Welcome to Hollywood award season and don’t forget to take your anti-depressant. The movie industry takes this time every year to embrace its narcissism by putting itself on glittering display so that it can admire, applaud and reward its efforts in entertaining the masses.
First there are The Golden Globes awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press-people from other countries who write about the American film industry. Then the Critics’ Choice shows its less critical side by lauding those they have scrutinized over the past year. The SAG Award is probably the most enmeshed-an exclusive organization recognizing itself. Then there is the most exclusive club of all The Academy Of Arts and Sciences who award Oscars to those who are deemed worthy by a very narrow demographic of 94% white .001 percenters- the Volturi (Self-proclaimed royalty of vampires-in case you aren’t a Twilight fan) of the film industry.
The curtain has come down on three of the four award shows with only the Oscars remaining. A few of the films are getting the majority of the “wins”. Birdman and Boyhood are the front runners in terms of the number of awards. I have seen both of these movies as well as Cake (for which Jennifer Aniston has been nominated for Best Actress by all but one of the awards shows) and Imitation Game-the movie Benedict Cumberbatch has gotten nods for.
My response to these movies is a line from an Oscar winning movie of the 90’s As Good As It Gets:
“Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good.”
The award winning stories this season are like the stories in that car-not very pretty, about people who had it pretty bad, and are pretty depressing.
Boyhood explores the struggles of growing up through the eyes of a boy. He must endure an irresponsible father, two abusive step-fathers, and the struggles of bullying and peer pressure. This is no fairy tale.
I should mention that Into The Woods-which I have also seen-is a fairy tale, and does provide some happier lighter fare in its story and has received some nominations. The Grand Budapest Hotel was also a happier story that got recognition.
Birdman and Cake explore mental illness-schizophrenia and depression from chronic pain and the struggle to avoid suicidal tendencies brought on by the illnesses.
The Imitation Game is the story of the father of the modern computer-a brilliant but troubled individual who is brought down by his sexual proclivity which was illegal during his lifetime.
I should say that this array of doom and gloom does not belay the true variety and scope of the offerings for the year. Those movies not recognized, but fully entertaining and uplifting include Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit-Battle For Middle Earth, X-Men Days of Future Past, Captain America-The Winter Soldier, Thor the Dark World etc.
The irony is that the movies that made the most money were excluded from the awards. It is almost as if the awards are a consolation prize for movies that were not rewarded financially by the general public in the form of ticket sales.
“Ahead of nominations, the eight movies nominated for Best Picture had earned a combined $203.1 million. That’s the lowest total since the Academy expanded the field beyond five nominees—and by a large margin, too. The previous low was 2011, when the movies had earned a combined $519 million ahead of nominations.” (Box Office Mojo ) American Sniper did improve these numbers scoring over $200 million since its release although it had only earned $3.3 million prior to its nomination.
The high sales for the frothier more escapist fantasies are indicative of what America really wants in entertainment. Hunger Games was the biggest grossing film of the year-not completely cheerful, but definitely a break from dreary realism.
This fact reminds me of a line from another 90’s film Jerry McGuire:
“We live in a cynical world, a cynical, cynical world…..” and with all the misery, wars, and suffering in the world, we just want some Hollywood movie magic to make it all go away for a few hours. Somehow, that just may give us the courage to keep living.