Nov 21, 2012

So who are we ignoring now?

"Sure, a mid-career work won Best Picture, and he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy in 1968, but Best Director eluded him throughout. As did the DGA prize, in fact (though the guild saw fit to bestow lifetime achievement recognition the very same year he received the Thalberg)... He never won a prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The New York Film Critics Circle awarded him only once, for 1938's "The Lady Vanishes" rather than anything from his generally agreed-upon top-tier canon. At the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association crowned his show, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," on the TV side of things, but only nominated him once for directing features (in 1972 for "Frenzy," of all things). And that group, too, dealt him a career recognition prize, via a Cecil B. DeMille Award the year prior.... On the Oscar side of things, 16 of Hitchcock's films were nominated for this or that, tallying 52 nominations over the years. But they only won six trophies total." — Kris Tapley, In Contention
The Academy's slighting of Alfred Hitchcock is one of those truly miserable self-inflicted fouls you sometimes see in sports — an own goal, a fumble in the end-zone, a choke at match-point. Other omissions — like Kubrick, or for a long time, Scorsese — you can not only get but even take some pleasure from. Scorsese's exclusion, for example, not only told Scorsese fans all they needed to know about the Oscars it also confirmed something about their man they wanted confirmed — that he had too much integrity to be liked by everybody, he wasn't a Spielberg, he was an outcast, a saint, suffering for our sins. If anything it was slightly deflating when he did win, and looked totally thrilled by it. Suddenly he seemed like every other director; he needed to be loved like everybody else. But it just fries your brain figuring out how the academy missed Hitch. Not only is he among he greatest directors of all time, responsible for the greatest movie of all time, we now find out, and not just considered an auteur, but the auteur, the one the French used to prove the whole theory; but his films were and still are almost obscenely entertaining. I mean, how could they fuck this one up? It's the 'entertaining' bit that's the clue, of course. The Academy Awards are not really there for Hollywood to confirm the fact that it's in the entertainment industry. They are there to fuel the idea that their mind is on higher things. That's still the case of course. It makes you think who they're ignoring at the moment that is going to have everybody wincing in 50 years time. Chris Nolan? Tarantino? Fincher?

In the academy's favor, it wasn't just middle-brow snobbery that stopped them from seeing Hitchcock's virtues. They also got whacked by history: they weren't to know that the entire film industry was going to reorganise itself in Hitchcock's image. Nobody in 1959 would have guessed that North By Northwest would provide the template for every summer blockbuster to come, from Bond to Bourne to Indy. Nobody knew that Psycho's blend of laughs and scares would, via Jaws, open season on the summer blockbuster. Nobody saw Lucas and Zemeckis and Spielberg, "the first one of us who doesn't see the proscenium arch,” said Hitchcock. So the question now becomes, not "who is most underrated?" but "Who do we think is going to have turned out to point the way of the future?"  Much harder. 

1 comment:

  1. This is not directly an answer to your question, but a few weeks ago someone made a reference to Donald Sutherland never having been nominated for an Oscar, and I scoffed, assuming that the speaker was mistaken. She was not mistaken -- Sutherland has never been nominated. If you look at his career with this in mind, it kind of makes sense, the timing was always off, there were other people etc., But it's still weird.

    The three men you named are a great starting point. Hard to think of others. The person who potentially would fit the category best is someone like Guillermo del Toro, a director that delivers genuine thrills and depth and generally wows audiences, but somehow isn't that guy who we're all celebrating officially all the time. But he's got a ways to go before it becomes embarrassing.