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Cinema 2014: 10 Favorites

Cinema 2014: 10 Favorites

It was a hard year. 365 days packed tight. There is no denying that the world spun around a little faster, but we held on or at least tried. Like years in the past, film took our temperature and delivered stories that found us where we needed them. These are ten that grabbed at me.

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10. The One I Love

Film has always had a bad rap for the “more is better” ideals that pervade it. Fill the screen with as much buisness as possible, edit it to the quickest speed you can, and ramp up the drama. Maybe this is why films with minuscule casts and locations and a gingerly progressing pace can really stand out, especially at such a high caliber as The One I Love.

Staring only Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass for 95% of the film (Ted Danson shows up in a scene in the first act) this film falls on their shoulders and they shine as a couple whose marriage is on the rocks after an infidelity. But this isn’t the sort of mumble-core drama Duplass is known for, even if that aesthetic seems to match the genre. Things get weird quickly, turning this little indie into a modern day Twilight Zone thinker. That isn’t to suggest the film grows dark. In fact, the farther down the rabbit hole things go, the more you enjoy the proceedings.

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9. Guardians of the Galaxy

Making a “fun” movie is a lost art. These days, far too often the plot or characters are either too serious or cynical to allow pure whimsy to come through, but Guardians of the Galaxy put the “pop” back in popcorn movie.

Headlined by the excellently goofy Chris Pratt, the film is the odd one out amongst comic book fare that’s been filling cinemas at a suffocating rate. Yes, its a Marvel movie. No, it’s not about super heroes. Yes, it has some overarching multi-film franchise lip service to perform. No, it doesn’t really care about it (as it literally says the Infinity Stone “has a Ark of the Covenant/Maltese Falcon vibe.”)

But, even while it’s perfectly okay with being the Marvel family equivalent of your fun uncle, it also greatly understands the need for true human moments, something rather amiss in others of the genre. It’s a bold step to start your film with a mother dying of cancer. It’s a brave moment to have a drunken rodent have a sober realization that he never asked to be who he is. It’s an incredible event when you get this cynic to tear up as a tree-man states “We are Groot” and makes a sacrifice. Like its titular ragtag team, this film has more going for it then what’s at facevalue.

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8. Interstellar

Beyond all the other films on this list, Interstellar has scope. Pushing past the confines of space, time, and dimension, it desires to twist your brain like a wet rag and then shake it out a few times. While this can certainly lead to over explanation by the film and over analysis by the viewer, the story remains, for the most part, focused on two things — the need for survival and the desire to explore.

It is these two factors that the film consistently explores, though the scenario is ever changing. Is finding out the unknown worth having everything you love age rapidly in front of you? If you’re the only human being for lightyears, do you wait for help though it most likely won’t arrive?

It’s rare for a big movie to also have big ideas, but Interstellar succeeds on engaging its audience and inspiring awe and fear for the inky blackness that hangs above us.

7. Get On Up

The life of James Brown was as spirited and soulful as any song he ever sung. He was a man who could shoot a pulse of blues right through the funk and that’s because is life was both in equal parts. An abandoned boy brought up in a whore house, Brown sung his way up the mountain, negating those who helped him to the sidelines. Sinatra be damned — it was Brown who “did it his way.”

Director Tate Taylor created a film that went farther than just the typical biopic. This thing bobs and weaves to the music, dishing out moments of Brown’s life out of order and allowing the man himself to host the proceedings, dropping knowledge right on the audience with a wink and a smile. And that smile belongs to Chadwick Boseman, playing an uncanny Brown. He exudes everything about the man, from his goofy swagger to his ferocity and it is a delight.

