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April 15, 2017

Saturday Evening Movie Thread 04-08-2017 [Hosted By: TheJamesMadison]: Meaningless Metrics

Finding Neverland

finding neverland.jpg

This is not a review of Finding Neverland. I present this movie as a case study in quite literally everything that is wrong with the Oscars. The movie itself is fine. It's a nice little movie about a group of people connecting through literature. It's inoffensive, slight, and mostly forgettable.

You know what else it was? Nominated for 7 Oscars.



Including Best Picture!

Again, the movie's not bad, but it's slight and ultimately not all that memorable. Why did it get more nominations than some movies like The Departed (5)?

Because the Oscars are a niche market, and the producers of Finding Neverland knew their audience, and they knew it very well. Take period piece, add two respected and former nominee actors in the lead roles, add biopic, with a death and the actors playing real people, throw it all together and you've got something that's going to appeal to the largely older voters who love to star fuck and want to feel something at the movies.

Was Finding Neverland one of the five best movies of 2004? Dear Lord, no. This was the year with The Incredibles, The Passion of the Christ, The Bourne Supremacy, Shaun of the Dead, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kill Bill Volume 2, Downfall, and The Aviator. In that list are examples of the height of animation, religious movies, thrillers, comedy, fantasy, and war movies. Any of those five, randomly thrown together, would have represented a better cross section of the best movies of 2004 than any list containing Finding Neverland. Hell, I'd award The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Terminal, or even Team America before Finding Neverland.

The Oscars are as Meaningless as Box Office Numbers

how green was my valley.jpg

Citizen Kane, widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made, lost Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley, a John Ford movie that even John Ford fans largely forget. I think we all know the answer by this point, but yeah, that doesn't mean the How Green Was My Valley is in anyway better than Citizen Kane.

The Oscars are an industry show. It's the equivalent of a bunch of statisticians getting together to honor the statistician who most advanced the science that year. The difference is that the general public couldn't care less about which statisticians did great things but do care about movies, so an industry awards ceremony became a cultural touchstone.

For years, everyone watched. Everyone knew the movies being nominated (remember when The Godfather was one of the biggest movies of 1972?), and the stars were being largely controlled in public by the studios (Henry Fonda never tweeted while taking a shit). It was a way to see movies celebrated and watch famous people wear pretty things. It was largely inoffensive and innocuous entertainment that celebrated a very large slice of popular culture.

Something changed, though. It might be with the rise of the Weinsteins and Miramax, but suddenly the idea of nominating big budget and big box office winning movies gained an element of distaste in the Academy's mouth. Those early movies did fairly well at the box office (movies like Pulp Fiction for instance), but as time went on the landscape became increasingly monochromatic. A handful of larger movies made it through. Gladiator, representing the storied sword and sandals genre, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar were exceptions, but the presence of these types of movies became more and more seen like an anomaly. When The Dark Knight didn't make the top 5, the Academy realized that it had a problem.

Their solution? Expand the selection of movies from top 5 to top 10. Maybe that would get some big budget movies into the running and help counteract the downward decline of ratings.

Well…That Didn't Work


Instead of expanding the selection to include more popular fare, the Academy just doubled down and nominated more small movies that no one had seen. They're a provincial bunch, the Academy, and increasingly it looks like they are proud of the fact that they like things that are not the same as what the rest of the country likes. They style themselves as taste makers and trend setters, except that very few people outside their "provinces" care what they have to say. And the Academy seems to be proud of that.

My take? Good for them. I used to think that the Oscars were a celebration of movies through the vehicle of Hollywood to get there. I don't remember which ceremony I was watching, but I suddenly realized that it was a celebration of Hollywood through movies. I very quickly lost what remaining interest I had left in the whole affair and just turned off the show. Haven't turned one on since.

Now I see that the Oscars are about Hollywood telling the rest of the country that they are better than middle America. That their tastes are more refined, elevated, and just all around worthwhile than yours. That while you may prop up their industry with going to Transformers and Marvel movies, that the Academy will never reward them with anything more than a few technical achievements here are there because even they haven't descended to the point of giving Best Visual Effects to an independent movie that uses no special effects.

And just like Finding Neverland fit into the niche in 2004, it's now even more esoteric and focused on the plight of oppressed people movies that gain all of the attention from the Academy.

So, Should You Care?

the departed.jpg

I…don't think so. The Oscars are largely a curio to me now. I look back the day after the awards ceremony, say, "Huh," quietly to myself, and move on. It's a barometer for what the movie industry considers good and important cinema, but that's kind of it.

I don't think they're worth any level of emotional involvement. The last time I was emotionally involved with the Oscars was the ceremony that awarded the movies of 2003 when The Return of the King won. I was giddy because this movie that I loved so completely was being honored by rich people who I'll never meet. When it was over, I sat back in my chair feeling a wave of odd euphoria sweep over me, and I haven't been able to get excited about the Oscars since. I suppose that I should consider myself lucky that I got to experience that from the Oscars before I shut down.

Movies of Today

Opening in Theaters:

The Fate of the Furious

Tommy's Honour

The Lost City of Z

Next in my Netflix Queue:


Movies I Saw This Week:

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (Netflix Rating 5/5 | Quality Rating 4/4) Poster Blurb: "Makes me rethink my top 10 of All Time. A beautiful, spare, and challenging telling of the gospel."

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posted by OregonMuse at 07:37 PM

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