The Six Types of Movies Hollywood Nominates for an Oscar, Every Damn Year
Tomorrow the Oscar nominations are announced, and the countdown to the event where grossly overpaid entertainers perform metaphorical obscene acts on themselves in elaborate clothing for our amusement begins. So we thought we'd sort through and find the different types of movies that are sure to turn up year after year.
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By Dan Seitz
6. The Actor's Showcase
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Examples: Walk The Line, Ray, Monster...they're all like this if the cast is egotistical enough. That's why we put it first.
This Year: In one corner we have Invictus, which is about a respected man (we refer, of course, to Morgan Freeman) who crosses racial divides and unites a fractured country). In the other, Julie and Julie, in which we learn that Amy Adams is hot even when she's supposed to be playing somebody dumpy, while Meryl Streep has given up on the whole "serious acting" thing and is just collecting whatever paychecks she can get to pay off her extensive gambling debts (even if that means doing what amounts to a Monty Python routine for ninety straight minutes).
Sometimes, a movie isn't made because of a sincere belief in the subject material's profitability or artistic achievement. Sometimes it's made because an actor really, really, really wants a little gold man, and they'll do anything to get it. Because isn't ruthless ambition to become a trivia question really what acting is all about?
You can usually spot these one of four ways: the actor is impersonating a famous person, the actor has gotten into a crapload of make-up to look like a famous person, a straight person is playing gay, or they're playing a retarded person. And almost inevitably, it'll either be some social message picture, because great acting doesn't happen if you're not pounding a message into your audience's skull like a railroad spike. Speaking of which...
5. The "Message" Picture
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Examples: Milk, Blood Diamond, Crash...like we said, pretty much all of them.
This Year: Up In The Air, which takes the bold stance that firing people for profit reasons might just be kinda a bad thing, and we're pretty sure is the front-runner to win Best Picture if for no other reason than it's actually funny.
Every year, if Hollywood wants an Oscar, it has to show America that they can convincingly pretend they care about some deep, profound, serious issue. The problem, of course, is that this issue usually needs to be something people can generally agree on so you don't make audiences actually think. That would be bad, especially if it leads to negative reactions on Twitter!
So usually these messages are either something we already knew, or is something that's really obvious. Hollywood seems to love telling us that hating people because they're different is bad, a memo we usually get around the age of five. Or maybe that life really sucks in the Third World, which, again, is pretty easy to figure out by reading the news for three minutes. Yes, Hollywood thinks you need to pay them ten bucks to be lectured like you were in third grade. But, luckily, there's occasionally some violence or nudity. Crash may have been a white guy from the suburbs trying to apologize for racism with Latino gangbangers, black criminals, and rich white people, but that car crash was frickin' sweet.
4. The Serious Biopic
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Examples: A Beautiful Mind, The Pursuit of Happyness
This Year: Amelia, which is a sensitive feminist celebration of a woman who proved that women can fly just as well as men, until that whole "disappeared and likely dead" thing happened, thus spawning the very first jokes about women drivers.
There's nothing Hollywood loves better than the biopic. You get to tell a heartwarming story of fall and redemption, and it's about somebody people have actually heard about.
More often than not real life isn't all that dramatic (watch as Amelia Earhart checks her flight plan and buys fuel!), or there are these pesky things that don't "test well" (in marketing speak). For example, in A Beautiful Mind, you'd never know that John Nash, in addition to being completely crazy and a mathematical genius, cheated on his wife pretty much daily, with both genders, well before he could play the "crazy" card to get out of it. Or, to keep picking on Russell Crowe, in Cinderella Man, the boxer he goes up against is played in the movie as if he's Satan in gloves, when in reality he was actually a really nice guy who spent years trying to atone for accidentally killing a man in the ring.
The problem is, increasingly Hollywood's running out of true stories to turn into movies, or at least uplifting happy ones. Amelia ends with an airplane crash, Milk ends with Harvey Milk getting shot, and last year's Flash of Genius was about the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, and fought nobly to keep his invention from being stolen by car companies.
Yeah, Hollywood expects you to pay to see an uplifting, heartwarming story about patent law.