January 22, 2016

Of #OscarSoWhite and Far From the Madding Crowd Snubs

            It’s been a week since the Oscar nominations were released and they still seem to be the big news of the day as the #OscarSoWhite campaign rages on.  As a white male I obviously don’t have the most pertinent of opinions on the matter so I will largely skip talking about it.  I will say a lot of the complaints are misdirected.  I don’t find much fault with the nominations as there weren’t many black artists to choose from (I personally would have only nominated Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan and Aaron Covington in the Top 8 categories and they were all from one film).  Therefore, the problem lies in the industry and not with the Oscar voters themselves.  That does not mean the Academy does not deserve blame.  A helpful solution to all of this would be to scale down the Oscar ceremony and use all of the money from scaling it down to begin a real effort to create scholarships and other opportunities for minority film school students.  I would be much happier with this then some silly addition of nominees that probably won’t have much effect in adding minority nominees.

            Another thing that has lingered with me in the days since the Oscar nominations announcement was the complete shutout of Far From the Madding Crowd.  It’s hard to not think of this film with the fact that it’s constantly playing on the HBO channels and the fact that it’s also a really good film.  I know films that get released in the first half of the year tend to get forgotten during the Oscar race, but recent evidence seemed to suggest that this infamous tendency was beginning to fade (The Grand Budapest Hotel last year and Mad Max: Fury Road this year).  Being a period piece that was based on respected source material and having a powerhouse independent film company backing it (Fox Searchlight) I would have thought for sure it would have been able to get a nomination somewhere.  Surely you can’t find five better examples of costume design, an original score or production design this year than with this film, and Carey Mulligan had a banner year with this and Suffragette that deserved a lot more credit than the near shutout she received during the awards season.  All of this makes you realize how much impact critics can have on the awards season.  The critics never brought this film back as it was hard to find it on any Top 10 lists.  Sure, it didn’t make my top 10 lists, but it was an extremely well crafted and well-acted film that really creeps up on you.

Shaun the Sheep Movie=3/10=I’ve never seen any of the productions from the Wallace and Gromit guys so I found this to be a disappointing introduction.  I’m sure animators love the claymation but I find many CGI films coming out today to be much prettier than this.  Additionally, none of the jokes never really worked for me and I really struggled to get into a storyline that tended to be too childish.

Cartel Land=7/10=This was an interesting and GORGEOUS film.  Did I mention that it was gorgeous?  The work of Matthew Heineman and Matt Porwoll towers over what Roger Deakins does in Sicario with a similar palette and subject.  Ultimately, though, this film seems a tad incomplete and you will have a vastly different viewing experience from someone on the opposite political spectrum as you.  While the opening half of the film comes across as very pro-2nd Amendment and pro-strict border control, the closing half leaves a much more ambiguous viewpoint on both subjects.  It ultimately makes the opening half seem a little dangerous considering all of the final evidence leaves such an unclear picture.

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