Tuesday, June 30, 2009

FotM: The news is out all over town . . .

Last week, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its decision to increase the number of nominees in the Best Picture category by 5. Yes, you heard me right. Instead of the Academy selecting 5 films to duke it out for the American film industry’s top prize, there will now be 10.

I think this is one of the most lame-brained strategic moves that an organization whose sanity is already in question often enough has made in years.

First of all, this move is extremely political. You could even say that it’s all politics. Academy President Sid Ganis has stated that the reason for the change was due to the fact that 2008 had just too many good movies to choose just 5. He also said that The Dark Knight being snubbed was a significant factor in the Board’s decision. You know what I think? That’s baloney, hogwash, el stupido reasoningo, you name it. Any time that you have a competition with that many potential nominees, there are, by necessity, going to be hard choices that have to be made.

Sure, I thought The Dark Knight was one of the year’s best films. That said, I thought The Reader was spectacular, and, while I really thought that Batman probably was going to get his first Oscar nomination in the big dance, I penciled Kate Winslet’s WWII film in as a possible upset. For my money, a really good film ends up in the top category either way. I understand that a lot of people were upset that it ended up being The Reader, but hey, that’s just the nature of competition. You can look back over the past several years and and just COUNT the snubs. City of God in 2003. Cold Mountain in 2004. Spider-Man 2 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 2005. Dreamgirls in 2007. Children of Men and United 93 in 2007. Into the Wild in 2008. Need I go on? The point is simple: hard choices are the just the name of the game.

Second, adding more films to the category devalues what it means to have a Best Picture nomination. Essentially, I'm concerned that the field will be chosen from a compilation of what's on the most Top 10 lists at year's end. What's more, what I really hate is that the films that are chosen may be chosen as "token" films to represent their particular genre instead of being chosen for their overall quality. For example, while I feel that dramatic films will still dominate the category, it could easily play out like this: anywhere from 4-6 films will be dramas, then throw in a comedy or two, an animated film, a low budget art house film or two, a foreign film, and at least one big-budget summer movie.

Look, I understand the complaints that have been leveled against the Academy, but is increasing the number of nominees really the answer? Are we so paranoid in this country that we are unable to tell someone, "No, what you had to offer just wasn't good enough"? Think back to the golden age of blockbuster films. Films like Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark all had the benefit of being some of the first films that fit into the summer blockbuster mold that we know so well. Each of these films, in its own way, captured the imagination of the whole world. You know what else they have in common? They all received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Can you think back to the last time you saw a summer blockbuster as good as any of them? Didn't think so.

To get back to the political side of things, this decision feels like a way to boost ratings by nominating more comedic films and more big budget blockbusters, because more people would have a vested interest in watching to see if a movie they liked might win. I'm not against the possibility of more comedies getting Best Picture nominations. I'm not completely against the idea of a big summer movie getting a Best Picture nod. Heck, I welcome the idea of animated films and foreign films getting a greater percentage of Best Picture nominations. But what I want to see is all these types of films EARN their way into the top 5. Hey, I think the Academy's getting younger. It's not just made up of older, more conservative people to the degree that it has been in the past. Even Dakota Fanning is now a member. The possibility for a shift in future Oscar races already exists. If a change has to be made, why not add one more nominee to the category, making 6 the magic number? If more drastic change is required, why not adopt a similiar system to what the Hollywood Foreign Press uses with the Golden Globes by having two Best Picture categories, one for Drama and one for Musical/Comedy? Additionally, I don't like the idea of a small group of people making a major decision without consulting those they represent. I've done some perusing of the comment boards of both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and found Academy members not just decrying the move, but upset that they hadn't been consulted.

Do you realize what's now possible? Someone on one of those comment boards made a very valid point. It's now possible for a film to get 11% of the vote and WIN Best Picture. OK. Take a moment and read that sentence again. . . finished? That's an incredible thought. Potentially, there could be a film that 89% of the Academy despised, and it would still win. That just ain't right.

