It’s finally time for me to get this started. I mentioned back on the blog’s second anniversary that I had a theme month in mind for February of this year, and we’re finally here. Well, OK, it’s technically a little bit ahead of February, but I don’t think I’ll get complaints on that account. February’s a short month, so running a little over in front and in back is fine. Besides, the prep work for some of this has led to my non-Oscarama buffer being eroded.
Chances are you can guess what the theme of Oscarama is, but just in case…
It’s awards season for movies, and this year the Oscars are being held on March 2nd. This seems to me to be the perfect time to take a look at some of the films that have been honored in the past. Sure, I’ve reviewed Oscar nominees before, and I’ll review them after this month is over. But it’s always been just the occasional film mixed in with my regular reviews. Out of 515* films nominated for Best Picture, I’ve only watched 71 before now. It’s a measurable chunk, sure… but the unseen chunk is considerably larger. So from here until Oscar night, I’ll be looking at various films that were nominated for Best Picture, whether they won or not.
A bit of explanation is due on that 515 number. It includes this year’s nominees, and it also includes three more films that are often excluded from the count — including by the Academy themselves. Now, arguing with the Academy may be a fool’s game, but I have my reasons. See, “Best Picture” wasn’t always a singular category; the simple “Best Picture” category was introduced in the second awards ceremony. The first year, there were two separate categories for honoring the best: Outstanding Picture was one, and Unique and Artistic Production was the other. At the time they were considered distinct, but equal in prestige, meant to honor different aspects of quality film-making. The next year, Unique and Artistic Production was dropped, Outstanding Picture was changed to Outstanding Production, and over the course of the decades eventually was renamed Best Picture. The three films nominated for Outstanding Picture that first year are considered the only Best Picture nominees from that year. But the three films nominated for Unique and Artistic Production were originally meant to be equal in stature — and to be perfectly frank, if it had been a unified category to begin with, it’s likely that any or all of them would have been nominated. So for my purposes, I’m including them; there are 515 Best Picture nominees as of 2013, for some value of “Best Picture”.
Granted, this may not affect my review selections much. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, and The Crowd aren’t films that turn up a whole lot at my usual movie sources. But should they wander into my path, I’m considering them eligible for inclusion in Oscarama. And I am including them in the statistics.
Yes, statistics. There’s always a fair amount of talk this time of year about what the Oscars do and don’t do. How often comedies are nominated, what genres are overlooked, and how irritating it can be for a film fan for a nominated film to not be out in wide release yet. And, of course, the question of whether the Oscars snub popular films. It’s all a question of statistics, and after realizing that we make a lot of assumptions based on what we perceive to be true, I thought it might be interesting to take a look and see what can be seen. So I’ve been compiling a lot of Best Picture stats over the past couple weeks… actually, I still have a bit compiling to do. 515 films is a lot to go through, especially if you’re going through them more than once to reference different bits of data.
But yes, there will be a few stats posts made throughout the month as well. I suspect most of the time these will go up on the same day as a review, since they’ll generally be lighter on written content and not as many people will be interested. But as Sunday, February 2nd, is not only the day of the Super Bowl but also my birthday, I’ll be keeping it simple that day by just posting one of the simpler stat posts by itself.
As to other content during the month, well, there will be at least one ranking of the Best Picture nominees for a given year; more if I can manage to cross another entire year off. But mostly it’s going to be reviews. Some of them will be for nominees from recent years; some will be from the earlier years. I’ve got one from 1931, and I’ve watched one of this year’s nominees. I have a few films already lined up, but I’m not following any set game plan. While the seasonal theme months sometimes have me winging it due to a lack of available options, here I’m winging it for the opposite reason: I have a surfeit. There are, after all, a lot of nominees, and except for the very earliest — sadly four films are either lost or virtually so — Oscar-nominated films tend to be easy to track down and watch.
So I’m not scheduling out a plan for which movie I’ll watch when. My intention is to ping-pong wildly between different types of film and different eras, so as to really give an idea of the breadth of the films that have been nominated over the decades. I expect there will be a lot of period dramas and romances, sure; but I also expect there will be some laughs and some thrills.
So that’s the plan. It begins tomorrow with Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, and a boat.