Does winning an Oscar actually matter?

Winning an Oscar is great and all, but is it really all that it’s cracked up to be?

 Rhys Graeme-Drury 

The annual awards circus is upon us once again. Numerous red carpets are being rolled out to receive reams of bedazzled famous faces, all of whom are hoping to drive home with a gilded statuette resting on their laps.

We place a lot of value on those who have walked away a winner on Oscar night – just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. For years the Internet yearned for Leo to finally nab one – and then he did in 2016 so we all collectively rejoiced and laid the dank memes to rest.

Apparently, an actor or filmmaker can’t claim to have truly arrived until they score an Oscar statue of some kind. Right? Eh, not exactly.

Even though it’s all very exciting and generates a lot of gossip, the Oscars aren’t actually good for all that much (and this is coming from someone who gets invested every year and is genuinely still upset that Eddie Redmayne beat Michael Keaton back in 2015).

Across its history, the Academy Awards have made a habit of routinely shunning some of the best and brightest talents and minds of the era – which sort of defeats the purpose of rewarding those who produce the best films, surely?

Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock have famously never won anything for their directorial efforts, with the latter losing out in the Best Director category on five separate occasions. Kubrick’s entire catalogue only took home a single Oscar win; 2001: A Space Odyssey won Best Visual Effects in 1969. For those of you playing along at home, that’s the same number of Oscars as Tim Burton’s 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour. So it’s not like the Academy is a great barometer of quality and lasting legacy, huh?

The same could be said for actors; Bill Murray has never won an Oscar, but do we view his filmography with any less reverence? The same can be said for umpteen actors and actresses from across the decades. For many people, Harrison Ford is the literal embodiment of sharp and sophisticated Hollywood stars. He is Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan in the flesh – we don’t need the Academy to tell us Ford is a living legend, he has crafted that legacy without their adulation.

The same goes for Gary Oldman, Edward Norton or Joaquin Phoenix; they’re back catalogues speak for themselves. Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Annette Benning and Sigourney Weaver have all been denied Hollywood’s highest honour – but that hasn’t hindered their standing as some of the most talented actresses to grace our screens.

Some may think that winning an Oscar is also guaranteed to usher in a string of professional riches for the lucky winners, but too often that isn’t the case. Hunger Games sensation Jennifer Lawrence has racked up a surprising number of nominations (four) and one win at the tender age of 26 but it wasn’t until recently with Passengers that she was given a bigger slice of the pie than her male co-stars, financially speaking.

You only have to glance at the list of the highest paid actors across the industry today to see that those raking in the most cash aren’t necessarily those who took home the most awards. Robert Downey Jnr routinely makes in excess of $50 million for each Avengers performance whilst Johnny Depp is still throwing on funny hats and making bank despite never winning an Oscar. Meanwhile I don’t see Disney or Marvel throwing $10 million at Mark Rylance or JK Simmons, the two most recent winners in the Best Supporting Actors category.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter whether La La Land scored four, fourteen or zero nominations; what matters is how it is making audiences feel. The same goes for Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea or any of the other films nominated this year.  After the cameras inside the Dolby Theatre have gone out on February 26 and all the very famous people have gone home, regardless of who won or not, these films will continue to captivate and enthral audiences long afterward.

Films like Sing Street, The Witch, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Midnight Special all characterised my cinema experiences in 2016 but didn’t get a look in at the Oscars. Should I feel any less moved by their characters or narratives because they can’t claim to have been ‘Oscar nominated?’ No, of course not. Films mean so much more than just handing out trophies and racking up stats; we can leave that sort of thing to sports thank you very much.

Rather than taking a snub personally, just brush it off with a shrug. So what Amy Adams didn’t get nominated for Arrival? That doesn’t change how moving and powerful her performance was. Who cares that Sing Street didn’t get any love for Best Original Song? It doesn’t mean I don’t still love that soundtrack to pieces.

Don’t get me wrong; awards season is a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of meaningless and banal bullshit that ultimately shouldn’t change how we view art or place value on what something made us think or feel.

Enjoy the Oscars, lap up the glamour and laugh at all the gaffes – but don’t forget that there is a whole myriad of wonderful films out there whose enduring qualities don’t change regardless of who wins or loses on the night.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

If the 1950s could see Hollywood today…

Josip Knezevic 

It’s difficult not to notice the ever-increasing number of remakes and reboots in recent times, but what may not be so obvious is one particular source that Hollywood mines for material over and over again: the 1950s.

Think Seven Samurai (1954), Ben-Hur (1959), Rear Window (1954), The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), plus almost every Disney film from the decade (Peter Pan, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland) – all have been updated for today’s cinemas with the latest technological advancements

Sure, you could argue that Hollywood has borrowed from many other eras, but there’s something sacred about the ’50s in particular. From Gene Kelly’s dance moves, to the rise of Hitchcock’s suspenseful thrillers, to the birth of Marlon Brando’s legacy; it is truly the golden age of filmmaking.

If the 1950s could speak for itself today, how would it feel about the way Hollywood has treated some of its cinematic gems? Well, I’m so glad you asked…

Dear Hollywood,

It’s the 1950s here. It’s been a long time. Just wanted check in and see how things are going…

Actually, that’s a lie. I know exactly how things are going. For whatever reason, you’ve decided to release another Ben-Hur. With green screens and CGl, maybe you’ll take the film to the next level – visually, at least. But what about that special something that made Ben-Hur so beloved in the first place? Have you completely forgotten what made my films so memorable?

