F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 10, 2010)

10 09 2010

There’s been plenty of attention paid to the Oscars on this site recently, and there will be significantly more starting next week.  The Venice Film Festival will wrap tomorrow; Toronto began yesterday; Telluride came and went.  The race is now beginning to take shape.  Exciting, isn’t it?

I find myself getting a little too carried away with the whole awards season, as do many other people.  We think that Hollywood is obsessed with the Oscar hunt, spending millions upon millions pushing their movie in an attempt to secure it a place in cinematic history.  But not everyone is amused.

Case in point: Christopher Guest.  His 2006 ensemble comedy “For Your Consideration” is a dead-on satire of the Oscar chase, seen from the eyes of the people whom the outcome directly affects.  It’s a reminder for those of us who get caught up in the craze that the whole thing is really a silly game and doesn’t deserve the serious attention we give it.  So I’m hoping that by entering it into the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” series, I might remember how trivial these awards really are in the grand scheme of things.

It all starts with a rumor as some idle Oscar buzz around Marilyn Hack, played with hilarious gusto by the ever hilarious Catherine O’Hara, and her performance in “Home for Purim” gets the star’s attention.  The movie is still shooting when the word gets out, and all of a sudden, it becomes all that anyone can can talk about.  The actors, the directors, the writers, the technical crew, the producers, the agents – everyone suddenly begins to believe they are a part of something special.

Dynamics begin to change around the set as the arbitrary layer of prestige is added to the production.  Hack’s performance is affected as she tries to pull typical over-the-top emotions just begging for Academy attention.  Beyond Hack, everyone starts acting solely out of self-interest to push themselves into awards contention as well.  This is more than just a movie about the Oscars; it’s a cautionary tale of what can happen if we get too wrapped up in layers of self-importance.

There’s a great exchange between Harry Shearer’s B-list actor Victor Allan Miller and his makeup artist.  While fixing his hair, the artist says, “The Oscars are the backbone of this industry,” to which Miller replies, “In an industry known for having no backbone.”  In just two lines, Guest smacks the nail on the head of Oscar frenzy.  Actors are involved in more compelling drama off screen than on, and their lives become an act to satisfy the politics of awards gimmicking.  The Academy or any other significant voting body couldn’t in their right minds honor a movie that so deftly lambasts their institution, but “For Your Consideration” has a home here.  I’m an Oscar maniac and won’t hide it; however, I’ll have Guest’s movie in the back of my head all season telling me to recognize these movies for their art, not their campaigning.

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