Oscars have gotten away from artistry, sadly

With the dust from the Golden Globes settling, it’s time to turn our collective consciousness to the Academy Awards.

Last week, the nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards were announced and on Feb. 22, we will all be sitting down to watch someone get played off stage just as they were getting around to the good part of their speech – you know, the part where they drunkenly call out all the people that said they would never make it, and have to be ushered to the correct side of the stage to exit.

While some will be glued to their televisions, those who have been vocal in recent years about the predictable, milquetoast choices for best picture, actor, director and screenplay will be grumbling silently with discontent.

I can’t say I blame ‘em. For example, ‘The Lego Movie,’ a film that by all accounts deserves to be at least included with the best animated feature nominees, isn’t considered. Yet a film like ‘Big Hero 6,’ which, yes, was a fun movie and cool to look at – but didn’t have the levels of context that ‘The Lego Movie’ had, is.

But because ‘Big Hero 6’ was the closest to a Pixar film this year, the superior film is ignored. If these are supposed to be awards given away for the decidedly BEST films made during the year, shouldn’t the artistic gravitas of a film count? Yes, I started my “the Academy doesn’t base their nominations on artistic merit” argument with a flippant reference to the deeper contextual meaning of ‘The Lego Movie.’ Don’t panic, I have other examples.

Somewhere between the inception of the Academy Awards and now, the awards show has turned into a lavish spectacle of dull predictability. The films for best picture, save for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ (a beautiful and fantastic film) were picked by Hollywood insiders months ago as the front runners and what the production houses are going to be campaigning come Oscar time, (Yes, actors and production companies campaign for awards. Google Jennifer Anniston, Cake + Oscar).  

The nominations for best picture may be unknown to some, but yes, These films were in theaters! With the exception of the recently wide-released American Sniper (which does not deserve it, but will win best picture), most were rolled out in small theaters or in limited cities for limited runs. Others made the film festival and small awards circuit while gathering “buzz” and being lauded as “Oscar bait.”

The nominees for best film are good films…’Birdman,’ ‘Whiplash’ and Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest’ are my dogs in this race, but I don’t expect a win. Let’s face it, ‘Whiplash’ is a tight thriller about jazz drumming, which, due to superb editing, works so well that a friend of mine had an anxiety attack while watching it – but that’s not exactly “wide audience appeal.” The same goes for Michael Keaton and ‘Birdman.’ ‘Birdman’ is a wonderful, ethereal, allegory for what we as consumers do to actors like Keaton when they get too “old” and typecast. ‘Birdman’ is a showcase for what Keaton can do. Even if he doesn’t get the win, I hope it leads to more Keaton in ’15! (Here’s me holding out for ‘Multiplicity 2’!)

 All that being said, my one elitist gripe is that the moving and brilliant ‘Obvious Child,’ written and directed by first timer Gillian Robespierre, wasn’t even considered for best screenplay. ‘Obvious Child’ is an excellent story centering on a one-night stand that leads to an abortion and the impact it has on the fantastic Jenny Slate who plays a newly single 20-something comedian in NYC. Special because it isn’t preachy or ‘indie-cute’ like ‘Juno,’ it’s real and honest, which should make the film unforgettable (Unless you are the Academy, I suppose).

For me, It comes down to the simple fact that what the Oscars should be is a celebration of the absolute best in film and I find it disheartening that the award program for the artistic medium I love, hasn’t been about the art of film in a long time. The Academy Awards now is a night where Hollywood gets to self-congratulate and count money. Then again, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch the program and yell at the screen when a film I liked didn’t win.

Nominated for Best Picture:

‘American Sniper’- Director: Clint Eastwood

‘Birdman’ or (‘The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance’) – Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

‘Boyhood’- Director: Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – Director: Wes Anderson

‘The Imitation Game’- Director: Nora Grossman

‘Selma’-Director: Christian Colson,

‘The Theory of Everything’- Director: Tim Bevan

 ‘Whiplash’ – Director: – Jason Blum


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