Thursday, March 18, 2010

The die is cast. I'm a lilly.

Today, for my Old Hollywood/New Hollywood segment, I'm going to discuss a recent event: the Academy Awards. Now, I do have to preface this with the disclaimer that I did not watch the ceremony at all but, instead, watched the clips of old ceremonies that many of my fellow film-blogger friends posted. I also want to post a disclaimer that I'm not intending to argue with any comments posted about the awards; I just want to add a different way of looking at it, if I may. In posting videos of ceremonies past, many bloggers wrote that they believe we have lowered our standards over the years. As we all prefer old movies to new movies, I imagine we think this every day, and not just during the Oscars. And while, on the one hand, I will agree that, generally speaking, old movies seem more carefully crafted, more wittily scripted, and more artfully directed than many contemporary films, I'm not sure I agree that the Academy has lowered its standards. I think the issue is more of a shift in perspective.

I'll explain. Nowadays, when I look at the lists of nominees, I think, "Well, I know who I'd like to win." When I look at all of the names and titles, I've usually seen one, maybe two, possibly three of the films. Most of the time, the movies that I've seen don't even make it to the list, or if they have, they've snuck into the special effects category or sound category or something. You all know by now how much I prefer light and fluffy movies to dark and heavy ones. The movies I tend to watch are comedies, musicals, romances, and family films. Nowadays, these genres rarely seem to win best picture.

Let's look at the last five years of Best Pictures, shall we?

2009 - The Hurt Locker
2008 - Slumdog Millionaire
2007 - No Country For Old Men
2006 - The Departed
2005 - Crash

Now, again, I haven't seen any of these films. Maybe Slumdog Millionaire is a comedy? I'm not sure. But, let's face it. The romantic comedies, the family films, the musicals (with the exception of Chicago) don't really get much attention any more. There was actually a pretty funny skit performed at the Oscars a few years ago that discusses this. I don't really care for any of these comedians or their movies, but they do bring up an interesting point about what movies tend to get noticed.

The dark, gritty, heavy movies win most of the time. Even the most recent musical win, Chicago, was a gritty look at female killers in the 1920's. Now, going backwards and checking out some past Best Picture winners, let's see what turns up...

1934 - It Happened One Night
1938 - You Can't Take It With You
1951 - An American In Paris
1964 - My Fair Lady
1965 - Sound of Music

Of course, you do get the dramas, war movies, and heavy pictures that win too. But the light films seemed to be given the same amount of consideration. Was it because they were all just simply made better? Are the fluffy movies of today simply fluff? I remember reading a comment on how many nominees there were for Best Picture this year (10) and how it seemed as if the Academy was just nominating everyone. But then I looked at past years, like 1935, which had 12 nominees (two of which are personal favorites, Captain Blood and Top Hat). Were the movies of 1935 better quality? Some might say yes and I won't disagree with them because, frankly, I'm not a brilliant critic and I really watch movies because they're fun and historical, not to mention the fact that I am an old film blogger and I do prefer old films to new ones.

But I do think it's worth noting that a romantic comedy about a runaway heiress and a reporter who fall in love on the road, a touching but funny film about a family whose love and friendships make them richer than the town's richest man, a musical about a flower girl who learns to speak properly, a musical about a governess and the musical family she falls in love with, and a musical about a painter who falls in love with a young girl, could all be considered the Best Pictures of the year in their day. And nowadays, they would quite possibly be considered fluff. I'm just speculating, of course. But, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you think that film audiences and the Academy have lowered their standards? Do you think it's a shift in perspective? Is it both?

Again, I'd like to state that I am not trying to argue or strongly disagree with any of my friends who have written on this matter. This is just something I've thought about and I wanted to share my thoughts.


  1. I should mention when I wrote I thought the Academy lowered its standard by nominating so many films this year, I actually had no idea they used to nominate 10+ films in the past, until it was mentioned at the show. I thought it had always been five, so it seemed weird to me. I'm not sure if that makes a difference in what I was thinking, but it certainly influenced it :-)

    As for the other part of your post, I do secretly resent the exclusion of romantic comedies and musicals from the Best Picture category. Especially if the Academy wants to go for the suppossed "heavier" stuff. Most musicals (even a classic feel-gooder like The Sound of Music) do deal with some pretty dark subject matter under their fluffy exteriors. Still, it would be nice to see something different get some attention. I think, despite the amount of films nominated this year, they're generally strangely exclusive, in the wrong ways.

  2. "Are the fluffy movies of today simply fluff?"

    Pretty much.

    For like 6 years now, Hollywood has been scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with new and interesting material that has actual substance, quality, and good acting. of the movies that actually do have these qualities,they're usually indie films which don't get as much attention, dark and serious movies like No Country for Old Men (which is brilliant, you should totally see it), and Pixar films.

    I think they don't nominate romantic comedies (the Academy has never really been one for comedy in the first place) or musicals very often these days because there just hasn't been a comedy or musical that stands up to the quality of writing and acting we see in more serious films in a long time.

    I thought the Oscars this year were lackluster in general. I did a review here:

  3. I'm not sure what I think about this subject because I don't keep up with the Oscars regularly, but from what I have read, I'm inclined to think that you're right. After all, whether a picture receives the Best Picture Award or not really depends on its audience and judges. Right?

    Thanks for posting this. It's given me something interesting to think about.

  4. i have no idea what makes a film get nominated. i personally believe it's all about money and politics. "no country for old men"- i'm a huge cohen brothers fan, but that film was not their best at all. i just saw "the hurt locker"- it was ok, but UP was much more touching. "the departed"- i HATED that blasphemous movie.
    i'll take family film, musical or even just a PG rated film anyday over some of these. and i won't even get started on the children's practically impossible to find a decent one for children to watch. the days of making family movies like "the sound of music", "swiss family robinson" are definately over. now you get burping, passing gas and Pinocchio in a g-string. i think you get the idea.

  5. I assure you, with the first list of winners you have missed nothing. NOTHING. I don't believe in celebrating heavy films for the hell of it. A good film is a good film. I was horrified when "Inglourious Basterds" was nominated this year. It just wasn't good. It wasn't funny or even really that thought-provoking. To me "sad" does not equal "moving." You know?

  6. Disney "family films" used to be great adaptations of classic novels, as well as historically-based films such as "Davey Crockett", etc. Today the humor in kid films can be so low-brow just like Anne said; a real insult to a person's intellegence.

    I started watching the Inglourious movie and had to turn it off after about 10 minutes, it was so offensive to me. Also I walked out of two movies last year in the theaters.


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