Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Has "The Big Short" Already Been Crowned the Next Academy Award Winner?

There has been a rule in the last several years that the Producers Guild of America chooses the winner of the eventual winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.  This is not because the PGA award is the most prestigious award on the planet, it is because that is usually the first claim by a movie that ends up sweeping all the major guild awards.  The Screen Actors Guild gives out their highest honor a couple weeks later, and then a week later the Directors Guild of America hands out their award to the best achievement in directing.  In the past the DGA has most matched up with the eventual Academy Award winners, but it was also during a time when the three guilds largely did their own thing.  These days with voting so close together and many members who overlap in membership, all the guilds tend to award the same film.

It was especially evident that the guilds just followed one another the year "Argo" ran away with all the awards, including the SAG award for Best Ensemble Cast, which should have logically gone to "Silver Linings Playbook" which had three acting nominations compared to "Argo's" one (which wasn't even in a lead category).  If you want more details on stats and how they match up with Oscar I (reluctantly) recommend you check out Awards Daily, as blogger Sasha Stone has become somewhat of a master at awards statistics.  My more reserved observation is that whatever has won the PGA in the past seven years has gone on to win Best Picture when Oscar time rolled around.  This weekend the PGA awarded "The Big Short" their highest honor, which officially makes that the movie to beat.

The thing about this year though is that this is the first time in a long time things don't seem so certain.  While "The Big Short" could theoretically go on to win SAG and DGA, SAG might heavily favor the acting friendly "Spotlight," while DGA is likely to honor George Miller for his crack-filled visionary masterpiece "Mad Max: Fury Road." "The Big Short" could snag the SAG award as it has a great ensemble cast, but would it really walk away with DGA?  It could, but that would be pretty disappointing when you have the aforementioned "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Revenant" in competition.  At the moment the race still feels very much wide open despite what the last several years have proven to be certain.  I kind of hope none of the guilds match up, because it makes for a more exciting Oscar race.

Each movie has it's supporters at the Academy.  "The Big Short" and "Spotlight" are loved by the actors.  "Mad Max: Fury Road" seems to be loved by the directors and visual artists.  Everyone seems to love "The Revenant," but with Alejandro González Iñárritu having swept up all the awards last year for "Birdman: Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance" it seems to be at a huge disadvantage in terms of voters feeling compelled to vote for him again.  Then we have "Room," which could be a sleeping tiger waiting to pounce.  I mean, how else can you explain Lenny Abrahamson's Best Director nomination despite not getting any predecessor support?  I mean, he even took the nomination away from Ridley Scott for his direction in "The Martian," and this was a guy who was poised to win before the nominations were even announced.

At the moment the race is still wide open and I like it best that way.  It makes the race more interesting and it gives everyone a chance to win at the Oscar pool at the Academy Award parties I throw.  However if "The Big Short" wins SAG then I think it winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards is all but a done deal (even if Miller walks away with his much deserved DGA).  We either know everything at the moment or we know nothing at all.  Sort of exciting isn't it?  For the record, here is my review for "The Big Short." As you can see I liked it, but I wasn't floored by it.  That could potentially change with future viewings, but for the time being that would be a fairly disappointing winner compared to some of the other films nominated.  Also my favorite film of last year - "Inside Out" - wasn't even nominated for Best Picture.  Since they have a Best Animated Feature award though, I guess they can just award it there and move on with their day.

Do Critics Care When a Movie Gets Delayed?

So news broke last week that "Star Wars: Episode VIII" has been delayed.  Originally scheduled for May of 2016, the film will now bow in theaters somewhere in December of 2016.  This means that Star Wars fans will have to wait several additional months for the next installment.  This led to some people asking me if I was upset by the delay.  The honest answer is no I was not.  And this isn't because I'm NOT looking forward to the next Star Wars.  It may sound hard to believe, but I am actually very much looking forward to the next Star Wars film. Yes, I wasn't blown away by the new movie, but (if you've read my review) you'll know that I did enjoy it, and I do believe the next one will be better.  I am not disappointed by this movie being delayed any more than I was disappointed when "Kung fu Panda 3" got delayed: There are always movies to watch,

I've written about this in the past, but apparently it bears repeating.  Folks, when you do this for a living you see at LEAST a few movies a week!  Sometimes you'll see a few movies a DAY!  If a movie - ANY movie - gets delayed, you're honestly not going to notice!  Yes, there are films you look forward to seeing more than others, but you see so many movies that it's pretty easy to lose track of what is being released and when.  Also, on a personal level, I want to point out that I don't watch previews.  I've written a few posts on the subject and why I don't, but when you don't watch previews you do lose out on the all important date that movie studios want you to remember.  It gets to the point where I completely forgot that "Inside Out" existed until the week before when I saw it at a critics screening (I also want to point out I didn't know what the movie was about, which added to the surprise).

