There are two schools of thought when it comes to handing out awards to movies. The first (and the one I subscribe to) is that awards should be given to things which are good. The things which are the best of the best, the cream of the crop, real achievements in film. The second, and the one this year’s awards givers seem to be subscribing to, is that awards should be used as a way to promote movies that people might otherwise overlook.
2007 was a terrible year for movies. Though there were movies I enjoyed, few if any of the top films on my top 5 list would be there if matched up against some of the movies I saw last year. It was however, a great year for promoting movies that nobody cares about. Movies you’re not allowed to like, because they’re defended with such critic-proof terms as “challenging”… which is to say that if you don’t like it you’re obviously a dullard and the film was much too deep and complex for you.
Chief sinner among these challenging films which you simply must see even though you have absolutely no desire to, is Michael Clayton. It’s a dull and uninspired film in which George Clooney wanders around aimlessly, and then it ends with him staring blankly into the camera. This is apparently what qualifies for genius in 2008, the movie garnered 7 Oscar nominations and has been heavily touted by critics. Critics, who are entirely disconnected from America’s mainstream audiences. Mainstream audiences who, after sitting through the borefest that is Clayton, left messages like these in our comments sections:
“There is nothing to this movie. The characters have no sould, you simply don't care about them, the plot is non-existant and frankly some of the acting is below par, at one point one of the characters is mouthing the lines of one of the other characters. If Clooney does get another Oscar for this role, then its not deserved in any way what-so-ever. A dud.”
“I have never been to a movie this boring before. no plot, no action and random things that have nothing to do with the storyline (if there is even a storyline). if there was such thing as a perfect bomb, this would be it. there is nothing to this movie.”
“A terrible movie... it drug on...and on....and on...and on...”
“It's plot was loose at best, it's acting mediocre, and it left the crowd wondering what George Clooney saw in this poor attempt at another Citizen Kane.”
“Could it get more boring that this? Half of the theatre had walked out.”
“It's at least an hour into the movie before you get any idea of what's going on. The point of the litigation that is the core of the story is never clear. Some aspects of the movie have no relevance to the story whatsoever. Just a very confusing movie...and the flashback aspect didn't help. I asked several others leaving the theatre what they thought. They had the same reaction. So tell me, what is so great about this movie? Boring, boring boring.”
Those aren’t the comments of critics, but the words of normal people who listened to critics, went to see it, and in many cases were so bored they walked out on it. The film received not a single positive comment from anyone who saw it. Not in our comments section and not on our message boards. I’d call that an audience consensus. The movie’s already been released twice in theaters, and both times barely registered on the box office radar. Should it win any Oscars, Michael Clayton will be forgotten five minutes after they hand out the trophies. What a waste of a nomination.
But not all of the unwarranted awarding has gone to films as bad as Clooney’s snoozer. Some of them like Juno are nice little flicks, getting way more credit than they deserve. In the case of Juno, perhaps it’s understandable since it’s the only contender that’s not a depressing, downbeat, amoral soul-sucker. Sure if you wanted something light and entertaining Knocked Up is better, but critics and awards voters have decided to trumpet only movies without a marketing budget, and so Knocked Up’s studio support instantly disqualifies it from serious consideration. So we have Juno, a mildly entertaining little comedy which doesn’t have any laughs in it and doesn’t really measure up against other better comedies like the work of Judd Apatow. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what normal viewers are saying about it on IMDB after being cajoled into seeing it by the press:
“There is no emotional attachment to the characters or story, the script is loud and annoying at some points and yet people remain to be brainwashed. It's like people say it's the "Best movie ever!!" "10/10 film!!" just because every one else says that.”
“It is like the people who like this movie don't think for themselves. They just see the movie and automatically love it. If you are truly a free thinker, you should despise this movie.”
“Now I'm not saying this movie is the greatest movie ever-it's not. But it was funny and charming and the dialog was snappy. Did it try too hard-yes but I stll enjoyed it. Were there plot holes-yes, plenty.”
“I just tried to watch this terrible movie. I turned it off after 20 minutes.”
The comments on our message boards for the film are significantly more positive than some of the threads being started on IMDB, but even those who really like the movie have a hard time talking about it without pointing out that it has more than its share of flaws:
“I did like it, but it was a total let down because of my extremely high expectations.”
“The overly cool dialogue did sound fake coming out of her mouth, but so does a lot of dialogue of all stripes in lots of very good movies. The fact that most of it was really, really funny made up for it.”
“It was OK. Not great, not horrible. I'd never want to watch this again. Best movies of the year you should want to watch over again. I don't think that I could sit through this again.”
“I agree with everyone who said this movie was trying too hard. It was cute in parts and alright overall but I expected way better.”
“Disappointing movie. I was hoping to like it but I didn't. Nothing real about it; it's quirky for the sake of being quirky.”
“All in all it was a good movie. The acting was good and the dialogue was funny, but it just seemed a little unrealistic.”
“Saw it today, and after thinking it over, I'll agree with the consensus and say it did try a bit too hard, but still a great movie.”
“So I saw it again a couple weeks ago. This time Juno herself bothered me a lot more. I think the joke was old for me, and it wasn't the kind of joke that lasts.”
Critics may be rubbing themselves all over it, awards voters may be humping it, but the people who actually buy the tickets seem to have come to a pretty solid consensus on Juno, and that consensus is “eh”.
Atonement fares little better among general audiences, and probably deserves it more than Juno. It’s a meandering, pointless affair which seems designed to take it’s audience exactly nowhere with characters I guess we’re supposed to love just because they’re pretty or unlucky. It’s a nice looking movie, but Best Picture? Seems a little ridiculous. Thread titles on the IMDB forums for instance seem to be all over the map, from “Dissappointed” to “Pissed” to “James McAvoy was robbed. It’s a love it or hate it affair with Atonement, and neither side seems to be winning. I still think reality is somewhere in the middle. It’s a decent movie, but everyone has lost their ever loving mind if they think it deserves an Oscar.
Aside from all the great films which have been utterly ignored by Oscar voters, the only two films in contention for anything this year which actually deserve to be there are No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. The rest are overrated filler which, if they’re ever mentioned again at all, will only be talked about as Oscar mistakes and failures, mentioned in the context of how they unfairly won when the award should have gone to something better. This year, the something betters were for the most part, not even nominated. Instead we’ve got a bunch of movies that everyone says you should see, but nobody seems to want to. If this year’s Academy Award Best Picture category really represents the best films 2007 had to offer, then I’m ready to club the year over the head and stick it box marked “worst year ever.”