Roger Ebert’s preliminary write-up on the 2012 Academy Awards began with, “It was like an episode from ‘The Twighlight Zone’“, which I wholeheartedly agree with…His rationale for that statement, I can’t agree with, but the overall conclusion was on-target.
It was a strange, strange year for Oscar.
I really have to wonder what was going through the minds of the Academy voters that gave the Best Picture Oscar to ‘The Artist’, an airy souffle of a film at best, or saw Martin Scorsese’s directorial efforts on ‘Hugo’ as anything less than a masterwork. Or if these self-same Academy voters realize the opportunity to place the history of film squarely in the common experience of generations of children that was lost when elevating the French pastry that is ‘The Artist’ over the cinematic masterpiece, and treasure, that is Scorsese’s ‘Hugo.’
It’s not that ‘The Artist’ is a bad movie…It’s a very good movie, for one that is a loose remake of an established classic (‘Singin’ in the Rain’), one that I enjoyed quite a bit. It’s just that ‘Hugo’ is a far superior movie in just about every way imaginable.
I really hope that, in the final analysis, this wasn’t some kind of referendum vote on films made in Hollywood versus those shot abroad, but there’s got to be some reason that the Academy passed ‘Hugo’ over for a film whose main selling point is that it is a very ‘happy’ film, and that’s the only thing I can think of that makes sense to me … No, not that it makes sense, but that it would make sense to a bunch of big-media, old Hollywood Industry professionals that don’t have a clue as to how to save jobs in a town that is now being overrun by a new generation of filmmakers who are making content almost exclusively for the web.
‘Hugo’ is a cinematic masterpiece of Cecil B. DeMille-like epic proportions. In my opinion, there is no praise high enough to describe how much I love this film, or the advances that Scorsese has made in visual storytelling with ‘Hugo’. And I don’t think there are a lot of folks arguing that point.
Had the Academy given the Director, and the film, its rightfully-deserved top honors, the film would have been re-released, it would have garnered the kind of box office that it did not see in its initial run, because there was not a lot of marketing push behind the original release, and an entire generation of parents and children would have gotten a second chance to experience this film in all of its 3D-stereo glory, the way it MUST be scene to fully experience the genius of this film.
Further, it would have established ‘Hugo’ as a classic that would be locked into the hearts and minds of future generations, as their parents passed down the experience, generation after generation. That’s a loss, and it’s a shame.
Part of the opportunity lost was to educate generations of kids on the history of cinema, in a way that seems almost incidental to the story, but would have the result of having every kid who falls in love with this movie, understand the, largely true, story of French filmmaking pioneer George Melies. It’s a lost opportunity that every AMPAS member who voted for ‘The Artist’ should be kicking themselves about for decades to come. Think about it.
Then there was the almost total lack of recognition for Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, which, to me, was only second to ‘Hugo’ in this year’s field of films, and an entirely enchanting work that represents Allen’s best effort in decades.
Oh, and let’s not forget Alexander Payne’s ‘Thanks for coming’ award for ‘The Descendants’. Thanks AMPAS. For what, I’m not sure …
Ebert wrote another piece on the night, which basically painted the Academy’s screw-ups as a Republican Party-like attempt to find a candidate that has the broadest appeal to the base … In other worlds panders to the lowest common denominator of audience members. Thanks, Roger, but you’re not making me feel much better with that thesis, either.
This is what bothers me … The Academy, AMPAS, is us. Well, not me, yet, but the filmmaking community at large. It’s made up of working professionals drawn from its ranks. If Roger Ebert’s thesis is correct, haven’t we forgotten what the Academy Awards are all about? That is, celebrating the best in filmmaking achievement, and elevating the very best of those efforts, showcasing them to the public as the very best of what the filmmaking community has to offer?
AMPAS has lost its way, and is now trying to second-guess the public, and figure out how to reward what its members think the public likes. The system is broken, and the results, this year, were a disaster.