In April, I decided to take on the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge and listed my chosen adaptations to review here. Thus, my countdown of adaptations from loathe to love and “tolerable, I suppose” in between…
After the exceptional year in film that was 2007, to see a fall-off in the quality of motion pictures the following year wasn’t all that unexpected. While 2008 certainly had its fair share of great films, you’d be hard-pressed to find many that were fairly represented at the following year’s Oscar ceremony. What the Academy did give us that year, however, was the last truly great Oscar host in Hugh Jackman. He took what is often-times an incredibly lackluster show and made it quite simply, great entertainment. It was, however, magic that we unfortunately haven’t seen in the ceremonies since. 2008 would also mark a notable shift in the Academy’s nomination process, as it would be the last year in which they would only get to nominate five films for Best Picture, but more on that in the next entry.
2008 was a year in which the Academy chose to frustrate my inner-cinephile like no other. Sure, there were many nominees and winners who were very deserving, but there were just as many head-scratching nominees and victors who would have been left out in the cold in any other year. It was a year that heralded the comeback of a once great screen actor, but also saw the loss of one of the industry’s most promising young thespians. It was a year that saw The Dark Knight take the critics and box office by storm, only to be shunned in most of the major categories by Hollywood’s greatest institution.
As I take a look back on the year in film that was 2008, I will delve into those films that I personally felt best represented the year, as opposed to those that were actually represented come Oscar night.
2008, for all intensive purposes, was the year of Slumdog Millionaire. One of the film’s many wins on Oscar night was for the bright color-infused work by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. Known for his collaborations with not only Slumdog helmer Danny Boyle, but the crazy Dane himself Lars von Trier, there is no doubt Dod Mantle does solid work here, but it’s certainly not a career-best. Other nominees in the category included Wally Pfister’s work in The Dark Knight as well as that of Claudio Miranda in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While my thoughts on the film itself may not exactly match up with my declaration here, there is no doubt Miranda’s work with David Fincher on Button is exceptional. It’s interesting to note then that Miranda’s nomination was the first ever awarded by the Academy to a film shot entirely digitally. Although I am very much on the side of film stock when it comes to the raging cinematography debate, Fincher’s films continue to be the best example of digital cinematography, highlighted by Miranda’s work here. He would go on to win the Oscar for lensing Life of Pi just this past year, but it’s safe to say it doesn’t top his timeless work on Button.
On November 5th 2007, the Writer’s Strike began and took Hollywood by storm. Fighting for increased compensation for their work, the members of the Writers Guild of America had officially decided to take a stand against the studios in town that had been turning a heavy profit from DVD releases, the Internet and other multi-media forms that used the writers’ works. Many feared the impending Academy Awards ceremony, set for February 24th 2008, would not go off as planned and without any of the individuals who they planned on awarding. These fears were all for naught, however, as the writers struck a deal on February 12th and the strike became a thing of the past.
While many remember this particular awards season for the strike, other cinephiles remember 2007 for being one of the finest years for film in recent memory. Not only did the year give us an exceptional new Coen brothers film, but it also marked the return of one of America’s infrequently seen auteurs, Paul Thomas Anderson, whose There Will Be Blood was about as bombastic a return-film as one gets. The year also saw the arrival of a new writing voice in Diablo Cody, while also sporting some of the finest acting performances many had seen in quite some time.
As I delve into this particular year in film, I will highlight nine of the categories of this particular Academy Awards ceremony and discuss how differently (or similarly) I saw the very same year in film.
2007 was one of those years where film-goers were treated to such an embarrassment of riches when it came to cinematography. From the hauntingly barren old fields of Robert Elswit’s work in There Will Be Blood to the double-bill of visual splendor Roger Deakins provided in No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, you’d be hard-pressed to find a flaw in any of the Academy’s nominations. While Elswit deservedly won the Oscar for his work, seeing Deakins be the bridesmaid yet again on awards night was certainly a tough pill to swallow. Many would argue that his work in Jesse James is a career-best, and I wouldn’t disagree. For such a renowned artist as Deakins, it’s hard to believe he has yet to win an Oscar. Here’s hoping that changes sooner rather than later.
Film buffs like myself live for this time of the year. Awards season contenders hit movie theaters every week and we scramble to see as many as possible in anticipation of compiling our year-end lists in order to hail our favorite films of the year and to impress our fellow cinephiles. It just so happens that today marks the occasion that we are officially just three months away from The Academy Awards, or as they call themselves now in an attempt to seem hip, The Oscars.
March 2nd is that fateful day when a group of industry folk pat themselves on the back by awarding little golden man statues to those they feel represented the best in film over the course of the previous year. With the nominations set to be announced on January 16th, it of course has gotten me thinking about those films and actors I want to be represented by their peers come March.
As is often the case when it comes to my particular taste, I rarely agree with the Academy’s choices. Sure, there are many worthy nominations handed out every year, but in my lifetime there has never been a Best Picture winner that was also my favorite film of the year.
Now among cinephiles, this is not a rare occurrence. That’s not to say that those winners of the most coveted Best Picture Oscar are not deserving, it’s just that within such an expansive industry and with such varied tastes it’s impossible to find one film or performance that every film buff agrees is the best.
So, its got me thinking. How exactly does my taste in film stack up against that of the hallowed Academy’s? Well, that is what I intend to explore.
Through a look at the Academy Awards’ recent history, from 2007 (the best year in film in recent memory IMO) to present day, I intend to compare my taste with that of the Academy’s in various categories. Essentially, I will take my favorite Cinematography, Film, Lead Actor, etc. from each year and compare it to those films and performances the Academy chose to award that same year.
So, if you’re interested in this incredibly self-involved experiment in which a film buff will put his taste up against that of the Academy’s, this series of blog posts is for you. This is The Academy & I.