. Frankly, one of the main reasons I hate the Oscars is not that they award the wrong people, it's that they even turn it into a competition in the first place.

#6 of 24 Bob Banka

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Posted July 06 2003 - 07:01 AM

Blu,

I don't agree at all that box office is the bottom line, all determining factor of what is and is not Oscar-worthy. A good deal of films - trite and redioculous, do amazingly well at the box office, but deserve winning an Oscar no more than Crowe deserved winning for his work in GLADIATOR.

The awards should be based, honestly, on the talent involved at making the films or appearing in the films.

True this is a very difficult thing to measure and compare, and therefore - perhaps the awards are not appropriate at all (many nominees, winners and losers, believe this to be the case). But if you're going to have them at all, they should be based on merit only - not poilitics and popularity.

The People's Choice Awards already exist for giving out statues for what's most popular - and they certainly have little to do with talent exhibited in a performance.

And indeed, Peter Jackson has been passed over for his work. On the other hand, it's quite likely, considering how the Academy Awards usually run, that he'll get his Best Director statue after the series has been completed.

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#7 of 24 Blu

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Posted July 06 2003 - 07:15 AM

Quote:
The awards should be based, honestly, on the talent involved at making the films or appearing in the films


I couldn't agree more, which is why the Oscars are almost invalid with their selections.
Titanic was a marvel of technical filmmaking despite its weak story. It took tons of talented people to pull off this feat of modern filmmaking.

Now a movie that topped Titanic in those terms and in that context was Pearl Harbor. It certainly wasn't Oscar material at all and was dragged down by the love storyline as well. But it was a technical marvel of epic proportions.
Pearl Harbor only received 3 nominations, 2 for sound and 1 for visual effects. Now if it was "talent involved at making the films" it would have garnered much more inspite of the story.

#8 of 24 Guy_K

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Posted July 06 2003 - 07:20 AM

The problem is we are looking at these awards out of context. Many years ago, these films that we say deserved the oscar probably weren't considered the masterpieces that we consider them to be today. It's easy to say "Citizen Kane deserved best picture 60 years ago," but if we were living 60 years ago, we too probably wouldn't vote it best picture. A lot of films don't gain their masterpiece status instantly.

#9 of 24 Bob Banka

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Posted July 06 2003 - 08:27 AM

Blu,

Pearl Harbor DID win an Academy Award for Best Effects Sound Effects Editing. It was nominated for Best Sound and Visual Effects as well, but did not win.

Titanic won for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Effects, Visual Effects, and Film Editing - as well as Best Picture, Director and Score. In the case of this film, I think the efforts of the filmmakers truly WERE honored (...and rightly so). TITANIC film did very well (...to say the least) at the box office as well. It's safe to say however, that TITANIC is the exception - and not the rule. In this case, an extremely popular movie was also a very well-crafted, well-directed film (...if not so well acted) feature.

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#10 of 24 Rob Bartlett

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Posted July 06 2003 - 09:11 AM

Bob, you say that Lewis' work was more challenging then Brody's, yet isn't it more challenging for an actor to make what's essentially a period Death Wish film more resonant then a connect the numbers meaty role of an insane man?

In any case, it doesn't bother me, because even though Gladiator is overrated, Crowe did carry the film like few leading men have carried blockbuster films before or since. In fact, despite the fact I think The Insider was a better movie, Crowe's better performance was in the former.

Yes, he did a better acting job in A Beautiful Mind , but it doesn't matter because the entire movie itself was a magnet for make-up Oscars; Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream , Ron Howard's long career as a workhorse and Akiva Goldsman for, oh wait, he's never written anything good before, during or since.

Come to think of it, the fact that Goldsman has an Oscar to begin with, let alone for making a movie that is considerably less interesting then it's biographical source material is an affront far greater then merely taking past talents for granted. They bestowed someone who is inarguably a hack with their highest "honor". Someone who kills franchises like ants. Someone who is literally outclassed by writers of Saturday Morning cartoons.

Your anger over Crowe not winning for A Beautiful Mind shouldn't owe anything to Gladiator , but to the reaility that he brought the movie to the Academy's attention, and seeing shit from them for his troubles. Probably in part to his manhandling activities to the BAFTAS, when a year a later we see Roman Polanski and Eminemn, consumate bad behavers, get Oscar Gold.

I can tolerate the Academy "getting it wrong", as I see many people, for instance here, "get it wrong", when espousing favourites and handing out praise. However I cannot stand cross-purposes and hypocritical cock-blocking. Actually, because of A Beautiful Mind , Gladiator is no longer the weakest films starring Russel Crowe to win a best picture Academy Award.


Besides, it was pretty much up between Hanks and Crowe that year anyways.
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#11 of 24 Tino

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Posted July 06 2003 - 09:39 AM

These kind of threads always amuse me. I wonder if people that complain about the Oscars would change their tune if all of their choices won?