But this isn’t a polished-up version of the Godfather of Soul’s life. It allows his dark side out, but wisely never lets it overtake the big picture, playing the moments to support the whole. When Brown throws his wife across the room, he flashes a glance to the camera only to look away ashamed and, for the first time, say nothing. He’s hosting this film, but that doesn’t mean he exactly enjoys you seeing everything. It is in these moments that the showman melts away and you see the ferocious tiger of a man, who had no bootstraps to pull himself up with, but did so anyway by downright talent and willpower.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is far too often vilified for never straying far from his house style, but The Grand Budapest Hotel both enhances and expands on what makes him so recognizable and forms a great dichotomy of tone. On one hand you have his most vulgar and violent work to date. On the other, a quirky mix of aspect ratios, stop motion animation, miniature sets, and luscious time periods. It’s a weird yet enticing mix.

Also per Anderson style, the cast is all excellent, ranging from newcomers like Jude Law and F. Murray Abraham to staples, such as Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. But the film belongs to Ralph Fiennes, who brings both a paternal quality and a cheeky set of morals to Gustave H. — the head concierge of the hotel. It is in him that the film’s tonal relationship is embodied and, without a doubt, at its most fun.

But even if the film is Anderson at his quirkiest (though he may continue to surprise) the film’s tale is just as bittersweet as the rest of his filmography, laying out an old man’s reflections of a war torn time he’d never want to return to, but will never let go of. It’s one of the director’s less hopeful films, but it may be his most content.

5. Obvious Child

Obvious Child is a savior to one of film’s most milquetoast genres — the romantic comedy. Far too often the laborious rom-com is a by the books affair, starting with the an overly quirky meet-cute and ending in happily ever after, never once actually putting its protagonists in a situation that is relatable to hard issues. Not only does this film expand the genre into actual human territory , but it’s pro-feminist to boot.

No doubt some of this is because of a sad rarity in the medium — all writing and directing credit goes to very talented women, including Director Gillian Robespierre, who strips away the comfortable genre troupes regularly applied for a story that takes place around a scheduled abortion. This isn’t some will she/ won’t she “October Baby” scenario mind you. The abortion is only the backdrop to a character study that is both introspective and funny.

This is in no small part because of Jenny Slate, who is a break out as Donna Stern. In her role, she embodies a goofy femininity that is more geniune than the air-headed Katherine Heigl vehicles that permeate our theaters. I can’t wait to see where she’s headed and maybe, just maybe, the rom-com has something fresh left in it after all.

4. Nightcrawler

There are moments where actors you’ve seen a thousand times pull something out of the air you never expected from them. I only liked Jake Gyllenhaal and that’s probably why he surprised me so much. I let my guard down, turned my back, and, out of no where, he pounced, delivering a searing performance that feels like nothing on his filmography before.

As Louis Bloom, Gyllenhaal created a Patrick Bateman for the digital generation. A calculated, alluring, and focused individual who has a single super power — he doesn’t give a damn about civility. It’s his play thing and he pokes and prods it to become the best “Nightcrawler” in Los Angeles — a profession based on gathering footage of bloodied car wrecks and corpses. If it bleeds it leads for the news, but Bloom will never be the one found bleeding.

Nightcrawler is a neon noire of the highest caliber, but it never feels exploitive. Director Dan Gilroy lets the gore, for the most part, remain unseen and its far more frightening and alluring because of this. It’s a brash tale of journalism ethics, and voyeurism that finds that most horrible carnage inside its characters.

3. Birdman

I have never, and most likely will never again, see a film like Birdman. A two hour backstage saga that almost completely plays out in a single (though digitally constructed) roaming take, it both feels meticulously put together while also having an almost jazzy improvised air about it. There are moments that feel unhinged and beyond off-script, as if the characters on the screen might just walk off. It’s the closest thing to living theatre I’ve felt in a cinema.

It takes balls to try something like this and, while its Alejandro González Iñárritu who has put the whole concept together, the film’s fate rests on Michael Keaton, both for his delivery of the material and its resonance with his own career. He’s an old dragon ready to roar and does he ever, delivering a performance of both anxiety and madness in equal parts.

In a weird way, Birdman is a commentary on a film genre (superher0) from a different genre (backstage drama) and insight is gained on both. I whirlwind of a ride and the most fun I had at the theater all year.

