Why I don’t watch the Oscars…

Well, the nominations have been officially released, and now begins the long build up to Oscar season. The Academy Awards are a curious thing. People are frequently very surprised when I mention that I don’t really keep up with them anymore. Some of them say that as a film graduate, I should care a lot more about the films that win or are at least nominated for awards, especially ones so prestigious as the Academy, and I can see their point. Certainly, when a film that I like wins an award, I’m very pleased and proud of the filmmakers. And I do keep an eye on popular films, I love expanding my taste so it pays to look out for films people recommend. But I just don’t value the Academy awards as a way of rating films anymore.

The Oscars is a very old and celebrated yearly event. If a film or individual wins an award, they can expect a huge amount of respect and a significant career boost. Marketing campaigns for films cannot shy away from displaying their Oscar pedigree on all the posters and trailers, but to me, it doesn’t really mean as much. Obviously, a lot of the films that win the awards are really good. But the system is so skewed that this almost feels more like a coincidence than careful selection. To even be considered for nomination, film producers must sink money into “for your consideration” campaigns. These are designed to essentially bribe voters into picking the film for nomination. This is covered in more detail on the show Adam Ruins Everything, and I highly recommend watching it to find out just how broken the voting system really is.

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On top of this, in spite of improvement, the Oscars is still predominantly white, and not very representative. Sure, Moonlight won last year which was great, but the majority of the attendants are still white. The majority of Voters are still rich old white men. Not that I hate that sort of person, but how can they accurately decide the best actor or film of the year? Their tastes are not going to reflect what film say, a young Hispanic woman would enjoy most.

The ceremony is hard to watch. Whenever I tried, I couldn’t get away from the incredibly vain atmosphere the show gives off. This is a televised award show, all about the upper crust, the elite of Hollywood all slapping each other on the back and feeling very pleased with themselves. That just fails to appeal to me.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The show is just tedious. It’s a dry dull drawn out slog of going through categories. You can get the same enjoyment hearing the results the next day. When I went to my graduation ceremony, there was at least the anticipation of receiving my degree at the end to keep me going through the boring parts. Why are we even watching strangers win awards? Or, if we are going to, it would be nice to have a few indie award shows, to give people lower on the rung some much needed exposure. Let’s face it, Bradley Cooper doesn’t need exposure, or a career boost.

The worst part of the whole night though, is the animation. The voters are not particularly interested in animated films, and that comes across in the extreme. Look back on previous years lists; they’re short on variety or genuinely artistic films. Most of the nominations can be predicted ahead of time. Pixar will always be nominated, because everyone watches Pixar. Studio Ghibli or another well known artsy anime film will be on the list, although very rarely actually win. There might be one actually worthwhile creative animated movie, and then a mediocre but popular CG film that the voters probably saw with their kids.

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Admittedly, I’m probably sounding snobby, but isn’t that the point of the Academy? To be a little discerning? The Boss Baby doesn’t need or deserve an award. Wreck-it-Ralph 2 certainly doesn’t, and if the voters just put a little effort into picking a genuine variety of unique animated films, I might pay more attention when they declare who wins. As it is though I look elsewhere for the years’ top animated features.

So, I don’t watch the Oscars. This isn’t a protest or some sort of statement. I’m not trying to prove a point, I simply have very little interest in them, and my taste in films isn’t impacted much by which films win. I like what I find most entertaining and artistic, and I trust my friends’ recommendations more than what some group of middle-aged rich men from another country decide is the best. I’m fine picking my own best films of the year thanks.

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Senlac Hill

Hi everyone, this is a reminder that Senlac Hill, a historical novelette I wrote last year is available on Amazon in both digital and paperback versions. If you would like to pick up a copy, but forgot to buy it, this is your chance! I also appreciate all constructive feedback, so if you would like to review the book, either on the amazon page or on your own blog, please feel free to do so!

It is a historical fiction set during the day before the Battle of Hastings, from the point of view of one of William the Conqueror’s soldiers. It’s a period of history I’ve always been very keen on, and it was a great experience getting to write about it. If you’re curious about what my fiction is like, please consider downloading the book or ordering a physical copy. Thank you all.

Ebook version.

Paperback version.

Aquaman: The Most Fun DC Film

Aquaman is actually pretty good…

I wasn’t excited to see Aquaman. Having avoided DC films outside of Wonderwoman since I was burned by Batman VS Superman, I was worried that they would never do away with the bad decisions hanging over from Zack Snyder’s films. However, I was incredibly surprised to find that Aquaman is actually an extremely fun film. It won’t win any Oscars of course, and it isn’t going to change the way you think about film, but it’s a damn entertaining romp. Directed by James Wan and starring Jason Momoa and Amber Heard, this is a film I could just sit back and relax in.

