Even as I increasingly disengage from the current-day Oscar race, I am nonetheless fully immersed in Oscar-ness. Here are a few reasons why:
Quizzes - Last year at my office, I created a custom “film bracket,” modeled after the March Madness model. Through rounds of voting, all of the participants determined the Best Picture of the past 25 years (it was Schindler’s List, if you’re interested). This year, I created quizzes. Each day for three weeks, there are four questions. Participants can choose Old School questions (from 1970 to 1995) or New School (1996 to the present) as well as fill-in-the-blank (which gets you three points a piece) or multiple choice (for one point each). Since I am choosing the questions the night before, I have become reacquainted with my old friend film references. It’s been a lot of fun (and generated more attention than I had originally thought). Here’s the quiz
The French Connection - It wouldn’t be an Oscar post without mention of my brother, the most consistent film companion of my life, especially in the month leading up to the Academy Awards. While we made it a point to go see all of the nominated films in a given year, we were less interested in those made in 2006 and shifted gears into watching the Best Picture winners we had missed in previous years on DVD. We made a list and started with Midnight Cowboy. Two days later he passed away. Next on our list had been the French Connection, which I couldn’t bring myself to watch. Until this weekend; it seemed time. The only thing I knew about the film going in (besides the fact that is won Best Picture of 1971) was that it starred Gene Hackman as a thuggy cop and featured what is still considered one of the most epic car chase scenes in cinema history. I’d been curious, given all of the technological advances, whether it would still hold up with fresh eyes. It does. Much of the reason is because one, well, a car is chasing a criminal who gets on an above-ground subway train. Conceptually this is still very, very cool. Also, the driver we are rooting for doesn’t magically avoid harm through a series of close calls. He actually gets banged up along the way but manages to keep the car drivable. But mostly, the reason why the action is so heightened is because (I did a little reading) the filming was so dangerous and will likely never be duplicated (at least not by a big-budget studio or a union crew). Permits were not secured, crowds were not warned, the set was extremely dangerous, and that is what shows up on the screen (even though I am not advocating for that, risk of death and serious injury is not worth a “good shot.”)
Roma - Part of the reason I’ve been less engaged in this year’s contenders is that I’m not super impressed with many of the nominees. Yes, it’s hard for me to judge films that I haven’t actually seen, so I won’t, except to say that the elements that compel me to see them have been missing. And I tend to agree with critics and the current front-runners have not fared well critically. The one exception is Roma. I’d initially watched the first ten minutes on Netflix last month, but was too impatient to follow it’s establishing rhythms. Once I got word that a 70mm print was “on tour” at various theaters, I geared up, willing to bathe in what I’d heard was its exquisite filmmaking. And that I did. It is one that I look forward to revisiting.
Joni Mitchell - I went to see a screening of Joni 75, the very recent musical event celebrating the music of the legendary singer. While the performances were amazing and profound, the filming (clearly done on video by amateurs) was awful and a missed opportunity for a proper document of an important night. The thing was littered with hundreds of quick zooms that went in and out of focus. It made me realize how important planned concert films like the Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense are for posterity. I will definitely get the CD of Joni 75, but will likely not watch it again, which is a shame.