Home » Cinema and Television, Cultural Comment, March 2010

Os-what? Playtime Does the Oscars

11 March 2010 947 Views 3 Comments author: Playtime Staff


Let’s start with the 2010 Oscar Winners. Guys, anything to get off your chests?

Matt Schneider: None of the winners were very surprising.  I’m glad Avatar lost best picture and best director.  I’m not the biggest fan of The Hurt Locker, but I can’t seem to work up any more than a shrug.  As Armond White said, it is officially “now-overrated.”  I guess it’s just sweet to see the King of the World tossed off his throne.

Rob Prentes: Not surprised with Hurt Locker at all, again: best reviewed movie of the year, it’s been an awards darling.

Alex M: Up In the Air is nowhere near good enough to be picking up awards but it’s a diverting enough film.  I enjoyed it.

Zach Grizzell: I actually think the noms were soft this year  (I love Clooney also).

Alex M: Apart from the fact that Inglourious Basterds is a modern classic and one of the best movies of the decade, yeah….

Desmond Blackboard: I’m glad Jeff Bridges won, but in another way I’m upset because now the deluge of ‘The Dude won an Oscar’ crap will be at it’s peak for the next week or two. I’ve already had to tell three people to shut their traps about it, he didn’t win for that movie damn it!

Rob: I saw Logorama, the winner for short animated film–it’s no good. It’s a gimmick, nothing more. The story is built around the concept of cramming as much corporate logos on screen as possible. Now it shares the company of Petrov’s brilliant The Old Man and the Sea and that’s a shame.

Zach: Bright Star should have won best picture..but since it didn’t get nominated I’m glad it wasn’t avatar.


So it seems like we have some feelings about Avatar…

Desmond: I still can’t believe that Avatar was nominated for Best Cinematography. If it has actually been filmed on Pandora I could understand, but how the Samuel Langhorn Hell does a movie shot almost entirely on a green screen get a nod for this. That’s what the Best Visual Effects award is for right?  It didn’t matter where Jimmy set up the cameras, if he didn’t like something he just erased it later.

King James: ‘Action!’
Cameraman: ‘Uh, sir?’
King James: ‘What is it peasant?’
Cameraman: ‘There’s a tour group in the shot’
King James: ‘Doesn’t matter I’ll just erase them in post, MUAHHAHAHAHAHA’

Matt: So, you know how you were bitching about how stupid it was that Avatar was nominated for cinematography?  How the hell did it win?

Ellen: Avatar winning cinematography is a joke. I think that is an insult to real cinematographers.

Adam W: I predicated Avatar to win for Art Direction and Cinematography. Cynicism was the only factor in that. I have to admit, I am a little disappointed for being proven right about the reliable stupidity of the Oscar voters.

Rob: Curiosity had me looking up whether any cinematographer orgs/societies had any objections to it. The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC, though I’ve never heard of them before and not sure how influential they are) nom’ed it for best cinematography; the winner was The White Ribbon.

Matt: In all fairness, I’m sure that professional cinematographers would know better than I would what constitutes great cinematography on a technical basis.  But still.  As you just pointed out, the ASC gave its top honor to a Michael Haneke film, and the Academy’s cinematographers gave it to freakin’ Avatar.  That just doesn’t add up.


Any thoughts on Best Screenplay (Hurt Locker) / Adapted Screenplay (Precious)?

Alex: How on earth did the Hurt Locker win better SCREENPLAY over Inglourious Basterds.

Matt: I haven’t seen Precious yet, but I’m skeptical that its screenplay was better than In the Loop‘s.  I also fail to see how Mark Boal’s screenwriting skills are superior to those of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers.  Seriously, now.  The only thing that is interesting about its win is the fact that Hurt Locker‘s wins this year are pretty consistent — it appears that the writers, directors, editors, and general Academy membership are in agreement that it was a very well-constructed piece of film craftsmanship.  The membership is wrong, of course, but at least they have consistency on their side.

Desmond: I actually thought the script for The Hurt Locker was the weakest part of that film. I would rather have seen QT win that, but it seemed like the academy thought the  only recognition Inglorious Basterds deserved was Christoph Waltz, who was excellent. When they showed the clip from Precious, I found it odd that they chose to show a scene in which she steals a bucket of fried chicken. That’s the best example of screenwriting in the movie?

ric-obarry-oscar-signLet’s take a moment to reflect on The Cove’s win for Best Documentary.

