Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Oscars: What The Academy Missed

Well, hello Geekbags!

JeffroGee here!

The 82nd annual Academy Awards are fast approaching as the energy in Hollywood begins to shift into a media frenzy for the main event in cinema. Sunday brings yet another different Oscars ceremony with hosts Steve Martin AND Alec Baldwin sharing the stage to keep the night moving at what will hopefully be an entertaining pace. I have always enjoyed the Oscars, if anything due to my love of the filmmaking art form. Hollywood is a tough business to break into and it has always inspired me to see some of my favorite filmmakers praised for their work. This is the Super Bowl for film and it means everything to take home the naked gold dude! For some, their whole life has been about that moment and you can certainly feel the emotion when the names are announced.

Many viewers of the Oscars have not even seen the films that are nominated or that even end up winning. Yet still, the broadcast gains intense viewership every season. Like an ex girlfriend who roots for a ball team just for their pretty colored helmets, many root for their favorite actors just because they think they are pretty or handsome.

There is a trust in the Academy Awards that they are the end all be all to what is “the best”, year in and year out. But is this always true? In my world, I will passionately tell you that The English Patient is one of the most tedious films to sit through and yet it won Best Picture. I thought Crash was a decent film with a nice message, but felt it was in no way deserving of its Oscar win. And we don’t even need to mention Shakespeare In Love winning the top award over Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. Or at least, I hope that we don’t need to mention it. Needless to say, there are oversights that go even further than that. What about the incredible film that doesn’t even get a nomination?

I can recall way too many occasions where I was completely blown away by a film only to see it utterly ignored by the elite Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I am talking about films that deserved the notice but instead got burned and left in the hurt locker. This year alone I was shocked to see The Hangover given The Blind Side. Literally. With ten slots available in the Best Picture category, there was ample room to finally give comedies (which are often ignored by Oscar) their chance in the spotlight. But once again, comedies were snubbed and films like The Blind Side somehow sneaked into the race.

I was impressed that the wholly original sci-fi pic District 9 was recognized, which saved the committee a small bit of face in that regard. But let’s talk about the films that never got the nomination. Let’s go down my personal list for films, performances, and hard work that got sent to the wayside.

There’s even a chance you will scroll through here and see films you didn’t even know existed, in which case, it’s time to throw some new DVDs into your precious netflix queue. In my world, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the films I am listing.

Let’s begin with something current.

THE ROAD-John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s haunting novel of a post apocalyptic America was a mesmerizing film with an outstanding emotional lead performance by Viggo Mortenson that was completely overlooked. I was beside myself on nomination day to find that Viggo was absent from the list. The film itself is a father/son story that moved anyone who actually sat down to watch. I was entranced by the film's story/visuals, Viggo was incredible, the Academy shunned. Upsetting to say the least. Many said the film was too depressing, which I think is a pretty lame reaction to something that you know going in is about the possible end of humanity. When you get a chance, check out THE ROAD. And be warned, it’s not a date movie.

500 DAYS OF SUMMER-One of my favorite films of the current year, a very honest and numbingly real journey into a love story that ends in sorrow. Joseph Gordon Levitt delivers an extremely believable performance as the heart crossed lover on a crash path with Zooey Deschanel. For anyone who has ever been in a relationship that seemed to be heading towards something amazing when the ground was suddenly pulled from underneath you, get ready to relate! Marc Webb’s effort as a director here may have been snubbed by the Academy but did earn him a deal with Sony to direct the next Spiderman reboot. I credit much of this film’s greatness to the screenwriting of Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber who were overlooked in the original screenplay category.

THE HANGOVER-Goes without even saying, this should have been in the Best Picture running. Shame on you, Academy! One of the funniest films of the last five years!

DARK BLUE-starring Kurt Russell as a hard nosed LA Detective spiraling out of control days before the famed LA Riots. This is a story of corruption and deceit that climaxes with a riot unfolding on every street corner. Not only was this Ron Shelton film overlooked by Oscar, but also by the general public. When people ask me what to rent, much of the time, I mention Dark Blue. And for your money, the screenplay is by David Ayer and James Ellroy. Two hard-boiled geniuses that rarely fail with story and dialogue.

TOMBSTONE-staying in line with Kurt Russell films. Tombstone might be the most shunned film of all time. Every actor gives a stand out performance, especially Val Kilmer as the nerveless Doc Holiday. I rarely play poker without someone quoting Val’s version of Doc and his famous quip, ”I’m your huckleberry.” Val sinks right into the part of Doc so invisibly that I often forget I am watching Kilmer as I enjoy the film! Everything about his acting in this movie is dead on. Doc Holiday has always been a fun role for actors to jump into, as the Wyatt Earp story has been adapted many times. But Val’s version is hands down the best! Tombstone is a classic that is endlessly entertaining as a western, action film, romance, and story of friendship. And how many nominations did this film achieve? None. Zero. The only awards this film was able to muster were MTV Movie Award noms for Val. Not even an art direction or costume nomination? Get lost, Academy!

THE BIG LEBOWSKI-Once in a long while, a film hits that endures. The Coen Brothers quietly released The Big Lebowski in the early part of 1998 and it quickly came and went from theatres. I had seen the film months before at a test screening and thought it was one of the best movies I had seen in a long time. I had told people for months that they had to see The Big Lebowski and then the movie barely stayed in the Cineplex! I moved on…the film hit DVD…and then something mysterious and awesome happened as the movie found its audience. So much so that it has spawned a touring festival known as the Lebowski Fest where legions of fans flock to pay homage to the greatness of Lebowski by bowling and dressing as their favorite characters! Books have been written, annoying people quote from the movie almost non-stop, and true film lovers watch it annually. How can we not love Jeff Bridges as The Dude, the guy who is taking it easy with his white russian beverage even as mystery and chaos unfold around him? Bridges should have been nominated, John Goodman should have been nominated for his supporting role, the Coens should have been nominated, and Roger Deakins photography should have been nominated. But maybe “The Dude” would rather the film be honored the way it is honored now…by us true achievers.