2. Calvary

John Michael McDonagh’s second directorial effort is a damning portrayal of Ireland’s (and the world’s) relationship with both religion and, more specifically, the Catholic church. A quiet tale, it finds its friction as Father James (the incredible and reserved Brendan Gleeson) interacts with his parisonors — all who have, not only stopped believing in their faith, but nwo outright resent it.

Rare is the film that has something to say about religion without either overtly schilling for a type or outright dismissing all of it. Calvary is a post-mortem. It recognizes that the old ways have died, but has few answers on what the future should hold. There is atoning to be done and plenty of it.

Through it all, Gleeson leads a cast, including the great Chris O’Dowd and Kelly Reilly, as a figure of both humor and eloquent wisdom, searching for answers, while he decides his ominous future. It is a film that seeks out hope even in its own utter blackness. In my favorite dialogue exchange of the year, Gleeson states to his daughter, “I think there’s too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues.” When asked his number one virtue, he replies, “I think forgiveness has been highly underrated.”

1. Whiplash

When I left the theater, my heart beat out of my chest for hours. Whiplashpushes a film about music into almost sports movie territory with the athletic ferocity it runs Andrew (Miles Teller) through the ringer to become the best jazz drummer there is. Blood’s left on the drum set in more ways than one and most of it is spilled by Fletcher, Andrews teacher, played with sheer masochistic evil by J.K Simmons.

It is a film focused on artistic greatness and what must be sacrificed to achieve it, but those answers aren’t easy. While Fletcher does everything in his power to belittle Andrew and his classmates, he suggests it’s the only true way to separate the wheat from the chaff. “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job,” says Fletcher and he believes it.

But how far can you push someone before you push them too far? We find this out the hard way and so does Andrew, but not without first grappling with if there isn’t some method to Fletcher’s madness in a society that gives everyone a blue ribbon. Art, after all, is craft. Whiplash is a gut-punching examination of pushing ones self towards greatness and the sacrifices incurred along the journey.


2014 has ended, but its films stamped it as a year of examination, questioning and reflecting on humanity and our place in this world. As the film industry as a whole continues to feel the ground shift beneath its feet and new digital doors continue to open for great creatives, film has never been a more interesting and expressive medium with plenty of surprises left in store.

Wes Anderson's 2001: A Space Odyssey

Wes Anderson's 2001: A Space Odyssey

Visionary directors don’t come around every day. In fact, true auters rarely do. They redefine the medium for themselves, playing on inspirations that proceeded them, but moving forward into dark artistic corners not previously explored. This is what makes them unique. This is what makes them who they are.

So what happens when you smash a few of them together?

A few months back, I ran across a trailer that mashed-up Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with the film aesthetic of Wes Anderson, entitled “2001: A Space Comedy.

After multiple viewings, I realized that my attraction to the trailer pushed past just the outward humor such a combination proposed. The editor, M. Deicke, had hit on a weirdly perfect cocktail of two filmmaking visonaries, whose styles are almost immediately identifiable.

Kubrick and Anderson are known for their visuals. See a screenshot of either and its easy to recognize, but the key is their adamant and meticulous nature towards their camera framing. It is a defining characteristic of both directors and an area where each bleeds into the others preferences.

Beyond just the visual aspect, both Anderson and Kubrick also define themselves with the sound and music choices in their work. Who hears Blue Danube without thinking 2001 or The Kinks without remembering Royal Tenenbaums? This trailer mashed the memorable visuals of Kubrick with the song selections of Anderson and found a brilliant middle ground, where each artist shines bright, but in a hue we’ve never seen before.

So what happens if it’s taken even further?

I was curious to know. Could Anderson and Kubrick be mashed up for an entire film? Could they dance together for that long? For me, it was worth exploring, if only for the sheer fun of it. So I recut 2001: A Space Odyssey into a Wes Anderson picture entitled, Wes Anderson’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Playing with the visuals in Kubrick’s masterwork, 2001 allows for an easy editing template. Long on shots and short on sound, cuts could be put together rather seemlessly. Suddenly, the Dawn of Man sequence is scored to Mark Mothersbaugh tracks from Rushmore, spaceships fly to The Beach Boys, and a two-and-a-half hour film is cut down to an hour-and-twenty-minutes.