FotM: A Changing Best Picture

Outside, looking in
Originally uploaded by Darwin Bell
It’s no secret that the Academy of Motion Pictures has spent the better part of the last decade watching the Oscar telecast slip in ratings, and with every passing year a greater number of people argue that the five Best Picture nominees are less and less representative of the best films being released, and they certainly aren’t the most popular films. Now, I am not a person that says the biggest box office draws are the best movies of the year (Transformers 2 is a great example of that) but I also do not believe a movie should be disqualified from the critical and Academy praise that it deserves simply because it managed to find a wide audience and rack up the dollar total during its release. In an effort to continue being relevant, and recognize more of the great work that is produced the Academy just announced that in 2010 the Best Picture category will be expanded to include ten nominees.

The first point I feel that needs to be made is that ten nominees is not a record setting number for the Academy Awards. The record holding year is 1934: there were twelve nominees and It Happened One Night took home the prize. Until 1943 there was not a limit on how many best picture nominees there could be, and it was common to have between five and eight on any given year and there were far less films produced every year then are produced currently.

A great deal of people seem to think that the Academy decided to up the ante to ten films after there was such an outcry that The Dark Knight did not get nominated at the 2009 Oscars and Sid Ganis has quickly come out and denied that Nolan’s masterpiece had anything to do with this decision. I do not think that Ganis is lying. The Academy has gone through a great deal of changes through the years, changes that are sometimes subtle enough that only film aficionados know about them, and sometimes like their most recent announcement – so grand they make the news. The Academy has always been aware that to stay respected and relevant they cannot treat their ceremony with religious reverence and instead need to keep moving with the times and attempt to remain contemporary.

Perhaps the biggest change the Academy ever did to the Oscar ceremony was to switch from being a short awards dinner on the radio to the increasingly lavish gala we now know as television became more and more popular. There was also a time when segregation was a part of the Oscars; eventually, actors, and filmmakers of many races were included when the civil rights movement bore its fruit but no person of color won an Oscar before Hattie McDaniel’s big win for Gone With the Win. There have been the inclusion of new awards categories like Best Make-Up, Costuming, Animated Feature and Production Design.

One of the biggest changes in the Oscar rules in the past few decades was how a film can be advertized while it is trying to be nominated. This has affected screeners, screenings and the trade ads that studios can put out to push their film for nomination. There was a HUGE outcry over this from both sides because a large contingent of the major players were being accused of not only buying their Best Picture nominations but their wins. As usual, everything calmed down after one awards season and no one claims that Miramax or any other studio buys their best picture nominations any longer.

To talk about the Best Picture category itself is to talk about a category that has completely changed format since the first awards ceremony. The Oscars initially covered not a calendar year, but covered almost a school-like schedule (1927-1928, 1928-1929, etc.) and when the awards first began the Best Picture category as we know it did not exist; the category was broken into two separate parts: Most Outstanding Production & Most Artistic Quality of Production. The first film we credit with Best Picture was Wings which actually won the Most Outstanding Production and the film Sunrise is not credited with a Best Picture win but won the Most Artistic Quality of Production. The Best Picture category that we know did not exist until 1962.

With these facts I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s negative reaction to the Academy’s announcement to expand the nominees for Best Picture. I merely want to point out that The Academy Awards have a history of changing and evolving for a variety of reasons and that none of these changes have changed what it means to be a nominee or winner of an Oscar. It is still the single most prestigious award a studio or individual can win. I merely wish to implore you to realize that with the thousands of motion pictures released every year having the top ten films be nominees does not cheapen the honor at all. It does not make it mean less to win the award or be a nominee, but rather points out that the Academy nominees barely scratch the surface of the films that make it to a global market.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Coming Soon...

About a month from now the San Diego Convention Center will not look like this. Wookies, klingons, mutants, superheroes, geeks & film icons will be spilling across downtown as far as the eye can see. They will all be here for one common obsession: Comic Con. Chris & Megan being huge geeks and filmmakers themselves will be here reporting it all - minus costumes. Stay tuned for our experiences come the end of July...

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oscars 2010

In an effort to move with the times the Academy of Motion Pictures just announced that the 2010 Oscars ceremony will feature 10 nominees in the Best Picture category. To read the whole press release from the Academy visit their website.

The Oscars have watched themselves become less popular year by year. I would not be surprised if this is the first of many announcements about ways the Academy will try to make themselves relevant to the movie-going masses again.

I loved the changes made to the 2009 Oscars, and I can only hope the rest of the changes will be as positive. I still hold that if I were a nominee and I had five Oscar winning greats talking about me, I’d be crying.


