Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

My Top 10 of 2005; and Some Meaningless Oscar Blather

Posted by CinemaPsycho on February 1, 2006

So, as we all know, the Oscar nominations came out today. I’m just slightly more excited about this than I am about the Stupor Bowl – which is to say, not very.

I know, I should be more enthusiastic, given my nom de plume and all, but I’ve reached a point where award shows just don’t do it for me anymore. Having long since given up on the Grammys, the Emmys, the Golden Globes (biggest joke in the industry) and every other award show on Earth, the Oscars are pretty much the last one that I actually watch all the way through every year. But truthfully, I have to wonder what’s in it for me. It’s not like I get anything if my favorites win, right? For years I’ve wondered about people who actually care about sports – rooting for a bunch of millionaires playing children’s games seems like a colossal waste of time. I just don’t give a rat’s ass.

But how is this any different? Does it really impact my life in any way if George Clooney wins an Oscar? Not really – he’ll still be getting all the money and pussy in the world whether he wins or loses. So why do I care? Fuck that guy!

But seriously, I think a large part of my Oscar burnout is due to having spent the last month or so trying to catch up with the likely contenders in theaters. It’s not the movies themselves that discourage me – they’ve mostly been terrific. It’s the accompanying media cynicism and general apathy from the public that puts me in the doldrums. I’m sick to death of hearing about how Memoirs of a Geisha (which I really liked, and apparently I’m the only one) was such a disappointment and the casting was “racist”. I’m bored silly by the “controversy” surrounding Munich, an excellent picture that apparently suffers from not being bloodthirsty enough, if you can believe that. If only they’d cast Jean-Claude van Damme as Avner and let him kickbox the evil Palestinians (complete with twirling mustaches) to death. They could tie Avner’s wife to the railroad tracks…

And I swear to Christ, if I hear one more fucking “gay cowboy” joke, I’m gonna move to Tibet and become a sheltered monk for the rest of my life. Enough already. You’re not comfortable with male homosexuality, we get it. I’ve actually read articles that suggest this phenomenon shows that people are becoming more accepting of gay content – well, from my vantage point in the Midwest, I think the opposite is true. If anything, the movie is being used as an excuse to take cheap shots at gay people. To lame comedians and stupid radio disc jockeys, Brokeback Mountain is a punchline, not an artistic achievement. I’ve even gotten emails from people that read like this – “can’t wait for your Brokeback Mountain review, LOL”. What’s that about?

If I’ve ever given the impression on this site (and I don’t think I have) that I’m some sort of idiot gay-basher, let me correct that right now. Although I didn’t think it was the best film of the year, I sincerely hope that Brokeback cleans up at the Oscars, just because it would be a swift kick in the nuts to all the ignorant, intellectually retarded rednecks out there. Not that those people actually care about things like the Academy Awards, but at least they’d have to take notice of it. If this movie brings us even a tiny bit closer to – dare I say it – social progress, I’m all for it. It’s long past time for people to fucking get over it already. Gay people are out there, they exist, now let’s just deal. And I say this as a straight male without a gay bone in his body (it’s sad that I have to explain that, but I know certain people will wonder after reading this). People are what they are. If you can’t handle that, shut the fuck up and leave them alone. You can be secure in the knowledge that they probably don’t like you either.

The odd thing is that Brokeback is hardly the “gay recruitment” movie that it’s been portrayed as by the Christian right. Being gay in Wyoming doesn’t exactly seem like a barrel of fun, know what I mean? If you have to go up to a fucking mountain to be happy and be yourself…that’s not particularly encouraging. (Hey, is there a straight mountain I can go to?) When a major character dies from a gay-bashing incident, and there’s a flashback about a guy who had his dick ripped off for being gay, and these two guys are miserable their whole lives because they have to hide their relationship, I wouldn’t call that a real propaganda piece for embracing the gay lifestyle. This portrayal isn’t going to convert anyone – it’s sad and depressing. From a different perspective, this could easily have been a Lifetime movie about two devoted wives whose husbands deceive them about their true sexuality. The whole thing is fucked up, and that’s the point. If Ennis and Jack could just go off together and be gay, that’d be one thing, but the society they live in won’t allow it. So everybody winds up getting hurt in the process. And there are quite a lot of places in America where it’s still like that, so let’s not kid ourselves.

