Tag Archives: Academy Awards

La La Librarians

Lots of great anecdotes from the New Yorker story “Scenes from the Oscar Night Implosion“, including this one on the Academy librarians planted in the corner of the press room:

In the back corner was my favorite part of the press room: the librarians’ table, where the Academy librarians are on hand to answer questions. Under a sign that said “Reference,” a librarian named Lucia Schultz had a thick binder of Oscar history and another of credits for the nominated films. Reporters came by to ask questions. Had there previously been two African-American acting winners in the same year? (Yes, in 2002, 2005, and 2007.) If Lin-Manuel Miranda won Best Original Song, would he be the youngest-ever “EGOT”? (Depends on whether you count noncompetitive awards. Barbra Streisand was younger, but she won a Special Tony Award.) Was Mahershala Ali the first Muslim to win an Oscar? (They couldn’t say, because the Academy doesn’t keep records on winners’ religious affiliations.) After Colleen Atwood won for Best Costume Design, a Metro.co.uk reporter rushed up to Schultz and asked if any other British people had won four Oscars. “Yes, but Colleen Atwood is from Washington State,” Schultz said.

Later on, as the Best Picture snafu was happening, Schultz had what we could call a run on the reference desk:

On the monitors, a guy in a headset was onstage, and the “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz was saying, “This is not a joke. ‘Moonlight’ has won Best Picture.” When the camera zoomed in on the envelope, the press room collectively screamed. A reporter ran up to Schultz and asked, “Has anything like this ever happened before?” Schultz, who had not prepared for this scenario, was frantically searching her records. “I cannot think of a case where this has happened,” she said. “There are times when people thought it happened.” More reporters lined up with the same question—it was the most attention Schultz had got all night. She remembered something about Quincy Jones and Sharon Stone forgetting the envelope for Best Original Score, in 1996, but no other precedent came to mind. (In fact, Sammy Davis, Jr., once read from the wrong envelope, in 1964.)

Time to update those reference materials.

All Animated Films Are Not Created Equal

Originally published in the North Central Chronicle in October 2008.

Are all movies created equal? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) doesn’t think so. With the creation of the Best Animated Feature category at the Academy Awards, animated movies that deserve to be nominated for Best Picture are unfairly pigeon-holed into this marginalized category.

Only one animated movie has ever been nominated for Best Picture. It was Beauty and the Beast in 1991. Though the AMPAS rules don’t prevent a film to be nominated for both categories, the chances of an animated movie being nominated for Best Picture are greatly reduced because of the animated feature category.

Take last year’s Ratatouille for example. It was one of the best reviewed films of 2007. It currently has a 95% certified fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, which is better than There Will Be Blood. So why wasn’t it nominated for Best Picture? Because an animated movie aimed at kids does not meet the same high-brow expectations as art-house flicks like There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men and so Disney would never try to lobby for a Best Picture nod, even if every member of the Academy loved it.

That’s understandable, I guess, but the real problem is how animated movies as a whole are regarded. Critics and audiences as well as the Academy ooh and ahh over the good ones but never even think Best Picture is in the cards. The Pixar animation studio has put out an unprecedented string of commercial and critical hits since Toy Story in 1995, its first feature film. Three of their films have won the Best Animated Feature award, deservedly so. But the fact that such acclaimed work does not get a fair shot at the biggest possible award for filmmaking shows an implicit condescension and under-appreciation for the animated genre in general.

Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, put it bluntly: “People keep saying, ‘The animation genre.’ It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre; animation is an art form, and it can do any genre.” Using animation is simply one way of telling a story. To box it in as a separate entity is to belittle the work writers and animators do to create an entire fictional world from scratch in order to tell a story.

And animated movies may not just be for kids. Look at last year’s Persepolis or Beowulf or the Japanese films Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. Even the more commercial Shrek and all of the Pixar movies appeal to young adults and parents because of the subtle (and not so subtle) pop culture references. I love Ratatouille and the other Pixar movies not just for their artistic shimmer and sly wit, but for their solid storytelling. That, above all, should be the litmus test for Best Picture nominees, which is how Beauty and the Beast earned a nod a decade and a half ago.

