And the winner is…

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I don’t care about the Oscars. You don’t care about the Oscars. But awards season has just passed in the movie world, and I feel obliged to say something. So, I thought I’d look sideways and point out that the Visual Effects Society also dished out their statuettes last weekend. While the Academy Awards voters were deliberating over whether to give a visual effects gong to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight or Iron Man (the least explicable omission being Hellboy II), the VES were breaking down their specialism into a whole range of categories that might seem odd to most outsiders. You can see a complete list of the nominees here.

This year’s Oscars were singularly predictable. Even the “surprise” victory of Slumdog Millionaire was signposted a couple of months ago by its swooning reception in the US, further accentuated by the sudden and belated realisation of the other nominees’ mediocrity. Kate Winslet was finally rewarded, after a career of pestering, for her insistent,  gosh-look-how-seriously-I’m-taking-this approach to the job of acting. The award that gratified me most (assuming that Heath Ledger‘s award was a foregone conclusion, and that his acceptance speech was always going to be the most acceptable) was Penelope Cruz‘ recognition for Best Supporting Actress in Vicky Christina Barcelona. Emphasis there is on the word supporting, because her performance was the only thing that lifted yet another terrible entry on Woody Allen‘s late-career c.v. Hers is the only performance that has any chance to cut loose, perhaps because she has an Oscar friendly crazy-emotional character play, and perhaps because, by speaking most of her lines in Spanish, she couldn’t be forced to mimic that over-scripted, stilted delivery that is becoming the director’s trademark. I really couldn’t comprehend why so many critics were hailing this a return to form for the director of Manhattan, Annie Hall, Sleeper, Bananas, Crimes and Misdemeanours, Love and Death, Stardust Memories, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Radio Days, Zelig, Take the Money and Run, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose, Bullets over Broadway, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives etc. (sorry for the list – I had to remind myself that he’d made a lot of great films).

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Vicky Christina Barcelona is marred by, amongst other things, a lazy, over-instructive voiceover by an all-too omniscient narrator. This disembodied voice tells us all kinds of stuff that we’d rather see than hear – it’s almost like listening to one of the audio description tracks you sometimes get on DVDs, but at least it saves Woody the bother of telling the story visually or letting his actors perform their characters’ emotions and actions. I keep saying that I’ve given up on Woody for good, but his forthcoming New York-based collaboration with Larry David is just intriguing enough to catch my eye again…

award-copy-smallerBut hey, at least the Visual Effects Society got their act together and awarded The Dark Knight and Wall-E some awards. Complete list of winners is here. It’s notable that, while Brad Pitt was nominated (but clearly not in the running) for a Best Actor Oscar, the VES was voting Benjamin Button the outstanding animated character of the year in a live action film (Wall-E was the obvious choice for animated character in an animated film). Who was most responsible for the role? Could one have happened without the other? It’s amazing how the various societies carve up the awards allocations in so many different ways. It must be difficult not to win an award somewhere at some time (though I notice the blank space on my mantle-piece all of a sudden). I was very taken with the VES’ statuette, inspired as it is by Georges Melies, A Trip to the Moon, a subject which regular readers of this blog will know holds a nauseatingly large place in my heart.

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I’m sure you’ve heard enough about the Oscars. At least they hoover up enough cash and advertising revenue to feed plenty of fund back into the good work done by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which they’re sure to spend wisely. Yes, really. What you’re really interested in are the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival’s Jubilee Awards, the top prize of which is $101,000 (after which, you’re going to need a very small camel or a very large needle eye if you’re still planning to get into heaven, guys). Sorry if that sounded sarcastic; this is interesting. It’s always interesting to discover that the most profitable independent film of 2008 was Fireproof, a film I’d never heard of (most Brits must have a similar relationship to the films of Tyler Perry, none of which has been released in the UK, despite consistently squatting at the top of the American box office), a film that outgrossed Milk, as the festival reports with satisfaction – take that, gay agenda! But wouldn’t it be great if the Oscars had criteria of quality as clear and concise as those of the SAICFF?:

  • Sound biblical worldview
  • Theological accuracy
  • Holiness in presentation
  • Quality of directing, script, acting, editing, soundtrack, etc.
  • Production value
  • Level of difficulty
  • Wise and creative use of technological resources available to filmmaker

Level of difficulty? To watch or to make? They even have a special category for Creation movies, won this year by the wonderfully titled Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box for its “unwavering commitment to the Word of God”, sponsored by Answers in Genesis (whose explanation of dinosaurs is, paradox intended, depressingly hilarious). Still, it’s probably better than The Reader. You can watch part of it here. Fans of Brass Eye will enjoy the similarities. The development of a separate Christian film culture is not problematic in itself: audiences are already segmented and niche-marketed as it is, but such an isolationist cultural policy can’t be much fun for those who have to try and look like they’re enjoying its output. What could be less dramatically engaging than a roster of films whose moral stances are all predetermined as a condition of community support? I’m sure that Christians, too are moviegoers, and nobody of any political or religious inclination should be satisfied by films that don’t challenge and provoke them, but which instead flatter, confirm or conform to their expectations. But that goes for the Oscars, too…

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