The thing that struck me the most about the movie was that it was taking place during the Sixties and Seventies, for cryin’ out loud. There were all these social changes happening at the time, and these people aren’t even aware of it. If that’s not the saddest thing of all, it’s damn close to it. It’s kind of like my Mom – she grew up in the Sixties, yet she didn’t know who Jimi Hendrix was. She never heard about Woodstock or any of that stuff. You would think she lived on Mars or something. She was there, but was she really there? It’s amazing how people can live through a time like that and experience virtually none of it.

Anyway, let’s veer back to the subject of the Oscars. I can’t say I was really surprised by any of the nominations. Yeah, there were some worthy films and actors left out, but that happens every year. That’s only natural when you make an arbitrary list like “the 5 Best Performances by an Actor” – it’s no different than making a list of the “Most Attractive Women” or “Most Do-able Babes”. Completely subjective. In this case, it’s more of a collective subjectivity, but basically it’s whoever gets the most votes. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, any list of attractive women without Kristen Bell on it is simply incomplete, but I never see her name on any of those things. One person’s “Best Albums of the Year” will be completely different from another person’s. This isn’t any different. Let’s say there are 6 great Supporting Actress performances this year – one of them is going to get left out. Does that make the 6th person’s performance less great? Of course not. All it means is, they didn’t make that particular list. It’s an error of omission, not a political statement. Now let’s say there are 10 or 20 or even 50…you get the idea.

So who am I genuinely happy for? Philip Seymour Hoffman, of course. He’s one of the best actors working, and he’s terrific in Capote. David Straithairn, just for being recognized. Paul Giamatti (finally!). William Hurt – great to see A History of Violence get something. Amy Adams, even though I didn’t see Junebug, just because she’s cute as all hell and no one seems to know who she is (besides me, obviously). Catherine Keener, absolutely. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, sure. See what happens when you actually act, Reese? Do more of that, please. Clooney for director (see, I was kidding above) and Munich for bucking the political-pressure bullshit. And pretty much everyone involved with Brokeback Mountain, but most especially Michelle “Jen” Williams, for two reasons: 1) she totally nailed the part and kicked ass (you can just feel the pain in her eyes) and 2) maybe now people will finally stop complaining about movies having “WB casts”. Hollywood skews young, and always has – get over it already.

Who would I have liked to see get more recognition? Well, I would have loved to see A History of Violence get noms in the major categories (Best Picture, Director, Mortensen for Actor, Bello for Actress) but it being a Cronenberg film, I knew there wasn’t a shot in hell of that happening. The Academy doesn’t like Cronenberg, because they suck. Also, I would’ve liked to see Match Point get a few more, because that might mean the film would actually play at a theater near me and I could go see the damn thing! Ditto on The New World. And it’s not exactly a big shocker that King Kong only got technical awards – did anyone really expect otherwise? I love the movie, but it’s more of a technical achievement than it is a film with great acting or writing. Then again, one could say the same thing about Titanic, but that had massive critical acclaim at the time (as did Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy), something that Kong decidedly lacked. Plus it was three hours long, and we just can’t have that, you know. People have their priorities.

Overall, as a film fan, I really can’t complain all that much. See, I remember a time when indie or “low-budget” films had an uphill battle getting any recognition from the Academy. It wasn’t so long ago that, if a film wasn’t produced by a major studio (not a major’s indie division) and/or featured major A-list stars, it was dead to Oscar. That all changed around 1996 or so, when movies like Fargo got in there and made most mainstream moviegoers ask, “what the fucking hell is Fargo?” So the fact that most of the nominations were given to films that haven’t been seen by the mainstreamers kinda delights me to no end. It’s not an elitist thing, really – I just think that quality films need to be sought out, and the Oscars give people a reason to do that. If these nominations mean more people will see a film like Capote or Good Night, and Good Luck, or even a Junebug or a Transamerica – if it helps people broaden their cinematic horizons even just a little – I’m all fucking for it. I mean, we live in a country where people flock to see utter crap like Big Momma’s House 2, and I honestly can’t imagine why. Weren’t they burned badly enough on the first one? We have more choices than ever now, thanks to multiple screens, DVD, cable movie channels, and people still want to see that? I don’t get it.

