Sunday, October 08, 2006

How the oscars can be unkind to someone like Ed Zwick

Yesterday when I saw Departed, one of the trailers showed was for the upcoming movie "The Blood Diamond."

I think Ed Zwick is a great director who has really carved a niche for himself as a maker of great epics (Glory, Legends of the Fall, Last Samurai), but I worry that he won't be remembered in history as at least a notable director of the past couple decades. I think oscars have hurt him quite a bit, particularly in his last film The Last Samurai and Glory.

Take Last Samurai, other than a minor quibble over historic accuracy (Samurais were apparently not nice people), it was really hailed as a great film. To me the film was flawless if only slightly less effective than Mystic River, Seabiscuit, and Cold Mountain, and with the short space for only 5 films to get that oscar nominations per year, it lost out. Still, i hope it's not forgotten in history. I think that Blood Diamond is also gonna be hailed as a really well-made film and get its share of 4-star ratings but might also just miss the oscar cut, and that adds to his consistency but might hurt him because usually directors are remembered by how many oscar nods they've accumulated.

That's at least one negative consequence for the increasing attention the Oscars gets year after year and how the Oscars are turning into the future guidebook to film buffs over what seperated the great films from the ordinary. Getting that oscar nomination has turned into the goal of filmmakers today doing it for art rather than money. Films that fall just short of the mark get forgotten amid the debates over what's oscar-worthy and what's not oscar-worthy.

How about just plain good? That's what oscars were invented for in the first place. To promote good films.

Other films that will undoubtedly be hurt by not having receieved that best picture nomination or fallen short on other oscar nominations:
Walk the Line-Although it did win a best actress win, it might not be as well-remembered 20 years from now as Ray
Constant Gardener
History of Violence
King Kong-An oscar nomination in a non-technical category (of course it was technically better than any other film, it was made by Peter Jackson, that's not saying much) would have cemented as more than just your typical big-budget special effects fest
Terrence Malick's The New World-Released at the wrong time of year and reedited upon release, it got lost amid the heavy volume of films released during December
Match Point
Hopefully students of Woody Allen, Peter Jackson, David Cronenberg, and Fernando Meirelles will remember these respective entries into their filmographies as they were all noteworthy.

Hotel Rwanda-Ironically, it's critical success is being repeated in a bunch of Africa-centered movies this year like Babel, To Catch a Fire, and the Blood Diamond, so hopefully Hotel Rwanda will stick around
The Terminal-I think it's interesting that Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks stand by this movie as a great film despite critics giving mixed reviews and people on Saturday Night Live making fun of the film

Cold Mountain-Hyped beyond belief as a surefire best picture than dropped at the last minute, probably the 6th film candidate, this was probably the film that suffered most from an oscar snub
Last Samurai-Covered in the beginning
Big Fish-Did develop a sort of cult following though, and box office success
21 Grams-Although it might help his chances a little later on with Babel
House of Sand and Fog-Another great picture that was an oscar nomination would have validated. It had oscar-caliber written all over it with its classical story, cinematography, novel adaptation roots and big name actors

Road to Perdition-A worthy follow-up for Mendes for American Beauty
Catch Me If You Can
About Schmidt
Far From Heaven-This one definitely got hurt

Films like Adaptation and About Schmidt were redeemed a couple years later when Sideways and Eternal Sunshine won screenwriting awards for the same screenwriters in 2004

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