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2014-03-17

Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Akshay Seth: Oscars 2014, a YouTube comment selfie

By Akshay Seth, Daily Film Columnist
Published March 16, 2014

I was supposed to write about the Oscars last week. I was supposed to be outraged — no, pissed — about the fact that most Academy voters, reflective of a notable majority in Hollywood, are typically white males. So supposedly, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise why it’s taken so long for a movie like “12 Years a Slave” to get made, and then go on to receive the type of attention it’s finally getting. I was supposed to run through the streets of Ann Arbor, tossing my groundbreaking words into the outstretched ears of the people who would then join me, forming our parade — a parade that would expand into the outstretched arms of L.A.

But then, I thought about Ellen’s selfie. I thought about life.

And I realized that these thousand-something words I’m about to write, like any other column published under my name, are just the Microsoft Word version of a selfie I take every other week.

Ellen’s selfie broke ground (and Twitter) because it wasn’t just about her. It featured Hollywood’s best and brightest awkwardly trying to squeeze into an arbitrary frame as they peered at a smartphone camera lens, resulting in a collage-format tribute to the most beat-down aspects of celebrity culture known to man. So for this column aka my response selfie, I’m going to set my own frame, and into that frame, I’ll shepherd in the most bankable, honest collage-representation of us, the common people.

I’m going to talk about YouTube comments. YouTube comments responding to trailers for some of the Best Picture candidates. (Please note that if you’re reading this column online, you need to turn off safety mode in order to view the linked comments.)

Her

kutkuknight: Why dont they make more of this inovative stuff in stories? Im tired of the same old romances, this is something new and refreshing, i already think i will cry when i see the movie ;_;

Kutkuk, I agree that this was one of the most innovative movies released in recent years. If I had to be honest, though, I wasn’t expecting any less from Spike Jonze, who, over the last decade, has established himself as one of the most progressive, thoughtful writer-directors working in Hollywood. Need proof? The obvious example is “Being John Malkovich,” a 1999 classic about a master puppeteer who discovers a supernatural mind-control portal into the head of the eponymous actor. Another thing to note about “Her,” of course, is that Jonze wrote it without help from Charlie Kaufman, his usual screenplay partner, and it’s his first solo-writing credit.

I hope you don’t cry when you see the film, but if you really are touched by it, I recommend watching “Lars and the Real Girl” afterward, a film about a socially awkward weirdo who falls in love with an inanimate sex-doll (redundancy much?). It’s not a perfect companion-piece to “Her,” but if viewed in tandem, the two films become a heart-warming testament to the merits of opening oneself up to human interaction.

13Spartan666: when i first saw the trailer i was like, ..... man falls in love with AI, and they go on an adventure. kinda sounds like halo don’t you think?

That Beyoncé song is really trippy, isn’t it, Spartan.

American Hustle

JENNsquarepants: wth worst trailer ever i know nothing of this movie

It’s interesting you bring up this point, Jenn, because so many of the trailers for other best picture nominees this year have received criticism for giving away too much plot in order to hook audiences.

Personally, I think it’s disappointing that the film industry, as a whole, has started to move away from visceral, instinctual trailers that don’t divulge too much story for the movies they’re supposed to be advertising. Don’t you think there’s a magical anticipation in walking into the theater, eyes twinkling, waiting to be surprised by a film? Having a predetermined idea of what cinema is supposed to be about detracts from the viewing experience because one of the most important aspects of film, just like any other art form, is the initial, intuitive reaction that comes moments after looking at the screen.

In any case, the issue with “American Hustle,” is that the plot is simply too dense, too confusing to pack into two minutes convincingly. So yeah, you don’t walk away knowing too much about the film, but the fun is in the hairstyles, the music, the grooviness of the ’70s.

Sharp: When I see “American” in the title I just leave.

I’m sad you feel this way, Sharp. Though I can kind of see where you’re coming from — America isn’t exactly killin’ it in terms of public opinion right now — I still think you should give this film a fair shot before jumping to conclusions. In all honesty, the idea of “American-ness” isn’t even a driving or recurring motif in the film. It’s more about the whole notion of fooling/conning ourselves into the perception of success, and at the end of the day, that can be a pretty global theme. I guess what I’m trying to say is you can’t always judge a book by its cover. This movie would be equally worthwhile if it were called “Pakistani Hustle” or “Norwegian Hustle” or, dare I say, “Canadian Hustle.”

Gravity

Mindshi fter: so this trailer is about Sandra orgasmic sounds?

I know you’re trying to be funny, Mindshi, but this is the kind of talk that really gives YouTube a bad name. No, Sandra Bullock didn’t pull off a Cate Blanchette-esque performance in this movie. No, Sandra Bullock shouldn’t have won an Oscar for “The Blind Side.” And yes, most of the script direction for “Gravity” was just various iterations of “[groan loudly here].”

But at the same time, we have to be able to distance ourselves from the subject matter at hand in order to realize how unrealistic it would’ve been if Bullock spent the entire film talking to herself. Worse, still, would have been extended use of narration. Think about it — a Bullock voice-over featuring “OH SHIT IT’S COMING RIGHT AT ME” during the film’s most heart-stopping scenes would have been re-dic-u-lous.

Rick Ramirez: Directed by a Mexican! Suck it.

Nailed it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Ace H681: A very misleading trailer this shoud be an x-rated it’s a piece of shit full of sex drugs and blasphemy

A lot of people were angered by how far Martin Scorsese went in his raw, unrestrained depiction of the excesses of Wall Street.

I wasn’t one of those people, and the reason why is simple: The goal of this film was never to glorify Jordan Belfort’s wasteful addiction to drugs and money. Rather, Scorsese tried to expose the evils of unnecessary extravagance by forcing his audience to see just how warped our perception of reality can become with enough overindulgence. For evidence, look no further than the film’s heart-wrenching climax, where Belfort, unwilling to face the inevitability of going to prison, physically assaults his wife under the influence of cocaine.

Nanda Rizky Nurhuda: But still, no oscar for leo. He deserve it!

Alright, alright, alright. You’re right, you’re right, you’re right. Maybe next year? Maybe next year? Maybe next year? Probably not, probably not, probably not.

12 Years a Slave

Paris Arnett: I dare a white man to come up to me now I have no more patient for them

I think a lot of people walked away from this film feeling angry at white people — in some weird cases, other white people. I’m not here to say white people haven’t benefited at the hands of an establishment shaped by systemic racism, but the thing to take from this movie is the importance of us, as a nation, being able to face history without letting it leak into the present.

Try not to get mad at the white people. They feel really guilty. Instead, save your rage. Get mad at the white people who won’t go see the film because “it’s really uncomfortable.”

Brad Patin: I don’t feel guilty about slavery. I don’t remember owning any slaves

It would be really weird if you did own slaves and just forgot, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. No, you didn’t own any slaves in this lifetime, but, Patin, you have to acknowledge the fact that you’ve benefited from the slave trade simply by being white. Most African Americans have ancestors that were, at some point in history, sold into slavery. You can’t say that about most Caucasians, and based just on that truth, it’s pretty obvious why you have to concede an imbalance exists. No one cares if you feel guilty. Just don’t be idiotic enough to forget slavery did, in fact, benefit you in some indirect ways.