Baños de pureza is a phrase in Spanish that means “baths of purity” and is used to denote someone who likes to slather themselves in holiness. Methinks that this is what tends to happen at the Oscars, where the nominations run the gamut from tokenism and holier than thou sentiments, to the pedestrian, predictable and conventional. I never thought that I’d agree with critic Peter Travers from Rolling Stone, but in his fun tirade against the ghastly Oscar choices this year, the guy has a point. This year’s awards, as always, smack of humorless, pious self-congratulation, which explains many of the glaring omissions as well as the inexplicable inclusions.
A movie that was widely panned by critics, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, can only be in there because it is about 9/11 and has Tom Hanks in it, like a trusted brand of tissues. Apparently, it is the worst kind of sentimental pandering, the kind of movie that everybody hates but the Academy. Yet Bridesmaids, a hugely successful movie, both artistically and commercially, gets a consolation prize for best screenplay, because God forbid they pick a comedy for best movie or best actress of the year for Kristin Wiig. But then they complain that the ratings are falling and only old, demented farts like me watch their annual train wreck of anticipated boredom. This explains the omission of Michael Fassbender’s and Carey Mulligan’s searing performances in Shame, because the movie is about SEX and God forbid there is the slightest intimation they would stoop to watch such a film. They, who have no qualms about massive body counts in PG-13 movies, God forbid they look at a tit or a dick. This explains why dark independent movies like Take Shelter, or Martha Marcy May Marlene are ignored. And a solid political movie like The Ides of March, which depicts the filth of politics inside two Democrat campaigns, and is just about evil, not about Good and Evil, as they like it, gets only a screenplay nod, because it portrays flawed, messy people, not heroes bathed in the light of their own halos. For that we have The Help, a terrible movie, but one that guarantees Hollywood a nice pat in their own back, even if it is covered in the kind of schmaltz that is really bad for you. The kind of dreck that pretends that without white people, black people could not have freed themselves from slavery. The Descendants is the typical movie the Academy likes. It is solid and non-threatening; doesn’t offend anybody, takes place in Hawaii. Then there is War Horse, which I haven’t seen, (a weepie about a horse in the war is not what drives me to the theater), and Hugo, by Martin Scorsese, which is again, well-intentioned about cinema, but not very good. Midnight in Paris is a prestige nod and the best Woody Allen has done in years of mediocre work, but is it a best film of the year? No. I bet Moneyball is a perfectly good movie, but it is about “Triumph”, and has Brad Pitt in it. I suspect it is there because no one wanted to make it, and Pitt fought for it until he got his way. Hence, a best actor nod for him as well: atonement. At least they had the good sense to recognize The Artist and The Tree of Life, which are truly magnificent. This was a particularly bad year in this category.
This explains why Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Demián Bichir got nominated. Mind you, they all are great, and bring depth and humanity to thin, idealized roles, but they are there so that Hollywood can atone with these two Black women and one Latino, all playing the noble-person-of-color, for all the hundreds of other non-white actors who either are completely absent from their movies or they mostly play the gardener or the maid, the drug dealer or the pimp, or in the best of cases, a noble second banana. With these prizes, the Academy thinks they’ve paid their dues for multiculti inclusion.
This halo pandering comes from a multi-billion dollar industry that is craven and morally corrupt, but that likes to wish that the lofty moral sentiments of these movies will rub off on them while they crush every other film industry with their might and they flood screens all over the world with mindnumbing crap. This is an industry that is angry at Obama, and threatening to withhold donations to his campaign because he did not support SOPA or PIPA, two strongarming bills intended to protect the billions it makes, freedom of speech be damned.
Could also be that their taste is crap. That they are old and hopelessly behind the times, and they simply love bad, tepid movies that make them feel good about themselves. This is why atrocities of cheap, false sentiment like Slumdog Millionaire, Life is Beautiful,The Blind Side, and maybe this year The Help, are categorized as best movie of the year.
Here is the list of all the Oscar nominees for best movie since 1927. Have fun.