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Best Movies Of 2013, The Oscars And Me

By Mickey Jhonny

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced their nominees for the best in movies for 2013. As usual, I'm rolling my eyes.

But really, what's the big news? Anyone who follows this stuff is well aware of the necessity to not confuse the Oscar nominees with the actual best films of the year. The truth is that very often the real best movies of the year are those limited release, independent productions which hardly anybody ever sees. Those are disqualified more or less automatically.

Remember, though the Academy would like you to think of it as some kind of public service, it is in fact a trade union - or a federation of trade unions. Yet those who work on the little independent films often work for free or at least far below union rates. And many, if not most, are not members of the Academy. Do you really think a union is going to celebrate excellence among what they consider to be scabs? No surprises in that neglect.

Even, though, if your film doesn't fall into that disqualifying category, there are plenty of other ways to get disqualified. The two main irritants can be called Politics and politics.

By Politics, with the upper case, I mean ideological commitments. Movies that make business men look corrupt, decry the evils of war, celebrate the causes of members of supposedly downtrodden minorities and provide heartfelt inspirational messages about the triumph of the human spirit, are always going to have an inside track.

Using the lower case, politics, is intended to invoke the secret code that guides the Academy choices. One of these rules is that one cannot win too young/early (though there is an occasional break on this in the acting category). One has to prove themselves - though it is an award for best performance not best career. Like numerous other Oscar watchers I had my moment of complete exasperation when I realized I'd had enough and could not any longer take it seriously.

For me, the year was 1995, and in their twisted wisdom the Academy awarded best director honors to Zemeckis for Forrest Gump. In the process, they rather overlooked a little flick called Pulp Fiction, which wasn't merely the best (and best directed) movie of the previous year. It was arguably the best of the previous decade. But, hey, it was Quentin Tarrantino's first nomination! We can't be doing something like that? Ever since, I've found the Oscars pretty much laughable. Similar was the treatment of director Peter Jackson who, according to the code, couldn't be honored for the first - and, as it turned out, the best - installment of Lord of the Rings.

Plus, there's another side to these unwritten rules, that the elders must be honored, whether deserving or not. (Don't they have lifetime achievement awards for just this sort of thing?) You can make a dinner party game out of citing what one considers the most ridiculous injustice arising from this bit of intra-union politics. My vote goes to the passing over of Dustin Hoffman's tour de force portrayal of Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy to pat John Wayne on the back for yet another banal cookie-cutter performance in True Grit. But he was getting old you know...and had never won. (Yeah, maybe because he never deserved to win?)

And, perhaps most annoying of all, it seems on occasion they won't award people just because the Academy doesn't want them getting too full of themselves. They are a union; the collective must be greater than the individual. Hence, some great performances are just mysteriously snubbed. (It is a bit weird how any old trite endeavor of Meryl Streep is exempted from this policy. I guess you always need a token for credible deniability.) In any event, this seems to explain this year's exclusion of yet another inspired and heart wrenching performance by Tom Hanks, in Captain Russell. (Is it time to finally say it: Tom Hanks is the greatest film actor of all time? Could be. Watch Best Movies of 2013 for an upcoming blog post arguing just that.)

In the end, then, what can we say? Another year and another time that my pick for best of the best movies of 2013 (or whatever year) fails to be nominated by the stately old Academy. But, hey, to reference the great closing song to another movie masterpiece snubbed by the Oscars, "it don't worry me." I know that somewhere commitment to integrity and achievement in the movies is being honored. Just not on Hollywood Boulevard.

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