Matt: It was inevitable that The Cove would win best documentary, but that’s still just irresponsible idiocy on the part of the Academy.  I haven’t seen the other four nominees, but now I’m particularly curious.  Actually, scratch that.  I just want to see one great documentary from 2009 that isn’t a disingenuous, misguided, self-aggrandizing, misleading piece of transparent propaganda that neither attempts to understand its subject, nor would be capable of understanding even if it did try.  The sad thing is that because of its win, The Cove will probably become the most widely-seen doc of the year (if it’s not already).  That’s just pathetic.

Rob: Haven’t seen The Cove, but wow, was it that bad? It seems off the top of my head with recent winners, you’ve got to do a green or environmental or war doc to win, off the topics they’ve been awarding. The non-fiction films in general sadly don’t get much attention, it’s not like with lit where fiction and non-fiction are on equal footing.

Matt: Yeah, I think The Cove is that bad.  It’s a terrible film, and anyone who applies an iota of critical thinking to it will come away with the same conclusion.  The Cove was shrewdly calculated to have crossover appeal, and it was obviously successful in that regard.  Unfortunately, the film is intellectually toxic, and its pandering assumes that its audience is full of gullible imbeciles who will swallow whatever they’re spoon-fed so long as its in the ostensible service of PROTECTING THE EARTH, when it fact it’s about catering to one man’s rather pathetic obsession with a lower life form on the food chain.  I take offense to the film’s assumption that I’m stupid enough to fall for its idiotic sophistry (which isn’t even that sophisticated, but I guess all you need to convince a bunch of wide-eyed would-be environmentalists that your cause is just is a lot of great footage showing dolphins swimming gracefully through the waves).

Rob: Absolutely scathing: I love the review.  I only wish everyone who’d voted on the film gets to read this. Actually, I think your response just now may have just sparked enough interest in me to want to go out and watch this, it never really stood out.

Matt: It’s not that I dislike films with eco-friendly messages.  It’s just that the film didn’t build a compelling case for why dolphins shouldn’t be killed, apart from the fact that they’re cute and cuddly and probably very intelligent for sea critters.  The film basically rests its case on whether or not the viewer fundamentally objects to the slaughter of animals.  On principle, I don’t.  I’m one of those callous barbarians who got to the end of Linklater’s Fast Food Nation and went, “Man.  I could really go for a nice, juicy burger right about now.”  People react to the killing of the dolphins in Taiji as if it were the equivalent of Hurricane Katrina slamming into the gulf coast.  As if a bunch of fishermen killing sea creatures is anything new, or even remotely resembling a genuine humanitarian crisis.  It’s not.

The life and death of dolphins in Japan, as far as the film goes, has absolutely nothing to do with the health of the world’s ecosystem as a whole.  In fact, the film takes a bit of time to mention the egregious amounts of pollution in the world’s oceans… only to conclude that the most heinous effect of this pollution is that — yes, Virginia — it’s hurting the dolphins.  (Oh, and people, too.  But the dolphins are better and kewter than people, so let’s just show more kewt/kuddly footage.)  We’re talking about a movie that, in all earnestness, gives face time to a surfer who claims that he felt an emotional connection with a dolphin that happened to swim near him while he was surfing.  I actually laughed out loud in the theater, which I’m sure the other three people in there didn’t appreciate.

Ellen: The Cove winning documentary is ridiculous and nauseating but I’m not surprised. I know I’ve said all of this before but I’m annoyed so I’ll say it again: as an environmentalist who has worked to conserve nature and a biologist-in-training and a person who just likes good films it appalled me that The Cove really had nothing to do with dolphins. Dolphin biology and natural history were totally absent from the film, essential things for conservationists to consider, but instead the film was entirely engrossed with what narcissistic humans thought and felt about “dolphins:”  the kewtest most magical creatures of the sea that are superior to humans in every conceivable way! Dolphins are sophisticated and remarkable predators. They deserve to be understood as they are and not as blank canvasses for humans to project their anthropomorphic ideas upon. Unfortunately, I don’t think The Cove is going to help.