The animated feature category may do a good service by acknowledging excellence in that medium, but it does harm by allowing poor movies to be nominated. Because there are only so many feature-length animated films that wouldn’t embarrass the Academy by being nominated (I’m looking at you, Space Chimps), movies that don’t deserve the recognition sneak in beneath the far superior works. Shark Tale and Ice Age have been nominated, as well as Happy Feet, which won unjustly in 2006. The Academy needs to fill the void somehow, so they have to nominate non-Pixar movies to try to make the category relevant.

Film should serve the story. It shouldn’t matter if the film is computer-generated. The stories in Ratatouille and Toy Story 2, another animated film that got short-changed, deserve the recognition that lesser live-action movies often times receive. Pixar’s latest, WALL-E, will no doubt receive the same treatment as its predecessors, even though it was the most daring and exquisite film of the year. It will win Best Animated Feature, but it’s not just that. The level of praise it has garnered from critics and audiences is bested only by The Dark Knight which already has a better chance of scoring on Oscar night because it stars real human beings.

The best films of the year should be recognized as such. Period. Hollywood politics get in the way of this too often, which is how lesser pictures win. But because I’m not an Academy member, I can only sit back and hope the best of best get a shot at the big prize. One can only hope.

The Oscars — ‘Once’ Wins!

I got two of my Oscar picks wrong – not bad. I don’t remember why I didn’t pick Diablo Cody to win, but I’m glad she did.

Yay for Once! It was pretty lame that Marketa Irglova got cut off, but pretty awesome that Jon Stewart gave her time later.

The only reason why the ceremony keeps going so long every year is because of the pointless montages. Besides the standard In Memoriam and a fun one thrown in just for kicks, every one of them should have been cut. Though I did enjoy the “Salute to Binoculars and Waking Up from a Bad Dream” mini montages.

I love Jon Stewart, so I loved him tonight. If you don’t get or enjoy his humor, you probably thought he did poorly. But every one of his wisecracks were great.

I’m glad No Country won. Much has been said about There Will Be Blood, but that movie was Daniel Day-Lewis, and he was properly awarded for it. I think the right choice was made so that in 50 years, when they show another montage of past Best Picture winners, people will still actually like and remember No Country, as opposed to Crash, Around the World in Eighty Days, Million Dollar Baby, etc.

I love movies.

Listen Up, Academy…

My 2007 ACADEMY AWARD PICKS:

Best Picture
Who will win: No Country for Old Men
Who should win: No Country for Old Men

Best Director
Who will win: The Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men
Who should win: The Coen Brothers

Best Actor
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood
Who should win: Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd

Best Actress
Who will win: Julie Christie for Away from Her
Who should win: Laura Linney for The Savages

Best Supporting Actor
Who will win: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Who should win: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress
Who will win: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton
Who should win: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton

Best Animated Film
Which will win: Ratatouille

Best Original Song
Which will win: “Falling Slowly” from Once
Which should win: “Falling Slowly” from Once

Best Adapted Screenplay
Who will win: Coen Brothers for No Country for Old Men
Who should win: Coen Brothers

Best Original Screenplay
Who will win: Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
Who should win: Brad Bird for Ratatouille

and the oscar goes to…

Ahhh, the Oscars. Such a glorious time. I guessed 11 correctly which is pretty good for me.

Things I’m pumped about:
The Departed winning 4 awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and a much deserved Best Director for Martin Scorsese (finally!)
-Alan Arkin blowing everyone away and upsetting Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor
Pan’s Labyrinth winning a bunch, except for the all-important Best Foreign Film
Little Miss Sunshine winning a few

Things I’m a tad bummed about:
United 93 not winning anything
Monster House not winning Best Animated Feature (Happy Feet sucked!)
Children of Men getting royally snubbed

Things I’ll look forward to:
-Mark Wahlberg, Ryan Gosling, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kate Winslet all winning much deserved Oscars in the future
-Martin Scorsese’s next movie

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the results this year. Ellen DeGeneres was okay…Jon Stewart needs to come back. The Will Ferrell/Jack Black/John C. Reilly number was the highlight of the show, and Martin Scorsese kicks ass.
Here are the must-sees of 2006:
United 93, Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, The Queen, Half Nelson, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Prestige, Thank You for Smoking, Babel, Borat, Monster House, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Blood Diamond…just to name a few. Do yourself a favor and see these films in an medium. Then call me up so we can talk about them.