My point is that it is all subjective and should be viewed as such. You say to-may-to and I say to-mah-to.Posted Image
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#12 of 24 Nick Sievers

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Posted July 06 2003 - 10:03 AM

What Tino said.

I thought Adrien Brody deserved that Oscar, does this mean i'm wrong. Posted Image
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#13 of 24 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted July 06 2003 - 10:16 AM

Quote:
I wonder if people that complain about the Oscars would change their tune if all of their choices won?

The only awards show I recognize is the one that chooses *ALL* the ones *I*, and I repeat "I", consider as the best film or actor at any given year. Those organizations that don't pick them as the best, even though they might only lose by one vote, are definitely not worthy of my respect. Posted Image

I would like to know if there is such an ideal world out there.

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#14 of 24 Bob Banka

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Posted July 06 2003 - 10:22 AM

Guys, guys...

My point is - it doesn't really matter what you and I think - agree or disagree on, the Oscars are not given out based upon merit.

You say one person deserves to win, another person says something else, I say something different as well. It's all arguing about merit - who we think best deserves the Oscar. But this is not what the awards seem to be handed out for. More often than not it's as I said in my opening post - "those who win are those who played the right kind of role in the right kind of movie at the right time of the year - and in a film with a theme that suits the movie industry's desired image at the time."

As far as being "angry" because Crowe won his Oscar when any of the other nominees did better work that year (IMHO!)- well anger isn't the right word. Dissapointed perhaps, but not really suprised. I'm not angry because I knew what to expect - the award would not be given to the actor most deserving (...again IMHO). Not suprised because I know that's how the Oscars function year in and year out.

The title of this thread was "Forget about the Oscars" - not "who do we think should have won and lost." And my point is the Awards are seldom given out on merit.

If Oscars should exist at all, they should be given out based on merit. And since this is such an extremely difficult thing to do - perhaps the awards should not exist at all. That is - "Forget" about them. But as long as they're here, people will ALWAYS argue over who they believe should and shouldn't win. Like any art forum or form of entertianment - it's all subjective.

So - I ask you...more specifically, do you think they have a value? If so, what is it? If not, shouldn't we "Forget" about them altogether. Is there another set of awards, like New York Film Critics, LA Film Critics, or whatever, that seem more useful?

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#15 of 24 Luc D

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Posted July 06 2003 - 10:20 AM

The Oscars are more of a pageant than anything else. They're extravagant, glamorous, self-important, and sometimes entertaining. The winners are more a result of good timing and popularity than artistic achievement. In that sense I don't consider them as being the final word in film as many would.

What's most disappointing is how competitive the whole process has become, but then I've never been very comfortable with the idea of film, or any other form of art for that matter, and competition.

#16 of 24 Tino

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Posted July 06 2003 - 10:40 AM

Do they have value? Absolutely! I view them as a result of 5,000 or so members in the industry voting on who they think deserves the Oscar that year. That's it. It's not the end all discussion of film and isn't meant to be. I for one usually agree with the Oscars and seldom do I think they get it wrong. Peers rewarding peers. Nothing wrong with that.

I love the Oscars. You want to forget them, go ahead. Usually the people who hate the Oscars are those who take them too seriously or pissed off that their pick didn't win. We go through this every year at Oscar time. Clockwork.

Hey, if it's not your cup of tea, that's cool, have a cup of joe instead.

And FWIW, I was sure that Daniel Day Lewis deserved and would win the Oscar for Gangs and was shocked and disappointed when he lost to Brody....that is until I saw his awesome performance in The Pianist! IMO, the Academy got it right...again.Posted Image
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#17 of 24 Steve Christou

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Posted July 06 2003 - 10:43 AM

The bottom line is the Oscars is the biggest film show on Earth, it is basically a pageant as Luc said and no one remembers who won what after a few years anyway.
We sneer when our favorites don't win, and cheer when a few awards hit the mark.

It has never been an accurate benchmark for film excellence, Citizen Kane never won Best Film, Vertigo and 2001-A Space Odyssey were never even nominated for Best Film, and those three are in the top 10 greatest films ever.

We're hypocrites, we piss on the Oscars but when the day comes we sit ourselves in front of the telly like excited children and devour every silly overblown second of it.

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#18 of 24 Seth--L

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Posted July 06 2003 - 12:35 PM

To quote Woody Allen:

"What's with all these awards? They're always giving out awards! Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler!"

The Oscars tend to award mainstream big box office earners that most people have seen for exactly this reason. Who would want to watch the Oscar if the only films contending in it were ones that TV viewers for the most part didn't see (because the films didn't play outside of major cities and they actually forced you to think)? Proof of this is how the box office numbers of nominated films go up once their nominated. It's like having more interest in watching a sporting event on TV (or in person) because your team is playing in it. If films with high artistic merit but lower viewership were nominated, no one would tune into the awards show.
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#19 of 24 Cary T

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Posted July 06 2003 - 04:57 PM

Quote:
"What's with all these awards? They're always giving out awards! Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler!"


