Monday, March 08, 2010
Let me just confess up front: I don't watch the Academy Awards. I haven't been interested in years. When I was a kid there was still a certain glamor to the biggest award show in Hollywood. It was also a time in which I had actually heard of most of the films nominated. Looking back at years past the Academy Awards looked a lot different than they do today. Take 1988-- a year I picked at random-- and you've got "Rain Man," "The Accidental Tourist," Mississippi Burning," "Working Girl" and "Dangerous Liasons;" almost all of which I saw before the awards show. Compare that list with this year: "The Hurt Locker," "Avatar," "Precious," "The Blind Side," "District Nine," "Up," "Up in the Air," "An Education," "A Serious Man," and "Inglourious Basterds;" how many of those titles had you not even heard of prior to this awards season? Not every year is all about vehicle movies. But more often than not the biggest grossing films are generally not in contention for Hollywood's biggest prizes. And science fiction & fantasy have long been the neglected stepchildren of the movie business despite their huge audience appeal. Just last year "The Dark Knight" was snubbed for an Oscar nomination while being regarded by many as being, far and away, the best movie of the year. When the nominations were announced the oft-repeated meme was that genre films don't get awards; specifically science fiction. Science fiction and Hollywood do have a strange relationship. Producers and directors know that scifi is the go-to genre if you want to make money. The top ten list of the top grossing movies of all time is virtually all scifi/fantasy-- with the sole exception of "Titanic." In fact, take a look at the top 50 highest grossing films-- there are very few movies on that whole list that don't fit into the scifi/fantasy category. "Avatar" now sits on top of the list with over 2 billion dollars in gross revenue. That's almost 1 billion dollars over the next film on the list-- which just happens to be "Titanic;" another film by James Cameron. King of the World indeed. While there are a few top-grossing films that have received award recognition only one, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," took home the award for best picture. Why is that? It's hard not to feel a bit disgruntled, as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, that the genre I love is so overlooked. It's as if the sheer popularity of the genre is the reason it's so disparaged. One has to wonder if the Hollywood elite recoil from entertainment that has such broad appeal. If you look at the vehicle movies the crop up award awards season you see films that make very little money. "The Hurt Locker," this year's winner is going down as the lowest grossing film to every win for best picture. It seems as if you and I like a movie, well, we must not be that sophisticated. That isn't to say that "Avatar" should have won this year simply due to it's tremendous success. As I have said before, I am one of the very few people out there who still has not seen the film. I have probably read too many reviews that say "Avatar" is little more than a visual spectacle. I've seen, and posted, parodies of "Avatar" that compare it to "Pocahontas" and "Fern Gully." So maybe it wasn't the best film on the list of nominees. But how could I know for sure? I'm biased. I get that. But I suppose most moviegoers are biased as well since the films we like rarely match up with films the movie industry recognizes. Sure science fiction is good for awards in costuming, cinematography and art direction, but it is seldom recognized beyond that. I could get further into the nitty-gritty behind the reasons "Avatar" lost to "The Hurt Locker." Heaven knows there has been a plethora of articles on the subject today. But I wonder if "Avatar" was doomed from the get-go due to the genre and the final nail in the coffin was its huge popularity? Or maybe I'm just bitter "The Dark Knight" never got the recognition it deserved.