It’s been 5 hours since I’ve seen TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. As such I think I can now appropriately review the film. Here it is…

WOW, lots of money… freaking insane! Shiny! Boom, he… he I like fast cars and things that explode. Cavemen, I can’t believe there was… parachute. Megan Fox is not human, she’s simply too hot! How in the name of…? Spinny and dizzy, Megan Fox, seriously! MASSIVE! Military porn! Big explosions, more shiny! Jeez laweez, how on earth? ISABEL LUCAS! That doesn’t make… ROBOTS IN TREES! OPTIMUS PRIME! Do you know what kind of movie I could make with this kind of money? Porn, every kind of porn; action, robot, military… this is a 13 year old boy’s wet… ooh, MEGAN FOX! This isn’t a movie it’s… good God! Are your frigging serious? Racist, I can’t believe they… it’s not just the robots, holy crap! Squirrel! I don’t know if I should be offended or applauding the balls on display. MASSIVE, seriously so much but I don’t know if any of it… I want to be 11 years old again! OK, I think Michael Bay is an unrepentant Republican; subversively he’s trying to say… Michael Bay, subversive HAH? Holy crap, seriously this isn’t a movie it’s… BOOBS! There are rules, basic rules that they teach in every film school or that you learn by watching like 5 movies and this thing doesn’t even remotely try to pretend that it even wants to play by… ooh, more shininess, explosions and Megan Fox! I’m coocoo for Coco Puffs! Seriously is there anything the military didn’t give these guys? Too much, it’s just too much, my eyes, my ears, my brain, my soul! HOLY CRAP, HOLY CRAP, HOLY CRAP! No way people didn’t die while making this, there’s just no way! Talk about everything and the kitchen sink, so much carnage, so much mayhem, WWIII and WWIV all rolled into one! I want to live in Michael Bay’s world it must be so. Seriously, testicles, horrifically glaring racial stereotypes and robot testicles? Objectification, objectification… OK, it’s kind of fun but OPTIMUS PRIME WEARING ANOTHER ROBOT LIKE A CANNIBAL OR BUFFALO BILL IN SILENCE OF THE LAMBS!!! Can’t stop long enough to think about how f’d up WAY TOO MUCH EXPLODING TO CARE!!! Not a movie, this isn’t a movie, I don’t know what it is but it isn’t a movie! I think I may be at least 50 IQ points dumber now but I’m really not sure I care… SWEET GOD, it’s simply not possible to put that much money, mayhem, military firepower and female awesomeness on screen! WTF, seriously WTF? They shot on a frigging aircraft carrier with a robot! I… I’m spent, I’m repulsed, punch drunk, feel like a retarded teenager, want to make my ears bleed by seeing it in IMAX. My creative soul and writer’s mind weeps. Need to drink heavily, reconsider my stance on taking recreational drugs and just let myself go while I wallow in the… whatever it is. Seriously you couldn’t parody Bay and come even close to what this film is. I… there’s not way to review it, there’s not, I… do I buy this, do I see it again, do I burn every film print in effigy? SERIOUSLY I need to get this much money to make a movie someday!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Box office numbers through history kind of fascinate me. Things that are HUGE now if adjusted for inflation could be soooo tiny, and things that looking back at seem so small would actually be HUGE when adjusted for today.

I do not think that box office numbers are the sign of a great movie, or even my favorite movies, but I do think that if you combine good reciepts with great critical and fan praise it's probably a safe bet that your movie is a frackin' good movie.

Some people might know where this is going.

Like it or not JJ Abrams Star Trek is the highest box office draw in the history of the franchise. This is a giant accomplishment for everyone involved from the Studio & Rodenberry's family to the actors. It means Star Trek has finally started to appeal to more than a core fan base, an aging core fan base at that.

I am excited to see what Paramount does next with Kirk and his adventures. If only I could get back on the lot by the sequel...

To see the adjusted box office for all the franchise you can go to this article.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


While perusing YouTube the other day, I stumbled across an interview with the late writer/director Anthony Minghella. While at the 2006 Denver Film Festival for the American premiere of Breaking and Entering, he ended up in some very insightful territory after being asked a fairly generic question about how the film came to be.

