Keep it about the movies

Posted by · 9:26 am · February 24th, 2009

I don’t think there are many film journalists — much less any Oscar pundits — who wouldn’t admit to feeling some relief when Sunday’s ceremony put a close-fitting lid on months of awards-related speculation, gossip and occasional complaining. (Who, me?) Especially in a season as airlessly uncompetitive as this one, it can be a strain to find new perspectives on old news, and as Kris has already discussed, we’re all longing to leap into the unknown that is 2009.

Kenneth Turan certainly agrees. While he finds no fault with the awards themselves, praising the new-look Oscarcast to the skies, he is fed up with wall-to-wall Oscar coverage that he deems frequently less than generous in spirit:

I found myself troubled with the way the protracted Oscar predicting season has become an endless game of gotcha, obscuring the movies themselves and the love of film that should be at the event’s core. 

While journalists who cared about the Oscars could at one time all fit into a small booth at Nicodell’s on Melrose, the advent of the Web and its ugly, insatiable appetite for anything smacking of celebrity has meant that hordes of folks are now thick on the ground, scorching the earth in search of tidbits and chitchat.

The problem with this obsessive quest, with constantly taking the temperature of contenders as if they were billionaires in an intensive-care ward, is that it becomes an end unto itself.

Turan never specifically articulates which outlets he is talking about, though he does bring up examples of petty stories broken this season (the whole silly “Slumdog” child actors non-scandal, for example) that I’m sure we all could have done without.

But I wonder whether he isn’t being too hasty in painting all Oscar writers with the same brush. He talks of a “love of film” being obscured amid the speculation, and that’s certainly true of a number of celebrity-driven sites. But we’re all familiar with the work of several bloggers, whether here at InContention or AwardsDaily or The Film Experience (or any number of others), whose work is fuelled by a genuine passion for cinema — and whose occasional sniping most frequently stems from concerns that art isn’t being well served by the industry or the Academy.

I’m sure Turan isn’t necessarily having a go at such writers, but just as the Oscarcast is of equal, yet wildly divergent, interest to fashion watchers, businessmen, gossipmongers and good old-fashioned cineastes, awards coverage takes a number of forms. He’s certainly right that the web has led to a certain saturation which can lend trivial non-stories, like the “Slumdog” affair, the appearance of more credence than they possess or deserve. I’m rapidly coming to the realisation that greater selectivity is key — perhaps from the bloggers as well as the readers.

Turan writes that he can’t see how any true lover of film could have been displeased by Sunday’s ceremony. I am half in agreement with him there — while, as I wrote yesterday, there were elements of the Oscarcast that left me a little dissatisfied (and I realize I’m in a tiny minority there), it would take a harder heart than mine to find no joy in the night’s proceedings at all.

Whether it was the human empathy of Kate Winslet’s endearingly goofy shampoo-bottle confession or the artistic justice of a genius like Danny Boyle finally getting his due, I found enough enchantment to go round, even if it wasn’t always in the shape or form I’d ideally like. However much some of us could rag on Sunday’s ceremony for this misjudgement or that, the night’s modus operandi seemed to be to keep it about the movies — and there are a number of writers, here and elsewhere, who share and appreciate that intent.




1 Comment Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

1 response so far

  • 1 2-24-2009 at 9:35 am

    McGuff said...

    I think Turan’s point is that Internet anonymity (which I realize I cling to here) makes it far easier to start a campaign against a film for no discernible reason. I always use “Juno” and “Wall-E” as examples because I felt invested in the vitrol coming back at them as a fan of both movies.

    The problem with an Oscar-centric focus, IMO, is when the idea of Oscar-worthy trumps a dicsussion on individual filmmaking. This site’s editors are never guilty of that, and thus, I choose to hang here.