To her recollection, the Siren has never posted about an Oscar race, as opposed to the ceremony, but there's a first time for everything. This year, there are two movies up for Best Picture that are deeply concerned with film history: Hugo and The Artist. The Siren worshipped Hugo, as you know. The Artist was not as accomplished but she still found it a lovely movie, albeit one with parts that didn't work.
During the run-up to Oscar season (a long series of ceremonies fused in the Siren's mind as the "You Can't Make Me Care" awards), there's been a lot of venom directed at both these pictures online. (Greg Ferrara recently discussed that phenomenon under topic 5 of this post.) Why this is happening, the Siren couldn't tell you. There's a lack of proportion when some critics dislike a middlebrow, well-received movie, a type of anabolic rage that the Siren works mightily to avoid. She doesn't hold back because she aspires to become The Blessed Siren. She tempers her words because she wants to have some white-hot invective left if she should ever have to review something like, I don't know, Human Centipede 2.
The Siren has no quarrel with those who find Hugo or The Artist to be flawed to one degree or another--well, beyond marshaling cogent and irrefutable explanations of why with Hugo they're wrong. Marilyn Ferdinand was resolutely uncharmed by The Artist. Comrade Lou Lumenick responded to Hugo with, in essence, "meh." But there is one strain in the anti-Hugo, anti-Artist camps up with which the Siren will not put. That could be called the "ugh, a film about film history" strain.
It probably isn't Slate's fault that the Siren reached the outmost limit of enough when she saw these two discussions. It was bound to happen at some point, but that point came when in part two, Dan Kois weighed in with:
Are you ready for the most self-important Oscars ever??? Troy, you’re absolutely right that this year’s nominations skew oooooold. They’re also cinema-obsessed. Glen Weldon of NPR had it right when he tweeted that nods for The Artist and Hugo have essentially guaranteed that this Oscar ceremony will be well-nigh insufferable. ('The cinema. Dreams made of light, flickering in the dark. Film is the very language of the soul …') On Oscar night, I’m playing a drinking game in which I down a cocktail every time Martin Scorsese calls his movie 'the picture.' We've already made a reservation in the penthouse suit of our local hospital.
Mm-hm. Let's rewind the reel. Dave Kehr and others write frequently about the legions of films that have dropped out of circulation. We write about how hard it is to see some films even from major auteurs such as Raoul Walsh and Ernst Lubitsch, let alone someone arcane like Alfred E. Green. Huge swaths of the general public don’t want to see a black-and-white movie (and for that reason alone, the Siren doesn't think anyone should "barf" over an Artist win). Outside the major cities, the revival house is on the verge of extinction, and the people running the few that survive tell bloodcurdling tales of their struggles to obtain prints. Thirty-five millimeter is about to bite the dust (read here and sign the petition, the Siren hasn't even the heart to summarize). There is an overwhelming tilt toward the new on the big, high-traffic movie sites. About four years ago, Internet film writers--cinephiles, in other words, mostly young ones--were surveyed to compile a list of the 100 best films; two-thirds of the films selected were produced after 1970.
In light of all that, if you have a problem with a few minutes of people talking about light passing through film or the magic of the movies or whatever, while some old clips scroll by at the Kodak Theatre, then what the Siren says to you is suck it up.
The Siren stated her, ah, displeasure on Twitter and got a very polite and collegial response from Dana Stevens and Kois himself, Kois asking "Can't we lobby for the Oscars to deliver the message without the rhetoric?" and adding, "Use video. Use storytelling. Build an appreciation for film history without lectures." Fair enough, although the Siren thinks complaining about pompous writing in an Oscarcast is like complaining that the soy sauce is salty. The Siren will take Mr. Kois at his word, and has no hard feelings.
Even so, the Siren hereby declares her rooting interests ahead of the 84th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 26. Forgive her language in advance.
The Siren wants an Oscar ceremony so stuffed with old-movie clips that the fanboy contingent chokes on their Cheetos. She wants tributes, she wants high-flown overwritten paeans, she wants audience reaction shots of dewy 20-year-old starlets looking puzzled as shit at the sight of Janet Gaynor.
The Siren will go further. If Michel Hazanavicius wins, she wants him to take that list of silent-movie inspirations he did for Indiewire, name-check them all and cause Wikipedia to crash from all the people looking up "King Vidor" at the same time. Then, she hopes Hazanavicius praises City Lights, which he said inspired The Artist more than any other film, and then she wants him to spell out the Amazon.com URL for The Chaplin Collection Volume Two letter by fucking letter.
Of course, the Siren hopes Scorsese wins. And if he does, she wants him to talk about the tragedy of decaying film stock. She wants him to point at the executives in the audience like Burr McIntosh ordering Lillian Gish into the snowstorm and demand to know what the hell they think they are doing, trashing 35 millimeter. She wants him to mention projection speeds, she wants an explanation of three-strip Technicolor and dye-transfer, she wants black-and-white deep-focus and a history of lenses from the Lumiere brothers on, she wants him to tell the suits to let poor Frank Borzage out of the vaults. She wants Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest film-preservation champions this country has ever produced, to get up there and talk longer than Greer Garson, talk until the violinists dangle their bows and wonder if they should grab a cup of coffee, talk until one single human being out there who has never seen a silent film sits up and says, "Gee, I should check one of these things out."
It won't happen. But if the Siren were a true pessimist, she'd blog about politics, not movies.