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.
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 1927 classic Wings. It’s the story of two men—one rich and one middle class—who share a common interest in the same woman as they become fighter pilots during World War I. Starring one of the biggest actresses of the time, Clara Bow plays a woman whose affections for one of the pilots are largely unnoticed. A 25-year-old Gary Cooper appears in this classic.
Wings earned the distinction of being the very first Best Picture Oscar winner. It’s also the only silent film to win the award. During that very first Oscar ceremony in 1929, the film beat out The Racket and 7th Heaven for the Outstanding Picture honor. It also went on to win for its “engineering effects,” a category that only existed that first year.
Director: William Wellman Screenwriters: John Monk Saunders, Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton Producers: B.P. Schulberg, Lucien Hubbard (uncredited) Cast: Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Richard Arlen, Jobyna Ralston Genres: Drama, Romance, War Distributor: Paramount Pictures Runtime: 139 min.