Historical Representations Weigh Heavily on Best Picture Nominees

Every year, it seems we try to ascribe some great meaning to the Academy Awards. Beyond superficial debates about what is the best (or how we might even go about defining “best,” a task that feels reductive to the nature of personal reaction and opinion), I appreciate more the arguments about how the Awards stand as a “cultural touchstone,” a reflexive means for the industry to communicate how they want to be perceived. The Oscars may themselves be an industry, replete with full-page Variety ad after full-page Variety pushing a studio’s most touted project. Regardless of whether you still consider them culturally relevant or rich people aimlessly rewarding each other, the Oscars can help us inscribe meaning on a year. The films they group together tell us the kinds of characters and screenplays and the styles of directing that a very large voting body coalesced around. While there are plenty of 2012 releases that didn’t get a single Oscar nomination—The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?—focusing on the ones that did can perhaps tell us something important about the cultural moment of 2012. Continue reading “Historical Representations Weigh Heavily on Best Picture Nominees” »

The Lay of the Land: Geography in ‘Melancholia,’ ‘The Descendants,’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’

A little while into Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Turkey’s entry for last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, the small police caravan stops at what the murderer thinks is the location of his victim’s buried body. It’s very late, maybe two o’clock in the morning. The murderer and a few of the police officers walk down the hill by the road and disappear into the night. The rest of the group stays by the cars. They talk some, then the doctor walks off to relieve himself. He wanders over a hill or two and comes to a little valley next to some rocks sticking out of the hillside. I think it’s also raining, or threatening to. He starts his business and after a few seconds of stillness there’s a flash of lightning, revealing the distinct shape of a face in the rocks next to him—a face made of the rocks. The doctor starts, or maybe I remember that because I did. In a movie built on moments of quiet resonance, this was the one that stuck with me.

Image 1. The face in the rocks, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Continue reading “The Lay of the Land: Geography in ‘Melancholia,’ ‘The Descendants,’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’” »