Currently on my DVR is the 2010 Sundance award-winning documentary GasLand. This HBO film was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar this past year and is currently nominated for four Primetime Emmys in nonfiction programming categories, including directing, writing, and cinematography. I’m not sure how a film that has both theatrical and television distribution can be eligible for the top prizes in both media, but I’m sure it’s got to be great. Here’s the synopsis from the film’s IMDb page:
It is happening all across America—rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from an energy company wanting to lease their property. Reason? The company hopes to tap into a reservoir dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Halliburton developed a way to get the gas out of the ground—a hydraulic drilling process called “fracking”—and suddenly America finds itself on the precipice of becoming an energy superpower. (Written by Sundance Film Festival)
Director: Josh Fox Screenwriter: Josh Fox Producers: Trish Adlesic, Josh Fox, Molly Gandour Cast: Josh Fox Genre: Documentary Distributor: HBO Documentary Films Runtime: 107 min.
The most nominated actress in Oscar history is working hard for her 17th nomination next year. Meryl Streep has been consistently nominated at least every few years since her first Academy recognition in 1978’s The Deer Hunter. Despite her two wins, you can call Streep the new Susan Lucci. Her last win came nearly 30 years ago for Sophie’s Choice(1982). Thirty years! For some reason, the Academy can’t bear to honor who is arguably the greatest actress of all time just once more. Perhaps it feels “she’s won twice, so let’s honor someone new—all the while, we can’t not recognize her talent, so a nomination will be enough for her.” Enough for her? Maybe. Enough for her fans? Hardly. All these years later, Streep still turns out some truly inspired performances. (I still get goosebumps thinking about what she did for her character in 2008’s Doubt.)
This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made a couple of announcements that will, perhaps, shape the future of the Oscars. A couple of years ago, the Academy decided to go back to its roots and expand the Best Picture category from five nominated films to 10. The idea was that this move would help improve the telecast’s ratings by allowing films with a wider viewership and fan-base have a better shot at grabbing a nomination. (There was a bit of an Internet uproar when high-grossing films like The Dark Knight and Wall-E were snubbed from the Best Picture race in 2009.)
During the 1998 ceremony, ratings were huge because most people had seen Titanic, the one film that stood a shot at scoring big that night—and it did. The film had such a large following that those fans were glued to their TV screens to watch Titanic‘s smooth sailing towards the Best Picture prize. Since then, arguably no nominated film has achieved the same level of interest (except for, maybe, Avatar), and the Oscars’ lagging ratings have reflected this. Now, the vast majority of nominated films are indie darlings that don’t have the same type of national or international distribution as their big-budget counterparts. So what does this mean? Fewer eyeballs. Fewer people watch the films that are nominated, and if they’re not familiar with the films that are nominated, there’s no good reason to tune into the Oscars. (And fashion is not a good reason.)
Currently on my DVR is the 1982 classic Sophie’s Choice. This is the story of a Holocaust survivor and her lover as they befriend a writer who lives in their Brooklyn boarding house. This film earned Meryl Streep her fourth Oscar nomination and second win. (She had previously won three years earlier for her supporting role in Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer.) In total, the film earned a total of five Oscar nominations, with recognition also given to its cinematography, costumes, music, and writing. Sophie’s Choice is based on the William Styron novel of the same title.
This film was not on AFI’s original “100 Years … 100 Movies” list, but it did find a spot on the organization’s 10th anniversary list, creeping in at #91. No doubt, its ranking as one of the greatest 100 American films of all time is partly due to what some consider Streep’s greatest performance.
Director: Alan J. Pakula Screenwriter: Alan J. Pakula Producers: Keith Barish, Alan J. Pakula Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol Genres: Drama, Romance Distributor: Universal Pictures Runtime: 150 min.
Despite some severely mixed audience reactions, Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life walked away with the top honor at Cannes, winning the coveted Palme d’Or. Here are the feature film award winners, which were announced today:
The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick)
Bir zamanlar anadolu’da (Once upon a Time in Anatolia) (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Le gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike) (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)