Monday, February 26, 2007

Down with Oscar the Grouch

So there it is. “The Departed” was chosen as the best motion picture of 2006, and I was, rarely, validated in my pick for the top category. At least I don't have to eat a newspaper article for breakfast.

But more truthfully, 15 of my 24 picks were wrong. Poster Chris-Brad missed only 13 of 24 (getting 11 correct).

Yet again, my taste doesn’t measure up to the Academy’s. And I’m completely at peace with that.

You see, there is a wonderful process about the Oscars, or about any public exhibition of taste-making. We, the movie-theater potatoes, pick our favorites. We make blind judgments about the ones we haven't seen. We often disagree with critics and friends. We argue. We hope. We settle into the couch on Oscar night and keep a mental tab on how we're doing. Some of our picks pan out. Most don’t. And most of us go to bed knowing we don’t have the world figured out, and realize we never will.

I have watched enough of these movies, and enough of these Oscar shows, to know that taste is undeniably personal.

My brother called me tonight, and my mother called me Friday, and told me “The Departed” was a “horrible movie” and a “terrible movie.” Sure, I loved the Scorsese flick and waxed poetic about it. My family and I disagreed, and I don’t disagree with their right to disagree with me.

I consider our points of contention as part of the party, part of the pain, and all of the reward. When we talk about movies, we learn something, albeit obliquely, about the peculiarities of each other’s way of seeing.

On a basic critical level, the movie is the industrialized world's most commonly accepted indicator of the quality of a person's taste. There is no other art form like cinema that inspires so many people to disagree so openly. For this reason alone, it’s important to pay close attention to what your friends and family think, if only to make Friday nights at the multiplex more illuminating.

The process of refining taste offers a vital connection to like and unlike minds. By debating a movie's merits, I learn just as much about film form as I do about forming opinions.

There is little point in being right in my taste. Confident assertions are essential, but there is nothing to be gained by out-arguing a perceived opponent. I talk about movies in the hope of seeing through them through different eyes. I want to know why someone says, “I believe in this.”

So for 2007, I will continue to take interest in those impassioned cellphone calls to friends or heated exchanges with my mother. I will continue to subject my taste to others' scrutiny. I will rest assured that my bizarrely hurt feelings will heal by filling my movie-going hours with more and more questions.

I'll take solace in the license to be wrong, and seek comfort in our pursuit to learn more.


Chris said...

I had two sets of picks. Ones I wanted to win and those that I expected to win.

I ultimately batted a 19 out of 24. Even though I didn't agree with some who won- I still guessed them :P

I didn't guess Best Supporting Actress at all. Who thought the Academy would give that away to an American Idol looser? Especially in her first film- which wasn't all that great. Maybe it was because the movie wasn't all that great that made her look so good. I dunno.

I didn't guess best doc- though I should have. I was rooting for My Country, My Country or Jesus Camp. But since Gore was there- he had to make a scene and a statement.

I also didn't guess Best Achievement in Visual Effects. Even though I loved Pirates and the superb job ILM did, I expected Superman Returns to win in the end.

I missed Best Achievement in Sound. My attribution of winner was Apocalypto.

And lastly, Original Score. I missed Babel expecting Notes on a Scandal or Pan's Labyrinth to win.

My actual picks for who I thought should have one were really slim. I only batted an 11 out of 24.

Why can't I get over the fact that what's her face (Jennifer Hudson) who has never appeared before in a motion picture got one up on Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal) or Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)? It boggles the mind.

Chris-Brad said...


You have at least this one person on your side. "The Departed" was the best of the nominated films (despite my pick of another flick to win). I still maintain that "Children of Men" was the best film of last year...but that is another argument!

I, too, have heard from a lot of friends and family about how "The Departed" was a bad film. At first I was dumbstruck by those statements. But I eventually convinced myself that it was likely the way the story unfolds that turned them off. The way the plot unspools was indeed tedious and jumped here and there. There are lots of folks who do not like movies that flow like that. There is also the issue of the graphic language and violence. Again, lots of people do not like films that feature content like "The Departed." I, myself, have been turned off by flicks that have what I consider to be too much sex, violence, and language. Most of the time it was all a way to overshadow a lacking script and performances. But sometimes I will later realize that it was necessary to the film --- that it somehow fit. I bet that a lot of those who are currently bashing "The Departed" because of these reasons will one day realize that they were wrong and see that "The Departed" was a great film.

I also agree with your sentiments about film. Most of my friends do not understand why I love movies so much. But you really made sense with your comments.

And a quick question...

Have you seen "Infernal Affairs," the Asian flick that "The Departed" was based on? Wow! Now I wonder if we will see a few sequels of "The Departed" seeing as there are three "Infernal Affairs" flicks...

Chris said...

Oh, I also forgot to mention that I almost peed my pants when I saw Spielberg and Coppola walk out on stage. I almost peed again when I saw Lucas standing there. I thought- wait a second, he has never won- someone made a boo boo.

But of course, he has lived under the shadows of the other two for far too long. Now that Scorsese has won an Oscar, maybe Lucas can try again to direct and maybe he will win- maybe...

Or maybe not. Like the song at the beginning of the night with Will Farrel and Jack Black said- the Academy will never recognize some people. One of those people is George Lucas. Even though Star Wars won a lot, he himself will probably never win an Oscar for best director. Not saying that he should have in the past- but I can't think of anything Lucas would direct again to be so groundbreaking as Star Wars and get people to look at it without comparing it to the popular saga. In short- if he didn't win for the original Star Wars he won't win ever.

Chris said...

We see a lot of films recently come out with what some would call coarse language and graphic volience that are getting recognition. In the last two Oscar years alone we have The Departed, Crash- both Best Picture winners...

Pan's Labyrinth,
Little Miss Sunshine,
Half Nelson, Brokeback Mountain, Syriana...

Not to mention that harsh language is somehow almost always a staple amongst indy films. As chris-brad said- as if to cover up for bad acting or writing. It really doesn't. Cursing- like in conversation- has to fit to be accepted (if you will). You can't just throw it around willy nilly.

JaneDoughnut said...

I though Jennifer Hudson's genuine gratitude was the highlight of a blatantly politicized Oscar ceremony.

Alexandyr Kent said...

I liked the Clint Eastwood/Ellen MySpace moment. Apparently, Mr. Spielberg has lost his touch as a camera operator.

I also dug the Jack Black/Will Ferrell cry-me-an-Oscar number.

Kathryn Usher said...

I wish I could say something witty about the Oscars but I just got back from Factory Girl and I have to go walk my dog while I think about Factory Girl. I'm not very good at multi-tasking.

Oh, wait, I got an Oscar comment. I liked the "color commentary" provided by the gal and guy as the winners walked to the stage. They had soothing tones to their deliveries. And I liked when the dancers formed themselves into penguins...and the musical number celebrating everyone nominated... and when Clint got all confused then admitted he should have worn his glasses but redeemed himself when he translated what the scorer guy was saying.