2013: The Year of Excess

I’m not counting the comic book-inspired, CGI-enhanced, video game-fueled, super-hero-driven, transnational mega-franchises that hogged cineplex screens and dominated the box-office last year as they have for the past several decades. Nor am I referring solely to the recent trend in more thematically ambitious films that equate bloated running times with high-mindedness. Earnest films about corporate greed such as Promised Land, The East, and Dallas Buyers Club also take a back seat because their very earnestness forced the excesses of content to trump those of style. Front and center from 2013 are a critical mass of “prestige” films—one adapted from a literary classic; the other three, Oscar contenders—whose content and style self-consciously reflected as they helped perpetuate a zeitgeist of excess.  Continue reading “2013: The Year of Excess” »

THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE: A SMALLER CIRCLE OR A BIGGER TENT?

Mark Harris, a magnificent awards season writer over at Grantland, raised a few hackles earlier this week by suggesting that the Academy Awards’ expanded Best Picture field, now five years old, has had the perverse effect of limiting Oscar voters’ imaginations and decimating the field of competition.  As his argument goes, voters now favor Best Picture frontrunners heavily across the board: as evidence, the number of films nominated this year in the “Top Eight” categories (Picture, Director, the four Acting awards, and the two Writing awards) has dwindled to only 12, the lowest in decades.  Apart from the nine Best Picture nominees, only Blue Jasmine, August: Osage County, and Before Midnight managed any nominations in the Big Eight categories. Continue reading “THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE: A SMALLER CIRCLE OR A BIGGER TENT?” »