Monday, February 23, 2009

Surely, Knave, Thou Jests

Of course, I'm reading Oscar broadcast coverage, when this bit turned up from Salon's indie/alt movie reviewer, Andrew O'Hehir, on the "failure" of a Best Picture nomination for Dark Knight:

Time was, a movie that combined that degree of artistic ambition and popular success, from "Lawrence of Arabia" to "Titanic" to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, would have been a shoo-in for a best-picture nomination.

Wait--are you serious? Seriously? Are you saying that just because a movie with poor characterization, lazy plot, appalling dialogue and no reason for its existence other than its special effects won a Best Picture award, (yes, I'm looking at you, Titanic) that it's a travesty that another one also didn't win?

You can't mean that, O'Hehir. Really, you can't. Just because a movie makes a big BOOM sound with a ton of money and special effects does NOT mean that it somehow deserves to be a Best Picture nominee. Titanic, as bad as it was as a movie, at least felt like a "Big Night At The Movies" when you saw it. It was a period costume drama, with the ability to be pretentious because it was about True History, even if the Jack and Rose story was just made up. It pushed all the right buttons of a Best Picture: old fashioned costumes, doomed True Love, big stars, elaborate sets, historical "insight," and a 3+ hour running time. All of which managed to combine with a well timed Oscar campaign that ended before the backlash hit.

Which is to say that Titanic is probably NOT the movie that will be admired as the best of that year--just that it had the ingredients and timing to win the balloting at that particular moment. It does not serve as a justification why Dark Knight "should" have been nominated too. The argument would be more persuasive if you were able to point out how Dark Knight was better than Titanic, not how similar it was.

The argument that Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire are similar also doesn't do the job. Dark Knight, however brilliantly filmed and tricked out in special effects, suffers from it's roots. It was a comic book, for god's sake. Lowbrow from the word go. The last comic book story nominated for a Best Picture award was probably Beauty and the Beast, and that was such an anomoly that they created a new category so it wouldn't happen again.

Whatever validity the Oscars have for their own existence may be debated, and maybe there is no reason for them to exist. But they are what they are, and they are not there to celebrate their lowest common denominators. Isn't making billions at the box office enough for you? Can't you spare a little love for the movies that only people wearing tuxedos and dancing with top hats love too?

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