Anonymous Assistant’s Annual Academy Awards Analysis! Part II

As happens every year, most of the talk around the office for the last few days has centered on the Oscar nominations.  (Well, that and Lost.)  Camera guys are bitching that District 9 didn’t get a cinematography nomination, writers are mocking Avatar for getting a best picture nomination but not a screenplay nod (which didn’t hurt Titanic any).  Me?  I’m just happy that the majority of the best picture nominees are actually enjoyable movies.

I like that this whole top ten thing goes back to the first Academy Awards ceremony, where they actually gave away two best pictures: Most Outstanding Production and Most Artistic Quality of Production.  A split like that would’ve made years like 1999 much more palatable– Saving Private Ryan could’ve won Outstanding Production while Shakespeare in Love would’ve gotten the Artistic Quality award.

For my money, Hurt Locker should win both, this year.  But my batting average in Oscar predicting is well below .500, so don’t put any money on it.

On a side note, Mark Harris wrote a horrible article in Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago, regarding Avatar’s chances of getting any acting nominations.

When Saldana was ”playing” the role, she may have widened her eyes in fear or narrowed them in disgust; she may have recoiled in horror or crumpled in sorrow. Did she sigh, swallow hard, or express conflicting emotions? Beats me, since Cameron could easily have added, eliminated, or altered anything she did.

Does Harris even understand how movies are made?  Actors do several, many, dozens, or scores of takes of a single line.  Directors and editors rearrange, alter, and/or mangle performances from multiple takes all the time.  Not to mention ADR, a complete rerecording of the dialogue to adjust a reading (or just cover up for a an airplane flying overhead on the day of shooting).  In a movie, you never, ever, ever know if what you’re seeing is what the actor did or intended during production.

Lee Daniels did not use a computer to give Mo’Nique’s voice the unpredictable pitches of rage, fear, shame, and self-justification she brings to the shattering climax of Precious.

Yes, he did.  I promise you, there was a sound mix on that film.

Kathryn Bigelow’s work on The Hurt Locker, for all its technical mastery, makes plenty of room for Jeremy Renner’s unsettlingly jovial/creepy rhythms.

I would love to know how much of that jovial/creepy rhythm was created by Paul Ottoson.  Harris certainly has no idea.

Avatar deserves applause for many things, including its huge leap in making CG creatures plausible by turning its cast into face-voice-and-body puppeteers. But that’s a breakthrough in animation, not screen acting. Performances ”captured” the old-fashioned way still set a standard of excellence that this film, for all its innovation, can’t touch.

Aaaaaand, this is where Harris completely loses me.  No movie in the last twelve months affected me as deeply or moved me to tears like Up.  You can’t tell me that those first twenty minutes would have been better with two child actors.

Ultimately, this is why I like the Oscars, as opposed to the Golden Globes, or any critic’s top ten.  For all its flaws, the Academy is composed entirely of people who make movies.  People who know how hard Barry Ackroyd worked to film those amazing explosions for the Hurt Locker, or how ingenious Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin were in both creating new and repurposing classic sounds for Star Trek.

Harris doesn’t know who any of these people are, or understand their jobs.  Hell, the Golden Globes don’t even give awards for below-the-line crew.

I’ll take the Academy any day, even if they do occasionally give the Best Picture award to Forrest Gump instead of The Shawshank Redemption.

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4 Responses

  1. For Shakespeare in Love to have won over Elizabeth was just wrong! I tell you it was just wrong!

  2. I don’t even watch the globes. Academy all the way.

    Nobody has a clue to the amount of work that went into Avatar.

    But I still don’t think it should take Best Picture over The Hurt Locker.

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