Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The First Step Toward Oscars 2014: The Hollywood Film Awards

Why are the Oscars important, anyway? Well, to establish it, the Oscars are of great importance because film is to America what the Louvre is to France: our art, our collection of interpretations about ourselves and who we think we are, who we want to be and become, how we want others in the world to see us, how we see others in the world and where we want to go, etc., so there's a lot riding on every single film made--it might not seem like it at the time--but as a collective, films are the conscious of America, and Hollywood is the biggest producer of films in America. So the winners of awards means two things: that is the standard of film making excellence that has been set for the next year, and, secondly, that those who have won the awards are likely going to be in demand to make more films (nothing achieves success like success) so those are the types of films that are going to be made. Case in point: Robert Downey Jr., Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lawrence have been named as Hollywood's most "valuable" actors. This means that more films are going to be made that can "tap into" those three actors, and all those films will be competing with each other to get their films made and those actors starring; for example, more heat and pressure will probably be applied to necessary parties to get the third Sherlock Holmes film made for RDJ, as opposed to, for example, if he hadn't been named; Jennifer Lawrence will be offered a greater variety of roles that she might not be offered otherwise to "cash in" on her marketability, which means she will be able to sustain--is she does a decent job of choosing roles--her reputation because the greater number of roles, the greater the average of income for those films should be. Let's face it, we all know that an ageing actress in Hollywood sees fewer and fewer roles, so this has extended the "life" of her career (please recall, she was the seventh choice for Gravity, a long list of much younger actresses were all ahead of her; this "award" of her value will help keep her competing with those younger actresses for roles). We will be discussing this topic again, but this is just part of the reason why the Oscars are important: movies help us to know who we are, and Hollywood is the gatekeeper of those films, and the Oscars promote the gatekeepers.
The 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala is mostly a Gala, friends voting for friends, which includes sympathy votes, support votes, popularity votes and pats on the back; in other words, it's Hollywood talking about itself and voting for itself and getting decked out for itself with no one else really paying attention but those in attendance. Case in point: Julia Roberts won the Hollywood Supporting Actress Award: the awards are given to an individual with no specific film tied to the award, just awarding the person for the person, not their work. But this, we can say, is Hollywood sentimentality exercising itself for itself.
So, why bother?
Sandra Bullock accepting her award.
 Well, it gives us an idea of Hollywood's mood: Lee Daniels, director of The Butler, won for Best Director; Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave, won for Best Break-Out Director. On the other hand, Monsters University won for Best Animated while Star Trek Into Darkness won the Hollywood Movie Award. So, what are we to make of that?
August: Osage County. Storyline: A family crisis brings back the strong-willed women of the Weston family to their Midwest home to face the woman who raised them, and their dysfunctional family. The film is scheduled for limited release on December 25, by the way, Monuments Men (George Clooney, Matt Damon) has been moved to 2014, sometime. Supposedly, the special effects were not going to be done in time for the original release date. Moving on, one reviewer wrote: " I don't think I'd call "August: Osage County" a bad film, but I'm damn sure I wouldn't call it a great one" while another wrote, "without the humor, August: Osage County would still feature interesting characters and worthwhile subtext, but the ugliness would be too much to bear." Yea, looking at that poster, that looks like too much to bear, especially on Christmas Day, especially when that ugly film American Hustle is being released on the same day.
Hollywood recognizes the simple reality audiences have been experiencing the whole year: 2013 has been an epic year for film! I think there are going to be highs and lows, ups and downs and plenty of surprises the whole awards season (case in point: Tom Hanks is expected to have a two-point lead in the Best Actor category for the Oscars, for Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, but wasn't recognized at the Gala; big deal). 
Studios had high hopes for The Conjuring and audiences didn't disappoint: new to own this week, and you can watch/rent it on Amazon Instant Video, I received several emails from people saying they wanted to watch it again, so if you didn't catch it the first time around, it would be worth your while, as the film is done exceedingly well (it's always difficult directing children, and six children is even more difficult, but they do such a great job, you really forget you're watching a film). My next post is on the genre of horror films in general, and understanding the traditional devices employed in order for the film makers to communicate to audiences; two films we have all ready discussed will aid you in this forthcoming post, specifically, the film that tried to out-do all other horror films, Scream (please see Decoding the Decoding: Scream for more) and The Cabin In the Woods (please see The Cabin In the Woods: Free Will, Husband Bulges for more) because both films intentionally make the audience aware of how horror films work, what it takes to make a horror film and what it takes to survive a horror film so we will be discussing these and their takes on the horror genre.
I will be keeping you up-to-date on the awards season; why? Why not just cover the Oscars? Hollywood makes movies, but making movies is a business, and business must continue, they can't wait for the Oscars, so what they do, as time is money, even in Hollywood, is use the Critics' Awards from various groups to guess who has the best chances, and then they cast them or hire them to work on their pictures, getting them at a "lower price" before they win an Oscar, but hoping to profit if they do (because, of course, you can give yourself an automatic pay raise after you have taken home the gold statue, but that doesn't mean a studio wants to pay you for winning the Oscar).
Harrison Ford stars as Branch Rickey in 42, the Jackie Robinson story, which I loved. I a hoping that the Hollywood Career Achievement Award given to Ford signifies his chances for an Oscar for the veteran actor. We all know I am terrible at picking Oscar nominees, but I am also pulling for Tommy Lee Jones for Emperor, in which he plays General Douglas MacArthur at the end of World War II in Japan. I think Nicole Kidman has a good chance of picking up at least some critical awards for Stoker, as does director Park Chan-Wook. We have to keep in mind, however, that studios setting the bait to get Oscars for their films have intentionally withheld them until the late fall-winter so those films/actors are in the perfect position to capitalize on buzz the film generates and overshadow other films released earlier in the year, such as Stoker, 42 and Emperor. 
The awards were given as follows:
Hollywood Career Achievement Award
Harrison Ford