PERMANENT MIDNIGHT-Ben Stiller gave the performance of his career as the drug addicted Jerry Stahl. Jerry was a TV show writer who gave us the beloved ALF, a show about an alien living with a suburban family that surely came from one of Jerry’s storied heroine comas. Stiller who is usually known for his quirky parts played it serious here for what I think is an A+ performance. Rent it, watch it, love it!

TRAINSPOTTING-People ask me sometimes…what is your favorite film of all time? I have a hard time with that question because I have a lot of favorite movies. But I usually answer Trainspotting because I have never seen anything like it. It is still unequaled in its originality. And I mean this not just in it’s story but through the unique cinematography, dynamic editing, intense performances, and kick ass soundtrack. Trainspotting takes us on a messed up ride with Mark Renton who may or not want to kick his heroine addiction and move on into real life. The true miss here is the Academy’s cold shoulder to Robert Carlyle who steals the show as Francis Begbie…the film’s likeable villain. I can never get enough of Trainspotting which never pulls its punches and brings us memorable characters that we want to hang out with despite their drug issues.

THE FULL MONTY-Another Robert Carlyle film here! Oh yeah. The hilarious story of out of work small town heroes taking it off for cash is one of the most overlooked films out there! It’s recognition now continues to grow as a musical that landed on Broadway and now tours the globe!

DARK CITY-a totally original story from director Alex Proyas (The Crow) that hurdles a sci-fi mystery at us that shifts at every turn! What if every time we fell asleep, a freaky force of psychic aliens who are using us as an experiment re arranged everything? If you thought this was a comic book/graphic novel first, you would be wrong. This was an original story and continues to be one of the most interesting films out there. Jennifer Connelly, Rufus Sewell, and Kiefer Sutherland shine here in a film that should have at least gotten an editing, cinematography, or art direction nod. Instead…nothing. The Saturn awards would be this film’s only true recognition. That…and Roger Ebert whom championed this film as the triumph of 1998.

DOGTOWN AND Z BOYS-Alright, so I am a skateboard lover. Maybe it is just me and my love for the sport. But I thought this documentary from pro skater Stacey Peralta was an insightful look at how skateboarding came to be what it is today. And yes, it went unnoticed….

STEP INTO LIQUID-And then there is the surf film by Bruce Brown’s son Dana Brown that showcases surfing around the world…from Lake Michigan in Wisconsin (Yep, surfers in Wisconsin) to surfers riding cargo ship wake! I thought this was a film that showed how the peaceful art of wave riding has brought people together around the planet!

Let’s talk songs….

A major gripe I have with the Academy is their off choice for original song every year. They seem to always favor Disney…and often times avoid original songs that could bring some serious depth and energy to the broadcast. But more so…they don’t nominate quality songs!

Like…THE CALL! An original song from PRINCE NARNIA by Regina Spektor that was on the list but got sent to the wardrobe by three mediocre Disney jams. Lame on all accounts. A truly beautiful song.

THE WRESTLER…by Bruce Springsteen. You could hear the pain in old Bruce’s voice as he sang about the pained emotional state Mickey Rourke’s character in Darren Aronofky’s The Wrestler is going through. Where was the Academy on this one? Probably lightly blowing in Randy Newman’s ear again. (On a side note…Rourke’s wrestler deserved to win against Sean Penn’s MILK.)

SCHOOL OF ROCK-the family friendly story, which inspired kids across the nation to pick up an instrument, featured actual kids playing the music on the soundtrack! Original songs that truly rocked! That year…the Academy opted to nominate two boring ass songs from Cold Mountain instead. I rest my case. This one still burns.

And finally….

MILLER’S CROSSING-This Gangster drama by the Coen brothers about feuding bosses during the prohibition era was completely forgotten by the Academy. Still one of the best gangster flicks out there and deserving of your time as a viewer if ever you get the chance.

Look, we could talk about GRAN TORINO, 21 GRAMS, DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR, HOOP DREAMS, and TOUCH OF EVIL all day. But these things are out of our hands. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the Academy thinks. What matters is what YOU think! I don’t believe our favorite filmmakers make a movie so that they can earn an Oscar nod. They make the movies so that we can sit down and enjoy them. So that we can escape, relate, or understand. Oscar may have overlooked the aforementioned films, but they don’t have to be overlooked by us! And thanks to the power of the Internet, many of these films are just a click away! So, jump in geek brains! Watch those movies and forget about Oscar! Because in the end…you are the only viewer that truly matters!

What do you think? Are there any great films that went unnoticed that you would like to mention? Kick it back! I’d love to know!

JeffroGee OUT!


  1. That's a great list. I've gotta agree with you about The Hangover. It truly deserved a Best Picture nod, along with an Original Screenplay nod. I would even go so far as to say a Supporting Actor nomination for Zach G.

    Along with your list of over looked songs, one that didn't get any attention a few years back was "Here's to Love" sung by Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger. Such a great song that not a lot of people know about. Do yourself a favor people, if you want a great throwback to 60's romantic comedies with great performances, add "Down With Love" to your queue.


  2. in the category of comedy shunning: The Office, Bill Murray not getting nommed for GroundHog Day, Steve Martin for All of Me.

    The Academy has done the "10 best" instead of five before. They did it for short films in 2000. One of those ten showcased comedic actor Robert Peters in "Mutual Love Life" or "Love Insurance" ... Finally, got something almost right with comedy ...