Thursday, January 1, 2009

Let the Games Begin

I have a sort of thing -- I don't know what to call it -- Compulsion? Addiction? Quirk? I don't know. Anyway, the thing is that I have a sort of obsession with the Oscars. I study the Oscars the way some people study baseball or Star Trek or science. Yeah, I recognize and embrace my nerdiness where this is concerned. I embrace the fact that I can recite Best Picture winners going back at least 20 years. Seriously. On top of that, going back at least 20 years, I have seen every Best Picture winner PRIOR to it winning Best Picture. I'm on a streak. Sometimes I gamble and just make sure I see the "sure bet," which is why I sat through the third Lord of the Rings movie despite the fact that I really hate those sorts of fantasy films. Sometimes, I get freakin' lucky, like when I watched Crash on DVD literally an hour before the ceremony started, a night when I was sure my streak was about to end because I had NOT seen Brokeback Mountain during the two weeks it was here in town.

The problem is that it's getting harder and harder for me to make sure that my streak stays alive, a fact of which I was reminded in reading this article in the New York Times. The article talks about the seemingly snail-like pace that the major contenders are taking in getting out into theatres. I live in a very small market, so the chances of me actually getting to see something like The Wrestler or Slumdog Millionaire before nominations come out are pretty much zero. Heck, the chances of me seeing them even after nominations come out aren't much better. It's been four years since I've "run the board" of Best Picture nominees -- seeing all five prior to the ceremony. Of course, it's gotten a little more challenging for me since my Januarys are often consumed with speech and finding the two or three hours to hide out in a theatre and enjoy a good film is pretty tough. And my task is made harder by the studios' refusal to share the goods with the rest of America.

Now, I'm not one of those anti-urban whiners who rails against urban elitism. I love cities. If I could find a job just like the one I have right now, I'd move to a city in a heartbeat if only to enjoy the cultural opportunities those cities provide. What I have a problem with, though, is this attitude that culture ONLY exists in cities. Cities like New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, and such may gave more cultural opportunities, but that doesn't mean that smaller towns don't crave such opportunities. In smaller towns, films are often the only real culture available or are a more affordable culture. I'm fortunate in that my town offers quite a bit of culture considering the size -- a symphony, theatre, art gallery, et cetera. When I go to see these "city" films, the theater is often quite full of people like myself who want an intelligent couple of hours of film rather than explosions, slapstick, and talking dogs. Many people I know will often drive an hour to Peoria or the Quad Cities to track down quality films -- something I rarely have time to do particularly considering that the weather can often make such trips a challenge this time of year as well. The fact remains that there are people who want these movies, who crave these movies, who will spend money to go see these movies. It's time for the studios to recognize the market that exists in the rest of the country and start giving us our damn movies!


Danielle Mari said...

1. Folks- believe her when she says she can name them. Never ever engage her in any movie, television, or music trivia contest. (UNLESS she's had a lot- and I mean a LOT of red wine.)
2. Amen, Mel. And furthermore in a separate but related issue.... here in central Ohio, they have a theatre with a fantastic "ULTRA SCREEN." On it they should show something epic and sweeping... Australia? Benjamin Button? NOPE. They are showing BEDTIME STORIES-- and it has replaced YES MAN. Sigh.

Get with it cinematic big wigs.

Mike said...


Trust me -- I haven't lived in Chicago so long to not still feel your pain. That said, I do remember when Galesburg only had the mall movie theater and the one downtown -- and it showed Ace Ventura for like a year. (That was my senior year of high school after I returned to the area for the first time after my other high school expulsion -- and the movie situation couldn't have illustrated my own self-pity more.)

I'm not sure if I told you this -- but the AMC theaters have done this thing the past two years the Saturday before the Oscars where for around $30 (I think) you get to see ALL FIVE NOMINATED MOVIES in one day. Free popcorn and a couple of sodas as well. We did it last year and though it was a lot of movie for one day (I never knew your ass could actually hurt from sitting.); it was awesome -- both just to say we did it and to be in a movie house full of people who are just as insane as you are. We have every intention of doing it this year as well, so just let me know and we can get an extra ticket or two :)

Jen said...

Well, I'm not sure it is entirely the studios. Those limited releases (purely for CYA economic reasons, definitely) turn into wider releases when a film is successful--and it is up to local theatre owners to pick when the films are available. If they've only got a few screens, are we at all surprised that they pick the latest idiot-flick guaranteed to sell tickets over the Oscar contenders, which are usually not easy entertainment? (Mind you, I'm not defending the system as it stands, because I remember the days of living in a market where I could go see Home Alone again and again and again while worthier fare didn't get within a few hundred miles of my location. There has to be a better way!)

As for your obsession, you're not weird, you're just geographically challenged. You would be a much better L.A. transplant than I am!

Mel said...

I did know about the AMC showings. I ALMOST did it last year. It depends on how the speech season ends. I think the Oscars are the same weekend as State this year, not that I'm anticipating making it to state, but . . . .

Goose said...

i just saw Frost/Nixon which I assume will be nominated - but only because I may or may not know someone that gets screener copies.

It was good, not great.

Mike said...

Well, I sure hope you make it to state, but if not, let me know if you want to make the trip up. You weren't with me last year, but thinking of all the trips to Peoria we made during my senior year at Knox, you were certainly there in spirit.