The Oscar Quest

Who hasn’t had a moment watching a movie that’s won an Academy Award where you stop and go, “Why the hell did this win?”

We do it all the time. Watching an Oscar nominee (knowing already that it is one) automatically puts you in the place of judgment. A film has to live up to its title. You view it in the context of other films released around it or those it was nominated with and beat or lost to. It’s nearly impossible to remain objective when it comes to award winners (unless you don’t know until after you see it. But even then you’re like, “Really? That won? What was it up against? Oh, it definitely shouldn’t have beaten that.”).

One day, soon after graduation, I had nothing to do but laze around and think about eventually trying to attain employment.

I was watching High Noon, and I thought, “How the hell did The Greatest Show on Earth beat this for Best Picture?” And I got angry. I was like, “Fucking Academy, voting against the best film just because it’s politically charged. Fucking HUAC…” and started railing against a film that I hadn’t even seen yet. Just because it beat a film I really liked, automatically made it unworthy. So I told myself, “Self (never gets old) — I should reserve judgment until I’ve seen the film.” (Note: After seeing the film, it definitely didn’t deserve to win. Though it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. There are worse offenders. I’m looking at you, Chariots of Fire.) I then made it my goal to see every Best Picture.


Well, the perfectionist I am, I soon realized, that’s good, but it ain’t enough. What good is seeing Around the World in 80 Days without seeing the other movies nominated for Best Picture that year so I can say what should have beaten it? You can claim a movie shouldn’t have won, but without backing it up with one that should have, you ain’t all that and a bag of chips, as the Queen Mum would say.

Well, the perfectionist I am, that soon became not enough too. If I can do it with Best Picture, what about Best Actor? Best Actress? Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress? Director? Fortunately I stopped there. I created a list of every movie ever nominated in all of the above categories. The document was 56 pages long in Microsoft Word, after I had already taken out the films I’d seen already. Granted, the original document also included the corresponding Golden Globes categories (which are further broken down in Picture, Actor and Actress by Drama and Musical/Comedy categories). Then I realized how pointless the Golden Globes are outside of judging Oscar votes, and quickly ixnayed them the uckfay outta there.

Then the document became a reasonable 35 pages. (This happened concurrently with me also watching all of the films that came out this past year. I don’t want you to think I was slacking off or anything.)

35 pages is a bit misleading. Some films were nominated in multiple categories, so seeing one film could take off five or six right off the top. What I did was go down the list by number of nominations, so as to whittle it down as quickly as possible. By November, I was under 20 pages. At that point, the most nominations a single film had was 4. Though the ones with 4 were not on DVD or readily available to watch, so they had to stay there until I could find them. Add this to the fact that there were only about 10 films left with 3 nominations, and it became like trying to take a stack of papers, fold it in half, then trying to tear it apart. Then, as that became easy, folding it in half again, and trying to rip that. It takes significantly longer to finish a list when it’s 20 pages, 48 films to a page, one film at a time.

There was a change of plan around then. I decided to start watching all of the Best Picture winners before I did anything else (naturally going by order of nominations). That worked for a while, until we got to where we are now. (Note: An Article entitled “Where We Are Now” will appear at some point in the near future, and it will contain an updated list of which films still need to be viewed. I’ll keep updating it and linking back to it.)

What does all this have to do with this blog? Well, dear reader, it’s the reason the blog exists. And here you thought it was just ego. Shame on you.

I figured, if I’m going to be watching all the movies nominated in the big 6 categories (my apologies to screenplays, but voting there gets nebulous and I don’t want no part of that shit), I might as well keep a record of it. Plus it helps me when people bring up Oscars and ask if certain films should have won or not (granted, it’s happened a lot more often now that they know I’m doing this, but a rosé is a rosé is a rosé is a rosé (I like to drink)). And, like I said earlier, it helps me remember the odd movies I watched that I might not remember otherwise (Remember? Shank Shank Shank?).

So in order to make this interesting, informative, and firmly about me, I’m going to randomly post categories from random years, detailing who was nominated, what I thought of the films and performances, who I thought should have won, who I’d have voted for, etc. I’ll do this when I’ve finished a year or category or whatever – it’ll never be in any sequential order, and it’ll be whenever I decide to post it. I’m sure I’ll go back and organize them in some way so they can easily be sorted through, but that’s all logistics.

To remind you (three times and it becomes a motif), I’m going to post the year and the category. Random example: 1996 Best Supporting Actor (I got to 96 by randomly hitting two numbers on my keyboard. This is how high tech the operation gets): the five nominees were, Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire, William H. Macy for Fargo, Armin Mueller-Stahl for Shine, Edward Norton for Primal Fear, and James Woods for Ghosts of Mississippi. Then I’ll go through, tell you what I thought of each of the performances – this will range anywhere between a simple, “It was good, I liked it. Not very standout, though,” to an entire dissertation on whatever randomly is bugging me at the moment. You never can tell with me. So, I’ll write something about the performance. Then maybe I’ll discuss why a certain person won or lost, and then I’ll tell you who deserved to win, and who I’d have voted for if I were casting a ballot that year.

