The Academy Awards are now over which means Oscars have been assigned, movies have been anointed and the proverbial water coolers are abuzz about John Travolta’s language problem and Kim Novak’s face (at least those who even know who Hitchcock siren Kim Novak is). This official end of awards season also means I have a new slew of flicks added to my running mental list of Very Important Movies that I Should Watch But Probably Never Will.
The 2014 best picture “12 Years a Slave” is by all accounts amazing and epic and accurate and all but life-changing while simultaneously making viewers squirm and long for Tarantino’s humor-tinged “Django Unchained.” Doesn’t mean I want to see it. I’m not against actually viewing the film. I won’t stomp my feet, clench my eyes shout and whine if faced with the prospect. But at the end of a long day when my last nerve has been stepped upon or during a few precious weekend hours, there’s little choice between kicking one’s emotions in the gut and spacing out on a reality cooking showdown or mind candy bit of cinema. Binge watching “House of Cards” or even catching 15 minutes of “Road House” for the umpteenth time — let’s be honest here — nearly always beats out investing brain cells and heart strings into movies one is “supposed” to see.
Case in point: currently, my DVR contains both the movies “Lincoln” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Take a guess as to which one is most likely to be viewed in any near future.
I felt the same way about “Precious.” If I wanted to hear stories of sad people in unimaginable situations, I might as well just come to work and read the police blotter. But admittedly I eventually did see the movie when it ran on cable and found it well done, engaging, moving and all the accolades I’d come to expect. I felt a little remiss in having waited so long to see the movie. And, I never want to watch it again.
Much like all those books you know you should read but don’t, the movie list is equally lengthy. “Schindler’s List.” “My Left Foot.” “The Hurt Locker.” “Amour.” “The Artist” — I’ve seen all the cute clips with the dog. Isn’t that enough?
Not every movie I bypass falls in the bucket of serious and depressing. Some just don’t have much pull. “Gravity,” this year’s directorial darling at the Oscars, falls in the same boat of “eh, maybe someday.” Even astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s entertaining tweets questioning why actress Sandra Bullock’s hair seems to defy gravity and other scientific oversights can’t overcome my apathy to watching her fight for survival. No worries. Since I really didn’t want to watch it but felt I should be in the know pre-Oscars, I did what any respectable pop culture aficionado does — I Googled the ending.
Besides, just because the 6,000-odd members of some club known as the academy label a movie the best doesn’t mean they’re right. “Titanic,” anyone? “Crash”?
Picking winners is apparently two parts politics, one part marketing, a heavy dose of sentiment, a smidgen of scratching each other’s back, a sprinkling of actual talent and blindly throwing darts at a target. In other words, the cinematic assessments are on par with judging Olympic figure skating.
At their best, movies are about pure escapism and not awards. Just seems I and the academy members have different routes.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.