This weekend films like Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, This is 40, and Django Unchained all screened for critics and members of the Academy. Because voting ballots for the Oscars are being handed in earlier than usual, studios have decided to have their films screen earlier than usual. That can be a double-edged sword: the film could gain buzz a month in advance or it could falter and suddenly the film is dead before it even got released.
For some, it's their job to go to these screenings and give their reactions, I get that. But twitter really bastardizes that process. From the sounds of it, so far, it sounds like Zero Dark Thirty and Les Mis are getting great buzz. But it's not even about how good they are, it's "Can it beat Argo or Lincoln for Best Picture" or "Oh Les Miserables is totally going to win it all now!"
It just makes me wonder if that's what goes through their heads as they watch the film or do they preserve judgment until afterward? Twitter provides instant reactions and I also wonder if some care more about being the first to react to something as opposed to having a deep, considerable opinion on the matter. It wasn't that long ago that bloggers waited at least until the critics' awards started happening before they seriously started predicting the Oscars. But now it seems like anytime a new "oscar contender" is released, we immediately start to wonder about its prospects.
Seriously, if I had the luxury of attending to free screenings like these knuckleheads, I would take the time to enjoy the films (or if I don't like, take the time to figure out why). It's not like any of them really have anything intelligent to say about these films, I mean, how silly and ridiculous is it to judge a film based on its potential Oscar prospects? We both know the Oscars don't go for the best film, they go for the film that is best "tailored" to their interests. So, when people judge these films, it's almost like they look for certain clues as to how it could wind up winning Best Picture or Director or Actor. Sometimes, in the case of Daniel Day-Lewis, the obvious is the obvious. But, discussing the Oscars in the midst of talking about the film's merits is completely ok with me. What bothers me is the twitter aspect, where most of these film bloggers and critics start Oscar campaigning and sounding like a bunch of spoiled brats.
The worst part of it is that a lot of them don't really care about film. They know that there is a certain amount of people interested in the Oscars, there must be since there's a shitload of blogs devoted to them. But, you know they don't really care about film because they'll talk about a film like they're a teenaged girl or boy talking about a crush. At the same time, they'll talk down about a film that's been made by someone they consider "uncool" or maybe they don't support their views on other shit that has nothing to do with the film at hand.
It's laughable to me how what seems like a nice comedy/drama in Silver Linings Playbook is being hounded and questioned on how good its Oscar prospects are. Whether or not Jennifer Lawrence will win Best Actress, people judging whether or not she'd win because she's "attractive" enough for Academy voters. It's absurd.
Thing is, in general, I enjoy the whole Oscar game. It is a game. But I don't like to talk or to think about it until the Oscars are right around the corner. It's interesting to see what the Academy will go for every year and it's equally frustrating to see how the results turn out. But something changed in me a little, reading twitter after the first few Les Miserables screenings ended. The amount of people clamoring about its Oscar chances and whether or not Tom Hooper will win his second consecutive Oscar made me realize how sad it all really is. "Oh it'll probably split between Spielberg for Director and Les Mis for Best Picture." It'd be ok if this was based on anything substantial, but it's not. It makes you realize how little these people care about the films themselves. They literally will look at a film and judge whether or not "it's good enough for the director to win his second Oscar" or maybe it'll just split the BP/BD vote. Seriously? You're thinking about that after watching an epic musical? Did you LIKE the film? And if you did, why not talk about that some more instead?
It makes me feel bad for the potential career trajectory of Tom Hooper. Here's a guy, he makes a few films in the early 00's with not too much attention, then The King's Speech comes out and he's the Oscar darling. He wins over the likes of Darren Aronofsky, Fincher, and the Coen Brothers. He seems like a mild-mannered enough guy, and you know what? He made a great film that was well-liked by critics, the academy, and audience members. I didn't think of it as one of the best films of the year, but he still made a really good film.
So then he follows it up, two years later, with a beautiful looking musical where all of the actors sing live which is a bold and unusual move. It's much longer than The King's Speech, it has a much bigger cast, it's most ambitious in scope. Before even seeing the movie, I feel that Hooper must be praised for taking his recent success and being a little more uncompromising on this next film. Sure, hearing at first that he was making Les Miserables sounded like "oh wow, he must really like winning Oscars," because yeah the idea of the movie with that cast sounds like Oscar bait material. But after hearing people talk so positively about it, it could very well be a legitimately great film and that's what we should be talking about. We should also be talking about where it places Tom Hooper among the ranks of great, promising directors. Those are more interesting conversations. Because if Tom Hooper turns out to be a fantastic director whose only "flaw" is making crowd-pleasing, successful films... I think we can live with all of that. Not every good director has to be challenging to the point of confusing and alienating his audience. We need some directors like that, but we also need great populist directors. Otherwise, movies will be relegated to mindless popcorn fare. A movie like The King's Speech and potentially Les Miserables maybe popcorn fare too, but they most certainly wouldn't be mindless.
That's why this stuff bothers me because a guy like Hooper is unfortunately making these films in the wrong age: the twitter/Oscar blog age where his films will constantly talked about in regards to how "Oscar worthy" it is instead of how good the film is. And that's just sad.
Of course I'll talk about the Oscars from time to time and I might mention a film's Oscar chances in a review, but my reviews would never revolve around that and I would make sure I never talked about the Oscars ad nauseum. So why does it bother me anyway? Why do I care to complain about it? Because it just makes me sad to see potentially interesting film discussions be denigrated to Oscar talk. It's just one big wasted opportunity in my opinion. This shit needs to stop, or at least cool it until we get some critics' top 10 lists and the New York and LA critics start handing out awards. At least, wait until that. For now, we all know nothing.