THE LISTS: Top 10 pet peeves of the 2008-2009 Oscar season

Posted by · 9:41 am · February 17th, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

The season is winding down this week.  The slow President’s Day holiday yesterday seemed to be more of a harbinger than a lull in the excitement.  This time next week, we’ll probably be over the fallout of the circuit and on to debating the contenders we’re likely to see a year from now.

It’s a vicious, beautiful, sad, interesting circle.

But before the 81st Annual Academy Awards telecast puts a bow on the festivities Sunday night, it seems a decent enough time to reflect.  And not to be too negative, but this became one of the most irritating seasons I’ve ever covered, both in the lack of excitement to the dichotomy that circumstance presented for me (given that my favorite film of the year has lead the field throughout).

With that in mind, I fully expect this piece to grate the nerves of more than a few readers.  Then again, I’m sure plenty of these views are shared by a handful as well, but whatever the case, a list of pet peeves began to stack up early on in the season.  I thought it reasonable to collect them here, so feast your eyes (or roll them), this is what got under my skin this year.

Bruce Springsteen10. The Academy’s music branch
This is an annoyance that will likely never be soothed, but the Academy’s music branch once again proved how broken it is this year.  First it decided Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score for “The Dark Knight” was ineligible for a nomination before rescinding that decision at Zimmer’s pleading request (most of us knew very well that wouldn’t ultimately matter, though).  Then the branch and its unnecessarily complicated song voting process, together with it’s clip-viewing process, shut Bruce Springsteen out of a category he deserved to win.  I’m beginning to think there’s no hope.

Let the Right One In9. Sweden choosing “Everlasting Moments” over “Let the Right One In”
(Apparently Academy rules kept the Swedes’ hands tied behind their backs, but I still bet they’d have gone with the safer choice.)  “Everlasting Moments” is a delightful little film that many of us in the media thought might actually have a shot at winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Oscar.  Maybe the Swedes were thinking along similar lines when then submitted the film on behalf of their country — but to ignore one of the most innovative and excitingly creative cinematic experiences of the year?  “Let the Right One In” consistently popped up on list after list of the year’s best foreign films, so dare I say it, it may have squeaked through to a nod, despite the subject matter.

Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino8. The closing track of “Gran Torino”
Thankfully, Clint Eastwood’s growling, painful ditty “Gran Torino” didn’t make it as a Best Original Song contender, but that didn’t do much to remove the red mark that still remains on my forehead from when I smacked it during the closing credits of his film.  I say, again, what the hell was he thinking singing on this thing?  Surely I wasn’t the only one who thought it was an embarrassing punctuation point on an already dubious cinematic venture?  On it’s own, the song is fine.  Jamie Callum would have been okay on his own.  But that deathly howl at the beginning just ruins it till the end.  I hope it’s out of his system.

Rachel Getting Married7. “Rachel Getting Married”
I haven’t said much about Jonathan Demme’s “Reachel Getting Married,” beyond a brief review when the film was playing at Toronto.  Mostly I just sat back and watched a critical fraternity cream itself over a film that was passable but hardly groundbreaking on any level, one containing a pair of performances (Hathaway and DeWitt) that deserved commendation but within a screenplay laughably unrealistic (despite claims to the contrary).  Oh yeah, and Debra Winger was terrible.  Stop fooling yourselves otherwise.  Nice that I’m not alone on most of this, but really, how did this become such a critical darling?

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button6. “Button” sniping
I touched on this briefly earlier in the month, but while most of this list was in place by the time the Oscar nominations were announced, this little annoyance crept up on me during the second phase of the season.  Everyone likes to gangs up on SOMETHING when it comes to this stuff.  Bandwagon mentality is difficult to shake, whether in praise or disdain of a contender.  So it wasn’t necessarily a shock that so many people took it out on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  The sad thing is most of the griping held little water beyond a few valid if shallow “Forrest Gump” comparisons and the reasoned views were few and far between.

Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button5. No love for Cate Blanchett
It’s funny that there are two “Button” examples on this list, since I was hardly a hard core fan of the film, but this one was big for me.  I thought Cate Blanchett’s performance was probably her best work to date, yet beyond a BFCA nomination, no one else seemed to feel the same way.  We all have our little disappointments when it comes to the Oscar season, this contender or that consistently getting the shaft.  I was just shocked that Blanchett was so universally snubbed since her performance is arguably the most accomplished of a film that landed 13 nominations across the Academy board.  What gives?

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto in Slumdog Millionaire4. The inevitable “Slumdog” backlash
This should really be called “the inevitable Fox Searchlight” backlash at this point, since both “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno” were met with similar belly-aching about a supposedly trite narrative.  There MAY have been an argument for those two films (though I loved both), but “Slumdog Millionaire” is a remarkable piece of cinema that easily deflected most of the pot-shots.  There was even a nasty smear mixed in there somewhere, dragging the child actors into the fray with irresponsible reckless abandon.  But the film survived will likely (and rightly) win the honor of Best Picture of the year, whether you like it or not.

