OP-ED: About the Academy Nominations…

January 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Look, we all understand that awards and nominations are not about true deservedness, but about who has the right hype at the right moment in the year, who’s film got released at the right time, who’s “due” by the industry for all their years of yeomen high-paid labor on the silver screen and which films or performances will be the least controversial or the most controversial depending on the needs and wants of the Academy in a particular season.

It’s for that reason that awards are ultimately bullshit, kind of like college degrees. However, we still hold the Oscars on a pedestal of gravitas, histrionics and the cement foundation upon which a Hollywood player’s house of power shall be built. The Academy Awards MATTER despite being last in line for the awards season, despite having somewhat archaic rules and regulations, along with plenty of archaic, out of touch voters determining those super secure Lloyd’s of London protected final tallies.

I love Meryl Streep. I thought she could have won for “The Devil Wears Prada” and it would have been justifiable. I thought she was brilliant in “The Deer Hunter”, “Sophie’s Choice” and many others. But lately her performances have bordered on midnight cult movie kitsch. I was shocked by her win for “The Iron Lady”.

Made up to look like a convincing drag queen’s interpretation of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, Meryl Streep engulfs the scenery in the awards-bait film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ comparatively subtle stage play “August: Osage County”. I never reviewed the film formally, but I did see it and it reeked of people jockeying for gold statues and pretending they were surprised by their nominations. Julia Roberts is a little more justifiable, but on a curve.

For confirmation of the legitimacy of my denigrating, look no further than RottenTomatoes.com’s review aggregating giving “August” a tepid, if not pretty crappy 65% fresh rating, with most critics sounding like they want to give Streep and her co-stars an outright negative judgement. The overview quote for RottenTomatoes: The sheer amount of acting going on in August: Osage County threatens to overwhelm, but when the actors involved are as talented as Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, it’s difficult to complain. It seems fear of ever admitting that Streep has managed to give a bad performance has lead to this nomination.

Hear me now: Meryl Streep gave a bad performance. She is undeserving this year.

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I’m disappointed by the lack of cojones the Academy displayed by ignoring James Franco’s gonzo “ALien” role as a Riff Raff-looking small time gangster with his ingenue-thugs in training. That’s a legendary performance that was probably too goofy to be considered high brow enough to bestow statues upon, though the Los Angeles film critics association acknowledged him by splitting its Best Supporting Actor notice between Franco and everybody new favorite AIDS-riddled drag queen Jared Leto. No disrespect to Leto’s wonderful performance, but I don’t see how being stricken with a deadly disease is any more honorable a disposition for a character than wanna-be gangster/local rapper wagger.

FRUITVALE STATION

Then there’s a movie like “Fruitvale Station”, which, admittedly is near and dear to my heart as I am an Oakland resident, as well as a cliched white guy who LOVES “The Wire” and thus Michael B. Jordan (WHERE THE FUCK IS WALLACE? WHERE’S WALLACE STRINGER?”) and was absolutely floored by Jordan’s turn as doomed youth Oscar Grant, who perished by an overzealous cop’s hand on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station, a station I’ve passed by and whose platform I’ve stood on innumerable times. I bawled like I was at a funeral when I saw him shot in the film. Octavia Spencer also deserved more recognition for her down to earth powerhouse performance as Oscar’s pragmatic mother. I got chills procuring the above production still from Google image search. So while I am undoubtedly a little bias, I still feel that the film’s early-in-the-year release doomed it, despite a healthy $16 Million+ box office tally. By comparison, awards-favorite Dallas Buyers Club has stalled at a nearly identical box office take and Nebraska, owner of six Oscar nominations, has only half that tally at $8 million after months of release and gradually dwindling returns. Not that box office is a factor in awards; it generally isn’t, thankfully.

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Finally, it is my humble opinion that Adele Exarchopoulos, star of Blue is the Warmest Colour, was robbed due to the film’s controversial subject matter. Her performance as an adolescent moving into her mid-20’s was inspiring in its ability to capture youthful naiveté turning into young adult over confidence and then settling into the late 20’s milieu of living your life for professional survival rather than exploration of the unknown. It was heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. A true powerhouse if there ever was one. It’s the token nomination of a person like Streep for a lesser performance just because of who Streep is, that spurred me to write this article.

Whereas the omissions of Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer could be justified by the limited number of nominee spots, ignoring a smaller performance (when box office doesn’t seem to factor in too heavily) for the empty lauding of a Hollywood elite like Streep is almost unforgivable in my book, if not for the fact that Oscars seem to be less meaningful each successive year, given the glut of awards and given the general knowledge that awards are more political than true yardsticks of The Best.

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