The Six Types of Movies Hollywood Nominates for an Oscar, Every Damn Year
3. The Nutjob Movie
Source: United Artists
Examples: Shine, Rain Man
This Year: The Soloist, a movie about a paranoid schizophrenic whose life has fallen completely apart, but he sure can play a mean cello!
Crazy people are great for Hollywood, because they can use the crazy people to highlight just how nuts the real world is. Instead of having a brain chemistry imbalance, a neurological problem, or a painful and debilitating emotional trauma, they're just honest people that show us working long hours and dealing with annoying people is crazy instead of something we all have to put up with. We should all go into an institution, like them!
Roger Ebert calls them "Baked Potato People" and Hollywood's been pissing off everybody who actually deals with what we'll sensitively call "nutzoids" for years. As a general rule, we don't put vaguely annoying people into prisons and medicate them. We only do that to people who can't function or who otherwise might wind up hurting themselves, or maybe cleaning out a McDonald's with a shotgun.
But making a movie about people who need constant care and attention would be not just accurate and respectful, but also depressing as hell, and not in that "Gimme my Oscar" way. More in that "There's lots of misery in the world you can't solve" way. Nah, let's break ‘em out of institutions and make them count cards. That's a lot more awesome.
2. The Musical
Source: Robert Mora/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Examples: Chicago, Moulin Rouge
This Year: Nine, which is supposed to show what Hollywood supposedly does best: elaborate, carefully designed spectacle, and accidentally shows what Hollywood really does best....taking applauded works of art and making them utterly moronic.
Until recently, as we all know, the musical was a dead genre and we were happy to leave it that way, mainly because the only musicals that were actually awesome involved Gene Kelly. Then Baz Luhrmann came along and created a bizarre pop-culture-drenched acid trip of a movie called Moulin Rouge, which, trust us, is not better stoned.
The lesson Hollywood took away from all this? Let's bring back the traditional, boring musical! This was just reinforced when they took Chicago, one of those musicals that's more beloved for being really nasty and bleak, sprayed a bunch of stars at it, and somehow won awards. Now, we're subjected to at least one of these things a year, as Broadway has a pretty much endless stack of mediocre crap they're only too happy to foist on us since no sane person would pay $100 to see it on stage, and they've got to make their money back somehow.
Stars can't sing? No problem, as anybody who suffered through Mama Mia! and Pierce Brosnan yodeling his way through ABBA hits knows. Almost inevitably, these will be directed by a first-time director who is highly distinguished on a stage and is so functionally ignorant of filmmaking we finally get to see what a $100 million student film looks like.
1. The Serious Literary Adaptation
Source: Dan MacMedan/WireImage/Getty Images Entertainment
Examples: Doubt, The Reader
This Year: Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. The novel is written in a stream-of-consciousness, first-person style, which the movie decided to reflect by using the style and techniques usually reserved for the films aired on Lifetime.
Adapting an award-winning novel almost always goes wrong in one of two ways: either the movie sounds boring or it deals with something you want to avoid, because they don't generally hand out literary prizes to Mack Bolan novels. For example, Precious is a movie that features a depressed lonely girl who gets repeatedly raped by her dad while her mom watches, and whose life is so crappy she hides in a fantasy world to escape it. Doesn't that just scream "date movie"? Can't you just feel yourself buying a ticket?
People keep showing up to these things because it's the cinematic equivalent of eating your broccoli after snarfing down Twinkies all summer for upper-middle-class types. You get to go to the theater, get a good nap, read up on the plot on Wikipedia, and then talk about it with your friends about how great it was over wine.
These movies don't get Oscars on their quality; They get Oscars because people feel bad about not giving it to them.