“Hollywood Legend Award”
Jerry Weintraub

“Hollywood Actor Award”
Matthew McConaughey

"Hollywood Actress Award"
Sandra Bullock

"Hollywood Supporting Actor Award"
Jake Gyllenhaal

"Hollywood Supporting Actress Award"
Julia Roberts

Hollywood Breakout Performance Award”
Jared Leto

“New Hollywood Award”
Lupita Nyong’o

“Hollywood Spotlight Award Presented By Dodge”
Michael B. Jordan, Sophie Nelisse, David Oyelowo

“Hollywood Breakout Director Award”
Steve McQueen

“Hollywood Director Award”
Lee Daniels

“Hollywood Producers Award”
Michael DeLuca

“Hollywood Screenwriter Award”

Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater

“Hollywood Visual Effects Award”
John Knoll, “Pacific Rim”

“Hollywood Animation Award”

Dan Scanlon, “Monsters University”

“Hollywood Ensemble Acting Award”

Cast of “August: Osage County” including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, and Misty Upham

“Hollywood Song Award”
Coldplay - “Atlas” from the film “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

“Hollywood Costume and Production Design Award
Michael Wilkinson, Judy Becker

Hollywood Movie Award

Star Trek: Into Darkness

First and foremost, ALL THE AWARDS that will be given out are PUBLICITY: the covers for STID might not say, Winner Of the Hollywood Movie Award, but it has positive consequences for the franchise, as does winning any award for any film. For big-budget action flicks like Star Trek Into Darkness, The Avengers and Skyfall, winning critical awards is beyond awesome; why? By demonstrating that a "formula film" can achieve something more on the level of the sublime, it not only enhances the talents of the participating film makers--they did what is considered to be "the impossible" in Hollywood, making an action-thriller that "means something" and "says something"--but it increases the chances of getting really talented film makers to work on future films by demonstrating that this is a franchise worth investing in, not only monetarily, but in terms of your professional reputation. When an award like this has been given to a film like STID, or Skyfall, the production studio(s) are willing to recruit the talent of directors like JJ Abrams and Sam Mendes because they can prove these are projects worth their talents; likewise, directors of this calibre can tell the studios they need to take "artistic risks" that will pay off (maybe by taking a character in a certain direction, or more daring editing) because the plot will benefit from it. Yes, it is all a self-feeding circle of talent and risk, investment and rewards, but isn't everything? 
On one last note, there is an important reason why an award like the Hollywood Film Awards (and other critical awards) DO MATTER: little films, aka, "indie films" probably don't have much chance for an Oscar nomination, but that doesn't mean those indie films aren't good nor important. If they have an award, such as this one, when those film makers want to make future films, they have some glitter on their resume showing that they can achieve a standard of film making that captures an audience (because the point of making a film is that people are going to see it) so, the films and winners of awards like these might not have instant success, but attaining such an accolade does give them the hope of a continued career in the film industry.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner