Jared Feldman: Hello and welcome to this edition of the Entertainment Bureau’s Chat Wrap. Jay Sage is with me, Jared Feldman and today we are taking an introspective look into the Oscar’s especially the best picture winners over the past decade. The film industry is very cyclical with a number of very high quality films at the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s. However, in recent years I believe we’ve seen a decrease in quality in Best Picture winners over the past five or so years.
Jay Sage: Hmmm, I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with that, but it should make for an interesting discussion. I’ll back you up on one of them anyway. Slumdog Millionaire was relatively enjoyable, but I didn’t think it belonged anywhere near the Best Picture discussion. At the risk of sounding controversial, I think it got some unfair points for the mere existence of the Bollywood influence.
Feldman: Glad you started with Slumdog in 2008, as it was certainly the start of the downturn in my opinion. 2007 had No Country for Old Men, 2006 had the Departed and 2005 had Crash (and Brokeback Mountain). I feel that in recent years Academy voters have opted for the niche, popular pick rather than the truly best film. Though overall I think the film quality has dropped off as well.
Sage: Well, let’s break it down pick by pick then. For the record, I do believe it’s ridiculous how many films get nominations for the Best Picture these days. Taking last year for example, a couple movies that were generally recognized as pretty good but deeply flawed (The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) were nominated. But anyway, getting back to 2009, we saw The Hurt Locker take home the award in an upset over Avatar. Good job by the Academy on that one.
Feldman: I enjoyed The Hurt Locker and it was well made, but to me it seemed like got undue plaudits beacuse it was very topical, and it enjoyed the storyline of Kathryn Bigelow battling her ex-husband James Cameron of Avatar for the Best Director award. It was sort of a David and Goliath battle that drew the attention of the voters. I didn’t think Avatar deserved to win either but I wish that Inglorious Basterds, A Serious Man and Precious got more Best Picture attention.
Sage: Well, the Coens can’t just get every single one. Or can they? Anyway, I would have loved to see Up break the glass ceiling on animated films that year, but I still think The Hurt Locker was great. The war movie genre is generally filled with guys getting their heads blown off and flag-saluting jingoism. This one deals with the loneliness, boredom and paranoia aspects and according to most military people very accurately represented the experience.
Feldman: I won’t deny it was a well made film, maybe I’m just a conspiracy theorist, assuming the academy is merely trying to send a message over electing the most worthy film. Lets move on the 2010 where the Kings Speech took the Best Picture nod over Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, and Toy Story 3 to name a few.
Sage: What a great year at the top of the crop, huh? I don’t think any of those would have been a bad choice. Mine would probably have been The Fighter, but that’s my sports fan bias showing through. The King’s Speech got a little bit of guff because some people accused the Academy of choosing the most stoic (ok, most British) film as usual. But I still have to say I really enjoyed it.
Feldman: Yes, it was an enjoyable film, and an interesting piece of history that is probably overlooked but it just seemed so banal compared to the other films nominated. Toy Story 3 was an incredible movie, not just for an animated picture but for a sequel and individual film in and of itself. Inception was an extremely unique concept and while it maybe wasn’t the best acted, it had a very solid cast and amazing story. Black Swan saw a Best Actress performance while the Fighter provided a grungy realistic look at a facet of boxing.
Sage: For whatever reason, despite the lack of popularity that boxing currently has in this country, it remains easily the most successful sport for filmmakers. Anyway, I think a good compromise is probably saying that Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush deserved individual awards (which Firth got) for The King’s Speech, but it should have lost out for Best Picture. Much like Meryl Streep and The Iron Lady for 2011.
Feldman: I believe that is agreeable. For me 2011 was a down year for really really great films. There were a number of good movies released, but all in all none of them really struck me as Best Picture material. The winner, The Artist was definitely an interesting niche look at silent film, but was it really the best acted? Without emoting via language, it was just a number of facial expressions that delivered the Oscar. For me, that’s not enough anymore.
Sage: I think it’s more accurate to say that there needs to be a reason for it. The movie has to absolutely necessitate such a radical shift. My biggest beef with the 2011 Oscars was that the Academy seemingly decided there were only two movies made that year – The Artist and Hugo. The Artist got all the performance and production awards, and Hugo cleaned up on the aesthetics. And frankly, I didn’t like Hugo one bit.
Feldman: I can see the appeal of both, but neither really hit the spot for me. It was a lesser year for film nominations but I think The Help and Midnight In Paris deserved more of a shot at Best Picture. I know that Woody Allen is despised by the Academy for being in opposition to them, but it was an special film.
Sage: It’s not only their ire for Woody Allen, but comedies are rarely given much credence unless they incorporate some melodramatic element, which I think is just wrong. I agree that Midnight in Paris deserved Best Picture in 2011. Something tells me that they’ll eat their hat before somebody like Owen Wilson mounts that stage, though.
Feldman: True, true indeed. Well I think we’re almost finished, but what’s already on your Best Picture list for 2012 so far?
Sage: Well, The Dark Knight got snubbed for a nomination in 2008, so I’m hoping The Dark Knight Rises is given an opportunity. But we’re still obviously yet to see that. Other than that, I’m anxiously waiting to see if Django Unchained gets Tarantino an award or two. Honestly, though, nothing I’ve seen so far in 2012 even approaches Best Picture levels.
Feldman: Considering that the number of nominations is up to 10 and that there are always a few big budget blockbusters that make it regardless of quality, I would think that both Prometheus and The Hunger Games will find themselves in the discussion. I do hope we don’t have an Avatar repeat, otherwise we should expect The Avengers to lead the Oscars next February.
Sage: Good for Joss Whedon if that happens. We’ll see if the Academy is ready to admit that superhero pictures are more than popcorn fodder, though. I think that does it for this edition of the Chat Wrap. Who’s going to take Best Picture in 2012? Leave us your thoughts below, and check us out next time for more on All Things Entertaining.