Critics Groups, Oscars, Bloggers…What Does It All Mean? Fuck If I Know!

So the majority of the year end awards have come and gone and since I haven’t been keeping a running tally (I really should have been) I’m gonna give big ups to Movie City News for their obscenely comprehensive awards section. The thing is, the damn site’s so comprehensive (The top 10 from the UC Gauntlet’s Ryan Pike….300 at #6 and Transformers at #10? Really dude?) that anyone could pick and choose from the info and shape it to illustrate almost anything….except that 300 is the sixth best film of the year.
While it’s clear that no single critics group can predict the Oscars (assuming they are the ne plus ultra of awards “season”) some front runners are emerging in the race to fill out the nomination fields. The last to present their awards, the Oscars are still the “big show” and despite attempts by the Independent Spirit Awards and Golden Globes to chip away at their luster, one is always drawn back to what Roger Avary said when accepting his Spirit Award for co-writing Pulp Fiction (and I may be paraphrasing, here…I was pretty drunk at the time): “This is really nice…. it won’t fit up my butt as well as an Oscar, though.” I can’t think of a cruder way to put it, but yes, winning an Oscar is largely considered to be better, in every way, than winning a Spirit Award or Golden Globe.
As for the Globes, in nominating 12 films between their two best picture categories, they’ve proven themselves to be even more of a farce than in years past. Why not 14? Couldn’t they find 7 musical/comedy films that “rated?” Speaking of the Musical/Comedy category, how is La Vie en Rose a musical? If every film that had music in it was considered a musical… And then there’s the oddity of Persepolis. So the acclaimed Sony Pictures Classics release was good enough to be nominated for best foreign-language film, but not as best animated feature? So Bee Movie is a better film? (NOTE: I read somewhere that films can only be nominated for one “Best” category at the Globes, but can’t confirm this, because the Globs don’t seem to post their voting rules on their site). And whither The Counterfeiters? In my not-so-humble opinion, this film is clearly one of the best five foreign language films of the year, but it’s getting no love from critics groups and very little press attention, possibly because Sony Classics isn’t releasing it until next year. Will this affect its chances at the Academy Awards? I hope not, because it’s an exceptional piece of work.

As far as the awards go, thanks to the increased coverage of films on the Internets, relatively obscure critics and groups are getting more attention and so are the films and performances they are championing. While this isn’t always a good thing (Beowulf at #2 or Spider-Man 3 at #4, for example) it can bring attention to some smaller films that the mainstream media (MSM) might overlook or to some worthy larger films that their distributor might overlook (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, anyone?). Face it, we film geeks are a discerning lot and while we might disagree over some of the larger films of the year, I defy you to find more than a cursory few who dislike Cristian Mungiu’s tense and stirring Cannes Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. While Romanian-language films are not traditionally huge box office draws, the country is undergoing a sort of renaissance at the moment and maybe the attention given by bloggers to Mungiu’s film along with Corneliu Poriumboiu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest can jump start what has of late, been a rather moribund box office for foreign language films.
What does all of this mean? Well, as my title implies, I am not quite sure. I think we’re still in the “shakedown” part of this explosion of pundits. Any asshole (present company included) with a computer can start a blog and post his or her opinions on the year’s best or worst films, music, books, etc. and you know what they say about opinions, right? I have to believe that by and large, that’s a good thing. The “people” have rarely had a voice as powerful as the web and blogs have an opportunity to become and as long as we can occasionally actually see the forest for the trees, I’d like to hope it’ll turn out for the best. Then again, there’s always the chance we’ll be buried under a steaming pile of “Today I walked my dog and had oatmeal aren’t I interesting, gazing at my navel” blogs. Like I said, fuck if I know.

Photo credits, top to bottom: Karl Markovics in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters, photo by Jat Jurgen Olczyk © Beta Film GmbH, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics; Brad Pitt as Jesse James in Andrew Dominik’sThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford photo by Kimberley French, © Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc.; Anamaria Marinca as Otilia and Laura Vasiliu as Gabita in Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, © Mobra Films/Adi Paduretu

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