Film Notes: About Oscar

The Oscar Nominees this year are once again, inflated for maximum viewing audiences and not particularly for excellence in film-making. They could have pared the list down easily: Gravity; American Hustle; Wolf of Wall Street ; Philomena & Her-12 Years a Slave possibly…

It’s time and well past it for DiCaprio to be honored for his body of work. That’s usually the thinking that goes into the Best Actor category. Amy Adams & Cate Blanchett are too close to call-they may go ahead and give the Best Actress Oscar to Dame Judi Dench simply for the aforementioned body of work.

It’s worth noting that of the films nominated, only one was in the top ten Highest Grossing Films for 2013-the film was Gravity. The films that audiences wanted to see included “Iron Man 3”- coming in at # 1. Then the Children’s movies prevail-everything from Despicable Me 2 to Frozen & Fast & Furious 6 (for big kids!).

Sequels are still the order of the day. Not only Iron Man 3, but Thor: The Dark World, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Fast & Furious 6, plus the Wolverine, all were in the top 15 highest grossing films of the year. The Man of Steel was # 9, and Star Trek into Darkness was # 14.

There’s nothing new under the sun. Critics frequently complain about the lack of quality and originality found in movies. Many new films are remakes from comic books or rehashed storylines. And although I frequently criticize the decisions of top Hollywood producers, I’d like to point out another high-profile media superstar that constantly used reworked material. That would be William Shakespeare.

Make no mistake, I am NOT equating any of the current crop of remakes with the Master Bard. The point is that creativity is found when we least suspect it. Who knows what is lurking just around the corner?

Critics corner: Speaking of critics, some of the critically acclaimed films that are nominated include: 12 Years a Slave; American Hustle & The Wolf of Wall Street. I’ve taken issue at times with the dearth of important critical voices talking about films in recent years. With all things in the information age, there’s an up and a down-side to the dilemma. Although the web contains volumes of information, very little is original in content concerning modern film.

Filmgoers have always needed energized voices such as Roger Ebert, the late critic for the Chicago Sun-Times who provided not only clarity and knowledge to his critiques, but also a deep-rooted love of film and the rich history surrounding the art of filmmaking. That is lacking so often these days. However, there are some rays of sunshine.

As I flip through my Flipboard, (I admit I’m addicted to it), I am able to compile an interesting movie magazine consisting of several thoughtful pieces on film. The list of articles is provided at the end, if anyone cares to read through them at a later date. They include a piece about Jean Shepherd-the uniquely talented creator of the classic, A Christmas Story (I have a section about Shepherd in my 6 Degrees of Film book also).

There’s a piece in Esquire magazine on a subject that thoroughly intrigues me: namely, the ongoing book vs film debate. In this piece, the subject is James Thurber’s classic character-Walter Mitty.

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the filmmakers have taken an unusual choice of material and created an interesting concept. The notion involves taking Thurber’s original material and then updating the idea of modern man being lost. Only this time around he is lost in the noise and confusion of the information age.

It’s a notion worth exploring, but perhaps better served in the film Her. Her is the story of a young man falling in love with the personal assistant voice on his phone. After reading the story of a football player engaged to a woman who apparently didn’t exist, this plot doesn’t seem too far-fetched!

Other pieces include the acclaimed science-fiction writer, Harlan Ellison, reviewing, Saving Mr. Banks (NOT favorably-I might add!)…

Coming in March: My series on the history of Science-Fiction in Film. Also, a new piece inspired for the laziest Film Festival devotees (including myself): The Armchair Film Festival: French Films are examined.

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