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#20 of 24 Seth Paxton

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Posted July 06 2003 - 07:08 PM

Well its mostly a waste of my time to repeat my endless points of defense for the Oscars.

What it boils down to is this, there is NO WAY IN HELL ANY AWARDS COULD EVER, EVER MATCH ANYONE'S TASTES, LET ALONE EVERYONE.

So drop that criteria right away. Not only does it seem silly, it's outright impossible.

Secondly, the idea that the minute a POPULAR film is included that the awards are invalid because lord knows no one would go see a GOOD film is also not defensible. Some good films DO ATTRACT INTEREST FROM AUDIENCES, and those films become popular. BO, either high or low, does not indicate the quality of FILMMAKING at hand.

The Oscars are voted on by professionals in the trade, no different than Best Plumber being given out by other plumbers. You might like how someone else installed your toilet, but at the end of the night I'll go with the people who do it for a living.

And in that regard many people forget that the specific groups come up with the list of NOMINEES, not just the overall Academy. That means that Spielberg, Scorsese, Woody Allen, etc get to vote on director nominations.

So you love their films but think their idiots when it comes to recognizing talent in other directors? Give me a break.


Forget looking at the noms and winnners, just listen to some of these people discussing their favorite films, music, whatever and then ask yourself if you actually do share the same tastes as Kathy Bates, Jack Nicholson, or Julian Fellows.

Maybe what the Oscars say is that when you ask a GROUP of people to come to a common decision you more often than not get the choice with the BROADER appeal. That can often mean less daring and therefore less alienating, but it rarely means an outright poor choice when you are asking professionals to pick.


I will never tire of the HILARIOUS points of "proof" about how the Oscars are wrong, only to hear the same points used by someone else that that was the one time the Academy got it right.

The Oscars remain one of the best gauges of what is both good AND entertaining filmmaking, they don't go with either the most pop choice, nor the most artisticly isolated one.

Perhaps that's why they catch so much shit from people because they represent a compromise between 2 groups who both think the other group is a bunch of idiots. The Academy choices become doomed to always being at least half-wrong in the eyes of everybody.


You might not think it, but there are people that wonder why Orlando Bloom didn't get Best Actor last year and didn't even waste their money on seeing snobby crap like About Schmidt or the Pianist, la de freaking da. Just like there are people who think that anyone who saw a film in a non-arthouse are populist pigs who don't appreciate fine art.


Quote:
If films with high artistic merit but lower viewership were nominated,
Lord knows the BO numbers were through the roof for Pianist(33m), Hours (42m), About Schmidt (65m), Adaptation (22m), Talk to Her (9m), Frida (26m), Far From Heaven (16m) and The Quiet American (13m). All films that had nominations in major categories of picture, acting, direction, writing. This group listed also took home 8 wins. The only BIG film that was actively competitive was Chicago, the big winner but also a loser in many of the major categories beyond the big one.


Just exactly how many films below $70m do you want nominated? Or below $40m? Or below $20m? Again, am I to assume that the minute a film makes too much money it becomes invalid to be of any quality? God forbid someone makes a film good enough to even have across the board appeal, or that a bigger star make an artistic film with some promotion.

"Good" film comes in many shapes, sizes, and genres. I think the Oscar nominations clearly represent that and the winners, while not always being my choice, come from a pretty damn good neighborhood and show a general consistency in taste from year to year.

It seemed everyone hoped for the return of the musical in a proper format (MR being too hyper for some). Then when we get it and it does decent, though not top 10 of the year box office it becomes the epitome of the "big movie" pushing out the little guys.

Jesus are people fickle.

And I thought DDL was better than Brody and I STILL have no complaints about the Oscar process in general. They sure as hell seem to cover a LOT of different types of films and different types of efforts.

I will agree that comedy, action, SF and other genre pictures are more often overlooked, but then that is true of just about every critical film society I can think of. It's not like you would run Goldmember to Cannes with your fingers crossed for a win.


Quote:
It has never been an accurate benchmark for film excellence, Citizen Kane never won Best Film, Vertigo and 2001-A Space Odyssey were never even nominated for Best Film, and those three are in the top 10 greatest films ever.
It is always a major mistake to isolate examples, especially years later.

Kane involved a political snubbing of the worst kind. The very fact that after heavy threats made against the film and its supporters by Hearst it still got some noms and even a token win says something about the artistic merit of the awards I think.

2001 didn't blow everyone out of the water in that first year and neither did Vertigo. If no one thinks its the best at the time, why should it be picked as the best? We must remember that Hitch was at one time seen as POPULIST cinema, and the Oscars help remind us of that. How we view his work has changed, and a lot of that (and the views on Welles and Kubrick) stems from the auteur theory that was just beginning in the late 50's/early 60's.

Our view of films has changed, but there are still plenty of people right here at the HTF that will tell you that the 2001 "snub" was nothing short of justice served. I happen to think the film is hypnotically wonderful, but I can understand how the Oscar winners of that year better represents the tastes in film of that time (and perhaps even today).


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