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgemental. Your Ben-Hur hasn’t even reached cinemas yet, but I have to consider your track record…

Let’s go back to 2008 and your rendition of The Day The Earth Stood Still… my god, did it ever feel like that cinema was standing still.  How could you take something that was so exciting and thrilling and make it so… boring? Even Keanu looked like he was falling asleep.

You’ve also taken a liking to my monster films. Moby Dick is now In The Heart Of The Sea and Gozilla is now… well, I guess you were too lazy to change the title on that one. You may have made a better looking monster, but what else did you actually achieve?

But enough with the grouching; I’ve gotten used to the fact that you’re going to continue to steal from me, so for the sake of the future of cinema, let me give you some advice.

First thing’s first – stop forgetting to tell the goddamn story. Ditch your overpriced actors; you don’t need those schmucks to tell a good story. What you need is decent writers.

Remember: I’ve done the hard work for you, but that doesn’t mean you can rest on my laurels. If you want to remake my films, then extend the world that I created and dig deeper. Explore the characters and the possibilities further than I ever could. Figure out why audiences loved my films in the first place and then make it your own. 

Lastly, and most importantly – stick to the basics. You don’t need to spend a ridiculous sum of money. You don’t need to rely on CGI when you can go to real locations. You don’t need to razzle dazzle the audience with unnecessary fluff.

Heed my words, young Hollywood, and you may make another fine decade of films yet.

Yours Sincerely,

The 1950s

 

Image courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer & Chapel Distribution

 

Movie Review – Big Eyes

Much like how the world unknowingly overlooked artist Margaret Keane, so too has her Tim Burton-led biopic been mostly forgotten by critics and audiences alike.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Cherie Wheeler

From meek and mild, to the mouse that roared – Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) was once the quintessential kept woman of the 1950s; a wife and mother oppressed by fear, and dominated into submission, with no way to independently survive in a society monopolised by men. It is for this reason that she allows her charming, yet egomaniacal husband Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) to claim her dark and intriguing portraits of children with disproportionately sized, orb-like eyes, as his own. For years Margaret upholds this façade, and becomes a social hermit locked away in her secret studio, meanwhile Walter is catapulted to a height of fame akin to that of Andy Warhol as sales go through the roof.

It completely and utterly baffles me that this film has endured such apathy from all fronts. Adams may have taken home a Golden Globe, but the Academy chose to omit Big Eyes from every potential category. In Australia it has suffered release delays, as well as poor takings at the box office, and so I am left to ask; what the hell is going on here, as in my opinion, Big Eyes may just be Amy Adams’ greatest film yet.

The Times (UK) refers to her performance in this film as “quietly extraordinary” and honestly, I could not have expressed it better myself. Her performance may not be an overt explosion of emotion like Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar-winning, harrowing screams in 12 Years A Slave, but her understated, highly convincing depiction of Margaret Keane is just as, if not more, impressive. Whilst Waltz is credible in his representation of Walter’s demise into a raving lunatic consumed by greed, I was often left to question the character’s motivations, and the scale of his emotional responses, which detracted from the film as a whole.

Not since Ed Wood  (1994) has Burton ventured into the biopic domain, having established his idiosyncratic style in fantastical films such as Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Corpse Bride (2005). The subject matter of Big Eyes is relatively ordinary by comparison, but Burton never exploits a scene in order to impose his style; instead he allows the story to speak for itself, then dusts it off with a few eccentric touches to give the film an edge. He creates a very glamorous, almost fairy tale-like version of San Francisco in the late 50s through the use of highly structured, symmetrical shots combined with a rich colour palette, and there is also a cheeky nod to Edward Scissorhands (1990) with a copycat shot that shows a neat, suburban street lined with near identical homes.

From the very first shot of the film Burton had me hooked; the camera slowly zooms out of the tear-stained eye of one of Margaret’s most iconic paintings to gradually reveal the entire portrait in a beautiful long take – then BAM – a machine sputters to life, and copy after copy of the same painting is spat out into a nice, fat pile, and instantly, the magic of the moment is lost. I’m not sure if I’m reading meaning that was never intended from Burton, but there seems to be quite a few Hitchcock references in the film; an opening credit sequence commencing on an eye, closely followed by a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge (Vertigo), interjected by Amy Adams with Janet Leigh-like blonde hair, driving down a long highway with a distressed expression (Psycho)… well, intentional or no, I dig it.

My only real disappointment in this film is the score from long time Burton accomplice Danny Elfman. He employs some funky, percussive jazz chords here and there, but for the most part, his composition is filled with an obvious selection of instruments arranged in a most generic way. Burton clearly wished to avoid burdening the film with his customary flamboyance, most likely due to his personal affection for Margaret’s work (he has previously asked her to recreate Helena Bonham Carter and his Chihuahua on canvas), however I feel that the score was stripped a little too bare.

Overall, I think Big Eyes is a triumph for Burton, and a refreshing departure from his usual work. I have always loved his style, but it was beginning to become a bit monotonous with recent productions such as Dark Shadows failing to bring anything new to the table. Although a little too Hollywoodised at times, I am still inclined to award Big Eyes with four stars, as despite the minimal attention it has been paid, it is certainly worth a watch.

Big Eyes is available in Australian cinemas from Thursday March 19th

Images courtesy of Roadshow Films