When asked to run Film School Rejects for a week, I immediately thought, “What’s in it for me?” because I’m self-centered. Actually, my first thought was, “Where’s my car?” because when Neil made the offer to me, I was wandering around the Costco parking lot like Lawrence of Arabia that time he misplaced his car in the desert. It turns out I parked in the Blue Zone. But with my second thought, Neil promised that I could do whatever I wanted with the site while he was away covering Sundance skiing in Park City, Utah. Ergo, you may have noticed that the site has been at least 4,500% better this week.
Besides bringing some much-needed class to the site, I’ve also decided to bring back the long-dormant Editor’s Blog feature and the often-under-appreciated use of hyphens.
For this installment of the Blog, I’d like to take a look at something that’s been puzzling me: the disparity between Award’s Season buzz and the general public’s knowledge of the films.
I was on local radio station 1440 KEYS in Corpus Christi, Texas for Joe Hilliard’s Weekend Magazine, talking about films and making a general ass of myself when he asked me a very important question. The question was essentially this, “Movies like The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Reader have gotten massive buzz for the Oscars – why haven’t audiences had a chance to see them?”
It’s an incredible question. As a film critic that is forced to see every film good or bad that comes out, I often forget that a lot of smaller markets, mid-sized markets, and markets that aren’t New York City and Los Angeles tend to hear (in this global internet-tastic world) the buzz about movies before they are actually released – if they get released at all.
This quirk has to do with the Academy’s simple rule for eligibility requiring that film’s only a) play theatrically in Los Angeles County for b) at least seven days in c) one of the accepted formats and d) is advertised in a customary fashion. Whatever a customary fashion is.
Basically, a film must only be seen in one city for a week in order to qualify.
This creates an interesting situation where indie films and movies otherwise more difficult to market to a larger release have a shot at winning the big award, but where a huge amount of the population hasn’t had a chance to see the movie that ends up winning.
So it’s a win for little films that could, but in a way, it’s a loss for the movie-going public. It furthers the gap between the critical elite and movie fans by setting up a scenario wherein the critics and the Academy members proclaim the best of the year to a giant swath of the populace that hasn’t even seen the films.
Shockingly, I have no solution for this. I’m not even sure it’s a problem, but it seems like a problem for people like my friend Joe, a huge movie fan who won’t get a chance to see The Wrestler until March when its press campaign uses its Oscar wins to sell the public on a wider release. However, any solution or change would make it even harder for indie films to be recognized for their brilliance.
So that’s it. My rambling thought for the week. Now, where’s my car?