Oscar “snubs”: Get. A. Grip.

30 January 2012

Richard Brody, the film blogger for the New Yorker, has decided that Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar biopic was “snubbed” by the Oscars because the film pleased neither left-leaning critics, who felt the film was a “whitewash” of Hoover’s career, nor right-leaning critics, who hate the gay stuff.

Let’s get a grip.

Now, lots of times I like films that no one else seems to like — or perhaps I like them more than the majority did. Who can account for taste, right? No one likes to hold forth about how a film was misunderstood more than I do.

But let’s say I was holding forth, and I discovered this film had only a 44% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as J. Edgar does. Well, maybe I’d have to admit that it might just not be very good.

Now, of course, these could be the misunderstood critics Brody’s talking about. Let’s read some reviews — and what do we find? Not a left-right battle over the memory of a shadowy historical figure, but complaints that it’s just not a very good film. Rotten Tomatoes sums it up as, “Leonardo DiCaprio gives a predictably powerhouse performance, but J. Edgar stumbles in all other departments with cheesy makeup, poor lighting, confusing narrative, and humdrum storytelling.” Hmmm…doesn’t look like a political battle at all, Brody!

Then there’s the question of “snubs.” There a lot of people complaining about which films never appeared on the Oscars’ radar — lord knows I love to complain! — but these are usually independent or foreign films that get overlooked all the time. I wouldn’t use the word “snub” because it’s more like, “Who ever heard of Pariah?”

You know what film got ignored? Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, Feminéma’s La Jefita Film of the Year. Poetry gets a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a lot, lot better than 44%, from a lot of critics — and it’s not because it has simple politics.

Pariah gets 95%. Higher Ground and We Need to Talk About Kevin each get 81%. Neither of these panders to audience expectations, either. These films were criminally overlooked. But “snubbed”? That term implies entitlement.

Is it a snub because J. Edgar stars Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s supposed to receive nominations for everything he does?

Is it a snub because it was directed by Clint Eastwood, one of our “national treasures” and is guaranteed nominations?

Is it a snub because Oscar voters are supposed to like biopics all the time, because they are Important?

Here’s a radical suggestion: let’s pretend, at least in Blogland, that no film is guaranteed nominations just because of who’s behind it. Or because “I liked it, and I’m associated with the New Yorker, so therefore….”

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3 Responses to “Oscar “snubs”: Get. A. Grip.”

  1. Spanish Prof Says:

    Actually, in this case, I would agree with Brody. J. Edgar is an excellent movie. The reason why it didn’t please critics, though, is that it’s narrative is so classical (and there is very little action in a biopic about the FBI chief) that they found it boring. The way the movie completely disavows J.Edgar as the narrator of the events is masterful, though.

    • Didion Says:

      I must confess I haven’t seen it. I’ll see it eventually, and I really shouldn’t hold forth on it till then.

      But “snub”? Why was it “snubbed” and other great films just ignored? I think it screams that certain people are entitled to nominations — nominations! — while others are not. Nominated films are the top films of the year — it takes a lot of chutzpah to claim that a film was snubbed.

      When I get turned down for prestigious fellowships, I don’t run around saying, “Don’t these people know who I am??”

  2. Spanish Prof Says:

    Well, I wouldn’t say that nominated films are the top films of the year. I also thing that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was snubbed, but maybe one should use a better word. One thing is for sure, nothing will make me go and watch “Hugo”, I just can’t bring myself to do it.


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