Oscars 2012

January 26, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Myles Herod

Entertainment Editor

I awoke hours after they were announced, my cellphone illuminated with missed messages reflecting ire and disheartenment. Oscar nominations had arrived, not merely soft, but more akin to vapour – a fleeting, if not sickly sweet scent - whisked breezily from memory as soon as it wafted by.

Call it sour grapes, but my acerbic stance comes valid. Surely one can shift through the nine competing Best Pictures nominations and assess them as prominently listless entries.  Compared to last years rough and tumble field of Inception, The Social Network, Winter’s Bone and 127 Hours - this year’s hopefuls lobby like a campaign on behalf of America, promulgating greatness in the face of past adversity.

Case in point: The Help, a whitewash reimagining of African American maids during the volatile civil rights movement. Was it popular? Yep. Was it lightweight? Most definitely. Did it subtly reinforce racial stereotypes while pulling the wool over moviegoer’s eyes? Oh, hell yes!

In fact, it’s almost as shameless as a 9/11 fantasy that ties together a fatherless child, a golden key and a mute geriatric who answers with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ inscribed on his palms. Wait. That was nominated, too? Oh my God.

Sentiment is where Hollywood’s heart lays, and while the previous two pander, they remain relative long shots over the swagger and schmaltz of Moneyball and The Descendants – the latter a clear frontrunner.

Pitt and Clooney’s chops universally typify quality. Sadly, their pictures, oh so mediocre, seduced voters in the same vein as the Emperors New Clothes – riding their wave of clout to short attention spans and gutless film critics alike. I will emphasize again – these films will not be remembered. Not next year nor ten years from now.

In contrast, a bone must be thrown to The Tree of Life, a surprise Best Picture nominee, sporting not only a wonderfully superior Brad Pitt performance but also a vision that remains wildly opaque to even the most seasoned viewer. It makes one question if voters even watched it. Was it just thrown in to shake things up?  One to appease the art house sect? Whatever the case, fucking eh.

Like any year, actors are obtusely shut out in favour of sympathy votes or outside influence. Chalk it up to the current air of American politics and the GOP race, because it’s the only theory I have behind the heinous exclusion of Drive, or the presumed lock of Albert Brook’s for his sinister supporting work. I still get goose bumps thinking about his scene of soothing a dying friend upon viciously slitting his wrist. Mmmhmm, villainy at its finest.

2011 is apparently the year politics made Hollywood their whipping boy for gore and sex – frank, uncomfortable sex. Michael Fassbender’s brave work in Shame, also a presumed shoe-in, was sorely absence. His substitute? Damian Bichir in A Better Life. Yeah, no one else has heard of him either. Seems that Fassbender’s authenticity as a sex starved, chronic masturbator hit too close for some. You know, the same guys that consistently nominate actresses whenever they play a prostitute. Can you smell my cynicism for this hypocrisy?

One last note on Shame: I have a distinct and dejected sense that Fassbender’s snub stems from the film’s rating rather than performance. Marked with an uncommercial NC-17 (equivalent to the once used X), its freedom to confront nudity and graphic subject matter without censorship scared the conservative academy to the bone. So what does this mean? In short, a vote for Shame would have propelled production for similar projects. But therein lies the power of Oscar – ignore it and the artistic risk becomes useless and too great.

A similar argument can be made for Cahrlize Theron in Young Adult. Comical, yet equally visceral, her foul-mouthed portrayal, alongside a handicapped Patton Oswald, subscribed to a reality of people unable to grow up. Dark and awkward, it just might be their finest performances, too. Again, though, too icky-poo.

Perhaps claims of political infiltration are a bit much. Certainly I don’t have psychical proof. What I do know though is this year’s nominations are littered with nostalgia, oozing with it, in fact. The charming, if not gimmicky silence of The Artist to the overwrought origin of cinema in Martin Scorcese’s Hugo – Hollywood has always been a sucker for narcissism.

Change has to come. Challenging films must be noticed. The Oscars oughta grow a pair because with each passing year I’m finding it harder and harder to distinguish the relevance between it and the MTV Movie Awards.



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