Here’s a clip…

To some, I might as well be ransacking the Vatican with such blasphemy, but I found the experience liberating. The process of understanding both directors and attempting to serve both equally is probably an impossible task, but a challenge I enjoyed balancing.

This, for me, is less “filmmaking,” but “filmplaying” — akin to having GI Joe invade a Barbie’s play house. It’s pushing past what’s expected and finding something new, opening opportunities to discover what makes certain artists unique and what they might do together if given the chance. I think creatives can learn a lot from such projects and, beyond, everything else, it’s a ton of fun.

I’ll be premiering my full cut of Wes Anderson’s 2001: A Space Odyssey soon and am excited to see what sort of experience it brings for lovers of Anderson and Kubrick alike.

Star Wars Spoiler Sobriety

Star Wars Spoiler Sobriety

“Seriously?”

My friend Tyler looked at me as if I had just proclaimed I was climbing the Himalayas or living on a crab boat for the rest of my life.

“You’re staying completely away from spoilers for Star Wars: Episode 7?”

I nodded and confirmed that that was the plan. He leaned back in his chair and ask the question everyone else had stated once they’d heard of my choice.

“How exactly?”

To be frank, I wish I knew. It’s an unsettling life choice. It’s like making an effort to ignore the wind. How can you turn your back on such a monumental force and expect not to still be affected by it? How can you attempt to look away when its presence is all around?

From t-shirts and happy meal toys to video games and bus stop ads, it’s inevitable that Star Wars: Episode 7 will be plastered on every object and medium possible as if it’s a power that needs to still prove itself. Sure the prequels left a bad taste in the mouths of the majority, but it simply shows the absolute magnetism of the franchise that you can make three massive clunkers of cinema and still have every butt that was in a seat for Phantom Menace most likely show up once again.

So, when it comes to SW:E7, everything after that first cast photo (seen in the header) is dead to me. I’ll be ignoring the buzz, missing the hype, and stepping back from the chaos. I’ll be shielding my eyes from the magazine covers at the grocery, disregarding the treading Twitter hashtags, and flat out muting the most spoiler serving Facebook friends. The only exception to the rule is if a trailer projects itself in front of me before another film and then, for only those two minutes, will I get a taste. There will be no rewatching on Youtube. Beyond that, I’m going cold turkey from Star Wars spoilers just as everyone else takes their first hit of many to come.

But…why???

This is always the follow-up question I get asked and one Tyler had on his lips as well. I try to answer with a question of my own.

When’s the last time you went to a theater and knew nothing about the film?

It’s rare not to have any contact with a piece of cinema before you sit down to view it. In this day and age, it’s almost impossible. Maybe it’s just a promotional photo here or a TV spot there, but we have a connection with the material long before the opening credits. In fact, it’s possible we have more of an understanding of a film’s world and ethos before we see it than past generations did even after their viewing.

We are saturated in tid-bits, gossip, breaking news, and rumors and, by the time we finally have the opportunity to take it all in, we probably already have the action figures at home. Is a film better because we know the villain’s name before we see him on the screen? Is it really okay that the biggest action sequences are the highlights for the trailer? Do we really enjoy a film more after seeing slideshow after slideshow of blurry behind the scenes pictures taken from afar? When did we become a culture that desired so much front-end knowledge?

While some films still desire mystery in the months (or even years) leading up to their release, it seems like an impossible battle both with a fan culture, who can’t seem to get enough, and marketers that believe that “more is more.” But, out of these two camps, I’m still not sure who I blame more. Should I sneer at a studio for showing a trailer at Comic Con or the guy with the iPhone, whose unfocused recording of it forces the studio to pull the curtain back online earlier than intended?