Adam W: The visceral aspects of The Cove did not engage me in the film on any level beyond “Dur duhphins errrr kewt,” screamed by Ric o’Berry, “And! TEH JAPANESE KILL DOLPHINS AND DRINK THEIR BLOOD IN THEIR EVIL TEA ROOMS!” The Cove is at its best when it shows, with no lack of any self-awareness, complete bloodshed. Scenes that display a great technical effort and a daring crew, who obviously wandered away from a Michael Moore production, craving more ‘fair and balanced’ documentarians, make this a respectable, if not iffy, effort. I was trying to borrow an idea from Godard since it pertains to a point I wanted to make. Sadly, it is beyond my reach at the moment. I will do whatever I can to paraphrase his point of view. He claims an anti-war film is impossible to make since cinema’s bottom line is to entertain, rather than inform. Moments such as the infiltration of flipper-killing Bay that makes the entire gloomy film feels like an adventure movie and not a serious expose. The film’s fun soon dissipates as morning arrives and the senseless slaughter of dolphins begin.  So why were we having so much fun the night before? I question the intent of the film, although I’m sure it is honorable.

Matt: You’re right.  The film functions primarily as entertainment, only teasing us with the promise of that bloody footage.  Then it shows up, and the net effect left me feeling like I’d seen a film that aspired to be a snuff film.  The footage of the slaughter itself wasn’t even particularly bothersome.  I’ve seen butchers at work.  I’ve caught and gutted a few fish myself.  It isn’t particularly revelatory that the killing of the dolphins is bloody work.  The film makes all these assertions that the slaughter is “senseless,” even though it includes basic facts that contradict these assertions (such as the dolphins being the backbone of Taiji’s local economy — to those fishermen, the dolphins put food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads).  Instead of honestly investigating the long history of dolphin hunting in Taiji, the filmmakers demonize the fishermen.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

O’Barry commenting about how hypocritical it is to have all those murals, statues, and the museum honoring dolphins was one of the most ignorant, stupid comments in the film (and there are many).  In the end, this man and the filmmakers themselves are made out to be these crusading heroes.  It’s pure self-aggrandizement. I’m sure that PETA heartily approves of this film, because nothing is more fun than ignorantly demonizing tradition and ignoring substantive issues of culture, economics, and ethics in favor of sensationalist horseshit.

Desmond: Wow, this Cove movie seems to have a lot of haters. If it’s as bad as everyone says it is, I can’t believe it won. Oh wait, yes I can. It was obviously the only one most of the voters know about or had seen.  One of the producers held up a sign on stage saying ‘Text Dolphin to ….’ and then the number. Did anyone see that or text it in? I couldn’t find my phone or I would have done it just to see what the heck it was about.


Final Thoughts on the 2010 Oscars?

Rob: Considering it now, I think outside of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King that The Hurt Locker is my pick for the best ‘ best picture’ of the last ten years.

Daniel Davis: I love the Oscars and everything they stand for, especially the Red Carpet celebration of fashion.  It’s so awesome to see these amazing stars in their fabulous clothes, and listen to them talk.  I value their opinions far more than I do any of the posters here, simply because they are better than all of us because they are rich and can afford great clothes.  I love the masturbatory celebration of Hollywood, the greatest place on earth.  Because of them, their awesome fashion, stunning hair cuts, and larger than life personalities, life is worth living.

Rob: I don’t watch the show because frankly it’s an egotistical meat parade, not my style, though you can’t deny the awards themselves elevates films and actors and producers from its recognition and media blitz. It brings awareness on these movies (which was my chief praise against those who thought five best film noms was enough) as well as signifying a resume-making moment in the careers of those who came from obscurity to hit one out of the ballpark. Now actors like Christoph Waltz and Vera Farminga and so on won’t have to wait and wait to get first pick of future roles, the desirable roles now will come to them in part thanks to the recognition of a silly, self-important show.

oscarsonredcarpetWhich “Best Picture” Oscar decisions do you agree with from the past fifty years?

Rob: From the 1960s, or my favorite decade for movies: Midnight Cowboy: yes! Lawrence of Arabia: yes! The Sound of Music: yes! Thank you.  The Apartment: yes! A Man for All Seasons: YES!!! Finishing it off with the decades before–although I hadn’t seen much from its year, I doubt any film is better than Kazan’s On the Waterfront. The Best Years of Our Lives deserves its own country, let alone a golden statue and the title of best film.

