Tag Archives: Oscars

The Oscars (Guest Post – Mary Aagard)

My amazingly bright wife, Mary Aagard, wrote a piece on the Oscars.

After all this broo-ha-ha about the 2015 Oscar nominations — I’ve been thinking about my own favorite movies. Those nominations has even spurred quite a fiery conversation with the purveyor of this here website/blog.

You see, I’m a film school graduate — or rather, a film school lite graduate — not that the school was bad, just the my own choices inside the major were scattered, they didn’t form a coherent base of knowledge and skills. At the end of my college career, I had started working in the university library as a student employee and I saw a future for me there, where I didn’t in filmmaking — hmmm, a library full of women, or Hollywood, full of men. It’s kind of funny to look back now, I could not have chosen two more opposite professions in terms of ratios of men and women in the field.

family watching movie on lawn
Sadly, not us.

I was going to write screenplays, with my incredible wit and conscience and biting dialogue — now that biting dialogue is used in working with student employees and telling patrons that yes, libraries are no longer silent spaces, but playing your guitar in the middle of the book stacks isn’t okay.

Also, I am a full-time employed mother of three small children. Movie going is kind of a pipe dream at this point. Is it sad or hopeful that I keep track of time by what movies are coming out, and then I never see them in the theater?

So back to favorite movies, yeah— I give myself cred for My Brilliant Career being my favorite movie — and it is truly my favorite — watch it, you’ll cry, you’ll feel for Sybylla and her struggle, the choice she chooses to make — it’s marvelous and horrible at the same time. I love Gillian Armstrong and love her movies but if I think of my favorite films, she is the only woman director in that list. I want to see more women represented in the Academy nominations — but I guess I need to do my part and watch movies by female directors (and screenwriters, producers, cinematographers…).

So what do award nominations and winners mean for any of us — for most of us, media is a hobby, a diversion, a moment of pleasure, a way to track time. Most of us aren’t industry insiders that will get better jobs, more prestigious scripts, better parts if films we work on are nominated for awards. This is just a spectator sport for the majority of us.

Besides the issues for diversity in filmmaking, let me see if I’ve seen any movies that have come out this past year are worth mentioning —

And of the nominees, as of this writing I’ve only seen:

  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Wild
  • Into the Woods
  • How to Train your Dragon 2
  • Maleficent
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Lego Movie
  • Begin Again
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Nightcrawler
  • Imitation Game

Other movies this year that I loved:

  • Belle
  • Chef
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • What If
  • Frank

I have only seen 2 of the best picture nominees — as much as I’d like to have a definitive opinion about movies that came out this year — I don’t. Every year I think I will have more time for going to the cinema and every year I don’t get to see everything I’d like to see. Soon enough my daughter will be old enough to accompany me on my cinema adventures and movie time can turn into bonding time. Will we still be complaining about the lack of diversity in award nominations?

American Sniper (2014)

I didn’t expect to be as moved as I was. I didn’t know the history of the main character, Chris Kyle, so I didn’t know how his story ended, so I was as surprised as I would have been with any other movie. It lingered with me longer than I expected.

What we’re seeing is not just one character here but a model of manhood in America. The guy can shoot, he can ride rodeo, he can fight, he can survive Navy Seal training, he holds back a woman’s hair when she pukes, he serves on the ground with Marines where he thinks he might be more useful, he uses m’am and sir, he’s a model of manhood. As an American guy I felt it – he’s what you do.

Some stuff played out how I expected, for example, you see a scene start and the way it’s played, who says what, you know who’s getting killed. Other stuff didn’t. I was pretty shocked by a traumatic scene involving a family. Kids are used a lot in this. Kids in danger, kids being coerced for good or ill, kids as a reason to do good or to be responsible. That can be a cheap shot, it’s a reliable source of emotion. But, one scene in the middle that is set up perfectly near the beginning has such high stakes I found myself literally talking to the screen (“don’t go in there”, more or less).
In some of it I knew I was being coerced. I was aware. I went along with it.

Bradley Cooper, who looks an awful lot like the guy as he’s shown in the pictures at the end, pulls off the humble/amazing/leader/gentlemen/troubled guy thing really well.
A couple of things it tries to straddle I don’t know if it totally nails. The PTSD is not played down, but it’s dealt with in a way that doesn’t diminish from his sense of duty. I got the sense that HE could make it in combat, though he could get really scarred, but that others couldn’t, it would be too much for them. Their weakness is alluded to, and there’s a practicality in that in terms of who you’d want in your squad, but in the end, everyone who fights ends up in trouble in their head. I plan on reading the book, I’m curious about how his brother turns out, because he’s a main character early on and then gradually used only to make points about Clark, so maybe he doesn’t do as well.

I did really feel like I got a sense of place. I felt like I knew their house. The domestic drama wasn’t as strong – Cooper, in his role as husband, is better at being stony and then saying something positive, but I read an article today about how this is pretty accurate for how some vets and their wives feel in conversations with vets.

I don’t know about the racist thing. It makes some specific points about good/bad within the Bad Guys (“savages”) and puts a couple of Iraqi people at risk to show their bravery, and it humanizes a critical ‘enemy’ character just long enough, but overall it’s not about making a fair statement about the Iraqi people. It has to demonize them to a certain degree or we wouldn’t empathize – so yes, probably racist.

Again, though, I was inspired after the shock wore off. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been thinking about it for a while and about Kyle as a role model. That surprised me, I can be pretty cynical, but this hit the right buttons.