Can 5,830 Ignore ‘Apocalypto’ for an Oscar?

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The United States has a population of 300,344,572 as of December 5, 2006 15:52 GMT at (EST+5). Of that number 5,830 of them are voting Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences members and a question was raised in the New York Times today if that 0.00194% of the population would now have to recognize Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto as an Oscar contender after three positive reviews.

Since we have been told by Touchstone that we cannot post an official review of Apocalypto until the standard time (in this case Friday midnight) I won’t examine my opinion, but considering reviews are out I think it is irresponsible to only allow for select voices to be heard and others ignored. Suffice to say I consider Apocalypto one of the worst movies I have seen all year. This has nothing to do with my opinion of Mel Gibson as a person or filmmaker. In fact, I still think Braveheart is one of the greatest films of all time. I love The Patriot even though many think it is a mediocre film. The Lethal Weapon films and Maverick, these are all good movies. Yes, I even liked The Passion of the Christ. Apocalypto I did not like.

** BEGIN SLIGHT SPOILER **

This is a movie that defines boring. The first 10 minutes have action, the next 40 involve a lot of walking, the next 10-15 involve a bit of mutilation and a 2 minute eclipse is followed by about 45 minutes of running and one hell of a rain storm. There is more of course, but there is no sense in ruining it in case you want to go decide for yourself.

** END SLIGHT SPOILER **

I guess I was encouraged to write this editorial only because I am so baffled. I am truly confused as to what is going on with these positive reviews. I read their opinions and get lost in all the adjectives and adulation, and like Superman Returns, I get the feeling I am beginning to become more and more jaded with every positive review I read.

The NY Times cites Peter Travers from Rolling Stone saying, “Gibson has made a film of blunt provocation and bruising beauty… Say what you will about Gibson, he’s a filmmaker right down to his nerve endings.”

Next they cite The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt who said Gibson “knows how to make a heart-pounding movie; he just happens to be a cinematic sadist.”

Finally we come to the review from Variety’s Todd McCarthy, “Apocalypto is a remarkable film… The picture provides a trip to a place one’s never been before, offering hitherto unseen sights of exceptional vividness and power.” I guess he has a point; I have never been to a Mayan city or the jungle either.

The New York Times says these “generally positive, if qualified, reviews” actually “pose a problem for Hollywood insiders.” Does this statement not basically say that the Academy cannot think for itself? Let’s say the 5,830 Academy members agree with me and think the movie stinks. Do they still have to take critical opinion into account?

Casino Royale has a 95% rating at RottenTomatoes from their list of “Cream of the Crop” critics. Does this mean it deserves a Best Picture nomination? Batman Begins and Spider-Man 2 were both widely well received by critics of varying sources yet I didn’t see these same “problems” arising for “Hollywood insiders.” Batman got its nom for cinematography and Spider-Man 2 for effects, sound and sound editing. That is what $578,929,599 box-office receipts and positive reviews get at the Oscars apparently.

The Academy has obviously ignored critical opinion in the past, what is different in this case?

There are other things to be taken into consideration here, and I think every film deserves a chance no matter what the political agenda is.

Murray Weissman, who has worked on Oscar campaigns for many years and is working for the Weinstein Company on its hopefuls this year, told the New York Times, “There is still a lot of resentment out there among the Academy members, certainly the Jewish group of them, over the incident… There are a lot of people who are very unforgiving. I have run into some who say they will not see any more Mel Gibson movies.”

The fact that Academy members won’t screen the film does pose a problem, but not only for Gibson’s film, both United 93 and World Trade Center are going to have to face the same issue as many believe it is still too soon for these movies. Luckily for Irwin Winkler’s Home of the Brave it isn’t good enough to garner such attention.

Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal is. As the Times points out, it isn’t as if personal behavior has affected their opinion before. Roman Polanski pled guilty to having sex with a minor and then fled the country only to end up winning Best Director honors for The Pianist.

In chatting with my RopeofSilicon cohorts (Laremy Legel and Andre Rivas) they bring up a good point, what would make the media happier, headlines that read “Mel Makes Winner Despite His Anti-Semitic Tirade!” or “Apocalypto Gets Middle of the Road Reviews”? The answer is obvious, people love controversy, even if Apocalypto makes $12.00 at the box-office, the positive reviews and an Oscar nomination would be Entertainment section front page stuff.

Another question that peaks my interest is how is it possible the first three noted reviews are all positive? A fourth positive review is also online at JoBlo.com and another at CinemaStrikesBack citing the film as “a towering achievement of filmmaking.” Wow! Talk about shocking. Has anyone seen the film that didn’t like it? Can they write a review please?

On a side note I would just like to say I don’t fault these people for having liked the film. I don’t necessarily understand what they liked about it considering I disagree completely, but I can’t fault someone’s opinion even if it is wrong. *wink*

Our RopeofSilicon reader poll asking “Will you go see Apocalypto?” already has 28.6% of the voters saying “Nope, not interested.” I don’t think the film will make much of a splash with mainstream moviegoers, but then again I have already had plenty of people ask me about the movie, to which I told them they should go and judge it for themselves, as apparently I am already in the minority on my opinion.

Gibson is a great filmmaker, unfortunately Apocalypto is not a great movie. All this buzz around the film is due to his personal behavior earlier this year and I don’t think the film is ever going to be able to live down his actions. It would be a shame if people can’t look at the movie for what it is, however I don’t think it matters considering it is not worthy of recognition.

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