Matt: Way too long of a list for me to survey completely. If I don’t count the films that weren’t even nominated, I’d say that in the recent years, I think 2002 (Chicago), 2003 (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), and 2007 (No Country For Old Men) were years where my favorite film of the five Best Picture nominees won the Oscar, although I also loved The Hours and Lost in Translation.

Rob: No Country for Old Men deserves Best Film title for its year, same with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King although The Return is as good. (Though unfortunately probably not nominated for foreign film.) I don’t disagree much with Ridley Scott’s Gladiator winning; that was a poor year for quality.

Adam W: Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virgnia Woolf? Such a fearless performance, she is a true horror to see on film.

Rob: Since LOTR: ROTK — and with the exception of Crash — I think they as a crowd have tended to get it right with winners. I didn’t mind The Departed although I would’ve preferred a few others. No Country For Old Men was a good win. I’m not sure which winners were critical darlings when they came out yet lost esteem as the years went on, though I don’t think that’d be the case with The Hurt Locker should it win; it’s the best reviewed film of last year.

Alex M: Crash was a good movie.  Not a great movie perhaps, but a good one. After Lord of the Rings, Crash is probably the best Oscar winner best picture winner of recent times.

Matt: For what it is, I even sort of like Crash.  But the film just isn’t that great.  It’s a lightweight fantasy, and should be treated as such.

Rob: Agreed with Crash. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard a better summation for that film than “lightweight fantasy”, although I find it a decent, at least enjoyable movie if not frustrating at times. (Terrence Howard’s story was for me the strength of the movie.)

Alex: There are better films out there than Crash.  It’s a little heavy handed at points and I do think it’s fair to say a little forthright and obvious with its message (quite why it’s detractors don’t feel the same way about Traffic is beyond me….), but it’s got a good, imaginative script, some fine acting performances and it’s a pretty easy, enjoyable watch.  It entirely beats me why this was such a controversial Oscar decision for so many people, given that it’s one of the few occasions where the Academy have picked a movie that’s halfway decent.  It may not be brilliant, but it’s alright.

samuelljacksonLet’s Talk Best Picture from the 90s.

Rob: The Silence of the Lambs I think deserved it, same with Unforgiven and probably even Forrest Gump as a modern American classic. I didn’t realize that film had its detractors until the internet became a hobby.

Matt: 1994 is a poster child year for the ways in which the Academy gets it so, so wrong when they have every chance of getting it right.  Forrest Gump is not even a good film, let alone a great film.  It’s a mawkish, bloated, unintentionally cynical, myopic, un-ironic melodrama pastiche that coasts entirely upon a solid Tom Hanks performance (a performance that I’m not even sure was in tune with the script, but since it’s the only thing that holds the film together, I’ll let that slide).  The Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, and Pulp Fiction are all better films than Forrest Gump.  By far.  So far that you can only measure the distance from space.

Daniel Davis: Pulp Fiction could win best picture every year, and I’d be OK with that.

Matt: Pulp Fiction, man.  For the sake of posterity, it should have owned ’94.  For the sheer brilliance of the film, it should have owned that award.

Rob: Forrest Gump is a strong film that resonated with many. It has its detractors, but was well-received and an enormous hit with audiences and critics when it came out. It’s still holding firm with high imdb/meta-critic ratings, for what it’s worth. I’m saying this because you may not like it, but it’s popularity and acclaim is out there, and I think more than Pulp Fiction it’s a more accessible film speaking to a wider audience.

Matt: And as far as Pulp Fiction is concerned, invoking Imdb and Metacritic pretty much solidifies my case.  Forrest Gump is ranked 37; Pulp Fiction is ranked 5 on Imdb’s Top 250.  Gump doesn’t even rank on Metacritic’s best-reviewed movies list, but PF is #10.  (Pulp Fiction has a higher score, too.)  I won’t argue that one film was designed for mass appeal whereas another wasn’t.  So obviously on that level, Gump is a bigger success. But as for which one is the better film, posterity has shown rather decisively.  Quentin Tarantino continues to be a relevant, controversial director who may or may not make great films, but he has managed to continue to inspire passionate debate about cinema, history, storytelling, technique, etc.  Robert Zemeckis, on the other hand, stopped being anything but a pathetic joke after Cast Away.  As I said, ’94 is a poster child year for how the Academy can get things so, so wrong when they had every chance of getting everything right.  But they didn’t.