I’ve been one of those fans that shuffle up to the buffet and never leave until the restaurant brings out the final course, but the down side has always been that I’ve never been able to fully enjoy it — I’ve already stuffed my face and am now too full to truly consume what I came here for in the first place.

When I ask people about the last time they knew nothing about a film before going into a theater, I generally told that it’s not happened to them since they were kids and that’s the best reason I can think of for fasting from SW:E7 spoilers. I want to sit down and have no earthly concept of what is about to befall me. I want to take it in with innocent eyes let the experience wash over me. I want to have a nerd like experience that nerd culture doesn’t seem to believe in anymore. How exhilarating that could be. How exhilarating that will be.

Upon hearing me out, a grin formed over Tyler’s face. He had one final question…

Can I join you?

What Happened to the Movie Intermission?

What Happened to the Movie Intermission?

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It’s become common. You go to the movie theater, you sit down for a relaxing escape, and you find yourself two hours later realizing you’ve got another forty minutes to go. Whether it be a fantasy epic or the latest deluge of superhero adventures, even the most cookie cutter of genre flicks have been stretched like taffy in a desperate attempt to stuff as much in as possible.

According to Kristen Acuna of Buisness Insider, the films of 2012 were 1.2 times longer than they were in 1992.

Five Highest-Grossing Films of 1992

  • Aladdin — 90 minutes
  • Home Alone 2 — 120 minutes
  • Batman Returns — 126 minutes
  • Lethal Weapon 3 — 118 minutes
  • A Few Good Men — 138 minutes
  • Average: 118.4 minutes

Five Highest-Grossing Films of 2012

  • The Avengers — 143 minutes
  • The Dark Knight Rises — 165 minutes
  • The Hunger Games — 142 minutes
  • Skyfall — 143 minutes
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 — 115 minutes
  • Average: 141.6 minutes

In twenty years we’ve added roughly twenty-three minutes to a film on average. That’s like tacking a half-hour of television onto the end of a film.

Over the past few years, critics have continually brought up length in their reviews. Richard Roeper said of just the first film in The Hobbit trilogy…

There’s no denying the majesty in Peter Jackson’s visuals but he’s taken a relatively slim children’s book and stretched it beyond the limits.

About the Academy Award nominated Wolf of Wall Street Scott Tobias quipped…

Spread out over three hours, The Wolf Of Wall Street is an exhausting experience, perhaps too much in tune with one of Belfort’s sleepless, drug-fueled benders.

Even if we table the matter from an artistic or critical standpoint, it is obvious that we live in a world of Youtube clips and six second Vines. The media consuming culture is backpedaling, for better or worse, and attention spans are shorter.

Marketplace reports that, in 2000, Americans could hold attention for about twelve seconds. Three years later, in 2013, that dropped to eight. Goldfish can hold for nine.

So, unless you’re swimming in a glass bowl, today’s cinema creates an odd dichotomy— we’ve got longer movies than ever, but no attention for them.

So how do we fix it?

For most of the 1950's through 1970's, intermissions marked the epics. From Seven Samurai and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World to The Sound of Music and The Godfather some of cinema’s most remembered films have the intermission in common and, in retrospect, it gives them a somewhat regal flare even when seen in a living room. Such breaks are more akin to a live theater experience and that association gives such a film’s viewing a weird event like quality.

But, as time moved on, pushing extra screenings on the schedule become more important than popcorn and, with the surge of multi-plexes springing up in every mid-western mall, concern grew that such a break just gave the sneaky sorts the opportunity to jump into another darkened theater. And so with the passing of 1982's three-hour biopic Gandhi, the intermission was dissolved in the mainstream American cinema.

It’s time for a return.

It’s not like the concept of the intermission has been killed all over the world. In fact, in India’s thriving Bollywood, it wasn’t until 2011's Mumbai Diaries that a film even came out there without one. It’s still very much common place in that culture. So why bring it back to America now? Who benefits from a ten minute break? In theory, everyone.

