Monday, February 23, 2009

Grouch The Oscar or Spending An Evening Complaining About Entertainment

Okay, now that the Oscars are finally over and the noses-upturned-to-anything-interesting committee is able to focus their collective inability to acknowledge good movies towards next year, it is time for me to chime in on a few things.

Okay, since NO ONE was surprised that Heath Ledger was going to win, why is everyone acting like they are? Out of all the films in his hot-fudge-with-sprinkles career, only a handful was actually watchable. Now, outlets like EW and Rolling Stone are calling him the modern James Dean? Give me a friggin’ break. Did ANYONE see the piece of garbage that was A Knight’s Tale? Granted, he was good in The Patriot, but I think that was more because of the story than his acting ability, but people are now citing Ten Things I Hate About You as some kind of zeitgeisty, introspective work of visual art.

I’m not going to go on about this, because it really turns my stomach to see Hollywood (and the general public) get all gushy and sentimental just because dude died. Let’s leave it at this, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS AN ACCIDENTAL OVERDOSE! If it was accidental, then there would have been an eyewitness who was with him watching him do it. It was suicide, plain and simple, and I have NO respect for anyone who thinks their life is so hard that the only way for them to move forward is to cut the cord. Yes, I’m talking to you, too, Herr Cobain.

Anyway, let’s turn our attention to Sean Penn for a moment. Now, I loved the guy in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, We’re No Angels, Casualties of War, and Carlito’s Way. But ever since his portrayal as David Kleinfeld in 1993, it seems that he has started choosing movies for the sole purpose of getting Academy nods, rather than stretching his acting chops. Sure, you can say that he’s smart for doing it, but I think that is a cowardly, and safe, way to go through an acting career. Wouldn’t you rather be someone like Ed Harris or Robert DeNiro, who are great in everything, regardless of the Academy batting an eye at them?

I dunno, I think I’m just sick of seeing Penn’s name in the nominee list every other year. It’s kinda like the same thing with period and political films getting nominated for all the major awards every year. Come on guys, that’s the formula, why nominate the exact same crap every year? That extends to BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN, too. Umm, if period films are so plentiful all the time, do you really need to keep nominating them? What makes one film’s 19th Century-inspired attire better than anothers? Maybe I need to be a seamstress to understand.

And speaking of not understanding, what is up with BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR? Granted, I am glad that Wall*E won, but look at its competition. Kung Fu Panda and Bolt? What happened to nominating films of substance? What exactly are the criteria for nominating animated movies anyway? It must be pretty, it must be funny, and it must target 4-year-olds? Seriously, I think this award only exists to draw in the youngsters, who will be able to see the exact same award at Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards. It’s kinda like having Grammys nominating Latin artists, but having Latin Grammys, too. There’s no point.

What’s even more confusing, is that I looked up the nomination rules for Best Animated Feature. Check this out, I pulled it right from

The Executive Committee of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch shall meet prior to the last Board of Governors meeting of this calendar year. At this meeting, a Reminder List of the animated feature films released during the year shall be reviewed. If the committee finds that there are eight or more eligible animated feature films that warrant a category, it may choose to recommend to the Board of Governors that there be a Best Animated Feature Film award given this year. If the governors accept this recommendation, the following nomination process shall be set in motion.

Okay, so the category is optional, no problem. I totally understand. Some years there just aren’t any nominatable films for Best Animated Feature – because anything more mind-numbing than Kung Fu Panda shouldn’t be considered. However, did you notice that they need EIGHT films for consideration to have the category submitted? Umm, there are only ever THREE films nominated. Where did the other FIVE go??? On top of that, John “Pixar” Lasseter is part of said committee! The dude is nominating his own movies! One more reason this category is irrelevant.

I really don’t want to go on a rant about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the curious case of its 13 nominations. You’ve heard it all before, it’s a half-baked, heartless Xerox of Forrest Gump, you don’t connect with the characters, Tilda Swinton is still a scary-looking bitch, and the tie-in to Hurricane Katrina was completely tasteless. Why the 13 noms? I guess the Academy was bored. Or they were too afraid to nominate movies like Appaloosa and Gran Torino. I thought whenever Clint Eastwood crapped dust, it got nominated. Oh wait, there were racial slurs in this movie. Can’t have that. Because reality isn’t what they go for with Oscar nominations…except Animated Feature.

This brings me to my biggest beef with Oscar nominations. And I have this same gripe year after year (I just never had a blog before). One of the most overlooked, and under-researched categories at the Academy Awards is BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR A MOTION PICTURE, ORIGINAL SCORE. I kinda figured Slumdog Millionaire was going to take this one, because it was so different from everything else.

However, I fancy myself a fan of film scores, and I found that one completely unlistenable. It was noisy, it was chaotic, but it was Bollywood! That’s the politically-correct way to go these days! Seriously, did it win Best Score, because it WAS the best score, or did it win simply because it also took Best Picture and Best Director? Maybe my ears are not attuned to Indian music, but that sloshy, gumbo of an album was little more than a sonic headache. Seriously, the hodgepodge of techno-Indian-dance-hip hop sounded like a bad Nintendo game or some bizarre fetishist amine.

But hey, let’s look at the other nominees.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat) – seriously? This was Desplat doing his best Danny Elfman impersonation. Yeah, I get that he was trying to fuse fantasy and drama, but I thought the licensed music for the film (you know, all the old school big band and jazz standards) were much more interesting.