This is probably abundantly clear, but Gump is a film I’ve grown to hate more with each passing year.  Ask me about it again next year, and I may call it one of the worst films ever made.  At first, I actually kinda-sorta liked it.

Rob: With Gump, though, it was a distinct American journey through a transformative period in the country’s history. He’s an innocent engaged in many fantastical stories taking him around the country and even into Vietnam. I though the humor was as important as the dramatic elements, it keeps the film in a tonal equilibrium which contributes to his charm. I’ve heard the arguments before, how it’s a more conservative film glorifying the soldier and demonizing the counter-culture movement through Jenni’s exploits, dishonest for doing so, though I have yet to come across a film which didn’t manipulate in any way. It also promotes the distorted view that one could succeed and thrive in life through circumstance and with no education, which is sound criticism, and really, one I couldn’t invalidate. But it is a ridiculous movie, almost an American fantasy given the breadth of all that Gump has done and all he’s met and the opportune fortune he finds himself. It works best as a fable, I think, maybe like a bedtime story with sections being told of how a simpleton finds himself in adventure, and along the way becomes a sort of everyman protagonist.

Matt: Calling a film a “fable” seems a bit of a flimsy defense.  It’s not always apt, and I think a lot of films hide behind it as an excuse to take a lazy or thoughtless route in filmmaking.  James Cameron with Avatar, for example.  Paul Haggis with Crash.  I’m not criticizing the film for being conservative.  I’m criticizing it for taking momentous events in American history, and trying to present them both as observed from the sidelines and in their midst.  The sad thing is, I think that’s how most people experience life — as passive observers and participants at the same time — but the whimsy in Gump is just sickening.  It reduces everything to a snot-colored nostalgia where, hey, life may be poignant and sucky, but it’s okay as long as you float through it with a box full of idiotic bon mots and a syrupy Suthun’ drawl.  It celebrates pretty much everything with the same fantastical reverence while the scenes being staged are actually rather acidic.  This is just a terrible imbalance.  Robert Zemeckis can direct drama and comedy quite well, but he leans waaaay too heavily on the schmaltz, which is completely wrong for the material.  Instead of being barbed, the more satiric moments are quirky or just grating.  (Forrest speaking to the Vietnam protest is just a horrendous moment in cinema and pop culture.)  It’s a film full of easy gags and a fundamentally dysfunctional romance between two people who are so wrong for each other there is absolutely nothing plausible or sweet about it — and yet it’s the linchpin of the film.  Fucking incredible.  The fact that the American “Everyman” is an undereducated, apathetic semi-retard is something with which I wish I could take offense, but the fact that it did resonate so soundly with Americans is probably the most cynical victory of the entire project.

Rob: Keen analysis. It’s one I didn’t expect re: reflecting life as passive observers and participants. He does unwittingly prove himself at college football, but again that’s accidental and plays more into the comedy of Gump. His life does seem to carry on from episode to episode with significant events sprinkled in, those events he didn’t have much of a hand in creating, only observing, but things like him meeting a pre-famous Elvis or sitting beside John Lennon in a tv interview, or at those numerous presidential visits, those were all played primarily for laughs. He’s floating through life in many instances, far-fetched as they are (he invented the “have a nice day” tag), but there is a level of merit to them with Gump constantly running, ergo becomes an exceptional RB in college ball, or his exploits in Vietnam. Given all he’s done, his life is like a living fantasy (Medal of Honor winner, too, I think, and millionaire thanks to Lieutenant Dan having him invest in “an apple company.” I can see being offended by the film’s declaration that one could succeed like him the manner he had, though I don’t think the film takes itself seriously enough to where we would think his journey a realistic one, or even a reasonable one. It’s plausible again to the extent a fantasy is; otherwise we’d be arguing the plausibility of his running through deserts with no sign of carrying water.