The one movie that genuinely surprised me, that I wasn’t expecting to get multiple nominations, was Crash. I never actually saw Crash, probably because I was too busy this summer seeing stuff like Mr. and Mrs. Smith (see, I’m a hypocrite) but pretty much everybody I know who saw it said the same thing – “overrated”. I honestly can’t say I thought it would be a major player in the Oscars this year, or that it wouldn’t be – I didn’t really give it that much thought. I can’t even complain about it being there, because I haven’t seen the film and I can’t speak to its quality. Maybe I’d really like it, I don’t know. But it seems to be this year’s Miramax movie – meaning, the one movie that many people think doesn’t deserve to be there (I know, it’s not an actual Miramax film). Whether or not that’s true, it’s funny to me how certain people bitch about the Academy only nominating “important films” – like, what are they supposed to nominate, Cheaper by the Dozen 2? This is what happens when you read the AICN Talkbacks too much; you start thinking everyone’s an idiot. Hell, I’d rather see a movie that’s about something get nominated, even if I didn’t like it, than a movie about nothing that I did like. If that makes any sense at all.

Then again, there will always be people who bitch about the Oscars, no matter what gets nominated (Peter Travers, for one). If the nominated movies are too big, they’re playing it safe and shutting out independents. If the films are too small, they’re ignoring popular tastes and showing elitism. Whatever. Why can’t it just be about quality? Or is that too naïve?

So this brings me (finally) to my Top 10. Some people apparently thought 2005 was a terrible year for movies. Personally, I think those people are on crack. Look at what we had this year – a Star Wars movie that was actually watchable! A really good Batman movie! New movies by David Cronenberg and George Romero that actually got wide releases! It’s been about 15 years since we could say that. Spielberg knocked it out of the park twice! Paris Hilton got a pipe shoved through her head! (on screen, I mean) And Freddie Prinze Jr. was nowhere to be found (except on TV, and I’ve avoided him there too)! And if Hollywood fare didn’t satisfy you, there were a megaton of foreign films in theaters and on DVD, especially Asian imports from the likes of Chan-Wook Park, Kim ki-Duk and Takashi Miike! Even Ingmar Bergman had a new film out, for christ’s sake. Seriously, what are people complaining about? I mean, if you suffered through The Dukes of Hazzard or Son of the Mask or Alone in the Dark or Guess Who, frankly that’s your own damn fault. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know those movies were going to suck. If you’re basing your movie year on the absolute worst dreck that’s out there, obviously you’re going to think that it sucked. If all you watch is Fear Factor and Skating with Celebrities, you’re going to think TV sucks too. But it doesn’t, if you know what to watch. Use your head.

So, as with last year, my Top 10 list is indicative only of my personal tastes and nothing else. I’m not claiming these are the “best” movies of the year – they are the movies that I liked the most, that rocked my world the most. I obviously didn’t see everything that came out this year, and I don’t claim to. Movies I missed for various reasons include Crash, The Wedding Crashers (is there a theme here?), The Constant Gardener (it had a brief one-week run at a shoddy second-run theater here, and I didn’t want to see it that way) and The Squid and the Whale. Movies that didn’t play anywhere near me by the end of January include The New World, Match Point, The Matador, Transamerica and The Producers (yes, really). I saw one of my Top 10 on DVD, the rest theatrically, and a few films that I gave “4 stars” to didn’t make the list simply because there wasn’t enough room for them. That’s a sign of a good year for me. So here we go:

1) A History of Violence

2) George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead

3) Oldboy

4) Good Night, and Good Luck

5) Munich

6) Capote

7) War of the Worlds

8) King Kong

9) The Devil’s Rejects

10) Brokeback Mountain

So there you have it. Take it for what it’s worth, That wraps up 2005 – I’ll be back soon with more reviews and my annual list of films I don’t want to see this year. Later

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