There’s a story I like to retell whenever anyone asks me about my credentials to opine on the Academy Awards. A few years back, I’m not sure when but around four years or so, my father was at my apartment. It was around Oscar season and he began to ask me what I thought of the slate of films up for Best Picture. I opened my mouth to offer my well-informed opinion, as I had always been wont to do at that time of year, and then I glanced at my DVD shelf.
I realized that I had seen none, maybe one, of that year’s Best Picture nominees. I realized that it had been several years, in fact, since I had seen even a majority of the year’s Best Picture nominees. I further realized that, since college (when I actually DID go see most of the movies that came out in a year worth seeing) and especially since having a child, it was rare that I saw even the films that I WANTED to see, let alone the films that were Oscar-worthy.
In that moment, I gestured to my DVD shelf. “Look, dad,” I said, the truth having hit me in the face with a hammer. “Look at my DVD collection. It’s superheroes and cartoons, boy wizards and lightsabers. Does that LOOK like the DVD collection of somebody who pays close attention to the Oscar race?”
That was the moment I decided to stop fooling myself, and to stop calling myself any sort of a film buff or cinephile. When pressed upon to recall Oscar history, I can tell you the following: Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture, I think over Saving Private Ryan, Pulp Fiction should have won but lost out to Forrest Gump, The Dark Knight was snubbed, and Roberto Benigni jumped on some chairs. Also, Chewbacca once won a lifetime achievement award.
But Oscar season approaches yet again, and I find I write a column called “Geek Cinema”, so I feel I should offer my two cents on this year’s races (which is exactly what my opinion in such matters is worth: two cents). Let’s do Best Picture today, and maybe this will become a series or something, or maybe I’ll lose interest. But here we go. Best Picture. Time to hit Google, and… wow. Did you know there’s, like, nine movies nominated for Best Picture? That seems a little excessive. And Marvel’s The Avengers couldn’t get a nod? This is why I don’t even bother to watch the Oscars anymore. Here we go!
Les Miserables: I actually saw this one because, hey, it’s a musical, and as regular readers know I’m a rare cross-breed of comic book geek and theatre geek. In my humble opinion? It was awesome. The King’s Speech guy directed it, Tom Something, and having the actors sing live on-set made all the difference. Plus, Wolverine was in it.
Django Unchained: Quentin Tarintino’s latest; I guess there’s some uproar because the word “nigger” is used a bunch of times in this film about slavery. I’ll say that again. People are upset because the word “nigger” is used in a film about slavery. I kinda think it would be more offensive if the word “nigger” WASN’T in a film about slavery. I’ll bet they say “nigger” at least a few times in Lincoln, but nobody seems to care about that. Or maybe they don’t. What the hell do I know? And why did nobody seem to care that “nigger” was said in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, like, a billion times apiece? Cuz Sam Jackson said it, and nobody has the balls to criticize Sam Jackson. Or is he the one who says it in Django? If so that shoots my theory straight to hell.
Lincoln: The trailer looked epic, but I tried to read one of the books this was based on (Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin). Boooorrrring! I put it down and read the twentieth anniversary edition of Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Heir to the Empire instead. It has in-text annotations by the author, and it’s kind of like watching a DVD with director’s commentary. Fun-fact: Zahn was going to name the species of alien assassins he created for his book the Sith, but Lucasfilm nixed that idea for reasons that eventually came to light in the prequel films! I’m sure Lincoln is very good.
Life of Pi: There’s a kid on a boat with a tiger, right? And don’t they hit an iceberg or something? Or get caught in a whirlpool? I vaguely remember a whirlpool. So unrealistic. In real life that kid would eat the tiger. Didn’t anyone see The Jungle Book? There is no animal more dangerous than man. This also was the theme of Avatar, which I’ve also never seen. I liked it better the first time. When it was called The Jungle Book.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Never heard of it.
Silver Linings Playbook: The girl from The Hunger Games and X-Men First Class falls in love with the guy from The Hangover and The A-Team. A love story about Philadelphia Eagles fans? Does it involve booing Santa Claus and cheering paralyzed opponents? I’ll pass. (Someone has to, ‘cuz Michael Vick can’t. Boom!)
Argo: l don’t know if I want to live in a world where the guy who played Daredevil (and who likes to have relations in the back of a Volkswagon) can direct a Best Picture nominee. Affleck WAS the bomb in Phantoms, though. (Actually, The Town is an awesome flick. Good on Affleck. Who would have guessed he’d ever be as big as Matt Damon in the film industry again?)
Zero Dark Thirty: A movie about how we killed Osama Bin Laden? It’s like the lady who directed The Hurt Locker and whose name I forget at the moment and I really feel awful about it looked at her mantle and thought, “You know, I could really use a matched set of those. What should my next movie be about?” Oscar bait, right here.
AND NOW, I PREDICT THE WINNER WITH WILD INACCURACY!
And the Oscar goes to… Beasts of the Southern Wild! The winner is always the movie I care the least about, it seems… which puts Beasts in close running with, like, seven more of these. I really do want to see Argo.
Tom Hoefner (@TomHoefner on Twitter) is a playwright, theatre director, college professor, and would-be novelist living in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. He thinks that it’s an honor not only to be nominated for an Oscar, but that anyone who has had any part in helping to bring any major motion picture to the screen is already a winner. He also thinks awards shows are kind of silly. Not as silly as any of those Real Housewives or Kardashians shows, but still silly.
Check out From the Casefiles of Race and Cookie McCloud, a blog of super-short stories chronicling the adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye, and his 15-year old former-secret-agent-in-training niece Cookie: http://raceandcookie.blogspot.com