On Having Seen All 53 Oscar Nominees

I did it on the plane yesterday on the way home from a business trip: I watched Brave, thereby completing my quest to see all 53 of this year’s Oscar-nominated films. From A (Adam and Dog) to Z (Zero Dark Thirty), from under 2 minutes (Fresh Guacamole) to 2 hours 49 minutes (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), from nine months ago (Marvel’s The Avengers) to yesterday; from movie theaters to Netflix to Amazon Instant Video to iTunes downloads to Youtube to… “other,” I did it. Foreign films, documentaries, documentary shorts, live-action shorts, animated films, animated shorts…

Of course, it doesn’t take any talent to do this. Watching movies is very passive. Even paying close attention to a movie is mostly passive. It requires no physical exertion, and it probably takes less energy than reading. Yes, a boring movie can be an endurance test, and sometimes you have to read subtitles, but mostly you just sit there and… watch.

I decided relatively late that I was going to try and do this. First it was just going to be all the Best Picture nominees. I thought I’d try some of the other major categories too. But then I saw that @mattiek (former old-school blogger Cows in the Barn) was working his way through all 53 nominees, and I realized it was something I could try to do as well. There were a few days where I watched three or even four feature-length films. I ventured out to some movie theaters I hadn’t been to in ages. But I managed to check everything off my list.

What’s next? I might start working my way through Sight & Sound Magazine’s 2012 critics’ poll of the top 250 films of all time. It’s supposed to be the most respected list of movie rankings, and it only comes out every ten years. Even among the top 10, I’ve only seen two.

At any rate, tonight for the first time I’ll get to watch the Oscars without asking, “What the hell is War Witch?” or “What is Kings Point?” or “That movie looks interesting.” Because I’ve already seen them all.

Oscar Mania

I’ve been having a bit of Oscar mania this year. Usually I don’t even get a chance to see all the Best Picture nominees, but for some reason I’ve taken on the goal of seeing as many 2012 Oscar-nominated films (and nominations) as I can. For the first time I can remember, I’ve seen all of the Best Picture nominees (and there are nine this year!).

Today I saw The Impossible and The Master, which brings my total to 93 of 122 nominations seen, and 30 of 53 films. And with these two films today, and The Sessions and Flight earlier this week, I’ve knocked off all the acting nominations and have completed 13 of 24 categories total.

I find myself wondering why I’m doing this. I guess at heart I’m doing it because it’s fun. I love going to the movies, and I love watching the Oscars.

I guess part of me also hopes it will make me better somehow. More knowledgable about movies, or smarter, or something. But the thing is — sitting in a theater passively watching a movie takes no talent. To read a tough book you have to be smart, but anyone can watch a movie. So what do I really hope to get out of this? Do I really feel like I’m a more knowledgeable moviegoer? Not really. I haven’t seen most of the films on the Sight & Sound poll of top 250 movies ever. But I want to.

Also, why the Oscar nominees? I’m wary of just checking things off a list so I can say “done.” And the Oscars are fallible. Not everything is great just because it was nominated for an Oscar.

Still, this project is exposing me to movies I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I don’t think I would have seen The Impossible if not for Naomi Watts’s Best Actress nomination. A movie about the death and destruction of the 2004 South Asian tsunami? Count me out. But it turned out to be more engrossing than I’d expected (partly because my family used to go on Asian Christmas vacations when we lived in Tokyo, so it evoked memories for me and made me wonder what would have happened if my family had been in a tsunami). It was a bit hokey toward the end — I found my eyes welling up even though I totally knew my emotions were being manipulated. And I felt guilty that the movie focused on rich Western tourists as opposed to the native Asians who were killed. But I’m still glad I saw it.

I can get something out of a movie even if it’s flawed. Matt often says he can find something worthwhile in even the worst piece of theater; perhaps the same is true for me of movies. Well, maybe not pulp movies like the kind Quentin Tarantino famously used to love seeing: pulp westerns, blaxploitation, kung-fu, horror — those aren’t my thing. Not really into the teenage summer blockbusters either. Actually, maybe it’s just the serious arty-type movies I’m into — movies with a vision.

I guess I’m thinking too much. (Guilty!) As my therapist has been telling me, stop worrying about the point of doing things that seem fun, and just do them.

OK then.