"For Your Consideration"
I’ve been a film critic for about 12 years, but only bothered to join a critics’ group a few months ago -- the newly minted Boston Online Film Critics’ Association, or BOFCA. It’s been an education.
For example, I previously only attended critics’ screenings for the films to which I was given the review assignment. Since joining BOFCA I’ve had to triple my forays to the Cineplex for the screenings, and even that has meant I miss a lot of films... probably too many. Thankfully, some studios send out screeners of the films they’d like to promote for the various categories, and this helps fill in the gaps.
Of course, there are consequences to this, as when the individual BOFCA ballots were due last Friday, even as screeners were fetching up in the mail. It’s fun, of course, to take a day or three off work and, with the clock running down, watch six films back to back, but it can also be sort of overwhelming. (Where was last week’s column? It’s right here. I just could not get to it last week!)
Then there’s the sheer end-of-year major-motion-picture fatigue that sets in when gorgeously realized projects from heavyweight directors start popping up one after the next: Steven Spielberg’s "Lincoln." Ang Li with "Life of Pi." And -- this film instantly sucked the oxygen out of the cinema and ignited it -- Kathryn Bigelow’s "Zero Dark Thirty," which is sheer perfection.
I get the marketing aspect of waiting until the last few weeks of the year to release the films that studios hope will bring home the gold. I also think it’s a little cynical and unnecessary: Critics, industry professionals, and Academy voters who lionize films from the silent era are not gonna forget about a good movie from 2012 just because it came out last February.
One of the really hard things to do is to pare and whittle and, finally, choose. The BOFCA ballots asked for three nominations in each category (except Best Picture, which required ten; I could only, in good conscience nominate eight), because our official nominations are done as a group and we needed a way to tabulate that would help us avoid ties, etc. But even so, the #1 pick in each category carried the most weight on each individual ballot, so one could not be haphazard about how one listed one’s choices. Settling on a definite favorite is a tough business, because sometimes you absolutely love two performers, or three movies, or six directors, and cannot really say which you love the most. Sometimes you’re trying to decide between apples and oranges. It can all seem more than a little subjective, because it’s all entirely subjective.
Finally, I managed to fill out and submit my ballot. Our official nominations as a group are available for viewing online, and have already occasioned some controversy: One film blogger dissed us as sex-starved "beefalos" who were obviously "dweebs" because we didn’t nominate his favorite film. The comments section was even less friendly, with some punters writing in that we are "unnecessary" as a group, if not downright "blatant screener grabbers" interested only in reaping the official "for your consideration" screeners that the studios send out.
For the record, while we did get some screeners -- and they helped, because anything helps when you’re chronically over-scheduled and can’t see everything -- we didn’t actually get that many. Some studios, or at least their publicists, sent us nothing at all, which is fine, because A. it’s not as though we’re getting gold-plated Deluxe DVDs here, and B. part of the deal is that you watch the screener and then destroy it to avoid the possibility of video piracy. In other words -- and any working critic would know this -- the screeners are a professional resource, not swag. (Furthermore, I have to wonder why a "blatant screener grabber" would have spent so many hours throughout the course of the year hauling himself around town to erratically scheduled screenings when he could simply have nested at home, awaiting some mythical Big Boxed Set from the studio gods.)
Maybe the most heart-rending thing is how many fine films one sees in the course of the year that are not even eligible for Oscar nominations due to a lack of wide theatrical release. This is especially true of gay cinema: I saw so much I loved that played in GLBT film festivals, but never got the kind of release that would have made some fine films eligible for Oscar consideration.
With that in mind, let me offer a very brief list of GLBT films that I think should have been up for awards consideration -- a "Gay Oscars," if you like.
I could mull this over this category for hours... but I don’t need to. "Gayby" stands above the rest of the year’s crop of gay comedies as a bracing balance of procreative urges and contemporary sexual appetite. An attractive gay man (Matthew Wilkas) agrees to play sperm donor for his straight female BFF (Jenn Harris), leading to scenes like the one in which both are preparing for their separate hot dates, but agree to meet no later than 11 in order to get it on because she’s ovulating. If Woody Allen had made a gay comedy it might have been something like this film by writer-director Jonathan Lisecki.
It might be worth a momentary pause in the narrative to give honorable mention here to "Men to Kiss," a spotty but, in places, spot-on comedy set in Berlin in which a reticent gay man (Frank Christian Marx) learns to loosen up, while his flamboyant life partner (Udo Lutz) faces off with a determined female rival plotting to steal his man. Silly, but marvelously inventive and colorful, this movie is pure candy-colored, but jagged-edged, fun.