Academy overlooks the best film of the year

February 20, 2014 6:17 AMComments Off

Column by Ned Leebrick-Stryker

Ned Leebrick-stryker-w2000-h2000We are a month and half into the New Year.

The Super Bowl has been won, the Olympics have been played and, most importantly, the second season of “House of Cards” is on Netflix.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future: 2014.

Yet, as we enter this fresh chapter of our short existence, we still have a tendency to look to the past. More specifically, 2013.

Yes, 2013 still looms over us like a disappointed father in the form of award shows.

We’ve had the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, the BAFTAs, the list goes on and on. And, of course, the mother of all celebrity ego inflators, The Oscars, isn’t too far away.

It just doesn’t end. The fact that they air so late is only a small annoyance, but as you can probably tell by my choice adjectives, I am more than a little cynical about how films are awarded, ranked and judged.

Celebrating the art of cinema is something I am more than happy to watch and participate in, but I believe there is something fundamentally safe and flawed about how many of these award shows function.

Film is broad and vast. Movies have different budgets, low- or high-profile actors and studios willing to produce the feature. This awards season, a film that has been shockingly overlooked was the Coen Brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

It was met with critical acclaim for its acting and writing and even earned my stamp of approval as my favorite movie of last year.

Unfortunately, it hardly made a dent at the box office. This doesn’t always affect a film’s award chances, but a film nominated with a large attached audience or fan base increases viewership during a telecast, so awards voters may have a preference.

Of course, this is all speculation on my part, but let me continue.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” was hardly what could be considered a linear picture.

In fact, it didn’t really have any sort of plot. It was a series of events, almost random, perhaps mimicking life itself.

The characters weren’t likeable, including the main character, making the wrong decision at almost every opportunity he had.

It certainly wasn’t uplifting or heartwarming, In fact, quite the opposite, but when the credits rolled, I felt incredibly satisfied.

The film didn’t follow a traditional three-act structure or give the audience a protagonist it could sympathize with, so Oscar said ‘no.’  These award shows go for the safe bet, something that avoids controversy, when handing over a trophy.

There are exceptions, like “12 Years a Slave” being nominated for best picture this year, which has made me very pleased, but these are exceptions to the rule.

Take the 78th Oscars in 2006, for example. “Brokeback Mountain” was a powerful story about love between two gay men.

It was universally praised and considered a shoe-in to win best picture but in a huge upset, it lost to “Crash.”

Whatever film makes the white 65-year-old Oscar voter, which is the average age, feel comfortable will take home the prize.

Awards shows aren’t totally representative of quality. Just another way to make Hollywood happy.

Leebrick-Stryker is a first-year journalism major and can be reached at ned.leebrick-stryker@drake.edu

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