So that's one reason critics don't get too upset that movies get delayed.  A second reason I'm not particularly upset about the new Star Wars being delayed is that it was only delayed by a few months.  This isn't like when Warner Bros. delayed "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince" by a whole year.  In that situation there were no movie problems, nothing to hold up fact, the movie was in the can when it was supposed to be released in 2008.  However, that year Warner Bros. released a little film called "The Dark Knight," which made so much money it made more sense to delay a sure fire hit into the next year to help insure great profits the next year.  During that year I was still making a name for myself in my journalistic field (a website I ran about comic books got more traffic at the time), so I wasn't seeing as many movies as I see now.  That delay was honestly felt, and it did upset me.

However, I survived, and so did all the other Harry Potter fans survived as well (even though they claimed they would boycott the film unless the release date was moved back up).  The final reason I'm not too upset by this (and this is where you readers should take note) is that it's not like you're going to be without your Star Wars fix.  Disney XD is airing a new Star Wars cartoon that is - to be perfectly honest - pretty darn good.  Also coming out later this year is "Star Wars: Rouge One," one of the many spin-off films Disney has in the pipeline.  In fact, there is going to be a new Star Wars film every year at least until 2019.  So to all you Star Wars fans who are disappointed by the delay, please calm down and look at yourself.  Putting all this into perspective, there is really nothing to be upset about.  The delay wasn't very long and there will be more than enough supply of this franchise to meet the demand.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Do I Hate "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Because It's Successful (Or: Does Box Office Reflect Quality)

At a New Years Eve party I attended several friends all wanted to know what I thought of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Of course I was happy to discuss with them my thoughts, my feelings, and what I felt were genuine shortcomings of the film itself.  I spoke so much about this movie to so many different people that night that you'd honestly think there was absolutely nothing else playing in theaters that month.  Most of what I had to say about the movie did not come off as kind that night.  I mentioned that this was a movie where nothing happened. I lamented on the fact that it was essentially the first movie remade.  I stood my ground that the movie was no where near the best as there was no reason for Disney to make it great, they just had to make sure it wasn't terrible (though, let's be honest, it would have still made money even if it was).

At one point someone asked me if I didn't like it.  I laughed and said "of course I like it... it's just the praise for this thing is making it harder to defend." I was wrong in this answer and I'm here to explain why.  One of my biggest problems is when I ask someone if they like a movie and someone says "it's not as good as everyone says/thinks it is." I get annoyed and I tell them that that is not a good answer.  That is not sharing an opinion of the movie, that is sharing an opinion of other peoples opinion of the movie.  I constantly tell people that how other people feel about the movie should not play a factor when it comes time to critique the film.  A movie can't help it if everyone loves it.  I understand why this is annoying.  I lived through the year of "Titanic," and while I thought it was a great movie (one of my favorites at the end of the day), it got so intrusive I was starting to hate it a bit.

This is what we all cleverly call 'the backlash,' and it happens with pretty much everything that gets popular.  When "Frozen" was released it was hailed as a masterpiece and Disney's best film since "The Lion King" (on a side note I want to mention this is a false compliment because it suggests Disney hadn't been making good movies since 1995; it was really their best film since "Wreck-It-Ralph").  Once people started seeing it in droves, throwing a lot of money at it, and ensuring that the box office exploded it was time to turn around and hate it.  The merchandise overflowed the theme parks to a great extent, and people felt like Disneyland has unofficially become Frozenland (on an additional side note I want to mention that if you thought this was a problem with "Frozen," just wait until Star Wars gets ahold of Disneyland and you see how bad THAT gets).  So yes, "Titanic" and "Frozen" overstayed their welcome and got people to hate them for a little while.

