I smell a change coming and it’s about time. Be sure to check out the video feature on The Carpetbagger site. It debates wheteher or not Jon Stewart can save the Academy Awards.
The Carpetbagger – January 6, 2005
People have been saying for quite some time that the movie business is in the midst of profound change. The tick-tock of evidence need not be repeated, but it can be summarized thusly: The practice of erecting enormous theatrical releases, pushing them into the marketplace with brute marketing dollars, and then counting the grosses as obedient audiences show up in droves is running just this side of empty. And no one knows what the new New Thing will be, exactly.
The Bagger doesn’t either, but yesterday’s events cemented his belief that it could be the Oscars, of all things, that tradition-bound kabuki of self-congratulation, that will lead the way. Ironies abound. As things are shaping up, big movies are getting short shrift, gravitas is trumping fluff, studio muscle isn’t working, and Jon Stewart, a media guerrilla who machine-guns convention, will serve as ringmaster on the industry’s crowning annual moment. The line between camp and cool, always tough to discern at the Oscars, is becoming even more ineffable.
The Academy can rightfully be seen as the soul, if it has one, of the industry. Every year among Oscar deconstructionists, there is much talk about The Academy Sending a Message. And boy howdy, at least one guild spoke loud and clear yesterday.
Let’s begin with the nominations from the Directors Guild. It is hard to overstate the predictive nature of the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the winner of the Directors Guild award has gone on to win the best director award 51 out of 57 times. And this year, the guild chose to cite a crop of relative directorial newbies who made Message Movies, period pieces like Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, along with Crash, a contemporary take on racial conflict in Los Angeles. The only nominated director that Old Hollywood could lay claim to was Steven Spielberg, and he has always kept the major machinery of the business at significant remove.
King Kong, the epitome of modern movie craft in all its glory – Big Movie, Big Dollars, Big Effects – got bupkes from the Directors Guild, and just about everyone else for that matter. Kong was seen as a potentially explosive blend of art and commerce, the kind of brawny winner that could bring ratings to the Oscars and put fannies in the seats, but the industry’s hopes of grabbing the hairy back of the big guy and being pulled to that new, happy place are dimming.
As the thinking man’s anti-intellectual, the Bagger is not one to read too much into this, but when miniatures like Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck look like they are going to clobber $200 million movies, it is bound to create some soul – there’s that word again – searching among the captains of this industry.
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Very interesting indeed. What are your thoughts? Let me know.