The big question for the 2009 Academy Awards Show should is the cast of Frost/Nixon going to be watching? Because one wonders if anyone else will. The two most successful movies of the year, WALL-E and The Dark Knight were locked out of the major nominations receiving only one major award nomination each (supporting actor and screenplay, respectively) and a whole host of minor awards that nobody cares about. Come to think of it, another top grossing movie of 2008 was also absent from the final list of nominees, in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. The top five movies of the year according to the Academy Award judges (as decided by Hollywood’s own elite) were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and The Reader.
The only movie that made any real money was Button, still in theaters and with a current gross of $103,979,578. You might remember that last year when practical unknowns No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood swept the award show that the Academy Awards Show received its lowest ratings in the history of Nielsen ratings (started in 1967), drawing an average of 31.76 million. What was to blame? Some blamed the fact that most of the movies were independent features and not mainstream hits. Others blamed the writer’s strike though the very minute possibility still exists that nobody really cares about the Oscars anymore or anything on TV for that matter. Honestly, what has happened on The Simpsons? Is Bart a crack smoking teenager by now?
I always have too much faith in the Academy and continue to be disappointed year after year. I was predicting that WALL-E and The Dark Knight could each have a serious chance of being nominated for Best Picture and other major awards because quite frankly, these were the only films that mattered in 2008. As in, these were the movies that made Hollywood money and continued to keep their wobbling industry afloat. Without the presence of these two lowbrow action films the entire 2008 movie year would have made about $800 million dollars less. That would have led to major studio panics, numerous lay offs and perhaps a shelving of 50% of future over-budget movies.
It’s no secret that things are really bad in Hollywood. Actor’s strikes are still looming (yes they want even more money), fewer creative talents are working and even poor Harrison Ford had to take a 50% pay cut for his upcoming work on Morning Glory. Things look equally grim for DVD sales as they fell 9% in 2008, despite big pushes for Blu-Ray discs, and analysts predict even more decline for 2009.
It doesn’t help that more and more of us sheep that live and breathe for the movies are actually finding more productive things to do with our time—like enjoy pirated movies online. I wouldn’t confess to watching pirated movies, but I have no qualms about saying that I would much rather buy a used Borat DVD and eat 100 calorie popcorn then I would go out and spent $20 on the latest recycled crap.
For example, instead of watching Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon I might be inclined to stay home and watch Oliver Stone’s Nixon on cable for free. Instead of Slumdog Millionaire, I might prefer to stay home and watch my Under The Same Moon DVD which is another feel-good “cultural” movie that takes place in India rather than Mexico. I sort of want to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but if that actually requires me to go out, purchase tickets and popcorn and put caviar in the mouths of Hollywood’s starving elite, I would prefer to just stay home and play with my video camera “lapse” feature and watch myself age in reverse. I’m not sure what’s a more disturbing visual: the thought of Cate Blanchett scoring with a decrepit old man-child or a startlingly mature prepubescent.
Speaking of statutory rape, we have Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, which presumably stole the fifth spot from The Dark Knight or WALL-E. In case you haven’t heard, The Reader is a fascinating story that combines the genres of holocaust survival movie and classic MILF porno. Kate Winslet plays the nude seductress who eventually seduces a minor and then has to face the grown man years later in court.
It sort of reminded me of Max Hardcore, the hard core pornographer who was recently indicted by the United States Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section on ten counts of “federal obscenity” stemming from five of his Florida-based sex flicks. (Yes, Florida people are perverts, this I have learned) Hardcore was found guilty and sentenced to 46 months in prison. What was the crime? It wasn’t the low quality of his movies—it was because he depicted the act of underage sex in his films. Though his entire cast of nudes were all of legal age, apparently the depiction of underage sex is illegal, immoral and obscene.
Er, except in the case of The Reader. Lesson learned Max: only Hollywood has the right to film child pornography, because they know how to do it right. It’s doubtful anyone’s going to come to the aid of one lone filthy pervert, least of all Barack Obama. Presidents only seem to pardon attempted murderers and corrupt cops; one of George W.’s last presidential moves was to pardon U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean who shot a fleeing suspect and tried to cover it up. The moral of the story is that sex is always unforgivable while violence is sometimes necessary. (Namely to stop all the sex and drugs taking place in society) But at least Max Hardcore can take pride in the fact that he probably has Roman Polanski pulling for him.
Anyway, back on track. The Academy Awards snubbed the two commercial crowd pleasers this year despite the fact that they were more popular among critics, made more money and were generally more influential to society than any of the other nominated films. The Dark Knight was about terrorism and WALL-E was about planetary ruin. Slumdog Millionaire was about…Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The Reader was about every horny teenage Nazi’s fantasy come true. Frost/Nixon was about…yawn…Nixon, or so I would assume.
It’s cold to slap the hand that fed you, but perhaps Hollywood feels as if showing too much gratitude to the two most deserving and original movies of the year is just coming off as a little too desperate. Personally, I think it’s a grave sin to neglect the two movies that actually got people off their butts and into theater chairs. So I have to wonder if the cast of Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire will be watching this year, since presumably the rest of us will channel surf while Hollywood pats itself on the back for a group of movies that won’t even matter in ten years.
Way to go, Academy. Another few years of nominating virtual unknowns and you’ll be begging for bail out money. Anyway, it’s time for me to go because I hear Paul Blart: Mall Cop is playing online for free. If I can put one more extra out of a job or cut Tom Hanks’ paycheck by even 1% then I know my day was worthwhile.