Also, for Best Pictures especially, I’ll discuss what the prevailing trends were in the industry for that year, as that often shines a light on why a certain film won. I find it interesting to track changes in the industry over time (I’m all about the film history, especially as it relates to Oscars), so I’m gonna talk about that, because I want to. It’s basically a free history lesson for you. You’re getting a simplified version of a film class (taught by someone who is clearly not a professor, which makes better, because there are no tests and shit involved). That way you can seem like you know all this shit and yet all you really know is “Well, the industry was trending toward sound, so they wanted to reward the film that used sound and was the flashiest.” In the right situation, you’ll come off a fucking genius (and if she likes you enough, come on a fucking genius).

For simplicity sake, I’m ONLY USING THE FILMS THAT WERE NOMINATED THAT YEAR. That way I don’t have to get into any of that “Well, if this were nominated,” Dark Knight bullshit. And for the record, since I’ve railed on it a couple of times now, I loved the film. It just didn’t deserve to win Best Picture. Not because it was a comic book movie, because it just didn’t. Nolan should have been up for Director, but that’s it. I feel the same way about Inception.

I’m doing it randomly, because if I did it in order, you’d be hearing me talk about Wings and In Old Arizona right at the start of our relationship. You don’t want me coming on that strong right at the beginning. This is more the icebreaker moment. You know, when you sort of compare tastes, judge what a person is into, what you can get away with, before you get comfortable enough to say to them, “You know, I really don’t like Woody Allen movies.” (Note: I really don’t like Woody Allen movies. We’ll probably get to this at some point.)

What I’m going to do – soon – to prepare for this Oscar season, is go over all of the major 6 nominees from the last 10 years. (Two at a time, because we don’t have all that much time. You’ll see why.) This is for two reasons. First, it’s because the past ten years are the ones where I’m most biased. I’ve been watching the Oscars since 2000, and as such, have had films I was rooting for strongly. Because of this, certain films on the list I am very against. One of those, “Everybody’s talking about Sideways being the best movie of the year, it’s going to win a shit ton of Oscars.” And me being a huge fan of The Aviator, I grew a strong disliking of Sideways, before I’d actually even seen it. I mean, even after seeing it, I still didn’t think it was very good. That’s not the bias speaking, either. I just really don’t like it. The bias only makes me speak of it more bitterly after the fact. Example: I give a movie 3 stars (my ratings have become solely Netflix-oriented since I got it. Everything is now out of 5. Though I award half-stars. Netflix really needs to get on that shit). After the bias (which is usually related to how other people respond to the film and overrate it or whatever), the 3 stars become 2 ½. So, indifference becomes slight dislike. That’s essentially how the bias works. I’m man enough to admit when a bias is in play, but I also know enough about myself to let you know what the real situation is with my thoughts on the film. So you’ll never not know exactly how I feel about a movie.

Being biased is one reason I’m getting these last ten years out of the way now. Fortunately, I’m young, so it’s only ten years. (The ages of 13-20 really do a number on objectivity. You grow to hate some stuff purely because of shit that’s going on with you at the time. Oh, that douchebag in your class really likes this one movie? Well, guess what — that’s why you now can’t think about it without hating it. The most we can do is admit it and work from there.) The second reason I’m doing this now is because they’re recent. Being recent, more people have seen most, if not all, of the movies that were nominated. That means their opinions on them (and mine) are stronger than they would be for, say, the 1958 Best Picture. I mean, how many people are really going to argue over Gigi and The Defiant Ones as strongly as they will over Crash and Brokeback Mountain?

I’m also going to try my best not to think macro here. As in, should I pick a movie to win Best Picture that didn’t win, I won’t then alter a timeline to include that as having won that year. This ain’t no Star Trek shit. I don’t want to have to be like, “Well, in voting for this person, I’d then be depriving this other person of an Oscar, so I’ll vote for them this other year so they will have one….” None of that. This will simply be, I’m voting every year, and the results will still be exactly as they turned out to be. I’m simply just voting on what I thought were the best pictures (and best actors and et cetera). It’s not really about who wins as much as it is which ones I like best. (Though I will obviously take history into account. Don’t worry, I’ll make it easy to understand.)

So, that’s the plan. This is why this blog exists, so be prepared for a shitload of analysis of an awards show that is basically a dick-stroking contest every year and really means nothing. Except that it does. It’s annoying that the award means nothing and yet it means a lot, and that we should be putting no stock into it, yet we put so much stock into it. But I don’t care, I just enjoy it. So I’m gonna talk about it.

This is my way of both buying into the studio tradition of greed and handshaking, while also doing it in such a way that, hopefully, I’ll turn people on to the movies that actually are worthwhile (there are a couple of movies in there are rarely discussed anymore that are as good, if not better, than the movies that won). That’s the real reason for this.

That and Nicholson. I mean, he’s really the best thing about watching the show every year anyway.

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