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Friday, March 03, 2006

The Times When I Felt Betrayed By The Oscars.

Despite having followed the Oscars since I was a mere child (the earliest Oscar I recall is the one when Dances With Wolves swept through everything), I've never been truly passionate about its results, merely make notes on the films I would watch after they've won an Oscar. Some would say that the Academy Awards are meaningless, and that no one gives a shit about it because it's like some meaningless awards show meant to reward highbrow arthouse films (of course, people only gave a shit when films that actually appeal to the masses were nominated, like Titanic, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and the LoTR films, these films made such a huge impact that everyone would start tuning into the Oscars, rooting for it to win).

What do I think of the Oscars? Not exactly THE precursor for quality, but definitely something meaningful. Just like how athletes aim to win Olympic medals, football teams aim to win World Cup titles, tennis players aim to win their numerous tournaments, I think of the Oscars as something like that for films, hence my excitement during awards season every year. And things are certainly heating up. Over in Malaysia, people are paying slightly more attention on this year's Oscars mostly because of Brokeback Mountain, everyone's waiting to see Ang Lee becoming the first Asian director to win Best Picture and Best Director (it's pretty much what the Chinese media had been following the whole time, and yes, I sincerely believe that they would've been rather indifferent if Brokeback Mountain's NOT directed by a Chinese guy, but that's another story). Of course, for the same reason, I am rooting for Brokeback Mountain to win too, despite the US media and film bloggers suddenly trying to make it seem as if Crash would really have a chance (besides, Roger Ebert is predicting for it to win too, and being one of the most influential and famous film critics around, that can be quite worrying for all Brokeback bandwagoners fans. But anyway, besides the gazillions of Asians rooting for Brokeback Mountain, another person who will not be happy with Crash's victory will be Matt Zoller Seitz, critic of New York Press (speaking of him, I gotta do my Robert Altman entry as soon as possible!), definitely check out his er, opinion about Crash here. Really worth a read.

"If this movie wins Best Picture, the statutette should be headless."
- Matt Zoller Seitz on Crash.

As for what I think, well, I did enjoy Crash a lot (my rambling review here), I think it's a good and entertaining movie, but I've never expected it to be Oscar material. So yeah, I'll be slightly unhappy if it wins instead of a cultural phenomenon like Brokeback Mountain that will become part of film history, the type of movie people will still talk about years from now. So, since the Oscars is held DURING MY BIRTHDAY (6th of March, Malaysian/Perth time), I certainly wouldn't want something to dampen my spirits.

And now that I'm talking about the possibility of the Oscars screwing up, I am reminded of this entry by Edward Copeland, when he recounts the numerous times he felt betrayed by the Oscars.

"1995 may have been another lowpoint for Oscar, not only because Braveheart won but because the field was so weak that my favorite film may have been about a pig that herded sheep."
- Edward Copeland on 1995 Oscars and Babe.
Unlike Edward, I'm not going to cover the 40s to the 90s since the Oscar results didn't mean much to me then, but they started to hold some special significance during 1999 (the year after Titanic) when I got to see more Oscar-nominated films and betting the results with Sebastian, a friend of mine (just who will buy who lunch, that's all). And so, my gripes will begin from the 72nd Oscars (1999) to last year's 77th Oscars. These are the numerous moments when I am absolutely UNHAPPY with the results.

72nd Oscars (1999) = This one is a good year for me. American Beauty won the big ones while Matrix won the second most amount of awards (it swept all technical awards), so there's not much complaint. Michael Caine's Best Supporting Actor win (over Tom Cruise for Magnolia, Jude Law for Talented Mr Ripley, Michael Clarke Duncan for Green Mile and Haley Joel Osment for Sixth Sense) was unexpected, but he gave such a gracious speech that his victory became a feel-good story.

73rd Oscars (2000) = As good as Gladiator was, I was rooting more for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to win Best Picture (... being a Chinese film). Unfortunately, Ang Lee didn't even get either Best Picture or Best Director despite being one of the hot favourites then (Steven Soderbergh won for Traffic, not that he didn't deserve it, of course). But the one that bothered me most was when Russell Crowe won Best Actor for Gladiator instead of Tom Hanks in Castaway. I never expected an action hero to win, and I just thought that Tom Hanks was amazing by keeping a film interesting despite being a one-man show most of the time, and making us all, er, feel something for an inanimate object ("WILSON! WILSON!")
The recent Oscars have put Miss Merina to sleep.
74th Oscars (2001) = Fellowship of the Ring losing to A Beautiful Mind? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? And when I was finally rooting for Russell to win Best Actor (I was THAT blown away by his acting in A Beautiful Mind), DENZEL WASHINGTON WON??? (so, he was badass in the film... but Best Actor?) Basically, my mood was ruined when Fellowship of the Rings didn't win any of the big ones (not even Best Director????? Sheesh, 20 years from now, not many would remember A Beautiful Mind as much as LoTR, mark my words). Shrek winning over Monster Inc. for Best Animated Film annoyed me too. (I cheered happily when The Invincibles won over Shrek 2, as much as the Shrek films entertain me, I always felt that they are overrated)

75th Oscars (2002) = No problems with the acting awards (well, okay, maybe I've hoped that Julianne Moore would win something since I thought she was great in both The Hours and Far From Heaven). I rooted for The Two Towers, after being BLOWN AWAY by the battle at Helm's Deep, but I knew it wouldn't win the big one since it wasn't nominated for that many categories. From then onwards, I knew that the Academy were so 'highbrow' that fantasy masterpieces like the LoTR films will never be given the chance. Chicago was fun and exhilarating... but Best Picture material? Hell, come on, I don't think it'll be remembered ten years from now either, I don't even remember that much of it now (except for, erm, Richard Gere's tapdancing, and the one where he was manipulating the press).

76th Oscars (2003) = I was wrong. The Academy was actually waiting until this year to reward everything to the LoTR trilogy. It made a record-breaking sweep of 11 out of 11 nominated awards. Nothing that bothered me, I was rooting more for Bill Murray to win Best Actor for Lost in Translation, but Sean Penn was really great in Mystic River, so can't really complain much, just a sad feeling that Bill Murray might not be nominated again.

77th Oscars (2004) = Why? WHY? WHY?????? Sideways was robbed! Yeah, so Million Dollar Baby is sad, and everyone wept when old Clint put poor paralyzed Hilary out of her misery, but damn it, Sideways should've won! It was a beautiful, poetic, bittersweet, heartwarming film! Paul Giamatti... not even nominated in such a great performance in Sideways? And Johnny Depp was nominated for cruising through Finding Neverland? Aaargh! Basically, I was rooting for Sideways to win the big ones since it was by far my favourite of the nominated films (Million Dollar Baby was just another 'sad angsty film', The Aviator was just another 'big-budget Martin Scorsese film that's interesting and better than Gangs of New York, but that's it', Ray was, well, another biopic, and Finding Neverland... YET ANOTHER BIOPIC? All it got was the Best Adapted Screenplay award, hmph. Comedies just don't get that much love in the Academy Awards. People have to go for the tearjerker, the greek tragedy, the one where the protagonist dies (points at Gladiator), I felt betrayed. Damn you, Oscars, DAMN YOOOOOUUUUU!

I am so losing my rationality. So, I wonder whether this year's Oscars will be another one that annoys me like 73, 74, 75 and 77. Will Ang Lee be robbed? Will Crash enter the annals of film history? We shall see in three days... during the Great Swifty's birthday.