31 January 2006

Flyover Country

In Neil Gaiman's subtly subversive American Gods, he writes about "flyover country" with both fondness and normality. Flyover country is the part between New York and LA that entertainment-industry moguls and hangers-on only ever fly over… or see in a film.

This leads to a couple of thoughts on this morning's Oscar nominations, all indirectly related to actually being in flyover country.

  • I'm sick and tired of designating a film's eligibility for awards based on when it is released in New York and LA. Leaving aside that these markets are insufficient to get a film to profitability, and that—particularly given DVD "screeners" and the Cuban-Soderbergh experiment with Bubble—there is little reason to rely upon the mechanics of distribution for determining eligibility for awards for purported artistic merit, Munich just shouldn't be on the list. For anything. Not because it's a bad film—I haven't seen it yet, and won't until it's on DVD, as the local theaters are (to say the least) not accommodating—but because it's in the "2005" category only because it ran for a few days in New York and Lalaland at the end of the year.
  • Speaking of New York and LA, it's interesting that the frontrunners for the awards are so anti-New York and LA. Out of the 30 nominations for the six major awards (picture, director, actor/actress, supporting actor/actress), three (all for Crash) are set in LA and three (all for GNGL) are set in New York.
  • The media thus far has celebrated Brokeback Mountain as the "winner" among the nominees for its eight nominations. I beg to differ; the real winner is George Clooney. His personal nominations include Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Picture (at least, under any realistic assessment of "ownership" of Good Night, and Good Luck, rather than Hollywood's moronic "producer ownership"). His associational nominations—nominations for films in which he had a critical role, but doesn't and probably shouldn't get primary credit—include Best Actor (David Strathairn in GNGL), another Best Original Screenplay (Stephen Gaghan for Syriana), Best Cinematography (Robert Elswit for GNGL), and Best Art Direction (James Bissell and Jan Pascale for GNGL). That's eight nominations, too. Not too bad for a descendant of the Hollywood Squares!
  • For the first time in several years, the five nominees for Best Picture are also the five nominees for Best Director. Is the auteur theory making a comeback? Interestingly, all five nominees for Best Picture are also nominated for Best Screenplay in their respective categories (Original and Adapted). This has hardly been the norm of late. Last year (and the year before) one of the five Best Picture candidates was not nominated for Best Screenplay, and the Best Picture winner did not win Best Screenplay, and three years ago only three of the five Best Picture candidates was nominated for Best Screenplay (but won, this time).