Thursday, January 16, 2014

Proof Once Again...

... that the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences don't know what in the hell they're nominating. No, no, this isn't about some film I loved, like Inside Llewyn Davis, not getting nominated.  I believe it should have been (and then gone on to win) but that's not the point I'm making.  The point I'm making is I don't think many, if any, of the members understand what in the hell they're nominating beyond acting, director and picture categories.  Screenplay?  Nah, I don't think they get that either.  Screenplay doesn't mean, "Hey, this movie's got a lot of good dialogue!" or "This movie is good so, screenplay good, too."  Screenplay has to do with construction as well as story development and, yes, character dialogue.  But it's entirely possible to also win a screenplay award for a movie with no dialogue.  Playtime, by Jacques Tati, has only incidental dialogue but there's a screenplay, it's just that it's entirely made up of stage directions and scenarios.  And it constructs a story that takes us from quiet order in the beginning to bombastic chaos by the end.  And it's a great screenplay.

When it comes to the awards further down the list, there's probably some real confusion.  Top in this area would be editing.  Editing doesn't mean "long movie with lots of cuts."  It also doesn't mean "movie with quick cuts."  It doesn't even mean "movie where I can see all the cuts."  It's all about how an editor chooses which shots to go to to best express the action on the screen and how to blend those into an aesthetic that matches the desire of the director.  If you see a movie that you find superb, that you got lost in and forgot you were watching a movie, it was probably pretty well edited.

Then you get down to the sound awards and, well, I'll just say it: Upstream Color has the best sound design of the year, period, bar none, hands down. There's an Oscar for this.  It's called Best Sound Editing and it's given, supposedly, to the movie that, essentially, makes the best and most creative use of sound.  It's like set or costume design, only for sound.  It's about using sound as music, in a way, scoring a film for the director by use of sound.  Best Sound, on the other hand, is about blending, about giving the ambient sounds, the music, the dialogue, and the effects the right mixing to make the whole experience seamless but also, to properly isolate or punch out sound when needed.  But Sound Editing, that's more about the art of sound and, God, nothing tops Upstream Color in that one and, of course, it didn't get nominated.  Why?  Because these people don't know what they're doing.  It's why I just can't care. Why I can't get worked up.  Why, every year, after I see the nominations, I shrug and move on.  See you next year, Oscar.