PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

AMPAS = WTF? (and the Same Goes for You, Golden Globes)

Two award season stalwarts. Two examples of exasperating oddness.

Based on last evening's Golden Globes, the upcoming Oscar race is anybody's to win...anybody's except, perhaps, David O. Russell's. While The Silver Linings Playbook managed to eek out a trophy for star Jennifer Lawrence, the quasi-comedy featuring Bradley Cooper as a bipolar man trying to reestablish his life post-institutionalization pulled a proverbial Lincoln. Like Steven Spielberg's amazing look at our 16th President, Russell's movie went in with a few key nominations, and only managed the one success (Daniel Day-Lewis being its sole winner). In fact, the controversial Django Unchained picked up more trophies than either profile release, earning statues for Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz and, in a major surprise, Best Original Screenplay for Quentin Tarantino's curse and N-word laced script.

All of which means nothing when it comes to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who announced their nominations on Thursday, 10 January. Of course, eventual Globe giants Les Miserables (winner, Best Musical or Comedy) and Argo (winner, Best Drama) were there, and so was eventual Best Foreign Language Film victor Amour. Rounding out the rest of the nine eventual selections (we are still getting used to this "Oscar will nominate whatever it wants, numerically," idea) were Tarantino's aforementioned hot button hit, Ang Lee's lovely if limited Life of Pi, Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker follow-up Zero Dark Thirty, and perhaps most stunning of all, the little indie engine that could known as Beasts of the Southern Wild. Pretty standard, end of the year speaking...

Except, that's where all acknowledgements of normalcy ended. Doing what it does oh so well, the Academy confounded expectations in other categories, snubbing obvious choices while championing others that left many scratching their perfectly coiffed red carpet craniums. Take the Directing category. Just a few days before, the DGA picked Ben Affleck (Argo), Bigelow, Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), Lee, and Spielberg. In a rarity that only occurs in freak film years, AMPAS ditched three of those choices to celebrate Michael Haneke (Amour), Russell, and again, Beasts of the Southern Wild (first timer Behn Zeitlin). None of the front runners even got in the Governor's Ball door.

Or how about The Master? While it earned nods for its impeccable acting (Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Supporting Actor, and Amy Adams for Best Supporting Actress), everything else about the film was ignored. No director nod. No bone to its multiple technical achievements (it's period piece perfection). No Picture of Screenplay support. It was the same for such popular picks as Skyfall (near gimmes for Adele and Best Song and Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography, and picks for Best Score and Sound Mixing/Editing) or the criminally overlooked Moonrise Kingdom. In fact, Wes Anderson's critical darling could barely breathe, earning a paltry Best Original Screenplay mention only.

Elsewhere, the Academy did its usual shoulder shrug thing, putting five previous winners in the Supporting Actor category, while dividing up the goods between novices and the usual suspects in Supporting Actress and Best Actor. The real shock, however, came in the Best Actress category, where the voters ran the chronological age gamut. Little Quvenzhane Wallis became the youngest nominee ever in the category for her turn as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, while famed French icon Emmanuelle Riva (of Hiroshima Mon Amour fame) became the oldest, playing a demonic dying musician in Haneke's heartbreaking film.

Apparently, the Academy wants to play agent provocateur when, in the past, they could barely muster a moment of mainstream meaningfulness. So disregarded that they often feel like the afterthought in an otherwise engaging debate over the cinematic artform in the 21st century, all the tweaks and tricks they've been using as of late have borne bitter fruit. Take the Animation category. In past years, the Academy had to struggle to find five choices. This time, they gave out four real picks - Brave, Frankenweenie, Wreck-It Ralph, and ParaNorman - while slipping in the pointless Pirates! Band of Misfits into the mix. Apparently, neither installment in the Madagascar/ Ice Age franchises was feeble enough.

Or what about documentary? Even though current head Michael Moore has implemented several important changes to the process, we are still missing major offerings (West of Memphis, This Is Not a Film) for more 'issue oriented' selections (with topics ranging from the Palestinian 'problem' to AIDS). It seems like, every year, Oscar tries to remedy its ills, only to make matters slightly worse in the end. Add in the abundance of competing contests - SAG, Critic's Choice, Sundance, Toronto - along with the feeling that the Academy is still made up of clueless old farts and the aura of obsolescence persists. Even in the Foreign Film category, there always seems to be a given (in this case, Amour) which is undermined by something coming out of lame left field (remember, neither Pan's Labyrinth or Haneke's brilliant The White Ribbon brought home the trophy when EVERYONE thought they would).

It seems like,. when given the chance, Oscar can only get it partially right. They tend to march to their own belated backbeat, struggling to see the forest for the dense, often Weinstein worked trees. This year, Harvey and his hyperbole may have his work cut out for him. Tarantino and Waltz's Globe nods aside, Django feels just like Inglourious Basterds...that is, destined to be a hit with audiences and critics, but barely making a wave in inner Hollywood circles while Silver Linings Playbook may have to settle with seeing Ms. Lawrence mentioned as its sole statue survivor, if that. As has become the habit recently, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has left us wondering...and wishing. Instead of cheering and supporting it's choices, we are once again whispering "What the..."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.