I was a little stuck for a post idea today, because I'm assuming you aren't interested in "Why Boxers Are the Cutest Dogs in the World, Oh Yes You Are, Oh Yes You Are!!!" (We've been spending our last several Saturdays looking at rescue puppies.) I thought about doing my Oscar picks...but then I looked at the list, and realized that a) I had absolutely no idea which way those withered old prunes at the Academy would vote, since it seemed to have no correlation at all with the actual quality of the films, and b) I had absolutely no ability to care, since I had no respect for the decision-making ability of the Academy and no longer view an Oscar as any kind of sign of a film's quality or lack thereof.
So instead I'm going to talk about when that started and why.
Let's take a quick trip back to 1996. I'm in college, I'm a lit major, and Kenneth Branagh's 'Hamlet' is in limited release. The film pretty much only did a limited release; it was so damn crazy prestigious and ambitious they couldn't get most theaters to show it. A four-hour long unabridged, uncut adaptation of 'Hamlet'? Every scene, every line of a Shakespeare play? Yeah, that's not going to Mall of America 14. The only theater in the Twin Cities to even show it was the Uptown, an independent arthouse theater that showed prestige films and foreign movies. I didn't care about any of that; I just knew I had to see this movie. It was 'Hamlet', my favorite Shakespeare play, as performed by Ken Branagh, who'd done previous adaptations I liked a lot. (I forgive him his casting of Keanu. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.)
So off I went, one cold January day in 1997, to see 'Hamlet' when it finally got around to Minnesota. And I was stunned. The film was lush, it was vivid, and it was spectacularly dynamic--there are scenes in the play that I still feel like I never truly understood until I watched the Branagh version. (His treatment of the "get thee to a nunnery" confrontation with Ophelia, for example, is absolutely astounding and explains Hamlet's abhorrent treatment of her in terms that the audience can understand--he thinks that she's in on Claudius' full conspiracy, not recognizing that she's being used. Which is entirely in keeping of his murder of Polonius and his actions throughout the play.) This was, in short, a magnificent experience.
About halfway through, the heating broke.
Let's repeat this: The heating broke, in January, in Minnesota, during a four-hour movie. And I sat through it anyway. And the next day, I went back out and saw it again. The heating still wasn't working. I didn't care. That is how good Ken Branagh's 'Hamlet' is--I will watch it in sub-freezing temperatures.
The Academy nominated it for four awards. It was not nominated for its direction, for any acting awards (despite having a cast that included Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet and Richard Briers as well as Branagh himself) or for Best Picture. All it got were two technical nominations (Art Direction and Costume Design), Original Score and Screenplay. It lost three of those to 'The English Patient', and the fourth to 'Sling Blade'. Let's repeat that--what is arguably the greatest work of literature in the history of the English language, in the eyes of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, somewhere in the same neighborhood but not nearly as good as "Forrest Gump Meets Psycho". (Actually, more like "Psycho II".)
After that, I just couldn't respect their decision-making abilities any further. I watched the awards a few more times (most notably a psychologically-scarring night out in 2002 at a cinema grill in Raleigh that "livened up" the commercial breaks with their amateur variety show. Emphasis on "amateur".) But ultimately, the show isn't entertaining when you don't care who wins, and I don't.
There are other "WTF?" moments in the history of the Oscars, like their inexcusable failure to nominate 'WALL-E' for Best Picture or their snub of 'Pulp Fiction' in favor of the overhyped 'Forrest Gump'. But 'Hamlet' is always going to be the one that sticks with me. So yeah, it'll probably be 'Lincoln' or 'Argo' or something that wins 'Best Picture', or possibly 'Django Unchained' simply because someone will have decided that Tarantino deserves a "make-up" Oscar for the one he should have gotten. But it won't matter to me.