Milk (Danny Elfman) - Speaking of not interesting, this was another one of those moments where Danny Elfman tries to make himself contemporarily relevant by NOT sounding like Danny Elfman. Milk came off sounding more like a cross between Splash and Arthur – uninspired and derivative.

Defiance (James Newton Howard) – and yes, on the derivative tip, here we have another go at standard espionage fare, a la John Powell’s Bourne series, or anything with a spy and guns in it for that matter. Why was it nominated? Oh, it had random cello solos, which drew some comparisons to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (which incidentally won the Best Score Oscar in 2001). Ah, 2001 was actually the last decent year for nail-biting film score noms – Crouching Tiger, Gladiator, and The Patriot? All classics in my book. Defiance, however, is not.

Wall*E (Thomas Newman) – the only one of the bunch I felt deserving of a nomination. Since there was no dialogue during the first half of the film, it was the music that carried the action. I thought Newman did a stellar job combining childlike whimsy, isolation, and adventure in one little eco-friendly, cardboard-sleeved package. I guess the win is reparation for last year's Ratatouille upset. Yes, it is too bad the Academy is deaf.

And while we’re on the subject, I did some perusing at the Oscars website and learned some rather weird things about the committee that makes these bizarre and lackluster nominations. Here are the Board of Governors (as they are called on the site). I should also note that all my info about them can be verified on IMDB.

Charles Fox – primarily a TV composer, whose BIGGEST films include National Lampoon’s European Vacation (you remember, the really bad Pig In A Poke one), 9 to 5, Zapped! and Short Circuit 2. The last feature film he scored was a 1995 talking pig movie called Gordy. Truly a magnificent list of credits. He’s definitely qualified to make these decisions.

Bruce Broughton - also largely a TV composer. Biggest films include Silverado, The Presidio, and Harry and the Hendersons. Last movie scored was a 1998 Stephen Baldwin vehicle called One Tough Cop. Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s done some good things…20 years ago. Again, not really sure if his ears are attuned to making good decisions.

Arthur Hamilton - scored ONE FILM in 1955. He’s primarily a songwriter, who is best known for the tune “Cry Me A River”, (not to be confused with the Justin Timberlake ditty) which was featured in 6 movies. How in the hell is this guy qualified to sit on a board that decides what film scores get nominated for Oscars? That’s like making a 6-year-old teach astro-physics, because he can make paper airplanes.

Now, if I was on the board, what would I have nominated? Glad you asked. Besides Wall*E, I would have cleaned house and NOT even considered the other four noms. That frees me up to make four new choices. I would have nominated the following film scores:

The Happening (James Newton Howard) – Yes, I feel he was nominated for the wrong movie. He also could have very easily been nominated for The Dark Knight (which he would have had to share with Hans "needs more synthesized strings" Zimmer) as well, but I thought this score was much more visceral. It was probably among the best suspense scores since the days of Bernard Herrmann. He should have also been nominated last year for The Great Debaters, but I really don’t want to get into the debacle that was the 80th Academy Awards. I’d just start spewing about how American Gangster was completely robbed of any dignity.

HELLBOY 2 (Danny Elfman) – Again, nominated for the wrong film. Milk was extremely lactose-intolerant, while Hellboy was injected with an ample supply of NestlĂ© Quik. Sure, you could argue that it is standard Elfman fare, but I would disagree. Sure, most of the work he’s done since the late 80s has been a variation or rehashing of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice. To this day, I am shocked that Beetlejuice was never considered for an Oscar in 1988/89. But Hellboy II represents a more refined, mature, and no less adventurous Elfman. It’s a score that combines mayhem and heart, which is an odd mix, but Elfman can pull it off.

Mongol (Tuomas Kantelinen) – Yeah, the guy is a complete unknown in America. Then again, so is the film. But holy crap, is this a great, epic score. Kantelinen effortlessly channels the old school Hollywood epic film score legends like Miklos Rosza and Alex North, and offers something passionate and brutal. It’s like what Jerry Goldsmith was gunning for with The 13th Warrior, but better.

Nights In Rodanthe (Jeanine Tesori) – Sure, I know this is completely unbecoming of me, but this is some very moving music. This is also Tesori’s first proper film score, as she is primarily known as a Broadway composer. I have no desire to see the movie, but the music is completely gut-wrenching. It is like a modern classical sonata. Very romantic, and very rare for the world of film scores.

And there you have it, kiddies, my Oscar rant for this year. I really don’t know why I let silly little things like the get under my skin, because ultimately, what is more frivolous than an organization that puts on a multi-million dollar beauty pageant to pay homage to the entertainment industry? Think about it, it’s a show that honors movies. It’s kinda like a paradox, isn’t it? I just hope that somewhere down the line, the Academy Awards will be more based on what people want to see, rather than what Oprah’s Book Club thinks we should see.


CrazySexyMetalChick! said...


That's exactly why I stopped watching awards shows more than 10 years ago!

btw: Great to have you back, Dorian! We missed you!

Dani/elle said...

Um, I loved A Knight's Tale. So don't hate.

You are a bitter, bitter man. Well done.

Dorian's Reflection said...

Yes, and you were probably a starry-eyed young lady when you were first exposed to it. You WERE its target audience. I thought it was a less-than-average movie with a soundtrack that made Ladyhawke's soundtrack sound like Beethoven's Fifth.

Yes, me am bitter.