That sound you heard around 8:30AM EST, 17 January 2014 was the collective yawn of thousands of critics, pundits, and industry professionals reacting to this morning’s Oscar nominations. In recent years, the overwhelming influence of the various Guilds (writers, actors, directors, producers) has produced a kind of entertainment ennui, the acknowledgments (and the eventual winners) of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences long decided before you can get your office pool picks determined. Sure, there were obvious snubs (apparently Llewyn Davis will remains outside, not in) and a few questionable inclusions (let this sink in for a moment—the OSCAR NOMINATED JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA) but for the most part, it’s AMPAS business as usual… and business is boring as Hell.
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As a predictor of future Oscar glory, we have long since given up on the Golden Globes. Thanks to their desire to bifurcate categories (Picture, Actor, Actress) in order to get more famous butts in their phony Awards Show seats and often puzzling nomination and voting ideals, the HFPA and the AMPAS are now functioning in two completely different worlds. The Academy Award is now more easily predicted based on Guild support (Writers, Directors, Producers) and actor acknowledgement (SAG) than it is on what a bunch of boozed up foreign press people (if, indeed, they are members of ANY legitimate press) think. Yes, there is cross over, but for the most part, the Golden Globes are like a bad TV psychic. They get so much wrong that their often “correct” predictions seem specious as well.
If it’s January, it’s Award Season and with the various critics groups and cinema organizations announcing their Best-ofs, it’s also the time when various Guilds give it up for their membership. The Producers have already weighed in, as have the writers, and now it’s time for the Director’s to dole out their annual accolades. As a predictor of Oscar glory, winning the DGA has been fairly accurate (it’s rare that its winner doesn’t go on to take home the Academy gold), but the group of filmmakers and friends has been known to go way off base at times in favor of efforts that few would really consider quintessential trophy fodder.
It was the original blockbuster. It was helmed by a heretofore unknown moviemaker who had a couple of successful projects under his otherwise novice belt. It was based on incredibly popular material that many in popular culture knew about and followed faithfully, and it introduced a series of innovations to both the marketing and distribution of films, creating the wide release strategy that started the entire opening weekend/multi-screen approach we know today. And it had absolutely nothing to do with a great white shark, the seaside city of Amity, or a director who would go on to be perhaps the most accepted cinematic voice of the last 40 years. No, no matter what you heard, Steven Spielberg and Jaws did not set the benchmark for future popcorn movie fortunes. Indeed, it was a manic maverick filmmaker and the third installment in his ongoing ‘spiritual vengeance’ franchise that first cracked the boffo box office code.
The makers of movies in other parts of the world have a bigger problem than Harvey Weinstein. Their work, often far superior and riskier than what Hollywood hopes will connect with the great unwashed, barely gets a release beyond their borders, the allure of exciting subject matter and approaches trumped by a general dislike of subtitles and a feeling that foreign films are nothing more than the same old tired Tinseltown takes with a decidedly different vocabulary. Still, Weinstein is also a thorn in said cinema’s side. He is a ruthless businessman and a protracted fan of such arthouse fare, or so he would have you believe. Yet, recently, a notorious nickname associated with the former Miramax chief has come back to haunt him—“Harvey Scissorhands”—and it’s a reminder that, aside from differing dialogue, international efforts have a bigger barrier to aesthetic acceptance.