Friday, February 25, 2011

OSCARS: Best Picture

The Best and only "Oscar" worth anything.
Everything has been leading up to this category. Ideally the Best Picture should have everything: Best Director, Best Actors, Best Screenplay, Best Score, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing, but that’s hardly ever the case. For the most part the Best Picture Oscar is a completely subjective matter, one that is highly influenced by popular industry opinion. The problem with the Best Picture award is not only the hype that surrounds it, but also the absolute connotation that goes with it. To say that a film is, “The Best Picture of the Year,” is quite a claim by any standards. It creates an illusion of allure, an expectation of perfection, a reality that is rarely ever met, However, once in a while a film is made that is incontestably great and that is truly deserving of the honor and title of Best Picture.

Winner - Grand Hotel (1932)
- Best Picture -
Hole in One
To carry the title of Best Picture leads one to believe that the film in question is the best representation of filmmaking. That it showcases the best of all the categories, which from the start is a crock, unless it begins to sweep, which is not uncommon. Still, despite possibly not containing the best of all the aspects of filmmaking, the Best Picture should be able to hold its own among the nominees in that category, which may out perform it in certain aspects, but not as a whole. This is the more common case. There are only three films to win Best Picture and no other awards: The Broadway Melody (1929), Grand Hotel (1932), and Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). Of these three only Grand Hotel (1932) has the distinction of being the only film to only be nominated for Best Picture and win. As the categories became more expansive it allowed for certain films to gain more recognition, which in turn would increase its chances for winning Best Picture.

The two most nominated Best Picture winners are All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997) with fourteen nominations apiece. While it is common knowledge at this point that the Academy Awards favor dramatic films first and foremost they also have a penchant for EPICS. The three winners with the most awards honored are Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) with eleven awards each. Return of the King also has the distinction of winning every nomination it received as well as the most awards for a single film, even though that sweep was honoring the entire trilogy. The Academy’s favoritism for epics as Best Picture has been scaled back a bit in recent years with films like Chicago (2002) and Crash (2004). But a rich dynasty shows a history of not only epic stories (and running times) being honored, but also epic productions. Films that pull out all the stops and push the boundaries of convention are generally rewarded, as long as they aren’t total abominations. Even Waterworld (1995) was nominated for Best Sound. The mentality is that a lot goes into the production of any film, so when the film is telling an epic story, with a lot of people involved in front of and behind the camera, then it deserves to be honored. It’s Hollywrong taking care of its own and patting itself on the back at the same time.

Winner - Peter Jackson
- Best Everything -
LOTR: The Return of the King (2003)

Aside from length and production scale, a good indicator of the Best Picture is the Best Director. Roughly 75% of the winners for Best Picture have also won Best Director and the DGA awards have predicted roughly 90% of them.

One thing you can’t take into account when considering the Best Picture is the films box office gross. On a whole, films that are nominated are generally financially successful, but it is a rare occasion when a blockbuster gets nominated for Best Picture. It is even more rare when one wins, with the above noted exceptions. Since the mid-1990s a new trend has been developing where smaller, independent productions have been claiming the top prize at the Oscars. These films, lacking the razzle dazzle of special effects focus more on character and story, in a word – Drama. It is because the Academy favors dramatic films so heavily that several other award ceremonies, such as the Saturn Awards (honoring Science Fiction and Fantasy films) have sprung up. There’s even an award honoring the worst achievements in film: The Golden Raspberry Award (commonly known as the Razzies).

Recently, as of 2009, the Academy has reinstated the ten-film nomination list for Best Picture. Not since 1944 (honoring 1943) has the nomination card exceeded five films. In an arena where the odds are already stacked in a certain films favor this seems like a useless and trivial scheme at poor marketing. If anything they should narrow the window of competition, but that would be good for box office. Alternatively they could stick with the five selections, but diversify the films and honor all of them as the Best Pictures of the year. There is simply too much structure in too obvious of a pattern for these awards to be the least bit entertaining or engaging. That is why they have to jazz up the show with jackass skits because they know that nobody in their right mind would want to watch up to four hours of rich people congratulating themselves. If you’re so interested in film then do yourself a favor Sunday night and start writing your own film and read about the Oscar results on Monday.

This year's nominees for Best Picture:
127 Hours – Danny Boyle & Christian Colson
Black Swan – Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, & Brian Oliver
The Fighter – David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, & Mark Wahlberg
Inception – Christopher Nolan & Emma Thomas

The Kids Are All Right – Gary Gilbert, Jeffery Levy-Hinte & Celine Rattray
The King’s Speech – Iain Canning, Emile Sherman & Gareth Unwin
The Social Network – Dana Brunetti, Cean Chaffin, Michael De Luca & Scott Rudin
Toy Story 3 – Darla K. Anderson
True Grit – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen & Scott Rudin
Winter’s Bone – Alix Madigan & Anne Rosellini

-            On the Waterfront (1954).
-            Ben-Hur (1959).
-            In the Heat of the Night (1967).
-            The 1970s with the noted exception of 1977.
-            The strong competition of the 1990s, especially 1994 & 1995.
-            The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) sweep.

-            Star Wars (1977) losing to Annie Hall (1977). (I’m really not going to let this one go.)
-            Goodfellas (1990) losing to Dances With Wolves (1990).
-            Do The Right Thing (1989) not even being nominated for Best Picture.
-            Saving Private Ryan (1998) losing to Shakespeare in Love (1998).
-            2007 – and I’ll just leave it at that.
-            The Hurt Locker (2008) (aka Jarhead II: Junior’s War).

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I'm not alone on 2007 and The Hurt Locker.