Home Celebrity Oscars: Ill-Informed NY Times Punditry, Not the Movies, Is the Problem

I just caught up with Tuesday’s take in the New York Times about the Oscars. The movies were small, and the audience was detached. Some film librarian in Michigan named Phillip Hallman thinks the Academy is out of touch with the public. Rubbish. None of these people suggested which movies should have been nominated instead of the almost perfect “Whiplash” or the ingenious “Boyhood.”

Maybe Philip Hallman, whom no one knows, would have preferred “Dumb and Dumber To” as a nominee. Clearly he or the writers of this unthink piece are mad that Christopher Nolan’s endless jumble, “Interstellar,” should have been in the mix. They also cite Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Inception” as examples of popular films that didn’t get Oscar nominations.

The Oscars are not a referendum. They are voted on by members of the motion picture Academy. Want the popular vote, Phil? You got it with the People’s Choice Awards. There, the crap of the year, the commercial stuff made with no artistry and an eye on the lowest common denominator, is celebrated.

The fact is, the eight nominated films from 2014 will last. The ninth film, “Unbroken,” from Angelina Jolie, will also last. “Interstellar” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” will also be seen again and again. Otherwise, I have no idea what these people are talking about. And neither do they.

The way movie releases work, we get mostly dreck in January and February, the stuff that couldn’t be released in the preceding year. Then March and April, light fare, comedies, quirky things. Come May, the summer season begins and it’s all action heroes and explosions. You may get a Woody Allen film in July if you’re lucky.

In August, some serious fare sneaks in, hoping to capitalize on adults’ weariness of “—Man” movies. Come Labor Day, the Oscar season begins, but doesn’t really kick in until October.

It used to be that someone would come running in with a Big Movie after Thanksgiving. But you can’t do that anymore. In the cases of “American Sniper” and “Selma,” they were too late. The film critics groups have to see the films before December 1st. The National Board of Review isn’t smart enough to process a thought in a day, and then vote. Ditto some others. So the late ambush is a no go. And that’s what we got this year.

We also got “Inherent Vice,” which was terrible, the Emperor’s New Clothes, and presented like it was going to mean something. It didn’t.

“Selma” was undermined by having no screeners, much discussed. “Unbroken” was allowed to turn into a big mystery, and then it wasn’t, it was just good. And that was a let down.

So we move on to new films and hope it comes in right. A better host– like Jimmy Kimmel– will help. And new producers will inject some life. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were like New York city mayors. They had a great first term, an okay second, and by the third they were worn out. It’s time for a new look. Craig and Neil can get a star on the Walk of Fame (if they don’t have one already), the equivalent of getting a New York bridge named for you.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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