Saturday, February 24, 2007

...So That They May Not Understand One Another's Speech

I'm too taken by what I've seen to go back and quote verbatim David Mamet, but to paraphrase him: What could happen to just anybody, by chance, is the subject of gossip, not Drama.

So, after last year, and in some cases after many years before that, it's very surprising that I can say that this time around, the Academy, whether by choice or not, has chosen five films that center around events that could only occur to a very peculiar set of people under a very peculiar set of circumstances.

It's tempting to try very hard to keep from coming back to that old grindin' axe, but this is a stark contrast to what the Academy wrought for us to hold up to a standard last year.

And thank the golden-age gods, because, and perhaps precisely because, the strongest films this year were surrounded by one of the most abysmal roundups of reprobating paeans to many a rambling flea (see below this post, fer instance).

The films I've seen (save for Little Miss Sunshine) in the major category are all stories consumed with the whale and not the flea.

The two finest films of 2006 were undoubtedly Robert Altman's final kinofuck and Alfonso Cuaron's panorama of a thousand languages, but of course, in a recurring Academy tradition, they were too awesome to be nominated.

Babel is still the red-headed step-child of the Mesoamerican Triad. But it's probably the squash in this case. Would that make Pan's Labyrinth the beans? Probably. He's fatter.

I got lost in my carby metaphor.

Anyway, let not what I've just said fool you. I'm won over. The chronological hullabaloo is not a distraction this time, and the difference in depth, power and directorial mastery is unbelievable between Inarritu's latest and his overrated 21 Grams. It's a fantastic piece. If it wins, I'll be more than satisfied, perhaps even floored. A win for one of those three is a win for them all.

Any one of the five choices would be an interesting one for The Academy. Do they go for LMS in an oddball (and totally undeserved) way? Do they give it to The Departed, signalling a win for masterful entertainment over a "deeper social message"?
Do they give it to Clint Eastwood, for what would decidedly be his most unconventional film?
Do they give it to Babel, with all of its transgressions and unfriendly-to-Americans-multiple-language-sets?
Or do they give it to a biopic? They won't do that. That would be the most conventional choice for them, which is what usually wins out, but The Queen doesn't have that kind of buzz. Mirren will likely win, but the movie itself will not.

See Babel. It seems to be a parable, but it's not perfect. It is astonishing, though.

Glossed: Joseph Andrews, The Wyf of Bath's Tale

Sneak PEAK: Adam Freeland - GU Mexico City

Could There BE Anymore Casualties?: Babel, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One


Nastinchka said...

I fail utterly to see how awarding Best Picture to Letters From Iwo Jima would be an "interesting choice". I'm not saying it's not interestingly premised and well-executed, but aside from being In Japanese, what on earth is unconventional about it? Not buying.

Jesse said...

I see what you mean, but I still think for The Academy it would be an unconventional choice. This is not a reflection of the movie. I haven't yet seen it, but I can't imagine them awarding the film that's mostly in another language, that is unseen by most, and is a companion piece to a film that was left un-embraced.
For Clint Eastwood it's (they) an (were) unconventional film (s). For a few other filmmakers, it (they) wouldn't have been. I was making no real judgment on the film itself.
I will at some point, but I imagine I'll like them and not love them, as that's my record on his films so far.

Jesse said...

and, by and large, I think, no matter how good his recent movies are, that the man who made Bronco Billy should be done being the Academy's darling for a little while. I mean, Jeez.

Nastinchka said...

Dude, you haven't even SEEN it? How can you make that judgment?

OK, when you do, you'll understand. It is utterly ordinary.

Jesse said...

I'm trying to make a claim for the academy zeitgeist based on what I do know about the film, all ancillary to the film itself. It's prognostication, not review. In any case, I wonder sometimes if the Academy is doing something similar....

Jesse said...

How can I make that judgment? Well, what I do know is that FOIJ is an American film made by an American conservative mostly detailing the Japanese side of the battle, primarily in Japanese. You don't have to have seen it to understand why there's a consensus of its boldness as a premise.
Whether or not it's perfectly ordinary I have yet to see, but the choice to make it, especially back to back with Flags, is a choice I do have some respect for, actually. I'm piqued for them at least.
Things can sound unconventional, and then be lauded as such by an Academy that would like to pat itself on the back by riding that meme.
See, prognostication. I suppose it was a smaller point at first in a slew of larger ones, but c'est la vie.