Monday, February 05, 2007

Why Does Depression Equal Art?

If you are a follower - even a casual one - of the Academy Awards, you know how dearly Oscar loves a depressing movie. I'm gearing up for the 79th annual Academy Awards, so I have made a (quite extensive) list of movies I need to see before the awards ceremony. To be perfectly honest, I had given up on the Oscars years ago, when my kids were small and I never got to see movies until they were on TV. Gradually, we began renting movies that weren't animated and my old love of all things cinema gained new life.

More recently, I learned that my friend Suse throws an annual Oscar party. Once an intimate affair, it has taken on a life of its own. This year, our friend Sabrina Jeffries is hosting the soiree at her house. It will be wonderful, I'm sure, but the pressure is enormous. The pressure to win the contest, that is. Throw in a dollar, guess the winners. Last year, I had seen (through concerted effort) many of the nominees and did quite well in the contest. This year, there is stiff competition and I still have about 30 movies to watch before the ceremony. Time's a wasting!

This weekend, I saw Dream Girls which was wonderful. All I know is, Jennifer Hudson deserves whatever they have to give her for her performance. She was fabulous! Plus, it was not a happy movie, but certainly happier than the other two I saw this weekend. "The Last King of Scotland" I was prepared for. I knew any movie about Idi Amin could not be heartwarming. But the graphic violence caught me off guard. Especially the torture scene near the end. It certainly leaves no room for one to sympathize with Amin, but who would have anyway? Wonderful performances all around, though. On a different, but still depressing, note I also saw "Pan's Labyrinth" this weekend. Again, Franco's Spain is not a warm and fuzzy setting. But it does star a young girl and has a fairy tale component. It's not a Disney fairy tale, however. More like the real Brothers Grimm. Again, high body count and no shortage of torture scenes. But, it was gorgeous, compelling and captivating. Overall, the weekend's viewings left me with lots to think about, but no lingering smiles.

Which leads me to the basis for this post: depression. Why, in order to qualify for an Oscar, must a movie (even a documentary) be horridly depressing, violent or shocking? The only warm fuzzies this year are the films nominated in animated features. And the jury's out on "Monster House" since I haven't seen it yet. I suppose I could give snaps to "Pirates Of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "Little Miss Sunshine" for being somewhat uplifting. Still, not a perky group of films.

I won't even get started on how difficult it is to find a copy of any of the Short Films - Animated or Live Action if you are not a member of the Academy. Or the fact that it's a crapshoot whether you will have access to see any of the Foreign Language Films. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to see three of them at The Galaxy in Cary. I also saw a lot of foreign language films there that weren't nominated for anything. They were mostly Bollywood films.

I like Bollywood films. They always have happy endings!

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At 10:17 PM , Blogger Sonja said...

I think movie critics suffer from the same disease as literature critics: thinking it's not ART if it makes you feel good. Hah, I say. One of my all-time favorites is Bruce Almighty because it makes me laugh and cry and think all at once, and has a great happy ending. I don't think that's a bad thing at all.

Meg Cabot said she had a writing teacher once that said, "anyone can make you cry, but it takes a special someone to make you laugh." And I think that's totally true and people should remember that when judging "art." :-)


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