For the record, I am not saying this is a mindless film, although there are certain people making that argument. I don’t think this is a particular dumb or shallow experience, although of course, it is primarily here to entertain. But for me, this film represents another step in the right direction for DC. One of the things I loved about Wonderwoman was that it played to the strengths of the DC brand. One of the key things I love about DC comics is that it is about beings of immense power, god-like figures dealing with human problems. DC is at it’s best when the character’s have to deal with their immense power and responsibility and rise to the occasion. Wonderwoman tries to save people and defeat the god of war throughout her film. Meanwhile in Man of Steel Superman is unthinking enough to move a fight out of a populated area to prevent civilian deaths. In the same way, Aquaman is not about Arthur Curry the human dealing with the human world, and James Wan isn’t interested in trying to copy the dark knight tone that has been hanging off the DCU since it started. Instead he took inspiration from the comics and made an epic adventure about a prince struggling against his cruel brother to become the rightful king. As a fantasy nerd, that appeals to me a lot.

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Anyway, looking at the acting, one can argue that it lacks subtlety. Most of the performances are hammy, though earnest. Patrick Wilson is having the time of his life as the younger brother with a chip on his shoulder. His version of Ocean Master has a lot of insecurities that get the better of him. But I enjoy the style. Something all of these actors do is make the scenes feel fun. The acting for me suits the tone of the film. It wouldn’t make sense to make the drama incredibly intense, and the acting all subdued and grounded. That’s how you get tonally inconsistent films like Man of Steel. It wouldn’t work in a story with sentient fish and giant sea monsters. To make this story, I think you need your tongue firmly in your cheek. They cast Dolph Lundgren for goodness sake, they know what they were going for.

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Jason Momoa is great to watch. His version of Arthur Curry is a reluctant hero, but one that enjoys the adventure. He isn’t dour, even as he holds resentment against the Atlanteans for supposedly killing his mother. His angst comes out as a rebellious playful attitude and Momoa has enough charisma to pull it off. He has enough gravitas, and knows which moments to play as serious, but also portrays this character as a fun-lover, which is something DC has been sorely missing. Amber Heard is also great as Mera. She plays a strong willed and dangerous character that puts her duty to her people above her own. She and Momoa have decent chemistry and she injects a level of steadfast determination that helps Arthur to start to strive more in his own journey.

 

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But the acting isn’t the highlight for me, it is the visuals. The story and acting on their own would have made a slightly above average film. The pacing is fine and the writers managed to deftly juggle two different villains, which makes for a first in superhero films. But the visuals were smashing. Obviously, there is a lot of CGI, after all, you can’t film underwater the whole time. But the effect is pulled off very well, and the colour and costuming are vibrant and just the right level of silly. The shots are often very beautiful and there are so many moments in the film that I would have been happy to print and put on my wall as posters. Some seemed to come straight out of the comics.

James Wan knows how to direct a fun film and he focuses on giving us many cool action scenes that are a lot more creative than the standard punching that makes up so much of other superhero films. Characters fight with water, characters fight using tridents; they even manage to make the fish telepathy cool, such as when Aquaman literally controls a giant sea monster from deep in the earth. We have an epic underwater battle, and final duel between the protagonist and antagonist. Yes, I know that is a cliche, but it’s such an enjoyable one, that I don’t mind. We have fights in the rooftops of an Italian town, and a gladiatorial battle in an ancient underwater arena. The variety of action goes a long way to prevent it getting boring. There are so many things in this film to keep you entertained.

Coming back to what I said earlier. This film isn’t perfect. It has problems, such as a tendency to phone in some of the dramatic moments, like Arthur’s parents being separated, and while I do like Heard and Momoa’s chemistry, their romance feels rushed. At the end of the day you could say that this film is a bit of a mess. But if it is, it’s a fun, gloriously silly mess. It’s simultaneously epic, campy, fun, light-hearted and visually stunning. It might not be an Oscar worthy film, but I had a great time watching it, and for DC, that is an achievement all on its own.

Update

Happy New Year!

Long time no posts! I’m sorry for the inactivity over the last few months, this time in my life has been a little unstable, and so it’s been easy to leave things like maintaining a blog by the wayside. However, I have seen plenty of new films and have many ideas for new things to write on here, so do not despair, content is on it’s way. I will be trying to update regularly once again, and although I can’t promise I’ll be able to write every single week, I will at least try to make it every other week. I hope you all had a great Christmas, and I hope to be able to entertain and grow this blog in the coming year.

Bye for now!