“When Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis announced the expansion of the best picture category to 10 nominations back in June, everyone was talking about J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek being the kind of movie that might benefit from a wider field,” writes Variety‘s Glenn Whipp. “Critics liked it; audiences loved it: It was the type of sturdy popcorn movie that, if nominated, might give the awards telecast a ratings boost — or, at least, stem further viewer erosion.
“Now, as Oscar season kicks into gear, nobody is talking about Star Trek much anymore. And, as audiences and Academy members have seen most of the Oscar contenders, a vague sense of discomfort hangs over Hollywood as some naysayers wonder how they might possibly fill out a ballot that now includes 10 slots.
“‘This is not 1939,’ says one Academy member, who like most people interviewed for this story, asked not to be identified. ‘I’m just not seeing stuff that’s blowing me away, and it’s October. When the year began, I was hoping for masterpieces. Now I’d just take a good midrange drama, and I’m not even getting that.’”
Due respect but what is this person talking about? 1939? As in what happened to good old David O. Selznick, Victor Fleming, John Ford and Michael Curtiz?
The Academy is full of people who live in a kind of denial-prone nostalgia bubble who won’t give in to serious enthusiasm about any film unless “the waitress takes you into a back room and sucks your dick,” to borrow a line from Reservoir Dogs. Has this guy seen Up In The Air, The Hurt Locker, An Education, A Serious Man, Bright Star, District 9, etc.? I’ve heard this complaint year after year. I know what these guys want from a film. They want something grand, bold, devastating. An experience that will melt them down, lure them into a Godly embrace, inspire them to run out and hug their kids. A movie to go “wow!” about with your friends in the lobby and make everyone do cartwheels. Or that…you know, will bathe them in a soaring orchestral score by James Horner or whatever.
In short, they want the kind of high-pedigree, finely-fused emotional bath movie that the major studios used to try to make but began abandoning in the ’90s, and have now pretty much given up on. They’re investing in Guy Ritchie movies for December release these days, and Guy Ritchie ain’t Sidney Lumet or Mike Nichols or David Lean. Well, the save-us-from-disappointment crowd had better get with it. They’d better wake up and smell the cappucino. The reality is that the Oscars have pretty much become the Spirit Awards in tuxedoes and designer gowns. That’s the world we’ve all created and are living in. I for one am down with that, but some people are beyond reach.