Thursday, March 16, 2006

God Bless Orson Scott Card

On Orson Scott Card's official website he writes a column where "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything". If he reads it or watches it and uses it or sees something, he writes about it, once or twice a week. Or so. This entry, was mainly about the Oscars. As always, I don’t agree with everything he says or sometimes even much of what he says, but he has a section later on where he talks about the collective pick of his friends and himself at his Oscar party.

But we were not content with the Oscar nominees this year. Admittedly, it wasn't the best year in film, but there were some wonderful movies that were completely ignored by the Academy, primarily because they weren't "brave" or "edgy" or extravagantly arty; it's the kiss of death these days for a movie to affirm old-fashioned values like a marriage that triumphs over adversity (Cinderella Man) or simply to be entertaining -- heroic or romantic or funny.

So at our Oscar party, we passed out not only our usual ballot, where we predict the outcomes (our winners this year tied with ten right guesses each), but also a ballot containing a list of the top 200-grossing films of 2005 (courtesy of the Box Office Mojo website, which had the most usable listing).

People could bestow one, two, or three points on any film, leaving blank the ones they didn't see or didn't like.

Of course, nobody saw everything (though some people saw an astonishing percentage of the year's films!); but when we see promos and hype on the upcoming movies and make a decision about whether to attend, that's a kind of vote. If a film doesn't look interesting enough to you to be worth the time and money to see it in the theater -- or even to see it later on DVD -- then chances are pretty good that you wouldn't like it if you did see it.

Still, it biases our selection heavily toward box office hits. Most of the people in our group had seen at least seven of the top ten box office hits, and since these tended to be entertaining, they were likely to end up on the final ballot.

After all, these films were the box office leaders for a reason -- they pleased a lot of people. And our voters consisted entirely of people, so it was a good fit.

He then writes about some of the other categories, but the reason I'm posting about this at all is the Best Picture winner from these ballots.

In the Best Picture category, we couldn't stop with only five nominees -- there was a tie in fifth place. And the next two films were only one point behind, followed by a wide gap. So we ended up with eight nominated films:

Batman Begins
The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
King Kong
March of the Penguins
Pride and Prejudice
Walk the Line

Frankly, I think our anti-Oscar nominee list includes films that are more likely to last -- more likely to still be finding viewers ten years from now -- than any on the actual Oscar list.

From the nominations, I expected Narnia to win in a landslide -- it got more votes than anything else on the list. But, as with the Animated Film category, it's one thing to say what you liked and quite another thing to say what was best.
Thus Narnia and King Kong ended up tying -- for second place.

And the winner of the Anti-Oscar for Best Picture of 2005 was: Serenity.

That's right. The 99th highest grossing film of 2005, with box office of only $25.5 million, got slightly more votes than the third and fifth highest-grossing films of the year, which tied for second in our voting.

But keep in mind that when you have five or more nominees, the likelihood of the winner being the choice of a majority is quite slight. And there were enough of us in the room who loved Serenity with a passion that it skewed the results.
Except ... wait a minute. Isn't it about voting for films you love?

No apologies then. At my house, Serenity won as Best Picture of 2005, with Narnia and King Kong right behind.

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