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.