Meryl Streep in Doubt3. Any screenwriting accolades for “Doubt”
I say again — WHAT SCREENWRITING?  This agitated me all year long, right up to the damned Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.  My key point of criticism against “Doubt” has always been that it isn’t cinematic in the slightest.  A few dutch angles from Roger Deakins doesn’t cut it.  It is, quite simply, a play on film, and to reward that with adaptation honors is an affront to screenwriting and, indeed, screenwriters.  (Can you tell I’ve had my hand at it?)  There was a part of me that thought, you know, the writers aren’t going to go for this like the rest.  But even the WGA and AMPAS writers branch fell prey.

The Dark Knight2. Attack of the fanboys: “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E”
This came dangerously close to my #1 spot for a bevy of reasons.  Anytime the populist contingent has a contender in play, things get really nasty.  Go back to the “Lord of the Rings” years for some truly troublesome examples.  I don’t consider myself a “‘Dark Knight’ fanboy” because after all, I wrote an even-handed review of the film.  But I guess that is the side I fell on this year, so being in the trenches, it was nasty.  From BOTH sides.  It’s sad, really, that it even had to be “this” side versus “that” side in the mind of so many, but in the end — with delicious irony — neither side made it across the finish line.

Kate Winslet1. Bitching about “category fraud”
Man did this get out of hand this year.  Maybe it’s simply because I disagreed with most of the arguments, but the constant whining about “category fraud” — Who coined that term?  Rogers?  I know I own “lone director” but I think this one stems from The Film Experience — was like a gnat buzzing around my ears all…year…long.  Seriously, Kate Winslet in “The Reader” — it was a friggin’ supporting performance.  Dev Patel in “Slumdog Millionaire” — supporting performance; even if the CHARACTER was the lead, three actors were responsible.  But this happens every year and I’m sure certain parties are gearing up for next season.

Have your say.  What bugged the hell out of you this year?  Get it out, come on…

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59 responses so far

  • 1 2-18-2009 at 5:44 am

    xoxo said...

    thank you scot. you said it better than i could have. but if you notice from mr. kris tapley’s reply, i’m being told to scram from these premises…too bad, i like the other contributors.

  • 2 2-18-2009 at 6:14 am

    Amanda said...


    Other than that , I Have no peeves .

    One peeve I have just gotten : unnecessary hate of a brilliant writer like Kris .


    He is the best thing about the entire Oscar season . , far better than Ryan Adams & Tom O Neill .

    I don’t care about others , but I want to thank Kris for making my Oscar Experience this year enjoyable by writing some great articles .

    Keep up the good work , don’t let a few haters get to you .

  • 3 2-18-2009 at 9:54 am

    Alex said...

    I would like to express my apology to Kristopher for the first sentence from my first message yesterday. Sorry.

  • 4 2-18-2009 at 10:40 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Frankly I have no idea what any of that means, Scott. Perhaps it’s simply a case of a few misjudging tone in a medium like the net, because for every complaint I get there seem to be plenty who have a fine time here at the site, so color me confused. Without at least the sliver of an example, what are we to consider this other than a mere conflict of personalities?

    xoxo, you’re not being told to scram, but really, I don’t go around complaining about the content of other sites if I don’t like it. I just look elsewhere. Film is a passionate art so I don’t expect I’ll be tapering that passion any time soon. Just giving you a heads up, that’s all…

    Alex, no need to apologize.

  • 5 2-18-2009 at 5:25 pm

    Glenn said...

    “I liked “Juno” and I agree that it doesn’t age well. But at the time, I loved it and I don’t think it’s anyone’s task to project how a film will be perceived years down the road. It’s all about how it affects you then and there and time is its own judge.”

    And let us never hear ever again about how films should be voted on based on how they’ll be seen in 50 years. Not necessarily from you, but just in general.

  • 6 2-18-2009 at 6:58 pm

    Maria said...

    I don’t agree with you in some of your point (Cate Blanchet was OK in Button but I think she has had better performances) but I enjoyed your article very much.

  • 7 2-18-2009 at 7:57 pm

    Marshall said...

    I think I might have to add another pet peeve to my list.

    11. Condescending Oscar Bloggers
    Mainly Re The InSnider – What is with the Oscar bloggers being so rude to people that comment on their articles? Countless times this Oscar season, I have posted a comment only to be ripped to shreds by the author. Enough already. If you did not want people to disagree with you, keep your opinions to yourself and off the Internet.

  • 8 3-05-2009 at 8:38 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    totally agree with the other Andrew.
    No. 1. revolutionary road being overlooked for picture, actor, actress, director etc. A far better film than Button or Frost/Nixon or The Reader

    No. 2 the incessant whining from Dark Night and Wall-E fans

    No. 3 the incessant whining from Button defenders- many people hated the movie, get over it

    No. 4. Slumdog-hating which grew as the films awards tally grew. Annoying

    Some other points- how is Milk original when there is an extensive documentary already?? Why is Jai Ho not worthy because it is not in English?? Love Cate but hated her in Button. Why didnt David Kross get any acting nods anywhere for The Reader- he was the best thing about what I thought was a mediocre film

  • 9 3-06-2009 at 11:23 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Incessant whining from Button fans? Non-existent! Or at best, virtually drowned out by the haters.