Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

The Future has a way of Arriving Unannouced.

So I’ve been avoiding this topic seeing as it’s all sort of up in the air right now, but it has been eating at my brain and I’ve just got to get it out.  The topic is, of course, Oscars.  Now I really don’t know what’s going on with the Oscars, as far as I’ve heard right now they are on.  I know the Academy is trying to barter with the writers to let them happen without a hitch, if this doesn’t work, the Screen Actors Guild will not attend.  That means that there will be no movie stars at the Oscars.  They will still happen and be broadcast, but the presenters will basically be studio big wigs (a.k.a. the ugly people who no one wants to see, but who are in charge of getting movies made).  That’s what I know so far and no, there is no end in sight to the strike.  

But that is not what I want to talk about.  I’ve alluded to this topic before, but really this year there’s no avoiding it.  We need to discuss the fact that the indie film has triumphed at the Oscars.  In fact, this year more than any other, the indie film has triumphed in the box office as well as at the awards ceremonies.  Scrolling through the list of Oscar Nominations, there are maybe a handful of nominations in the big categories (that would be acting, writing, directing, and best picture) that are studio movies.  There are actually four to be exact (Johnny Depp, Best Actor for Sweeney Todd, Ruby Dee, Best Supporting Actress for American Gangster, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Best Supporting Actor for Charlie Wilson’s War, and Brad Bird for Best Original Screenplay for Ratatoullie).  
The past couple years have seen a big increase on the amount of independent films that have been nominated for Academy Awards (not to mention Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Directors Guild America Awards, etc).  Last year I believe I mentioned that there were an unprecedented amount of nominated indie films, but last year also had The Departed, Dreamgirls, Blood Diamond, etc, all of which were big studio movies.  This year, the only studio movies that had a shot were Charlie Wilson’s War and American Gangster (you know Ridley Scott thought he had the Oscars won, but alas, the times they are a-changing), both of which were good (I especially loved Charlie Wilson’s) it’s just that they weren’t great.  There’s just no competing with No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood.  
The big ‘Oscar’ movie this year was supposed to be Atonement.  It’s got everything an Oscar movie is supposed to be.  Sweeping romance, tragedy, a five+ minute steadicam shot through the beaches at Dunkirk (this shot alone is worth the price of admission), and a twist ending that leaves the audience both shocked and thoroughly gut-wrenched.  Atonement was compared to Titanic (which is still tied with All About Eve with the most nominations of all time; 14 to be exact), a decade old Oscar favorite, it was touted as the best picture of the year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (they give the Golden Globes), but come Oscar nomination time it garnered no nominations for acting or directing.  Now, I personally loved Atonement an think that Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy should have been nominated, but whatever, they wouldn’t have won anyway.  What really matters is that Atonement is an independent film.  Focus Features made it.  They made other indie favorites like Brokeback Mountain, Lost in Translation and Monsoon Wedding.  And this movie was being touted as an Oscar favorite.  
After the Golden Globes I was pretty certain Atonement would sweep for Oscar Nominations, though I didn’t think it would win a lot of them, I was sure it would be nominated in all major categories, but it wasn’t.  That means that films like Michael Clayton and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly made a showing in the big categories.  But the fact of the matter is this is the year where quality movie making finally matters.  It really matters, there aren’t any pity nominations (you know, the we snubbed you so many times we’re going to give it to you this time…hello, Martin Scorsese last year).  There aren’t any token big blockbuster nominations (which have been the staple for pretty much the entire life of the Academy).  This year, more than ever, it’s about quality. 
I’m not arguing that it wasn’t about quality before, it was just about quality and market appeal and money and all that stuff.  But this year too, the independent movie has made a bit of a comeback at the box office.  There’s always one or two indie films that are big hits at the box office, but this year it seems like most of them are holding steady at the box office.  Sure the winner is, hands down, Juno (which has recently surpassed the $100 million mark – pretty good for a film that only took $2 million to make), but No Country, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Michael Clayton all made a decent amount of money at the box office.  I think it’s finally getting to the point where America, on the whole appreciates a good film.  
So I’ll digress for just a moment and say that though I’m optimistic I heart a disturbing statistic the other day that stated the average American sees 7 films a year.  I want to know who these people are.  I see 7 films in a month or so.  I’m guessing the people who see 7 a year are the same people that made ‘Night at the Museum’ a huge financial success.  
Anyway, come oscar night there will be many certainties.  Daniel Day-Lewis, Diablo Cody, The Coen Brothers, Javier Bardem will all walk away with a golden statue (or they’ll have it sent to them, depending on what happens with the strike).  Best Picture is up in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Atonement wins that (and I won’t be disappointed – I don’t think it was the Best Picture of the year, but I don’t know if the Academy has changed enough to give it to No Country for Old Men).  One more certainty this year: independent films have finally received the respect they deserve.  
Peace, Love, and Independent Cinema,

Julia

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February 4, 2008 - Posted by | Awards Shows, Coen Brothers, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies, Oscars

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