Mark Radcliffe hopes the Academy learns from past mistakes and takes a risk… for once.
The Oscars are tonight.
And I’m praying they don’t break my heart again.
While I love the event in principle, they rarely pick the movie I (and others) feel should win best picture. There’s a curious tendency from the Academy to play it safe rather than bet on the brave loner, which, ironically, is the opposite of Hollywood, and the very making of art itself should be based on.
And while 1994’s Oscar-wining Forrest Gump was a good film, it has not nearly stood the test of time as well as the then-jilted Shawshank Redemption, one of my favorite films and currently the highest rated film of all time on Yahoo Movies.
Then there’s the fact that Star Wars, Apocalypse Now and Citizen Kane all lost the Best Picture nom, too.
And the word on the street this year is that The Artist will take home the big prize.
Now, while I really enjoyed this film, I think that would be yet another example of Oscar playing it safe—and frankly, patting itself on the back a little too much; after all, it’s a movie about two actors, and glorifies the legacy of Hollywood.
To me, giving the Best pic win to The Artist is roughly akin to giving it to Shakespeare in Love instead of Saving Private Ryan. (You tell me which one of those two films has better stood the test of time.)
So what’s the equivalent of Saving Private Ryan for me this year?
If it doesn’t win Best Picture tonight, they’ll have missed it again. Because I think that movie will have a larger place in people’s hearts over the long run.
And I think they actually might pick it, but just in case, I want to register my protest now.
The Help has all the proper ingredients—great writing, miraculous directing, politically correct stance on the civil rights issue, dramatic story lines, great performances (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone) and redemption for the downtrodden. It’s an important story. I don’t think you can say that about The Artist, though it’s certainly a crowd-please. But maybe they’ll side with the strong but less charged The Descendents (who can resist George Clooney’s gravitational pull?). Hugo has a lot going for it and some thing it will pull a big upset—that I would actually support. I can see a strong case being made for the artful The Tree of Life, but how can we vote for a movie whose dialog was mostly unintelligible? Who knows, maybe they’ll even succumb go 9/11 sympathy and give it to Extremely Loud (but I don’t think so). If so, it would be a sympathy vote—not because it was the best film.
Because while those films are strong, and have multiple merits, The Help is the one that truly stands for something:
The notion that just because a certain trend is generally embraced by society (oppressing blacks, not letting the people you trust to raise your children use the same toilet as you) doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. And we should shine the light on injustice.
Yes, I realize a film condemning racism isn’t exactly new territory. But it’s the particular execution of that perhaps tired angle that is so impressive here. I think this is the film we’ll still be talking about down the road. Which is the one thing Oscar sometimes forgets to keep in mind when handing out the big prize.
There’s a line Emma Stone’s character “Skeeter” says to an editor she’s trying to impress that sums up not only the whole point of the movie, but perhaps the whole point of art: “You said to write about what disturbs me, particularly if it bothers no one else…”
And that’s what all great art should be trying to do: put the spotlight on what others are missing. Illuminate the truth for more to see.
If we don’t salute a film that is based on that idea, we’re missing the whole point of not only movies, but story-telling in general.