I don’t usually start off with sarcasm, but I feel like this is a special case.
It’s the 2014 awards season! The Golden Globes kicked off said season last week, and were follwed by yesterday’s SAG Awards. In the coming weeks, leading to the Academy Awards on March 2nd, 2014, we’ll see a gaggle of other award shows, all centered on deciding who kicked the most ass in filmmaking during 2013. These include the WGA Awards, DGA Awards, and BAFTA, to name a few.
Usually, this is one of my favorite times of the year (the other being Hallowe’en). Reason being, I get to watch a lot of movies, good movies, with minimal pocket damage. It’s one of the perks of being in SAG-AFTRA. Because the SAG Awards happen early on in the season, people tend to use it as an indicator of which films will be successful come Oscar time. And because the SAG Awards are decided by a popularity vote of all union’s members, the studios like to make it easier for us to get access to their films. Screening copies get sent out, along with ticket vouchers, and invitations to special screenings with pretty awesome Q&As.
This year, however, has kind of been an emotional kick in the gonads. I’m not speaking to the quality of this year’s films, because I’ve seen some pretty great filmmaking the past few weeks. It’s a strong field this year and it seems like there aren’t any clear frontrunners in the awards race – they’re all great, great films.
It’s just that they’re all so damn sad. Well, maybe “sad” isn’t quite the correct word. Everything is just so… heavy.
Let’s take a look at the noms for Best Picture:
|Film||Quick Premise||What happens? (Highlight for Spoilers)|
|12 Years a Slave||Solomon Northup, born a free man, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Without ability to contact friends or family, he is forced to endure atrocity after atrocity for the next 12 years of his life.||A white man sympathetic to the plight of slaves contacts Solomon’s family. He is eventually reunited with them, but again… he’s lost 12 years.|
|American Hustle||A whole bunch of fucked up con-people con the shit out of other until they’re all conned out.||People go to jail, reputations are ruined, communities get screwed over. But hey, the conmen live happily ever after, it seems.|
|Captain Phillips||Somali pirates take over a container ship, fight over drugs, hold people for ransom and die. Forrest Gump tries to hold shit together.||Pirates get sniped by SEALS, Captain Gump survives.|
|Dallas Buyers Club||Homophobic electrician contracts HIV and creates drug black market to circumvent restrictive drug laws. Ends up befriending the very people he was so biased against.||Formerly homophobic electrician gains some success getting unapproved drugs. Prolongs life. Eventually dies of AIDS.|
|Gravity||Astronaut Dr. Ryan is caught in a bad place when space debris takes out almost her entire crew. Lacks the will to live because he lost her daughter at a young age in a playground accident.||George Clooney’s ghost instills some life in Dr. Ryan, who finally gets her shit together and makes it back to earth.|
|Her||Soon to be divorcee Theodore Twombly hits it off with the OS of his new computer. Hilarity ensues… maybe.||I haven’t seen this yet, but I can’t imagine that falling in love with binary could end well… not that I’ve tried.|
|Nebraska||Elderly man thinks he’s won a giant jackpot. Family stuff happens. Everyone thinks he’s crazy.||Ends up he was wrong about the jackpot. Son fixes it so he doesn’t look too crazy to everyone else.|
|Philomena||Woman is on the hunt for the son she was forced to give up 50 years ago, with the help of a journalist guy.||Son ends up dead.|
|The Wolf of Wall Street||A whole bunch of fucked up con-people con the shit out of other until they’re all conned out. Douche porn.||People go to jail, reputations are ruined, communities get screwed over. But hey, the conmen live happily ever after, it seems.|
Cripes. Oversimplifications of the plots? Maybe… but they’re not exactly misrepresentations. My point is, where’s the levity? Sure, some of these are listed as comedy-dramas, but that really doesn’t make the subject matter any lighter, does it? Full disclosure, I haven’t actually seen Nebraska yet, so it could very well be a light-hearted romp. I’m fairly sure the rest of these are aimed squarely at everyone’s feels (I think that’s probably in the pituitary… or something. Actually it probably has to do with the hippocampus/amygdala and the rest of the limbic system). I guess American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street aren’t exactly hard-hitting dramas. But, neither of them left me with any kind of hope at the end of the film. Louis CK, you’re my hero.
Of all the Best Picture noms, I’d say Gravity was probably the only one that made me think, “Ok, everything is going to be alright.” Plus, that film was just damn beautiful. Every shot = desktop wallpaper. Still: astronaut stranded in space, dealing with the death of her crew and crippled by the death of her daughter. It’s no Farrelly Brother’s movie.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t be writing about any of this if the this year’s selections were a bit more varied. Where is the heartwarming friendship/coming of age piece? Where is the overcoming adversity to achieve dreams piece? The dramatic action piece? I feel like we’ve had those in previous years. Even last year, we had Django Unchained, which, actually had a few good laughs. Before that, there was The Artist. Before even that, there was Toy Story 3, and Up. Hell, Inception, District 9, and Avatar were enough to break up the field of Oscar-y dramas in their respective years.
I guess, what it comes down to is that I don’t remember laughing very much. We had just enough light-hearted filmmaking in previous years nominees to make things feel varied.
This year, there were next to none. Which, is pretty impressive, considering the fact that he nom list has increased to 10 for Best Picture since 2009.
I haven’t even touched the nominees for other awards. This brings me to the last two films I watched, the two films that were probably the linchpin for this post: August: Osage County and Blue Jasmine. Both had amazing performances. Cate Blanchett is actually my favorite for Best Supporting Actress. But, holy hell… that film was a big spoonful of “life sucks.”
Otherwise, it really is a good awards season. There’s a lot of good filmmaking out there, and as mentioned earlier, the race pretty tight. You’ve got a month or so to get out there and check out all the nominees before the big show, and I encourage you do to so.
Just… try not to watch them all in the span of two weeks. It’s not going to end well. Or, break it up with a bit of Frozen or Nut Job, or Ride Along if you have to. You’re going to need a palate cleanser. Mental Pickled Ginger.