I could go on a tirade here about why I don’t follow the Oscars, and revisit the fiasco of 1998… Actually, I will revisit it, just to this extent:
Why I don’t watch the Oscars.
There was a time when I did, avidly. I love movies, to a degree indicative of really messed-up priorities. As in, a man with priorities so far out of whack doesn’t deserve such a fine automobile. For instance, you’ll hear me quoting movies irrelevantly, seemingly at random. I love to read, have loved reading good fiction all of my life. But I think maybe movies are my very favorite art form. And yes, I know that’s kind of lowbrow, but it’s true. So be it.
Once, I used to go out of my way to at least see all of the movies nominated for Best Picture, and take an inordinate interest in which one won.
No more. My interest came to a crashing end in 1998, when “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture. That was the last straw.
No, what got me was that “Shakespeare” was chosen over “Saving Private Ryan” (which sometimes makes my Top Five best pictures ever, depending on how I feel that day) and the wonderful “Life is Beautiful.”
Not that “Shakespeare” wasn’t fun. It was. As much fun as fluff can be. And that’s what it was. Worse, it was self-referential fluff. That was a movie for and about movie stars, transported to the 16th century. It made actors look cool, and fun, and clever, and way historical, meaning we should take them seriously. They adored it, because it made them feel great about themselves.
Which, come to think of it, is what the Oscars are about. Which is why I don’t watch anymore.
But all of that said, I’d still like to wish Colin Firth, et alia, joy of their triumph last night. Because, even though Mr. Firth was implicated in the fiasco, he certainly deserves this latest award.
And “The King’s Speech,” to my own admittedly limited knowledge, clearly deserved “Best Picture.”
I say “admittedly limited,” because, well, I had only seen four of the nominees. (Of which there appear to have been 10 — didn’t it used to be just 5? This is what happens when you stop following these things…)
Also, one more disclaimer. “The King’s Speech” is probably elevated a bit in my estimation because, well, I saw it in England. On my last night in the country, which happened to be the opening night in that country (oddly, this quintessentially British flick had opened in the States first). We saw it at the Odeon on Magdalen Street in Oxford. J and my granddaughter had had high tea at the Ashmolean, while I ducked over for another quick glimpse of the Pitt Rivers and then grabbed a quick bite at the McDonald’s on Cornmarket (just to prove that not everything I did was all touristy). Odd thing about ketchup in Britain, by the way — it’s much sweeter and less tangy; I don’t know why.
Bottom line, it was the best film I’d seen in the past year, and I suspect better than the nominees I haven’t seen, from what I’ve heard (and frankly, you’d have to pay me to get me to see, for instance, “127 Hours”). Perhaps I should provide a quick comparison to the few I have seen:
- Inception — Biggest movie disappointment of the year for me. The trailers had done a good job of selling it to me, and it was one of the few that I meant to actually see in the theater, but didn’t make it in time. So I waited anxiously for its appearance on Netflix (and what is it with Netflix’ inability to get movies as soon as they’re available at WalMart, huh?), and then was disappointed. I mean, it was basically a play on the bad plot device of “and then the little boy woke up,” only taken to an exponentially greater point. I’m at the point of really wanting it to be over, and then… what? yet another dream level? gimme a break? It was like watching Twain’s “The Great Dark” translated to film — the years at the end that he skims over in the story.
- The Kids are All Right — This was pretty good, and it has Julianne Moore naked (I say that not so much because it was significant to me, you understand, but in case lesbians are thinking about seeing it, which they may be), but in the end, I was disappointed. Actually, more specifically, I found the ending disappointing. I hated to see Mark Ruffalo’s character shut out at the end. My wife explained that I wasn’t supposed to feel that way, that he was a ne’er-do-well, etc. (in fact he was, technically and literally, a wanker — that was his importance to the plot), but I was still disappointed for him. Perhaps because he was the only character in the film with whom I could remotely identify. In any case, not the best of the year.
- The Social Network — Ballyhooed by many as the best film of the year, my own estimation was only slightly higher than that of my younger son, who said “I’d heard it was a movie about inventing Facebook. And that’s what it was.” Yes, I appreciated it as social commentary on the way technology is changing our world and even our brains, but most of that had to be inferred. It was a good flick, just not as awesome as I had been led to expect.
And yes, it’s presumptuous to say I wouldn’t have liked the ones I didn’t see (and I still DO look forward to “True Grit” coming out on DVD — not because I liked the John Wayne one, which I didn’t, but because I continue to hold out hope for the Coen Brothers, in spite of “Burn Before Reading”). But hey, all I can do is go with what I have.
Oh, one last political observation on “The King’s Speech.” On the morning of the day I saw it, I read this review in The Guardian over my traditional English breakfast at the B&B, and uttered a Toryesque “harrumph” over this line: “Not everyone’s going to like this film: some may find it excessively royalist…” (There was also this online “poll” asking, “Is The King’s Speech royalist propaganda?” A slight majority said no.)
One thing I disliked when I ran across it during my brief sojourn in that country was when Brits apologized for anything touching upon their essential British identity. Fortunately, I didn’t run across it nearly as much as I expected. There was a museum exhibit about the brouhaha over “Britannia” as a symbol on the coinage, and that line. But I still harrumphed.
I mean, if you’re the sort who gets offended by such, don’t see the bleedin’ film. The rest of you, if you haven’t already, see it as soon as you can.