February 7-14

With all the discourse that arises out of Oscar nominations, I can’t accept the idea that the award show is completely irrelevant. Look at me, I have other, more vital tasks that I should be occupied with, but I find myself needing to respond to the guy who directed Mallrats.

The tragic downfall of a filmmaker, and just a man for all that matter, is being an avatar of indie filmmaking to a spokesman for Marvel as an underappreciated work of art. Kevin Smith gave his two cents on the Academy Awards, along with Jimmy Kimmel. So really, the top class of the insufferable. Their arguments essentially boiled down to, “Spider-Man was the most popular movie in 2021, so acknowledge it, you out-of-touch assholes!” The entitlement from the Marvel camp is truly astonishing. You guys have EVERYTHING. You won, you have as close to a cultural homogeny as you can get. You own the box office, and the livelihood of the theater industry at this point. As Tom Hagen asked, do you need to wipe everything out? I think most reason-minded Marvel fans are not clamoring for a Best Picture nomination, because it would come off as disingenuous. Checking off nominations solely based on popularity is a sure way to bastardized the award.

From the financial/ratings perspective, there’s no way the Academy will see a significant jump in ratings because Spider-Man got a Best Picture nomination. A. No one thinks it will win. B. They can just watch the isolated clip on YouTube of Kevin Feige accepting the award on stage. The days of the Oscars being the highest rated non-NFL broadcast of the year are over. So at this point, they ought to lean into more obscure/arthouse movies. And yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, West Side Story and Licorice Pizza are obscure, word-of-mouth films, because that’s the business now.

The wide variety of movies nominated shows how communist the Marvel crowd really is. We have a western, musical, coming of age dramedy. sci-fi epic, neo-noir fantasy, foreign film, satire, sports movie, family drama, and a period piece all on the board. I certainly don’t love all the movies that I’ve seen from the list, but I think this is pretty much the best they could do. We’re over ten years late on this, but this feels like the best use of the Best Picture expansion in 2009, which everyone thought would be for The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers. And it’s no big deal, but Dune made over $100 million domestically.

Of course, there are pockets of the Internet and general life that always bangs the drum of, “the Oscars are so woke, they’ll obviously give Best Picture to a foreign film!” This card was played commonly after the Parasite victory two years ago. From their purview, in the last three years, that is true. Since the Academy expanded its membership, more younger voters, women, and people of color were added. The way people have always thought of the Oscars will probably be true from now on. Can we dispense the notion that the Academy was this leftist propaganda machine (in the way we think about the far-left: Northeast universities and people who write “he/him/his” in their email footer) throughout history? Just about every BP winner until Parasite (Moonlight being the ultimate outlier) appeals to a middle-aged white centrist/neoliberal, which is about as obvious as the sky being blue because that’s who the voters were. Nothing says leftist art like Braveheart, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Million Dollar Baby, and Green Book.

Anyways, here’s what I watched this week:

Major League (1989, David S. Ward) – I love myself a good baseball movie, especially a comedy, but when was this beloved movie supposed to get funny? I know when I’m not in the mood to laugh, but that wasn’t one of the nights. This bounced off me like a breath of air. His dad is great, but Charlie Sheen is not a good actor, and I can’t be convinced otherwise.

Closer (2004, Mike Nichols) – To work with often ham-fisted dialogue and to make it captivating is all you need to know about Mike Nichols as a director. Not his best or even a great picture for that matter, but this much talk about sex from good-looking people is a layup.

Fail Safe (1964, Sidney Lumet) – I’ve never heard anyone claim to be a Lumet-head. Everyone reveres Dog Day Afternoon and Network, but there’s never any career retrospectives written about him or profiles from film Twitter or Instagram. Even though this isn’t the best movie about accidentally launching nuclear missiles from 1964, it is great, with the pressure heightened at all times between the end of the world and interactions between the President and his Russian interpreter.

Nightmare Alley (2021, Guillermo del Toro) – Trust me, I want this aforementioned Best Picture nominee to be great. Praising films that have gotten buried because of the Marvel shadow is like 40% of my existence, but this simply didn’t resonate with me. It does look great, though.

Kimi (2022, Steven Soderbergh) – My first 2022 release gave me exactly what I wanted: lean and thrilling. Soderbergh’s work output in the last few years is astonishing. He’s probably inspired a lot of young people to slap a indie film together shot on an iPhone.

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