The Oscars are over and I’m rather depressed. I feel totally empty now that months upon months of prognosticating on who will win is finally over. Unlike the editor in chief of this website – I love awards season. It combines both my competitive nature and my love of film. And in all honesty, as much as people complain about it being self indulgent, films are at their core art and I think it is important for a society to honor artistic achievements. The Oscars aren’t just for actors and actresses but for editors and production designers. This may sound corny, but Sunday night some girl or boy was watching the Oscars, hearing about the art of editing for the first time and twenty years from now could find themselves standing on that stage accepting an award from their industry. It’s kind of beautiful, don’t you think?
But yes, at the end of the day the Oscars seem to focus mostly on the best picture winner. The ratings this year were up and that has very little to do with Seth MacFarlane. They are always up when big popular films are nominated. Look at the years Return of the King or Avatar were nominated. Ratings through the roof! It’s no surprise in a year where hit films like Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained were nominated; ratings were higher than last year when a silent movie won the award.
Still, I enjoy seeing the year in film honored in some way no matter what is nominated. And honestly, nine times out of ten they get the nominations pretty right. There’s always someone left off, sure, but usually it’s a solid cross section of best pictures nominees. What they often get wrong is what should win of those nominees. It’s been said if we really want to pick the best picture of a given year we’d have to wait ten years and see how history judges the film. If we were to vote today would anyone really say Ordinary People is a better film than Raging Bull or that Dances with Wolves is better than Goodfellas? (Notice the trend of Martin Scorsese being screwed.)
The question is what film history will really regard as the best. When the Oscar voting is happening, there’s lots of politicking. Buzz and hype play as much of a factor as how good the film is. The perfect example is two years ago when The King’s Speech beat The Social Network. The King’s Speech is a good film. But best picture winner? No, it’s an example of the Weinstein money and hype machine winning the award. The Social Network was not only the better film on a technical level, but also on a social level. It was the film of the moment, of a generation who has lived life online. It was saying something about the times we live in and how we interact with one another. We will look back one day and clearly say The Social Network should have won.
So what about Argo? Is it the film of now? Let me say although not my favorite best picture nominee (I liked Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook and Amour better,) it’s a pretty fantastic piece of filmmaking. It’s a film for grownups that walks a thin line between thrills and humor. It puts us firmly in the historical context of the time.
But will Argo be remembered as much as Lincoln? A historical epic about our greatest president made by our most legendary director. Lincoln is a film that shows the dysfunctions of our congress and how to push through legislation for the betterment of our nation. That is something that will never go away. It’s the story on the evening news tonight and will be after we are long gone.
Or how about Zero Dark Thirty? Isn’t that the more relevant and meticulously made CIA thriller? It reflects our policies in the world today, warts and all. I feel like twenty years from now film students are more likely to be watching it than Argo. Honestly I predict students of all kinds will be watching double features of Paul Greengrass’ United 93 and Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty as films that perfectly bookended ten years in American history.
But Argo is our winner and being the awards show junkie I am, it’s hard to complain. When the nominations were announced and Ben Affleck didn’t get one for best director, I felt there was no chance in hell Argo would win. After all only three films before this year had won without receiving a director nomination. I firmly believe it was Affleck’s snub that created the buzz for Argo to emerge victorious. Without it we might be talking about best picture winner Lincoln. And that’s why I’m going to miss this awards season! It was full of surprises with Argo pulling ahead to become a best picture no brainer. It had controversy with Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained. It had unpredictability with Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee basically being a coin flip for winner. I’ll miss hearing Christoph Waltz giving that same speech about how “Quentin asked him to go on a journey…” I’ll miss the immensely charming Jennifer Lawrence acting as relatable, natural, and just plain weird in interviews as anyone in Hollywood could be. And most of all I’ll miss following the hilarious fake twitter posts for Michael Haneke, @Michael_Haneke. I wonder what will become of this amazing account now that he’s not winning awards every week for Amour. Hopefully we’ll hear from him soon when the new “terruns malick” film hits theaters.