I know that I’m supposed to write a regular formatted column on Mondays but with everything that has gone on in the past few days in regards to the Oscars column I wrote last Thursday, I couldn’t resist posting a few more thoughts.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, here is the link (it's long, so pace yourself). As you can see below the actual column, there were some interesting comments posted by my good friends Paul and Heidi (along with a lengthy response from me to Paul’s comment). I was really excited when I saw Paul’s comments because I had not gone into as much depth as I wanted to because I was afraid it was going too long; but when someone was challenging me on it, I was stoked to have the opportunity to keep going.
Needless to say, beyond that posting, I have also received other spirited emails and phone calls the past few days, so I did just want to revisit the subject one last time before I move on.
Paul and I have actually had multiple discussions beyond the comments posted and he conceded some points and I conceded some points and we actually realized we really weren’t that far off in our thinking. I thought Heidi’s comments were excellent and probably represent the majority of most people’s feelings towards the Oscars.
But I want to hear from everyone else.
What are your thoughts on the Oscars? Do you care who wins best picture anymore (if ever)? Do you try to see Oscar nominated films? Have the Oscar pictures gotten too artsy and independent for you or do you really enjoy Oscar-type films?
I came to a realization during my many conversations I had with many different people over the weekend and this will be my last point.
One thing Paul was absolutely correct on was when he challenged me to name five “mainstream” films from last year that should or could have been nominated over the five that were.
I couldn’t do it.
For me, “Dan in Real Life”, “Knocked Up”, and “3:10 to Yuma” were the best films I saw last year and with the exception of maybe “Yuma”, none of the three are really "Oscar" films.
Heidi suggested “American Gangster”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. All were big budget films produced by major studios and were heavily hyped and promoted prior to their release. I don’t think that it’s a stretch that in years past, any one of these could have been nominated, but here’s the thing: other than maybe “American Gangster”, never once did you feel like these films were on their way to being nominated this year.
This got me thinking and I couldn’t help but look up what studios produced the 2008 nominated films and I kind of got my answer to this whole issue.
Of the five nominated films this year, only one (“Michael Clayton”) was produced by one of the “Big Six” Hollywood studios (Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney/Touchstone, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Universal).
The other four nominated films were all produced by the arthouse/indie subsidiaries of each studio. “No Country for Old Men” was produced by Paramount Vantage (subsidiary of Paramount) along with Miramax, “Atonement” by Focus Features (Universal), “Juno” by Fox Searchlight (20th Century Fox), and “There Will Be Blood” was also produced by Paramount Vantage (“Michael Clayton” was produced by 20th Century Fox).
This is a big shift when you think that in 2003 (not that long ago), only one of the five nominated films wasn’t produced by a major studio (“Lost in Translation”) – and I know that there have always been smaller studios producing Oscar nominated films and there has never been a year when only blockbusters have been nominated.
But this was my realization: maybe the major studios aren’t even trying to make Oscar nominated films anymore. Now that they’ve firmly established these productive arthouse subsidiaries that are credible combined with the trend of big name actors looking for “Oscar” roles, the big studios seem content to just focus on cranking out the big budget blockbusters.
It’s something to keep an eye on.
Paul wanted to see all five nominated films this year and for the most part enjoyed them. He said it was cool to see a pseudo-slasher film take home Best Picture. I, personally, had no interest in the majority of the nominated films this year. I don’t get the other growing trend with recent Best Picture films that you have to been grim and violent to win.
Does all of this diminish the quality of these films or their qualifications to be recognized?
But for someone like me, this is going to be a tough trend to swallow on Oscar nights in the future as well as when I try to go to the movie theater. As I mentioned before, I consider myself a discerning moviegoer so big budget fare like the “Spiderman” franchise isn’t going to get it done for me; but at the same time overly brooding and bleak movies aren’t what I’m looking for either.
The fact that films like “A Few Good Men”, “The Fugitive”, "Jerry Maguire" and “Quiz Show” could get an Oscar nomination in years past, it’s clear that there used to be a mainstream, yet sophisticated middle ground for moviegoers that is now fading away.