Juan Does Oscar!
A Ruthless Guide to Some of the 2014 Academy Awards’ Failures
An argument could be made that the only time The Academy got it 100% right was the award for “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” Give the voters a cookie for that one.
All other Oscar discussion tends to be either: -innocuous banter about office pools for women who need practice before being daunted by the bracketology of March Madness gambling –or- raging iconoclastic truth-bombing from film “experts” who have the brilliant insight to proclaim that Crash’s Best Picture award was the worst thing that ever happened to them and that Forrest Gump was an inside job.
Meanwhile, the act of complaining about The Academy & denigrating Oscar nominees is no more original or useful than the vapid, banal practice of fawning over celebrities wearing decadently expensive shiny fabric one Sunday a year as though it’s something special. Yet here we are.
Philomena: Obligatory annual Judi Dench nod, a tradition as old as Oscar itself. When an AMPAS voter receives accreditation, he/she must ingest a pill that floods one’s brain with positive neurotransmitters & causes unreasonable levels of Pavlovian happiness thenceforth upon beholding the visage of Dame Dench and Meryl Streep.
Captain Phillips: Now here’s a movie that doesn’t need to exist. Just read the account of what happened. President Bullseye Barry sent the SEALs to parachute into the ocean, hop aboard a boat, use binoculars & the spottiest of intel to assess the hostage situation on another boat, find precise sniper positions, set up their weapons, and eliminate the threat on one bobbing vessel while perched on another – 3 shots, 3 kills on 3 small, dynamic targets with 0 room for fuck-ups. Silent professionals. They’re the best in the fucking world, and when they star in a movie, that movie is named after some pudgy fucking civilian posing as a hero played by Forrest Gump. Fuck the fuck off.
The Wolf of Wall Street: I am physically unable to watch Jonah Hill on the big screen, so I must reserve judgment on this one. How he gets paid to do things in front of cameras & microphones is beyond me. Of course he’s becoming an awards show fixture.
12 Years A Slave: Awards voters are like, “If we vote for this movie, that counts as reparations, right? Racism is officially history. We good now, black people?”
Her: Here’s a gem. Somehow we’ve been convinced to pay money to behold a big screen Joaquin Phoenix with questionable facial hair and a waistline whose height is surpassed only by that of a cautious middleweight prize fighter fresh off an appendectomy. And we hear ScarJo’s voice but don’t see her body? C’mon, don’t promise me a trip to the fireworks factory if we’re not even going there.
American Hustle: Excruciating. Everyone please stop enabling David Russell.
Nebraska: Again, Mr. Cale will handle this one.
Gravity: I love extended single-take PlayStation3 cut scenes as much as the next guy, but I couldn’t be less impressed by this shit movie. If anything, this should be nominated in the “Animated Feature Film” category. Give me some soundproof earbuds, or let me unlearn English, and this embarrassing script might become forgivable.
Simple criterion – which 2013 release can you enjoy & explore over & over again?
I got Spring Breakers on repeat. Spring Breakers on repeat! Constant, y’all.
Russell / Payne / Cuarón / Scorsese / McQueen
Haifaa al-Mansour, for Wadjda
Call it Saudi Arabian Hustle.
Neorealist cinema has rarely been more bluntly subversive, more politely condemnatory, more dangerous, or more delightful. This is cinema as rebelliousness, if not rebellion. Haifaa al-Mansour is the ultimate professional artist, and she needed all of her professional wiles to capture & convey her vision and transmit it to the world from a country that has zero movie theatres. Legally forbidden from being outdoors or in public spaces when interaction with unrelated adult males would be required, during shooting al-Mansour often confined herself to a van and instructed her cast & crew via crude telecommunications and, presumably, some awkward auteurist shouting. Ironically, the resultant film is a technical whisper; in a further twist of revolutionary paradox & irony, Wadjda is also an epic, poignant scream from a woman in the darkest place for women’s rights. Regardless of whether the viewer makes the obvious thematic connection between the titular heroine’s desire for a bicycle and the issue of Saudi women’s fight for the right to drive automobiles, Wadjda is a subtly powerful story. The girl earns her fireworks.
