Sunday, March 5, 2017

Top Five Pet Peeves of the 2016-17 Awards Season

Alright, the time has come to move on from this craziness. A new year in cinema is upon us, with its own horrors and treasures to discover. But first, one final look back at the horrors and treasures from the recently concluded Oscar derby:

Top Five Pet Peeves of the 2016-17 Awards Season:

5. Back-ended release calendar
This gets me every year, but why are distributers so bent on waiting until the last minute? Nearly all of my essential viewing for the year had to be crammed into December, January and February, which is no way to consume movies. Spread them out, for God's sake! At least Moonlight had the good sense to begin its roll-out in October, and look how that turned out for them. Compare that with another marvelous little movie, 20th Century Women, that held off until freakin' January. You do the math.

4. Art vs. artist
I was happy when Casey Affleck's name was pulled from the Best Actor envelope, but I know why that sentiment is not unanimous. There are those whose reactions range from annoyance to disgust, who will rhetorically ask why we the Academy should reward a man for being a jerk with a history of sexual harrassment, but the answer is simple: That's not why they're rewarding him. I have little interest in the off-camera lives of celebrities, partly out of apathy (who has that kind of time?), partly because that's the only way to properly enjoy their work. By no means am I intending to step on anyone's toes, or devalue anyone's principals, but to discredit the art for the artist's personal failings is a false equivalancy. I'm relieved that Affleck's campaign managed to survive the heat, but the fate that befell Nate Parker and his passion project The Birth of a Nation for similar reasons still rankles. What a discouraging double standard.

3. TV series wins an Oscar
This is no knock against Ezra Edleman's sprawling, immaculate disection of the most famous criminal trial of its century, and of the tragic figure at its centre, but O.J.: Made in America is not a movie. How is it fair to have a five-part opus competing against documentary features that tell their stories within a self-contained two-hour runtime? This is why the shorts have their own categories, and why TV has the Emmies. It has nothing to do with one being better than the other, but long-form and short-form media simply cannot be judged by the same yardstick. I worry that a dangerous precedent may have been set here.

2. Why must we make it about politics?
Truthfully, I don't mind when an award winner or a host takes an opportunity to make a statement. What I do mind is when publicists use politics to try and win awards. It insults the work. Winestein is not the only guilty party this year, as many were caught appealing to the Academy's liberal sensibilities. Hopefully years from now, Oscar winners like A Separation, Zootopia, The White Helmets and even Best Picture champ Moonlight will no longer be theorized as mere protest votes against a controversial president, but as winners based on their artistic merits.

1. Best Picture 'catastrophe'
While Moonlight's triumph is the most beautiful outcome we could have hoped for, the way it happened is unfortunate for everyone. Trying to imagine how the La La Land producers must have felt (and could still be feeling) is enough to make me nauseous. For the team behind Moonlight, it overshadowed an historic moment that is far bigger and more significant than either film. I feel terrible for everyone involved, including presenter Warren Beaty (whose taken way more heat than he deserves) and even the accountants responsible, who are arguably suffering the most from this disaster of their own making.

Stay tuned for my top five highlights arriving shortly.

[Btw, I threw in ten typos just for you, Brian. Can you find them all?]

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