Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Claim Thy Oscar a Snub!

Oh Yes, There Will Be Snubs

The golden man statuette given out once a year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a rare, and oft discussed issue. We debate its legitimacy, rival in efforts to predict, and hope to see those films we greatly adore come out well. Though, among film bloggers, one may argue that there is one area of discussion more present than any: The Snub.

Yes, we all know it. I can't believe X didn't win that year! And I would never dare say that to make a claim as that is unjust, especially given that self perception is always key in film criticism.

But, alas, I would like now to make one simple point: Before you claim someone was snubbed, and failed to earn a win they deserved, in your eyes, be sure you've at least seen the WINNER. My reasoning being three-fold:

1. Without having seen the winner, you're opinion is painfully skewed, and unjustified. You can't rightfully say one didn't deserve to win instead, because you simply don't know. In many respects this is like claiming one soda better than the other, having only tasted that one. You don't know, and until you try it, you'll never know. And if you go around claiming one has been snubbed, the longer you do, the more pressure is on you to not be swayed when you do see the other film in question. Because, let's be honest, it's embarrassing to claim one thing for years only to prove yourself wrong (let alone be proven wrong by others). And skewing ones opinion in effort to support a preconceived notion is not only foolhardy, but ignorant to the highest degree of stupidity.

2. Having not seen the winner, you have no real evidence. You can claim one is better than the other, but your only evidence is that one film. You have no ability for right comparison, which is always key in presenting facts (life isn't a Michael Moore documentary - there are multiple sides to all things). Your argument is basically: I [really] liked one, therefore the other must not be as good. Then again if you approach all of life this way, you'll quickly find you've managed to miss most of the world. And I will not stand to see my fellow bloggers go amiss when at their hands lies the entire power of the Internet. It's not hard to find classics, especially those that have won Oscar gold, and I would argue a couple hours of your time is worth the effort. Especially when you weigh it against the possibility of years of misguided, perhaps even incorrect, claims.

3. I would note that above I said at least see the winner. I would move to claim you should probably see all of the nominees for that year. Why? Simple: What if the thing you so readily support isn't even the best of that group? And they didn't win either? Wouldn't your claim be better supported if you could list the reasons and why multiple performances should have won instead of who did? If nothing it gives more breadth to your argument, and you yourself gain strength in ability to dissect the performances of that year. Now, I would note that to take this any further you'd have to see all the films of that year, but I believe we should try and keep things reasonable, as best as can be. Remember: the more movies you see the better your judgment on quality, and in turn, snubbing, will be.


Lastly, I would like to note, as always, that snubs, just like film reviews, are entirely opinion based. There's few people generally agree on (Edward Norton > Cuba Gooding Jr. *cough*), and of those, there will always be debate. And while I do note this is not the most timely of posts, given as the Oscars are a good 7 months away, I figured now is as good as any to present my case. And of course you are free to discount, support, or oppose my argument in any way you please. Good day!

16 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

Well said sir - just last night I was talking to some fellow movie lovers about how much I dislike opinions that begin with "I haven't seen it, but..."

Where this penomenon really gets my goat is the way it goes back to BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. The biggest part of the controversy for me wasn't that Academy members voted against it (totally within their right)...it's that there were many Academy members who flat out refused to watch it.

Educate yourself on the subject - then take your stance. Right?

MovieNut14 said...

Well, I have seen the winners for certain categories before I see the nominees people say should've won. A few examples:

~Forrest Gump/The Shawshank Redemption (Best Picture)
~Ordinary People/Raging Bull (Best Picture)
~The Fugitive/Schindler's List (Best Supporting Actor)

And I gotta say, AMPAS makes some really crappy decisions.

snobbyfilmguy said...

I argue all the time (even last night) that LOTR Return of the King won for the trilogy and not on it's own merit. Mystic River should have won. I'm guilty of not seeing all the nominees in some categories but I ALWAYS all the best picture nominees.

The Mad Hatter said...

@ Snobbyfilmguy... Dude! TOTALLY agree!!! I think you're the first person that sees eye-to-eye with my MYSTIC RIVER standpoint.

I'm like you, when it comes to best picture I've seen every nominee for best picture before Oscar night since 1997. Helps to make an informed opinion.

Jason H. said...

I agree completely. I try my best to see all of the nominees before Oscar night; that way, my judgement is fair. Well, all of the major ones at least, i.e. Picture, Director, Acting, and if possible, Writing.

@Movienut Dude. AMPAS really does make some crappy decisions sometimes. The most egregious one recently that I can think of Sandra Bullock's win last year.

Univarn said...

@Mad I definitely agree on Brokeback and people not seeing it hating on it. It's greatest weakness though was that its name became a joke, and play on its own sentiment. When that happens you could tell people the world is ending, they'll not bother because it has a catchy name.

There needs to be some balance between whatever the hell the Golden Globes do and the AMPAS. Where on one hand you have people who can watch every film, but still want to hobnob with famous people, while on the other you have one full of a famous people who simply can't, or don't, watch every film.

@MovieNut You also need to take into account perception, and opinion, of the time. It's a lot easier to criticize now given we've had 20+ years to dissect, analyze, and critique the films, as opposed to then when they had all of 3 months, maybe.

@snobby and Mad Keep your anti-RotK out of my pro-RotK blog!!!! :P. I enjoyed Mystic River, but to me RotK was a huge cinematic achievement. And I still wager it better than Mystic River any day of the week. Hence the added fact that everyone's perception is different :).