Filmmakers Benefit

If a director or producer knows that they have two separate blocks to show off their film, we could see a restructuring to how such long stories are told. Beyond that, film critics, who watch films constantly, have less movie watching fatigue and suddenly, instead of reviews complaining that the film drug in the third act, they’re reengaged post their popcorn/bathroom break and everyone is happier for it. The filmmaker gains the appropriate space to tell the story and a critic’s full bladder doesn’t as often get in the way of his possible enjoyment or criticism.

Movie Theaters Benefit

With concession food still being a big income booster for theaters, regaining that extra opportunity to shill it can only be helpful. Beyond that, I’m too much of a cynic to believe theaters would allow a film’s composer to simply score behind an intermission card so, best case scenario, we get a minute of instrumental vamping to bookend eight extra minutes for commercials. Sure some could say a Coke ad in the middle of Lawrence of Arabia would kill the mood, but intermission is supposed to be a palate cleanser so, while I hate commercials as much as the next guy, I’d be happier to have a lower ticket price because the theater can make it up in intermission revenue.

Viewers Benefit

As attention spans dwindle, having an intermission would allow viewers to refresh not only their popcorn, but their brains. Film overload can be dumped and that weird post-film exhaustion occurs less. At its most base, viewers also gain an opportunity to check in with those pocket computers all the kids are talking about and they just might feel less inclined to whip out those glowing screens during the actual film. On a more positive note, intermission would allow movie lovers a chance to converse and analyze what they’ve seen so far and maybe even gain insight on plot points they’ve missed.

With the rise in binge-watching television, today’s American viewership is attuned to blocks of content with small breaks so adding intermissions back to the cinema experience may even feel closer to the experience they regularly enjoy at home.

So will we see a return of the intermission to the American cinema? One would hope. I don’t see films getting any shorter in the future, but my bladder isn’t getting any bigger either. You give me that ten minutes and I just might buy another soda, enjoy the whole movie, and not leave red-eyed and tired after three straight hours of full-sensory immersion.

That sounds like a win for everyone.

And now back to your feature film presentation…

I'd Like to Not Thank the Academy

I'd Like to Not Thank the Academy

Every year the elite in Hollywood walk the red carpet and sit comfortably in their seats, awaiting the Oscars, an awards show that has not only defined their business, but the careers of many in attendance. It is a special night, but not just for these lucky few who attain a front row seat. The world is watching and, from houses to hotel rooms, drinks are being poured and arbitrary ballots cast. It’s America’s favorite entertainment horse race.

So why can’t I shake the feeling that I care so little?

For years I was the one in the suit, sipping sparkling grape juice and weighing the pros and cons of each category. But that was then and, at the great risk of sounding cynical, I now find the whole thing a grand charade that masks the politics of big studio filmmaking with a facade of artistic appreciation - a shell game created to give awards to the highest bidder.

“Oh come on,” you say, “isn’t that a tad extreme? Aren’t you just being harsh because it’s the cool thing to do. How very hipster of you to turn your own artistic jealously into a critique.”

I get the backlash. I’ve said it all to myself before, but I can’t ignore the feeling. I can’t ignore why I’m no longer sipping champagne and ticking off my ballot boxes.

And here are the reasons why….

“And the Best Pictures Goes To…”

It’s a dangerous game we play when we try to quantify art. Best Picture, Best Director, Best This, Best That. When we put art in a box, categorizing for culture what’s good and what’s bad, you strip it of why it nourishes the soul in the first place. It becomes a husk of a thing, marketed as if to a naive populace, who are believed unable to decide on their own what good cinema is, both for themselves and for humanity as a whole.

While we could talk about the validity of all awards for art, that’s not the discussion I want to bring forth (another time and another place perhaps). It’s the Oscars for which I currently speak and for good reason - they are the grand poobah, the world’s litmus test for gaging cinema quality and seperating the good from the very good.

