Friday, December 9, 2011

Freeze Frame: The WSW roundtable take 4

We're back once again with the roundtable, to talk about what's going on in the film world. A new lineup of guest LAMB bloggers has been assembled this time around...

And here are the topics:

1. Brett Ratner was forced to resign as producer of the Oscar telecast due to insensitive remarks he made. How does this reflect on the Academy, who had released a statement in support of Ratner prior to his resignation? Is there a double standard when it comes to forgiveness of bad behavior in Hollywood? Given the changes to the Oscar presentation in recent years, do they really need to stay relevant, or is that just a myth?

Tom: I think there’s absolutely a double standard in Hollywood. People are totally unwilling to forgive Mel Gibson for the (admittedly abhorrent) things he said in private, yet they have no problem honoring Roman Polanski, a convicted sex offender, with Oscar nominations and showering him with praise. At least part of it is a “the bigger they are, the harder they fall mentality” – just look at Christian Bale’s reputation following his outburst on the set of Terminator 4.

As for the Oscars’, I don’t think they’ve been relevant for quite some time, and their flip-flopping on the Ratner issue is probably indicative of this. There’s such an overwhelming need in Hollywood it seems to be politically correct and play things safe; it really doesn’t seem like the Academy has the courage of their convictions.

Courtney: This whole incident looks worse on Ratner than it does the Academy. You cannot mess around when it comes to the Oscars. You can pull that stuff at the MTV awards but not the Oscars. If anything, the Academy came out smelling like roses because they were quick to respond and to calm the fires before things got out of control.   

People will eventually forgive Ratner for this misstep but it will take a few months. Hollywood loves the comeback story but only after the person has taken their lumps. Robert Downey Jr., Rob Lowe, and Alec Baldwin are all perfect examples of this. 

As for the Oscar presentations itself, they are continuously trying to keep telecast “hip and fresh” but they continually miss the most obvious solution. It is not about how many movies you nominate but which movies you nominate. You cannot ignore a small indie film because your voters were too lazy, or too busy, to see it. Conversely you cannot ignore the creditability of big budget film simply because it was loved by the masses. Personally I like that films like Winter’s Bone and Toy Story 3 could be up for Best Picture at the same time. The ratings for the telecast have been poor over recent years because the average person who watches the Oscars has not even heard of half the films nominated. How can you get excited for a film when it does not open in your city at all? Or it is not being shown at your local multiplex? They keep tinkering with the show itself in hopes of getting a younger audience but then neglect to acknowledge any of the films that younger audiences watch.  

This is why it is important to include films like Toy Story 3, Inception, Avatar and LOTR: Return of the King in the nominees. I am not saying give the best picture award to the film that is the highest grossing film of the year. However, if the film is both a critical and financial success then it deserves a spot at the table at least.    

Jess:  I think the Academy does need to pay attention to its image, particularly given its inactivity so much of the year. As for relevant I think it's a waste of their time. They should attempt to honor their historical role more than attract new viewers. Probably naive, but transforming something just to keep up with the twitter generation seems silly. 

Rachel: The Academy has been desperate for years now to appeal to a younger audience. Last year's [host] duet of Hathaway and Franco bombed and so now the Academy really has to make nice. Younger Hollywood, as well as younger movie goers, are generally liberal and far more sensitive to gay rights and equality. By supporting Ratner and keeping him on as producer, the Academy would have been saying such behavior was acceptable, and that desired demographic would slip further away. Everyone says the Academy is run by stuffy old white men, and condoning such slurs would only confirm that belief.

2. 35 MM film is slowly being phased out in favor of digital film production and delivery. Has its time finally come? If so, will it matter to the average filmgoer, or is it something only cinephiles can truly appreciate?

Tom: I don’t think the average filmgoer is aware of the difference between traditional and digital forms of filmmaking and film projection. Personally I can appreciate the beauty of 35MM, and I hope it remains a tool filmmakers can use if they wish. But every year we see films shot on digital looking better and better, so I don’t think the transition is at all a bad thing.

Courtney: I honestly think this is an issue that only touches cinephiles deeply. The average filmgoer could care less about how there movie is being presented to them. As long as the movie looks good that will be all they need. While the supposed death of 35 MM is sad, I do not think it will be gone forever. There will always be directors trying to experiment with both formats. Having said that I do not think the move to digital film is all that bad either. Cinema is constantly evolving and I think there is a lot that directors still have yet to explore in regards to digital film making. They are only scratching the surface right now.

Jess: As I have no ability to detect the difference without it being explicitly pointed out it doesn't matter to me. 

Rachel: I've never been one to get hung up on the mechanics of filming. When I go to the movies my attention is focused on story, character, direction, acting, pacing, etc. I'm too busy with all that to worry how the film was shot. Essentially, I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to film versus digital. So the general filmgoer will likely not notice or care, and I'm not sure how many cinephiles will either, thus it's probably time to say goodbye to 35mm.

3. Now that the contenders in the Oscar race have become clearer, how many Best Picture nominees do you think will be named (keeping in mind the new rules for this year), and who will they be?

Tom: I think the new system of not having a set number of nominees makes it a lot harder to pick which films will get selected. Looking at the current field though, I’m guessing the nominees will include Hugo, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, War Horse, The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Midnight in Paris and The Artist.

Courtney: I think there will be seven films this year. It will not go back to five right away but it will not be ten films either. I am pulling for The Artist to get a nomination because I have been raving about that film since I saw it at TIFF. As long as the award season backlash does not set in for the film, like it did The Social Network, I think it has a good shot for getting a nomination.  

As for the other six films, I am going to guess Hugo, The Descendants, Tree of Life, War Horse, Midnight in Paris and Moneyball. I think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be too dark for Academy voters. Plus, with Billy Crystal hosting, I could see the Academy wanting to bring back some old Hollywood glamour to the night. Imagine the various storylines that they could spin with Clooney’s film and Pitt’s film going head to head. Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg fighting [for] best director... who needs Brett Ratner when all that stuff is going on?

Jess: Wow, so many things to consider. I bet they will go with more than the previous 5, but fewer than 10, just to prove they can. As for predictions: War Horse [and] The Iron Lady are the only guarantees I can think of. Maybe Midnight in Paris, Melancholia, Carnage and The Help. Hard to guess this year. 

Rachel: It's been an odd year and I'm not all that convinced the nominees have become much clearer, especially with the change of rules for the number of nominees this year. My best guesses at this point are Tree of Life, The Descendants, The Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris, The Artist, War Horse, and Moneyball. The Academy could stop there or fill the last three spots with random, offbeat choices (Drive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Neither would surprise me.

Take 1 (3D, video-on-demand, movies for adults)
Take 2 (Best Picture voting, int'l marketing, Bridesmaids)
Take 3 (Netflix, SONY's 3D glasses deal, Oscars)


  1. In Rattner's defense, I'd probably have Lindsay Lohan tested for STDs before I slept with her too.

  2. I don't think it was a double standard on the AMPAS part firing Brett. It was a downright silly thing to say, and I think ultimately it doesn't matter who hosts, produces or even what's nominated there is a specific group of people who will tune in to the Oscars' every year religiously and really the gays a big part of that demographic so NOT firing Ratner would have been a shot in the foot on the Academy's part.

  3. Technically Ratner resigned, but you're right, the Oscar telecast will always have an audience no matter who produces or hosts. The problem is all this constant tinkering in recent years - though I think the change to ten Best Pic nominees might have actually been a good idea. So of course, they got rid of it.


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