@Jason It's very hard living in NC to see all the films as many don't come out here until well after, and I lack the $$ to rush to the theater to see them all. But I agree seeing as many as possible is ideal.

StudyCool said...

Great article and good comments all around. I experienced this problem a few times last year when I kept hearing people say that Avatar should have won hands down. And exactly as you are pointing out some of these people had not seen Hurt Locker, they were just in awe of Avatar and in the mindset that nothing can beat it. But in the end if you have not seen the winning film it is absolutely absurd to say that you do not think it should have won.

I try to see all the Best Picture nominees before the event but to be honest this challenge was easier before they increased the contenders to 10. When it was 5 there was no problem!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Once the Best Picture nominees are announced, I make an effort to see all of them in order to form an honest opinion. My 'snubbed' opinion might not matter, but at least I was in the know.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again loud and clear. Do not talk about Citizen Kane's Oscar snub until you've seen How Green Was My Valley. That's always the one that gets me most annoyed because so many people haven't seen the actual winner. But such it is. I think a snub is only a snub, though, when precursors supported the role, critics supported the role it seemed headed to a nomination and BAM nothing. For example, Angelina Jolie: brilliant in A Mighty Heart; nominated everywhere and then no nomination. That would be a snub, in the technical sense. But Angelina Jolie in The Good Shepherd: good, but a movie that showed up nowhere...that's not really a snub, it wasn't on anyone's radar. A snub, for me, seems to be a conscious decision to go avant garde or whatever.

Excuse the rambling, good discussion. I approve (not that it matters, but whatever.)

Univarn said...

@Study That happens a lot. It's surprising to me how many people don't realize the incredible power media has over what people see. The cost of advertising, the channels watched, the demographic aiming. All of these limit so much that it's not wonder most people won't see what is called "The Best Movie of the Year" as opposed to a "event of our lifetime" - all of which are entirely relative to the people watching.

@AlexJ. Better a well founded opinion, than a populace monger I say.

@Andrew Your approval always matters to me :). Now I admit I haven't seen How Green Was My Valley, then again I don't go around claiming Citizen Kane was snubbed (and/or robbed). I do note the incredible difference between its reception now and then. And it's a movie I greatly enjoy, and admire (hence it being on my top 100 though I know it's very popular to hate on it). I see what you're saying about snubs from a literal standpoint. Though I do sometimes think early award nominations fall victim to the "everyone in the media says they should be therefore they should be" syndrome. And the Academy, being one of the later Award ceremonies does have the power to avoid that (though last year I believe they fell all the more victim to it than ever).

Simon said...

The only category I can remember seeing every single movie of was, I think, best supporting actor in a comedy/musical for the Goldon Globes. I think.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) > Denzel Washington (Training Day)

That "snub", or Oscar jacking as I see more fit to refer to it, was the last time I cared a flying flip about the Oscars.

Jason H. said...

@ Univarn Yeah tell me about it. Luckily there's a theater near here that shows a lot of the Oscar movies before the ceremony, but sometimes I'll go out as far as Greensboro to see one.

Danny King said...

Couldn't agree with you more regarding the Norton snub. He was unbelievably good in "Primal Fear," and although Gooding Jr. is perfectly fine in "Jerry Maguire," he comes nowhere near the level of acting that Norton displays alongside Richard Gere.

Andy from fandango groovers said...

Great post, I agree with everything you say, however I do have a problem. Not with you but with the academy, many of the voters haven’t seen the movies they are voting for (or against). That is why the best foreign language movie is the best and category as to vote the academy members have to have seen the movie, not only that but they have seen them how and where all movies are best seen on a big screen in a cinema/theatre. This category has its own issues in that the country of origin submits movies and can only submit one, also there are no nominations by the academy as the nominations are selected by a panel, I‘m going off at a tangent here, back to the point:

MovieNut14, it is all a matter of opinion, whist I agree completely with Ralph Fiennes and Raging Bull, I would not have given the Oscar in ‘95 to The Shawshank Redemption, as good as it was I think Pulp Fiction and Three Colours: Red (nominated for best director but not best picture) are better films, and I have seen all five nominated movies. To continue with the personal opinion idea Andrew brings up Citizen Kane and How Green Was My Valley. I love Citizen Kane; John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock (directors of: How Green Was My Valley and Suspicion respectively) are amongst my favourite directors but I honestly believe The Maltese Falcon is the best of the six (out of ten) nominated movies I have seen from that year.

On the subject of Brokeback Mountain, I agree with Hatter on his point about academy members not seeing the movie however, it is a movie I just didn’t get. There was nothing wrong with it but I didn’t see anything really great about it other that some of the acting. I am a big fan of Ang Lee but of the eight of his movies I have seen, I would say only Hulk is weaker. Of the nominated movies that year (and again I have seen them all more than once) Good Night and Good Luck was by far the best for me.

The Mad Hatter said...

@ Number Six... Damn man - was that a comment or a post all its own??!!

I'm with you in choosing GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK as the best picture of 2005. Matter of fact, i believe that it was perhaps the best film of the entire decade. However, its biggest hurdle during Oscar season was underexposure...not built-in bias.

It's reasonable to assume, given the markers during awards season (Oscar for Best Director, BAFTA best picture, DGA win, PGA win, WGA win, not to mention that it was one of the few times the NY and LA film critics agreed on the top movie) that BROKEBACK should have taken that final step.

However, it can't be denied that an open sentiment of Oscar voters saying "I won't watch that" ultimately brought it down...and strangely, handed the Oscar to the weakest of the five BP nominees.

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