Isn’t it scary the power a single awards show has on the general public? Do we remember who won best picture at the Spirit Awards? No. The BAFTAs? No. The Golden Globes? Maybe. But, when it comes to the questions asked from “Trivial Pursuit” to “Jeopardy” it’s the Oscars that stick in people’s brains. It’s the Oscars that people care about. It’s the Oscars that give the idea that its okay to objectify art in general far reaching terms instead of personal preferences - “it’s the best film of the year” instead of “it’s my favorite film of the year.”

Does that mean there isn’t such a thing as great film? Not at all. Great films stand the test of time. We remember the likes of Rebel Without a CauseCasablanca, and Modern Times because they floated to the top of our culture psyche and stuck there while their drifted away. Great film is possible because it has made an impact, but stating grandly that something is the best film of the year before it can really impact the cinema landscape may hinder the winner more than help it. Being called the greatest is a hard thing to hold on to unless you’re Muhammad Ali.

Another problem I have with using the Oscars as a way to determine cinema hierarchy stems from those calling the shots - the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I think many believe these awards to be a tally of a massive diverse group, whose cumulative knowledge is the best aid in determining winners. What they don’t realize is that, according to the LA Times, only a little under 5,800 people actually vote, 94% of those are Caucasian, 77% are male, and the median age comes in at 62, with only 14% of the Academy voters being under 50. So who’s voting for best picture? Probably your grandpa.

The Money Run

Every year at least one film has this marketing ploy - the underdog. They are the little film that could and, with their little sling, they’ll slay the mighty blockbuster Goliath to take home the statue. It’s a great story, but that’s about it. The Oscars (and many of the big awards shows) are one big cash on the table money run, where whoever can get their film into the hands of their voters the fastest and sleekest most likely will win the prize.

Now, I’m not saying there is moral issues here. It’s a business after all and each its just selling its product in its best packaging, but this isn’t the side Hollywood really wants you to see. They’d prefer you not know that films like “Argo” and “Lincoln” are spending 10 million dollars to stay in the spotlight. They’d prefer you not know that Universal Studios gave each member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association a free iPod shuffle loaded with songs from “Les Miserables.” They’d prefer you just root for the underdog.

The Impossible Dream

Growing up, I knew I wanted to be in film and what I saw as the maximum amount of success I could achieve was to win an Academy Award. Not to live comfortably and express myself through cinema or find happiness in sharing my stories with fellow film lovers on the festival circuit. It was to win and win big. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

For years, I thought that was the pinnacle of achievement in my craft and so decisions on what I created were influenced with the knowledge of what was considered the best by the Academy. The vision of my creativity became filtered and fuzzy, narrowed by the mass amount of weight I put on my back to accomplish what I thought was the necessary end result of my work - an Oscar. This wasn’t an obsessive thing, it what I thought was standard procedure for being a filmmaker. To put it plainly, I stopped playing by my rules and began playing by theirs.

I think it’s this way for a lot of budding filmmakers. We become so wrapped up in what we think will win us a golden trophy that it becomes our golden idol and we begin to neglect the talent we have been given in favor for the talent it will take to bring us the grandest accomplishments, whether that be an Academy Award or any other prize.

Now don’t think I believe it bad to want to be recognized for your work. I understand that desire, but, if we’re not careful, we’ll treat awards like the Oscars as Everest — a mountain we can climb if we try hard enough—instead of Mars—a distant object that only through sheer miracles we’ll reach.

If our end result is to achieve accolades then we are no longer artists, but businessmen with a unique set of skills. This thought process is bad for filmmakers, but great for the rat race Hollywood and the Oscars like to run. It keeps the money flowing and sadly calcifies an entire industry from trying anything that they may deem too different from what is generally considered acceptable. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is how it all ends—not with a bang, but with a whimper.

No doubt another Oscars season will come and another set of awards will be placed on another set of shelves. No doubt they’ll start chatting about the next year at the afterparty and, yes, next year will come as well. It’s a never ending cycle. And like the Oscars, my little feeling will resurface and I’ll find myself ruminating on the pulse of film while everyone else enjoys the show. I envy them. I really do.