"Films have this wonderful ability to enable you to think outside of your own skin for a while. You can look at the same story from many points of view. You can perhaps reserve judgment. It can nudge you a little bit towards compassion, and for me, films are like the moral gymnasium. You know, you go to the gym to work out. You go to movies to work out your heart, and your head, and your thoughts, and I love movies like that, and I want to make movies like that, and I aspire to making movies like the movies I’ve loved myself watching. . ."

While it's terribly sad to think that Minghella's voice has been silenced forever, I've had the opportunity to listen to various interviews that he gave. He seems to have been a very astute, thoughtful person. I'm honored to know that to know that the man was a kindred spirit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


As a director myself I am always looking for something that will inspire me visually, creatively, etc. I watch movies constantly, read film jornals on a regular basis, and try to find the good film blogs and podcasts to invest my time in.

One of my new favorite blogs is Mystery Man on Film. He's an annonymous screenwriter who likes to share his tales, give tips and just talk about the story that is movies. He had the below video embedded in his blog and I thought it was just astounding.

A film jornalist/academic collected a series of the most famous tracking/"following" shots in cinema and compiled them. They are the shots that stick with you in films because you are moving with your characters through their enviroment, you always notice them in films because they are incredibly complex and make the world so much more real to you.

Check out the vid and his blog too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rumors and Speculation!

I don’t normally do this but for once I’m going to jump into the speculation business. Recently there have been lots of cool rumors and reports running around the net, some of them have already been confirmed and some of them are still in the works. What follows are just some of the things that have me most excited about going to the movies over the next couple years.

*Peter Morgan, the BRILLIANT writer of THE QUEEN, FROST / NIXON and the LAST KING OF SCOTLAND will be joining Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Writers of CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE) to write the next James Bond film! There are very few writers working in the industry that can hold a candle to Morgan’s talent and the last two Bond films were already brilliantly written, adding him to the equation has me chomping at the bit for 007’s next adventure.

*Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper are joining Joe Carnahan’s A-TEAM. First and foremost I have no idea when Joe Carnahan got his hands on this but thank God! John Singleton, the most boring action movie director working in the biz was originally slated to direct and there’s no way he would have made anything worthy of my childhood memory. To make things even better Neeson and Cooper are joining the cast as Hannibal and Face respectively! When can I buy my tickets please?

*Speaking of Bradley Cooper who turns in a star making performance in THE HANGOVER, he is also rumored to be in the running to play Hal Jordan for the big screen adaptation of GREEN LANTERN. This film is already being directed by Martin Campbell (MASK OF ZORO, CASINO ROYALE) one of the most underrated directors of the last 20 years so I expect great things, but if you throw Cooper into the mix as the emerald ring bearer I may lose my mind with excitement.

*Neil Marshall the guy behind DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT and DOOMSDAY is rumored be in the running to direct the Robert Rodriguez produced continuation of the PREDATOR franchise, appropriately named PREDATORS. I’m telling you right now there is NO ONE on earth more suited to direct a bad-ass, hard R, much needed entry into this franchise than Marshall. If they give this guy the reigns he will blow people to the back of the theatre. Plus you can pretty much guarantee it’ll be the first PREDATOR film with a really strong female lead. Here’s hoping I get to see Rhona Mitra kick some “ugly mother f*&#er” ass sometime soon.

*Kraven the Hunter and / or the Kingpin may be the villains in the SPIDER-MAN 4. Look, SPIDER-MAN 3 SUCKED, but with DRAG ME TO HELL Sam Raimi proved he still knows how to put on a hell of a show. I can totally see the studio wanting to go with The Kingpin so they can tell a badass DARK KNIGHTish crime saga and if handled properly that could make for a pretty darn great SPIDER-MAN movie. Let’s just hope they leave Raimi alone this time and let him work his magic, it did wonders for the first two films in the franchise. Here’s hoping they’re smart enough to realize that.

And that’s just a few of the things that have peeked my interest at the moment. I may start chiming in on this stuff from time to time depending on my level of excitement. Either way here’s hoping we’ve got some pretty movies coming our way.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Get Over it Already

I am sick of Twilight. The movie was horific and I want the fans to be able to look back and admit it. However, I no longer feel alone in my annoyance at the Twilight super-freaks. I was in Hot Topic tonight and had to snap this shot. I sense a fair amount of sarcasm in this hastily scribbled sign...

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