MOVIE LISTS: How to Survive An Oscar Season

A week back I was kicking back with some family friends watching Last Holiday on ABCFamily, waiting impatiently for Giancarlo Esposito to slit Queen Latifah’s throat; you know, family stuff. In that lovely, though not particular intellectual, moment, nothing was further from my mind than this crazy awards season we just waltzed into. That’s not to say that chiming intimately with the ups and downs of the season on the way to the Oscars isn’t a fantastic rush. Just the other night saw myself, Alex, Justin, Hilary, and G Clark bantering back and forth with one another about the winners and surprises of the Gotham Awards, another reason you should be following all of us on twitter now!

With plenty awards still on the way, including the recently nomination laden Film Independent Spirit Awards, we’re certain to have many other fiery debates brewing. All that due enthusiasm out of the way, it’s a lie to say all this punditry devoted towards awards races whose perspectives often oppose our own doesn’t take something out of you. I though everything was going to be quite fine with last year’s awards, and I still took massive baggage with Viola Davis’ Best Actress loss to Meryl Streep. You can’t prepare yourself for some surprises like that, since nearly every agreeable outcome comes alongside one you’d rather not acknowledge. We’re playing a game we’ll never absolutely win. If you can name a year were you honestly agreed 100% with all the Oscar winners, you found yourself in a position most people are never in.

I doubt anybody here at Film Misery will find themselves so entirely agreeing with the Academy this year, so in the interests of “sanity”, or whatever you call people like us, I’ve compiled a list of tips and hints to keep the average moviegoer and Oscar watcher from losing their heads. Everybody has their own ways of coping. Buying Walmart’s entire stock of The King’s Speech and burning it in front of the Kodak theater is good fun, but not particularly cost effective. These are more little nuggets of wisdom that can easily pay off in taking the edge off of an aggressive season. So chillax and perhaps we’ll make it out just fine.

Relish the Precursors and the Craft Categories

It may ultimately boil down to the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Indie Spirits, but there are several precursors along the way that could choose to award exactly what you feel most passionate for. Hilary Kissinger was certainly pleased that the Gotham Awards chose to spread the love to How to Survive a Plague and Emayatzy Corinealdi for Middle of Nowhere. There are enough divergent tastes out there to please everyone, and if not in the top categories, maybe in the lower ones. Craft commendations are as much reason for enthusiasm as the performance branches. There’s plenty love to go around, which leads to the obvious…

It Really is a Pleasure Just to be Nominated!

A saying so trite, maybe it’s actually true. The Academy will always overlook certain films that aren’t quite their speed, but ever so often they’ll get some narrow below-the-line nod or two. Remember Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy‘s nominations in Adapted Screenplay and Original Score? How about Demien Bichir’s unexpected Best Actor nod for A Better Life? And even if it was simply in Sound Editing, at least Drive was still nominated. There are always slight cracks for deserving works to sneak into the awards, and combined with what I said about precursors, you need not hinge all your hopes on whoever wins the Oscars.

Find Something to Advocate. Your Vote Counts!

Okay, technically it doesn’t. We don’t really get to vote in any of these awards, but as always we have the weight of words on our side. We can’t always get what we want in the nominations, but there’s often at least one candidate worth rooting for. My hopes that Black Swan might pull an out-of-left-field victory in 2011 went unanswered, but not for lack of trying. This year in particular could have the top prize swinging any which way. Between Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, and Zero Dark Thirty, the win could go any number of ways, so pick your player in this and other races. I’ll be pushing for the late Eiko Ishioka’s magnificent work in Mirror Mirror to win a posthumous costume design award myself. Support loud and bold enough and maybe somebody voting might hear you.

Snark First. Then Apologize, Quickly!

Probably the least wise advice on this list, since common knowledge and good manners permit you go straight to politely congratulating the winners. But let’s be honest that we want our small chance to scream out in protest. I’ve rarely let manners keep me from speaking my mind, often to be met with a marginal loss of twitter followers. So if my experienced word is worth anything, feel free to let out your snark when you must, but be ready to peddle back on that quickly after. For example, I may think Your Sister’s Sister winning Best Ensemble at the Gotham Awards is somewhat ridiculous based on merely three people. That said, all three of them give strong performances and ooze chemistry between one another. If you cannot agree with them, at least understand them.

They Ain’t Got Nothin’ On You, Baby!

You may never find a single precursor that perfectly mirrors your own thoughts, but why should we need our favorites externalized for us? The Oscars is in no way an exact template of the year’s very best, so keep in mind throughout it all that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you for not agreeing with the majority. No awards will ever be as honestly passionate as your own opinion, so don’t be afraid to veer from the agreed heavyhitters of the year. When naming your favorite films of the year, the only wrong answer is one you don’t truly believe. My list rarely has much overlap with the Academy’s, not containing a single crossover last year. My favorite film of 2011 was one few had seen, and thus had little to no awards presence. As long as you care deeply for it, the film will never be a failure.

Catch Up on Missed Opportunities & Go to the Movies!

When precious few new films are entering theaters, there’s no better time to catch up on missed opportunities, regardless of whether or not they’re awards players. For my part I’ve still yet to catch up with Alps, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or The Turin Horse (which both Justin and G Clark proudly recommend), and I know for a fact that the average moviegoer likely come across some of the cream of the crop this year. If you don’t take the time to visit Take This Waltz, Elena, Miss Bala, Damsels in Distress, or I Wish, you may well be perplexed when my “Best of 2012” list hits in just over a month. So take the time to fill in your yearly blind spots before you wrap the year up, and don’t stop rushing out to the theaters! There’s plenty out there you’ve likely not experienced. Search hard enough and you shall find.

Next Year is Already Here!

There’s a common misconception that once the year ends we drop off immediately into cinematic oblivion, aka January. At times I admit it’s hard to feel that’s not true, but just look back at last January. For every Contraband there’s a Haywire. For every The Devil Inside there is a Chronicle. There’s some worthy enthusiasm to be mustered for seeing Ryan Gosling in Gangster Squad or Jessica Chastain in Mama. Bear in mind that festival fare like Fill the Void, No, and Our Children will inevitably seep its way into theaters. Yes, the transition from the bustling fall landscape to the low-key months of Oscar season is a tough one to make, but it’s even worse if you don’t try to make the best of it yourself. To quote Bradley Cooper’s character in Silver Linings Playbook, “You have to do everything you can. You have to work your hardest. If you stay positive, you have a shot at a silver lining.”

What strategies do you have to keep Oscar season from you putting down?

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