Did that mean these were bad movies?  No, not by a long shot.  They were still good movies and if the public were discussing them on that level alone, the movies were still good.  The same needs to be said for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." At the end of the day it is a good movie.  I never once felt it was a great movie, but it was good.  The only reason I bother to take a moment to mention I don't think it's a great movie is because the blogosphere and box office would have you believe otherwise.  But the fact that it tears up both like a chain saw through tissue paper does not diminish or elevate the product itself.  It is still the same film.  Unless the movie provided something new to discover the second time around this does not make it better upon the second viewing (my personal opinion is that it was less exciting the second time around, but not enough to dock it any stars).

The thing about all this is that the only time this sort of discussion comes up is when the movie becomes successful and starts breaking records.  To my knowledge no one ever questioned if "The Iron Giant" or "The Hurt Locker" were bad movies because they did poorly at the box office, nor did they pressure me with the question if I think highly of those films specifically because they failed financially.  And the answer is obviously no.  I like those movies because they were good movies, not because they didn't get the love I thought they deserved (though that is certainly the case).  Likewise the huge success of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" didn't make me have more problems with the movie itself, as the problems I have with it were there the whole time.  I do know people who have taken the box office results into account with their opinion, and have use those results in their arguments both for and against the film.

This is where a true critic has to step in and be the mediator in all this: Box office is nothing more or less than how financially successful something is.  McDonald's has been the most successful seller of burgers for years, but I don't think that fact has affected anyone's feelings towards the burgers themselves.  No one is eating there thinking "you know... this burger is good, but it's not THAT good!"  They aren't thinking this because they don't care how many have sold, they just want edible food.  Yet when it comes to movies the public likes to play this game that the box office means something when it doesn't.  The box office doesn't make a bad movie good. It doesn't make a good movie bad.  It doesn't mean a movie is good until it crosses a certain financial point at which the product is now sullied.  Heck, with inflation, 3D, and IMAX surcharges, it doesn't even mean this installment is much better than any of the other installments because it made more money.

It just means the movie is financially successful.

So to answer the question this topic poses, no, I don't hate "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" because it's successful.  I am disappointed that people are passing up seeing much better movies because it's in theaters, but that has no bearing on the movie itself, which I am perfectly fine with.  Now, some people that night asked me if the public responded well to the film because it was Star Wars film... that is a completely different subject that is worth addressing in the near future, because I do believe that claim might have some legitimate points behind it.

My review for "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens"

Monday, January 18, 2016

Critics New Year's Resolutions

I'm sitting here, looking at my "to write" list of articles and reviews I need to either write or finish writing.  Working on this blog is not on the list, so naturally I'm going to put all the other stuff off to work on this.  I'm not certain this is going to be a long post (or even a very deep post), but since it is officially 2016 I  decided it would be a good idea to make a public record of goals I want to accomplish by the end of the year.  These aren't things like "I plan to eat better" because I can tell you right now I have no plans on that, but these are projects I want to see through to the end and hopefully having a public statement of those things will hold my feet to the fire and actually get them done.  So, because I have real work I need to do, here are what New Years Resolutions for this film critic looks like:

  • Finish writing reviews on backlogged list - I keep a list of reviews that I need to write, and currently I am fifteen reviews behind schedule.  I would like to eliminate that list and get it down to zero by March.
  • Weekly YouTube uploads - This one I'm already doing a good job on, but YouTube has become important for my editorial and writing, so I want to keep that channel up to date and have new content every week.
  • Reopen The Comic Book - Believe it or not, I still get the occasional e-mails from readers who want to know what happened to my comic book review site.  It's been a few years since the site went down, but it might be time to review the site.  The blogosphere has no shortage of nerd news and commentary sites, but I think comic book fans yearn for sites that cut out the pandering garbage and get down to debating the actual merits of visual literature, and maybe it's time for The Comic Book to make a comeback!
  • Redesign The Movie - In 2017 The Movie will be celebrating it's 10th anniversary.  That is a long time to be doing something (though in all fairness, a year or two was taken off here and there).  The thing is, in all that time the website has only gotten one redesign.  How the site looks has never been a huge concern as there are only so many ways to project a review, but having a more modern site with comments and RSS is long overdue.  Since YouTube has become a huge part of what I de these days, the site redesign is going to be a priority, and I hope to have it done by January 1st, 2017!
Alright, that's all I'm going to commit to at the moment.  As you can see, these are long term goals that I'm going to be working on.  Who knows if everything will come to fruition, but we have to make the plans before anything can happen.  Hopefully I will have more updates on these projects soon, so keep an eye on this space!