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"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Shiny-New-Object Effect

Just when you thought we were done with disappointing award shows, the Hollywood Foreign Press announced the Golden Globe nominations.

And true to form, they have disappointed. 

I could use this opportunity to politely argue why the Golden Globe nominations are disappointing (and by politely argue, I mean: run around my block screaming until my lungs give out and my mouth fills with blood, all the while crying and punching invisible HFP voters surrounding me), but instead, I think this is the perfect time to roll out a little theory I have been working on. The Hollywood Foreign Press this year fell under the hold of the Shiny-New-Object Effect, or S.N.O.E for short.

Our brains may be wired to remember certain information. We all can remember our names, our addresses and our favorite foods. And on a good day, we can even remember the name of the song we were listening to last week, what we had for lunch yesterday and that we have a dentist appointment this weekend. But for whatever reason, when people break off into these charming little groups we call "societies", the brain power to remember suddenly goes out the window. Let's just take a quick ponder at the release dates of the nominees for Best Motion Picture (Drama):

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- December 25th, 2008
Frost/Nixon- December 5th, 2008
The Reader- December 10th, 2008
Revolutionary Road- December 26th, 2008
Slumdog Millionaire- November 12, 2008

So either the HFP renamed Best Motion Picture (Drama) to "Best Motion Picture (Drama) of the Last Two Months" and forgot to tell everyone about it, or they voters are unfairly favoring NEW releases (a critical part of the Shiny-NEW-Object Effect, wouldn't you say?) Now, as a film fanatic, I know studios traditionally release their classy films or "Oscar bait" closer to the end of the year. But I refuse to believe that there is not ONE film released before November 12th that deserves to be nominated.

The Dark Knight couldn't find a spot on the list? The Dark Knight grossed more money than all of these films combined (in fairness, two of them haven't been released yet, but I am confident The Dark Knight can still have a bigger gross than those five combined). The Dark Knight has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than any one film on that list ( is a movie review-compiling website) with 94% of all reviews being positive; the closest any film on that lists comes is 93% (Frost/Nixon) and goes as low as 57% (The Reader). The Dark Knight is a cultural phenomenon that the U.S hasn't seen since the original Star Wars. Can any of the films on that list call themselves a "cultural phenomenon." And The Dark Knight completely redefined and became the apex of quality in its genre: the superhero movie. Is there a single movie on that list that redefined the genre it is in? If you can think of one I'd like to know.

And The Dark Knight is just one excellent film released before November 12th, I haven't even mentioned Wall-E, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Iron Man, Doubt, The Secret Life of Bees, Elegy, Miracle at. Anna, The Wackness, Rachel Getting Married, Son of Rambow and The Duchess. For what its worth, the Comedy and Musical category did slightly better when it came to find older material like Mama Mia, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall?

The HFP clearly favored the newer films of 2008, but what about that other, just as crucial aspect of S.N.O.E, the Shininess factor? Well, if you take a cursory look at the Best Motion Picture (Drama) list again, you will find that it is filled with attractive Hollywood favorites who look good in a tux or dress on a red carpet. Leonardo Dicaprio (two films nominated), Kate Winslet (two films nominated), Ralph Fiennes, Cate Blanchette and Brad Pitt will all be there to smile and wave at the camera come Show-time. Can you imagine if the HFP had nominated that brooding sicko Christopher Nolan, the guy who directed the movie with all that gross clown make-up, or Spike Lee and his movie about an all-black army regiment (that just happens to have no stars), or Gus Van Sant and his movie about the first openly-gay politician. Those guys sure as hell aren't pretty and we all know that controversial issues harsh a good party-time awards show.

So, come showtime you can safely bet that I won't be watching. Look, I know that awards show is perfect and that film is ultimately, a subjective practice. I would have no problem if the films I liked didn't got nominated if the films that DID were creatively deserving. No knock against the films nominated but I get the distinct feeling that their inclusion is far more due to their release date and their studio's politicking than their actual quality. Some years, the awards shows can see through the B.S but the Shiny-New-Object Effect got them bad this time around. 

And who can blame them? S.N.O.E is universal and never-ending. Remember when we were more interested than Britney Spears' bald hairstyle than our young soldiers dying in Iraq? And remember when Browns' fans were cheering Brady Quinn's name, after Derek Anderson had guided the team to a 10-6 record just a few months earlier? The Hollywood Foreign Press just got distracted by five Shiny-New-Objects. I had just kind of thought that a massive organization of respected journalists with access to thousands of excellent films a year would take the time to look past the glitter and the campaigning to find the films that they felt were truly deserving.

Looks like I was wrong.

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