When we praise Alexander Payne for removing the color from his shots, when we praise Scorsese for switching aspect ratios to emphasize a particular mood in the office of a high finance skyscraper, when we pat ourselves on the back for defeating racism by heroically honoring the naturalistic depictions of cruelty in an 1840s period piece, let us not also emulate The Academy in ignoring the eligible directorial effort that represents actual bravery in filmmaking. That al-Mansour defers & insists that Wadjda is no more than a simple film about a girl who wants a bike only cements her status as Best Director among this year’s eligible candidates.
Nominees, which read like a parody of obvious annual choices for this category:
Amy Adams: ’s décolletage
Judi Dench: This is a recording.
Meryl Streep: The nomination committee is on cruise control.
Sandra Bullock: Thank god they managed to only nominate white chicks this year! You will believe a person trained to work in outer space is incapable of handling the challenges of working in outer space without the mansplaining services of George Clooney’s ghost.
Cate Blanchett: The whitest of them all! You will believe a 2013 urban socialite doesn’t know how to work a computer.
Waad Mohammed, star of Wadjda
Christian Bale: I won’t ever disparage this guy. His intensity comports with the Ruthless ethos.
Bruce Dern: This twat, or his agent, leaked Tarantino’s latest script; fuck this guy.
Leo DiCaprio: Comically overrated. I like Leo & his scowl, but come on.
Matthew McConaughey: Won’t quit the awards beat until we can all spell his name.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Solomon Northup is the first chance he’s had to exceed the excellence of his assassin performance in Serenity (2005). More prestige film roles are probably on his horizon, but who doesn’t want to see Ejiofor as the next James Bond?
“There is nothing to forgive.”
Best Supporting Actress-Actor
We don’t celebrate or acknowledge supporting roles here. Get a full time job, y’all.
Best Animated Feature Film
I use contraception, so I haven’t had any paycheck-draining munchkins forcing me to see the cartoon nominees yet.
Also heard good things about The Congress.
Emmanuel Lubezki might win for his impressive work on Gravity,
but we’ll all know he earned a trophy for his transcendent work on To The Wonder.
This is where I wonder if any of the Oscar voters saw The World’s End, easily the most deserving of this award.
Or maybe they did but they got so immersed in the story that they somehow became as inebriated as the cast, and so they forgot how masterfully constructed this film is. Drink to remember.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nobody should complain if this is where Before Midnight gets some Oscar love, but. . .
Lone Survivor (Peter Berg adapting Marcus Luttrell’s book)
Not because it is the best screenplay but because it is the only one that could be written from this unique, hyper-specialized perspective. Were there 10 Taliban on that hilltop? 20? 100? Who is to say what constitutes the myth versus the fact? One man, that’s who. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. It’s his story, and thus his legend. Maybe there were 200 Taliban on that mountain. Did his brothers-in-arms suffer 1 or 2 gunshots each, or did they only succumb to finite humanity when the GSW total approached a much more heroic 10 bites of flesh? Only Allah’s pathologist truly knows.
Who cares if Berg’s directorial, writing, & editing choices lend more credence to the interpretation of Lone Survivor as pro-Taliban propaganda rather than as the jingoistic pro-USA film the American critical reception would have you believe it to be? What matters is that Luttrell earned the right to immortalize his immortal life experience, and now he sees himself dominating the world on the big screen. Who’s gonna stand up to him and tell him his story isn’t the best script for a movie? With some keyboard courage & the anonymity of the internets, you might, but I bet you won’t say it to his face.
His is the story of men who did manly things. Give him another trophy for it.
Then let’s all gawk at a red carpet parade and take pictures of dresses that cost more than 47 months of my rent.