Oscar Nominees I Don’t Want to See

Leo DiCaprio is the new Grizzly Adams. Long live Dan Haggarty.

By Jim Knipfel

If you go back to the mid-’70s for a minute, say 1972 through 1976, and scan through all the films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, it’s pretty amazing. Not only are most all of them still remembered and discussed today, most are considered classics of American cinema: The Godfather, French Connection, Nashville, Dog Day Afternoon, Chinatown, Network, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Taxi Driver and on and on. Even the ones that didn’t win were remarkable films. Okay then, now scan over the list of everything nominated over the past 15 years, and see how many of them are still discussed today, let alone remembered at all. I mean, Silver Linings Playbook? That was a big deal for about ten minutes there, I think, then everyone thankfully completely forgot about it.

Still, maybe only out of a morbid curiosity, sneaking a peek into the national zeitgeist, I always take note of the annual nominations whenever they’re announced in mid-January. That happened last Thursday, so let’s see what’s being held up as the best films Hollywood had to offer this past year.

I fully suspect Dan Haggerty’s death two days after the nominations were announced had something to do with The Revenant receiving a dozen nods. I mean, how many fucking years did he play Grizzly Adams, and what kind of respect did he ever get for it? How many Oscars was the Grizzly Adams feature nominated for, again? But then bring along this cheap knockoff with pretty boy, there, and stand back. Apart from that, I mean, how many “19th century wilderness survival” and “revenge against a bear” movies does the world really need? For my money, I think I’ll just watch William girdler’s Grizzly (1977) again. Or maybe Toklat (1973). That was a pretty good one, too. Nah, I think I’ll stick with Grizzly, since that one has Richard Jaeckel in it.

While it’s nice to see a few genre pictures getting nods this year (maybe only because 98 percent of the films out there were genre pictures, and 80 percent of those comic book movies), and though I have nothing against Ridley Scott, I feel no real driving impulse to see The Martian. To me, anyway, it sounds like a fancy and pretentious big-budget all-star remake of George Pal’s hugely entertaining Robinson Crusoe on Mars. And I bet this one doesn’t even have those really creepy spaceships Pal borrowed from his earlier War of the Worlds.

Speaking of genre pictures, I heard some friends say good things about George Miller’s new Mad Max thing. That’s fine and I’m glad they liked it, and I liked his first two Mad Max pictures myself way back when Mel Gibson was still Australian. But then came the third one, when they brought in Tina Turner and a hit single and a gaggle of snot-nosed kids in need of rescuing and hoo-boy, did I ever stop caring quick.

When I first saw Room was being nominated I got all excited, thinking it was a typo and they meant to say The Room was in the running for best picture. I mean, if any film deserved to win, if any single film had something truly significant and overarching to say about the current state of the film industry, it was Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, ignoring the fact it came out over a decade ago. Then I learned no, it was just room, some heartfelt and earnest claptrap about a kid raised in complete isolation being introduced to the real world. Yeah, I think I’ll stick with Kaspar Hauser. Or maybe Bad Boy Bubby. Or maybe I’ll just go back and read Plato’s parable of the cave again.

I do love the Coen Brothers. I have very little against that Steven Spielberg (some, maybe). I’m even familiar with the true story Bridge of Spies is based on, and think it could make for a swell picture. But you put Tom Hanks in anything other than Bosom Buddies and my colon just seizes up reflexively. Just to avoid any embarrassing public accidents, it’s probably for the best I skip it.

As this year’s token prestige picture, the academy chose John Crowley’s Brooklyn, with its nick Hornby script. Let’s see, a young woman emigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn and befriends a priest? And what’s more she gets a job in a department store and falls for an Italian boy? And if that wasn’t enough, then she goes back to Ireland? Whoa, Nellie, where the hell do I sign up?

A comedy about a group of schlubs scheming to bring down the big banks because they were pissed about the bailouts sounds like a crowd-pleaser to be sure, and even an admirably anarchic one, but, yeah, they kinda already did that in Trading Places, didn’t they? I didn’t much care for that one, either.

And it seems pretty clear, if recent history is anything, that Spotlight, the true story of the Boston Globe’s uncovering and publicizing of the Catholic Church’s long and proud history of raping altar boys, is just the kind of  “relevant,” “hard hitting,” and “socially conscious” film the Academy simply can’t resist. I do love a good newspaper movie, but, yeah, I’ll likely stick to Mervyn LeRoy’s Five Star Final.

Yup, with a lineup of choices like that, I’m guessing I’ll skip pretty much all of them, though it’ll be interesting to see five years from now how many people will be able to name a single one.

Published January 21st, 2016


Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.