Matt: We should mention that ’94 was such a sterling year for world cinema that the Academy couldn’t help nominating films like Three Colors: Red, Eat Drink Man Woman, and Before the Rain.  (But oh dear me those could never be considered “best picture,” because — Dear Lord — how could we ever seriously nominate a non-English language film for BEST picture; what poppycock!  We must never cast our net that wide!  Heaven knows that all the BEST films are made in Hollywood by the people who hire the best PR firms!)  Hoop Dreams — one of the most popular documentary films in history — was not even nominated for Best Doc.  It lost its only nomination, Best Editing, to (you guessed it) Forrest Gump.  Gump is a film that should be considered an embarrassment by virtually everyone connected with it.  In a sane world, it would be considered a mediocre prestige picture that swept up a gaggle of Oscar noms on marketing and pedigree alone, but lost to obviously worthier films.  Instead, it’s a multiple-Oscar winning “modern classic.”  Fuck.

Rob: I liked HD, though I think it’s a bit oversold at the moment; I think the Chicago critics really hyped it into exposure with the locale underscoring area poverty, but it’s not this ground-breaking picture. Not much different from the ongoing Up series, their affluence and privilege contrasting the systemic poverty with bleak options from southern or western Chicago.

Moving on from Forest Gump & Pulp Fiction…

Alex M: I enjoyed Schindler’s List a lot when I saw it, but now if you asked me to sit down and watch it again I’d probably look at you blankly.  My ire for Spielberg has mellowed now I no longer post on RT, I think that his movies are generally “alright” but nothing special. When all is said and done there’s no real reason to care about his body of work other than that Jaws was an important FX movie.  Schindler’s List put Spielberg’s abundance of humanist optimism to good use though.

Rob: It wasn’t much of an optimistic movie, at least I didn’t think so. There are so many murders and atrocities and so many of the characters had lost their humanity–though in the midst of this low point in human history is someone who recognizes the value of life well enough to risk his own to save them. It’s a good story; I think Spielberg captured it well enough. Yet I do have some qualms with the doctored scenes (thought they were a bit much, like his speech at the end being unnecessary given the weight of his own real-life actions).

Alex M: Of course it’s optimistic — about human nature — it’s an account of how one man put everything on the line to save some from getting murdered.  I’m not citing that as a bad thing. Usually I think Spielberg floods his movies with emotion and this kind of message to excess, but here I thought that (whilst it wasn’t subtle) it was rather moving.  Likewise I was rather impressed with the girl in the red dress scene… easily one of Spielberg’s more inspired moments.

Rob: I’m the same way with Schindler’s List, there are still little things about the film that continue to haunt. (The little boy smiling, making a cut-throat gesture with his finger to the Jews on the train, ah geez.)

Rob: Out of curiosity, Matt, what’d you think of Unforgiven, Silence of the Lambs and Schindler’s List? (I know they have nothing to do with each other besides what they were awarded.)

Matt:  I think all three are outstanding films.   I’ve only been able to watch Schindler’s List once, because it was a rather trying experience.  The others I’ve seen multiple times, and they get better with repeat viewings. I’d have to look further into what else came out those years before saying I think they’re actually the best pictures of their respective years.  I far prefer JFK over The Silence of the Lambs, but that’s no knock on Lambs.

Alex M: Silence of the Lambs is a repulsive piece of shit and that it’s used as a poster movie for feminism makes me both laugh and cry.  I can’t believe the same director just made Rachel Getting Married.

Rob: It is a feminist movie, though; how isn’t it? It’s a woman in an old boy’s club institution, an outsider there, and succeeding through her own intelligence and capabilities. She’s the one who physically nabs the serial murderer “Buffalo” Bill, going into the lion’s den herself putting her life on the line. Notice, as she jogs by in the opening credits near Quantico, I think, and a group of men jog past ogling her: that happens. There’s a belief women shouldn’t be allowed in these institutions, servicemen have said that, too, and it’s no surprise the cops in small-town West Virginia have their eyes fixed on her like she doesn’t belong. (Which of course she makes it a point she does, and moments later taking charge in that scene directing them where to go.)

Alex M: I am calling names but then I think I have a right to call names against a movie that flat out hates transgendered people (which I guess carries a strong streak of homophobia to it).  On top of that the idea that Lambs is a feminist movie is a joke.  it’s a typical case of let’s present a strongish woman to highlight where she fails, not succeeds.  She spends the entire movie playing second fiddle and being afraid of Lector, the “real” hero of the movie and then she stumbles around and falls in the dark at the end like a dozy moron.

