Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I've watched the Academy Awards since I was in high school and getting seriously interested in film. Admitting that you actually look forward to the Oscars in some film circles is akin to pulling the hayseeds out of your hair – it's not a sign of sophistication.

The Oscars, as we all know, are tremendously flawed. First, the very concept that one film is actually better than another in a measurable way is pretty ridiculous at the level of "No Country for Old Men" and "Let There be Blood." We all know it's a matter of taste. And winning an Oscar can be a product of a marketing campaign, a political statement or acknowledgement of a long career.

But I watch them out because of what they represent to me personally – a sign of community. In the 1970s it was easy to be into sports or cars, the interests that seemed to be stereotypically linked to young men, but not something like the movies.

When I was going to junior high, high school and college I lived in a small Massachusetts town called Granby. It's the type of place that was close enough to be the target of white flight types from Springfield seeking a "country" lifestyle and yet in the 1970s still small enough not to have its own grocery store.

If you were a kid living on a small farm with obligations especially in the summer, going to the drive-ins or year-round theaters was a rare treat rather than the norm. And your development as a movie fan was definitely held hostage to what kind of programming your local television stations had.

Thankfully WWLP had movie shows presided over by a local uber-fan named Hal Stanton, who ran a lot of classic comedy. And the NBC affiliate in Hartford had a Saturday night horror film show that was lame – its host was a voice over who was only seen through a series of slides! – but showed a ton of Universal horror.

None of my friends were into movies the way I was and when I began a fanzine it wasn't an effort to seek local readers as much as it was to plug into the network of fans who published other 'zines.

I haunted the newsstands for copies of "Variety," various monster magazines, "Sight and Sound," "Films in Review," and "Larry Ivie's Monsters and Heroes." What I couldn't afford I would read as much as I could before I had to leave.

And despite the fact the Oscars wouldn't never have had Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing or Vincent Price as presenters – my interest in horror films manifested itself pretty early – I watched them because they were a mainstream symbol of something that seemed to me to be almost underground: a love of film.

So despite the fact that many many years since then I've groaned at the silly production numbers or wondered why someone has to be near death before they give him or her a special Oscar, I watch them.

Which leads me to this year's winner for best animated feature. In a perfect world the Oscar should go to a film that advances the industry. And while I loved "Ratatouille," it should not have received the award. "Persepolis" should have.

In this case, while "Ratatouille" was an wonderfully animated and realized film that actually had some good laughs, it didn't push animation into any new place and "Persepolis" did so with a story that was a genre-breaker and highly stylized animation that was expertly done.

We need genre-breakers in animation if we ever want to see the medium used to tell different kinds of stories. Hey I love funny animals, but I also love surprises.

As long as I'm posting on animation, let me just say the extended director's cut of "Beowulf" with "violence that couldn't be shown in theaters" is a move worthy of Barnum. The difference as far as I could tell is about a minute of running time and while one minute can be enough time to show an image that packs a nasty punch, I didn't see anything. Did you?

And in the extras, no one refers to animation. The phrase used to described how the film was made was "performance capture." What a crock!

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Mark Martin said...

OK, I'm gonna bitch at you now. Somebody has to do it!

Why did you waste 2 hours watching Beowulf again? You know there are a zillion other things you coulda shoulda done!

OK, I'm done now.

No wait - no I'm not!

We'll talk about this later, "offline"!

Mike Dobbs said...

Watching Beowulf again was work....I used that review in my DVD column at the newspaper. I do these things for reasons Mark, really!