The nominations for the 2015 Academy Awards were announced recently.
The Oscars used to be a bit of a big deal for me. I’d make sure to watch each year, now matter how late it went. I’d write down the winners on a little list I’d make in a notebook (I’m a bit of a habitual list maker – see here and here and here). There were often a lot of the nominated films that I wouldn’t have seen, but as I got older I aspired to be more familiar and appreciative with what were apparently the best examples of what was being produced in my chosen field that year. This was especially true in the years right after college. After all, wasn’t I supposed to be a “film guy”?
Cut to a couple of decades later and I’m skimming through the list of this year’s nominees. I pay special attention to all the nominated films that I have actually seen. Guess how many there are?
Six. Six whole films, representing seven nominations.
It’s even worse when you start listing the movies. Four of them are Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Big Hero 6. And a fifth one is The Lego Movie. That means that four of them are based directly (in some fashion or another) after comic book franchises, and the fifth featured the first big-screen grouping of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman (take that, Dawn of Justice). So five movies in which superheros play a big role.
The only non-superhero Oscar nominee that I saw this year was Feast, and that’s only because it is the animated short that played in the cinemas prior to Big Hero 6.
Man, I used to be a film guy! I used to go out of my way to see the “good” movies, the ones that were nominated in non-special effects Oscar categories (indeed, Visual Effects is the Oscar category that I am most qualified to have an opinion about, having seen three of the nominated films. Although I don’t care – I’m totally going for Guardians to win it’s other category, because let’s face it, they rocked Make-Up and Hairstyling). In fact, I remember one week back in the early 90’s that I was always particularly proud of, in which over about 8 days, I saw (if memory does not fail me) Philadelphia, Shadowlands, The Piano, The Remains of the Day, and Schindler’s List – and several of them all by myself. See? That’s how serious I was, back in the day.
Now? Now it’s like, “When’s the next Iron Man movie coming out?” and “I can hardly wait until I catch GI Joe – Retaliation on a plane someday.” What happened to me?
I mean, a bunch of the films on the nominated list I hadn’t even heard of.
Well, one thing is that now I live in Australia. Not that we don’t get movies in Australia, but release schedules are a little different here than in the States. Sometimes things come out right away, but sometimes it takes months. Birdman, for example, has just come out here a couple of days ago.
And movies are super-expensive in Australia. I know people everywhere feel things are expensive, but I trust me, America is overall way cheaper. Except maybe if you are buying kangaroo meat – though even that is pretty pricey here.
And I also don’t watch as much TV as I used to. Or at least, I don’t watch as much commercial TV, so I don’t see as many movie commercials.
But maybe the biggest thing that happened in the last 20 years is that I grew up a bit.
I mean, I know that sounds funny: “I’ve grown up a bit, so instead of going out of my way to see ‘serious’ films, I’m spending my money on Tron: Legacy.” But I really mean it.
It’s not that I wouldn’t go see a more acclaimed film. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy it or appreciate it. I think it’s just that I don’t consider it the most important thing anymore. I mean, I don’t know if I ever considered it to be the most important thing, but wherever “Film Appreciation” sat on my list of priorities before, it has been taken down a few notches. Other things, things that I consider to be of deeper significance and most lasting value, get a lot more airtime from me – stuff like family, faith, relationships, work (which, it must be admitted, does include making movies). And so time is more precious. And spending requires more consideration. And overall, life is full of richer, more deep, and more challenging experiences than it used to be.
And so when it comes to the movies, I find I attach greater importance to my being entertained than I used to. If a cinema experience that is going to enrich me or challenge me but fail to entertain me, than I’m a lot less likely to seek it out. Surely, I have lost something in this? Maybe. Maybe I have lost some of my ability to enjoy a more challenging form of creativity. Or maybe I’ve become more like that guy in Sullivan’s Travels, who learned how important it was to be able to make people laugh – and maybe that’s why my time is spent in more basic entertainment. And on a side note, is that why in my “just for fun” film making I’ve been gravitating toward more impenetrable pieces like My Mise En Scene is Tingling or my forthcoming A Movie About Itself.
Or maybe that’s just an excuse. Maybe if I was more “for real” about this whole film thing, I’d make a point of seeing all the best movies, rather than just making sure I was keeping up with every episode of Doctor Who and The Flash.
But then, one of my professor’s back in college (when I was studying film) told me that I shouldn’t bother watching stuff if I didn’t want to. In other words, don’t just view movies of a style and nature that you don’t enjoy just because you feel that on some intellectual and artistic level, they will, somehow, be “good” for you. But having said that, I’m sure my professor would agree that it’s worthwhile to learn to appreciate what is good and valuable about a lot of work that may be out there that you might not initially understand or connect with.
So where does that leave me? Well, it’d probably be good to expand my viewing habits just a little bit, anyway. I’m sure I can make time for that. I’m not exactly sure how to make the distinction, but maybe at least one “not so obvious” film each month, something like that? Recently a friend suggested watching together a movie by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa is one of those film makers who I am woefully underexposed to.
And I’ve also already felt that I should make sure not to allow this blog to be all geek-connected commentaries, as much as I can sometimes enjoy that. There’s just so much I could review, and writing about the latest Big Finish Doctor Who audio that I’ve listened to is frankly a bit easier than most other things. But I think I need to push in some other areas – a bit more exploration, a bit more storytelling (and not just story-complaining).
But I probably also just need to relax about the whole thing. I mean, I haven’t totally lost that part of myself. After all, I did make a reference to Sullivan’s Travels up there, and there are other movies I’ve watched aside from the 2015 Oscar nominations (Searching for Sugar Man, for example, knowing full well that it wasn’t a super-hero story), and I can still explain the basics of Italian Neo-Realism or argue with someone who doesn’t understand why Citizen Kane was such a big deal. And also, being involved in all those other serious life things, as I referred to earlier, still feeds my creativity, probably even more so than watching a bunch of movies does. And if in the midst of all that, I would enjoy myself watching an episode The Flash, then by golly, I’m going to enjoy myself watching an episode of The Flash. So maybe I should learn to accept my life the way it’s turned out.
After all, that’s the valuable lesson I learned from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I just rewatched.