Unforgiven is such a non-event of a movie I don’t really understand why people talk about it in ways other than “yeah, I quite liked Unforgiven“  sort of like “yeah, I quite liked Dances with Wolves” or “I quite liked  The Aviator” or whatever.  I didn’t resent the time I spent with it at all but I was left scratching my head looking for its greatness.  it’s nice that people so desperately want Eastwood to be an icon but for me his own self will always be overshadowed by his performances in the 60s, which are his true towering achievements.

Rob: [Eastwood's] clearly an icon already, though I think it’s what he’s made that has given rise to that title he’s earned.

Alex M: That came out all dyslexic..Yes he is an icon.

Rob: I didn’t think much of Eastwood as a director at all until I’d watched Unforgiven like ten or so years ago, and even then it seemed like he was a one-and-done director when it came to great films. That perception vanished somewhat with Mystic River, then with MDB I saw he has it in him for consistency. And of course next was Letters from Iwo Jima, one of the great masterpieces of this generation which I know you’ll disagree with. Even Gran Torino was one of the most enjoyable theater experiences I’ve had, and over the holidays a couple months back I’d shown that to my uncle (first time viewing it) and that second viewing was probably as great as the first — especially with his really taking to it.

Alex M: Eastwood’s late directorial career is one of the most over-hyped things out there.  I gave up with it after Iwo Jima anyway… that and Mystic River were about as plain as they come and Million Dollar Baby, whilst moving and well acted didn’t really stand out directorially.  He’s very much a point and shoot kind of guy and he’s unable to use the camera to aesthetically add to the movie experience.  That’s an aesthetic in itself of course but unfortunately because his subjects and stories tend to be quite heavy handed it all adds to create a fairly bland movie experience.  I don’t think any of his films are bad, they’re alright…  I think that Unforgiven is better than his more recent body of work by a long shot, actually.

Final Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

Rob: There was a nice Times article today about this subject: “Do the Oscars Undermine Artistry?” In the article, film history Maria Elena de Las Carerras raises a keen point: “French writer and cultural minister André Malraux once noted that cinema is an industry that sometimes disguises itself as art. The paradox at the heart of film – an object manufactured for mass consumption as well as a thing of beauty capturing the human experience – is also one embedded in the Academy itself.”

My answer: awards and art are by virtue of their constitution antonymous with each other. Though are the movies being rewarded with Oscars because they’re art, or because it’s an industry? The Oscars are, as George C. Scott commented a “pony show” (he opted out of going to be awarded best actor in favor of watching a hockey game), ergo I think it’s the industry rewarding itself with honors, which in turn they use to lobby viewers together towards their freshly advertised Oscar-nominated (or -winning) films. It’s great for marketing, tremendous for the actors and films who are nominated. People pay attention to the Oscars; it’s not a bad thing.

Matt: In its history, the Academy has recognized a lot of stellar films, many of which were probably the actual best films of their respective years.  And I’m not anti-crowd-pleaser films.  I enjoy mainstream entertainment, and sometimes, if done right, those films are just purely great.  But sometimes I think the Academy panders a bit to its perception of the movie-going public by handing out awards to films and people that will either be entirely forgotten in time, or a thorough embarrassment.  I mean, how many people are still talking about Scent of a Woman or The Prince of Tides?  If anything, I think Scent of a Woman is probably the film where people pinpoint the beginning of Al Pacino’s descent from powerhouse to self-parody.

Looking Ahead to the next Roundtable: “Were the 90s a bad period for film?”

Rob: I agree what what you’re saying, though, with what the Academy has historically rewarded. Overall, I think the ’90s were terrible years for film, though, and the earlier years didn’t have many films that really stood out.

Alex M: I don’t know why you’d cite the 90s as a bad period for film particularly.  I daresay it’s no better or worse than any other period–it was certainly a good time for American independent cinema whilst it was one of the weakest modern periods for blockbuster movies.

Daniel Davis: The ’90s were great for cinema, especially American Indie cinema, and Hong Kong cinema.  Hong Kong cinema in the ’90s was amazing, the only decade better in HK was the ’70s.

Edited by Tracy McCusker.

Leave your response!