"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The End of the World As We Know It

First, he'd have to wipe out half the movies, to achieve balance....

From some documentary I saw on TeeVee many, many years ago, I still recall this anecdote about the early Academy Awards presentations.  This would have been before TV became the best friend the Academy ever had, and much closer to the time the Academy was a shameless attempt by the studio heads to garner some credibility for the trash they regularly churned out (i.e., before tout le monde discovered that Howard Hawks and John Ford* became auteurs and 40's films were dubbed "Film Noir" by the French, whom we still despise unless they bestow fancy labels on what we consume and make locally).  Jimmy Stewart, I think the phrase was attributed to, said he and his fellow actors were  laughing at the pretension of an "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences" because, in their experience, there was damned little art involved, and even less science.

I think of that now, every time someone takes the Oscars seriously, at all.  Like now, for instance:

Yes, "Achievement in Popular Film."  Because "Annie Hall" wasn't popular, nor was "Schindler's List," or "Saving Private Ryan," or any other film that won "Best Picture" (a dubious category on it's own) in the past.  Now finally the blockbusters will get their due, which will:  increase the market value of "Black Panther" or "Avengers:  Infinity War" or "Deadpool 2"?

Holy Shitballs!  Holy shit!**

**Deadpool 2 joke.  Don't think about it too hard.  Except as what it does to the sanctity of the Oscars to award a film that has a choir, very English, very formal, singing those words over the end credits.  I mean, it's funny, and the film was extremely popular ("Deadpool" was, frankly, better overall) but is it:  Oscarbait?

Dunno, don't care, just noticing the humor in it.  I mean, I loved "Annie Hall" at the time, but I'm not sure it wears as well as "A Night at the Opera" or even "Duck Soup."  And none of them lay a glove on "You Can't Take It With You."  I can't remember what else has won "Best Picture," but it's not usually a movie I cared about that much, and the award certainly never drove me back to the theater to see what I missed.  In fact, most of the awards are pretty dumb. Is the winner of "Best Actor" really better than the other nominees?  And isn't the "Best Actress" award kind of sexist by now?

The best part about this announcement is all the thumb-sucker pieces that will be produced with arguments turning archly on how one defines a "popular film."  

Here’s an arbitrary metric the Academy could use: “Popular” movies are the top 30 grossers at the domestic box office for the year. (There are problems with this metric, which I’ll get to, but go with me for the moment.)

This will be the typical (even stereotypical) sentence, and it will immediately be shot down because some "bad" movie like "The Greatest Showman" (which, honestly, looked like crap.  Then again, not my genre, and what do I know.  If it's made by Marvel Studios, I respond like Pavlov's dog.)  And the conclusion will be something like this:

So “popular” will likely end up being defined as “vaguely genre-y,” except the Academy can’t say, “This award is for sci-fi, horror, fantasy, action, superhero, and comedy films,” for fear of further segregating those films from consideration in other categories, when they already struggle to get noticed, to say nothing of the fear of defining movies in those genres as “not good enough to be the Best Picture.”

And no one will bother to offer a definition of what "Best Picture" is; apparently the Academy just knows it when it sees it.  And in fact, "Popular" movie gives the Academy an excuse to eat its cake and have its cake, too; because it can still award "Best Picture" to the one that most burnishes its reputation as an academy of arts (sciences are relegated to all those awards for sound editing and cinematography that take place in another place at another time, without the glitterati or the cameras).


*Who apparently was quite a bit of a dick, at least in the ways he treated Maureen O'Sullivan, on-screen and off, and shouldn't we be exhuming his corpse soon and berating him and his career for that, hmmmm?


Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

Oh, oh. Watch out. People flip out when you diss the cinema.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

So if I mix cinema into an exegetical text, I could get people to read the latter? GOLD!

8:37 PM  

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