The Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, bastion of the motion picture, upholder of all that is sacred and sacrosanct on the big screen. A shining beacon fracturing a mire of grim movie offerings with a beam of artistic integrity that guides the weary cinema goers to the sanctuary of filmic highs. It is a ceremony so hallowed us mere mortals can only get close to the proceedings if we are a news reporter with super human arse-lickery skills or we are willing to sleep outside a theatre for a month. Ugly people need not apply.
What started as a private luncheon for a couple of hundred people in 1929 has now become a global event of obscene proportions. Forty million people tuned in to watch the ceremony in 2012, which is almost the entire population of Britain. Forty million arses numbed by three and a half hours of back slapping the sound of which could be heard on the moon. The exact date at which the Awards started to disappear up its own rear is unknown but some suspect it was around the time Marlon Brando sent some Indian chick to collect his Best Actor award in 1972. If the Don of Method really cared about Native Americans and their claim to land he would have put down the pies and gone to Washington; time and a place Marlon, time and a place. Since then we have endured all manner of ego centric antics, from untold teary outpourings, the outing of gay teachers, beardy weirdies claiming to be the king of the world, and the mistaking of a thirteen inch high gold statue with the love of a nation.
The films have almost taken a back seat to the glamour that surrounds the "Oscarcast”. Who made the piece of material draped around the skeletal shoulders of various Hollywood lovelies seems to be the most important topic come the eponymous Sunday night. Who brought who as their date, who has too much boob on display, who is looking fab, who is looking flab, whose party are our A-list overlords flocking to once the pins and needles of the ceremony wear off. Then there is the Oscar goody bag, filled with all manner of delights from watches and perfume, to fondue sets, velvet covered toilet seats, and the odd baby adoption coupon should one not have the complete set of sprogs yet. The reporters break out their best gear (tuxedoes for the lads, cocktail dresses and a week puking in the loo for the ladies) and spend the night whoring themselves as every actor’s new best friend. The champagne is free, the cocaine probably isn’t.
Somewhere amongst this charade there is a small collection of films deemed by the Academy to be the greatest movies the past twelve months of cinema had to offer. Let that swirl around your head for a moment; the best films. Best at what exactly? The films that took the most money? No, popular opinion matters not here, Hollywood isn’t a democracy. The films that made us laugh the most? The movies that reduced the most women to tears? The films that put the most bums on seats? The films that had the most ingenious use of the word "antidisestablishmentarianisticalized”? Nope, it’s none of these.
The best picture selections are chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, a select group of roughly six thousand highly trained individuals. These gurus of cinema watch each and every single film released from 1st March to 28th February, occasionally many times over, before deciding which ones are the best according to their secret formula of specially selected herbs and spices. Considering the millions upon millions of people that visit the cinema each year, some would consider six thousand representatives to be a tiny number as a symbolic cross section of the movie going public. But it’s a tough job watching that many movies. You and I would never be able to watch that many films during the course of our busy lives. Nor would we want to, the popcorn consumption alone would destroy most people. It is a service the Academy is providing and we should be bloody well grateful.
Once the list of films has been chosen, and of course the various other inventories of filmic persons from best directors, actors, composers, producers, grips, tea ladies, painters, decorators and emergency hair removalists, winners are then declared based once again on a secret code passed down over the generations by the heads of the AMPAS. From then on dvd and blu-ray covers are adorned with such captions as "The winner of forty Academy Awards”, "We’ve got the bloke what won the Best Actor thingy” and "We didn’t win but at least we were nominated, so bollocks to you!” all in an attempt to garner more cash on a re-release. By which I mean to spread the good word that is the Best Picture winner and all who rode her.
The world of cinema is a diverse place, with all manner of genres from the mainstream blockbuster to the downright bizarre. One would therefore naturally assume that Uncle Oscar has given every genre of movie a fair shake of the Academy stick. This isn’t the case. Of the two hundred odd movies that have thus far been nominated for Best Picture a paltry five have been horror movies, and that is using a very loose definition of the term horror. More worrying still is the fact that even less have stemmed from the comedy genre; the Academy is not amused. Why such films are left out in the cold remains a mystery. They are the movies that have to ride the back of the bus, the films that are sent to the back of the lunch line. Many of these pictures did tremendous business at the box office, surely proving that many folk considered them good films. And they were movies people considered worthy of spending their hard earned cash on rather than seeing them for free, perhaps for some movie judging ceremony let’s say.
Now we all know that art is that most subjective of things; one man’s Monet is another man’s puke on a canvas. But why the movie world has chosen to be so lop-sided for such a long time is a real puzzler. As a result there is an underlying class system in the movie world. Sure, every artistic venture is going to throw up some drivel and its nice to know what the more lacklustre offerings are to save money and a precious Saturday afternoon. But at the other end of the spectrum there lies movies and movie making folk whose egos have been stroked to within an inch of their lives. They stroll arrogantly amongst the shelves of your local dvd rental barn, staring down their noses at supposed lesser films not deemed worthy to share a shop shelf with them. The Class War of the Aristocratic Regents wouldn’t be seen dead next to Fire Warrior III: Return to Planet Shirt. That’s not to say that films of noble intellect are not worthy of admiration. Far from it, most of them deserve their accolades for the stories they tell and the hard work that went into creating them. But such praise should not be reserved for this small group of noble fare. Come on Uncle Oscar, share the wealth.
There is an antidote to all this supposed high art though. Among the shelves of your local dvd outlet are reams of movies that care not for award ceremonies and the bestowing of honours. They are the pictures that give the upper echelons of the movie world the two fingers and concern themselves with the far more commendable ambition of entertaining an audience to the best of their ability. Some of them may be morally corrupt, filmed on a shoe-string budget, and have the combined acting talent of your local am-dram society but they were filmed with love and created to entertain. And is that not what all art is meant to achieve, an ability to enthral, to occupy the mind, to make the passing of ones day just that little bit more enjoyable? Screw the awards, they are for gathering dust on a shelf somewhere, conversation pieces for those that like to bore their family and friends ("Say, son, have you seen my Best Picture Oscar?”…"Yes Dad, about a trillion times, and I’ve still never seen Ordinary People. Now piss off will you, I’m trying to watch The Blues Brothers”).
To still have people talking about your film many years after its initial release is a far superior tribute than some gold plated statuette of a naked dude holding a sword. But some of these classics have slipped through the cracks of time. FilmsFilmsFilms therefore present to you a collection of alternative movie greats. Just about every dusty corner of cinematic history has been scraped to unearth the greatest films from the most bizarre and neglected sub-genres you never even knew existed. Each genre catalogue delivers the ten best slices of movie magic from said genre. Cherish them, from afar if you must, and visit them now and again to show your appreciation for those movie pioneers that if given the chance would have taken the stage at the Kodak Theatre drunk and fiery. They would have seized their brief moment in the spotlight to bring a little perspective into the world of the Hollywood elite. They would have dazzled the Scorseses and Coppolas with an unforeseen acceptance speech of breathtaking eloquence, before mooning the front row, singing a verse of New York, New York and peeing at the feet of Billy Crystal. Now that’s what I’d call entertainment.