Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fade In...

After much deliberation on how to introduce this ridiculous project, I have come to the conclusion that said project is not merely ridiculous, but also, for the most part, arbitrary and irrelevant. For all intents and purposes, this project has very few intents or purposes. In simple terms, I plan to sit down and watch (not in one sitting, obviously) all 465 films that have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (although, by the time I am finished this project, that number will have increased to 485).

I could rattle off some cliches about how many times I've been inspired by the art of cinema and, though that may be true, I don't really believe that's why I'm doing this. Or I could pretend to be disillusioned by the Academy's choices over the years, condemning their politically and financially fuelled corruption, and so, off I go, heroically righting those wrongs by awarding my own Best Picture. But, the truth of the matter is I don't actually care enough about the winners to lay claim to any disillusionment. Despite my fanatical love of the Oscars, I'm perfectly aware of the innate subjectivity of the process. Besides, I love movies. All movies. Even the bad ones. (Yep, I enjoyed Ishtar... and Waterworld.) Consequently, I find it difficult to come up with an example of a Best Picture winner that I've hated. Which is not to say that I haven't preferred another movie over the eventual winner, just that I've never really felt that any winning film was so devoid of cinematic quality that Oscar should hang his golden head in shame.

So, why then?

Perhaps it's just because I've always bemoaned the fact that I don't watch enough classic cinema.

Perhaps it's because I have the spectacularly misguided fantasy that this will somehow make me famous.

Perhaps it's simply a gigantic procrastination, providing me with an excuse to avoid the things I really ought to be doing for my career, like writing an indie screenplay, or mounting a production of Othello.

Perhaps it's something to occupy my currently unemployed days as yet another struggling actor in New York City. After all, I like making lists and crossing things off them. A real sense of achievement. And once a task is set, it doesn't really matter how utterly useless it is. As long as you get it done, you've achieved something, right? ... Right?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is that cliche about movies being inspirational. In all honesty, I do genuinely get a shiver of excitement when the lights go down before the movie starts. And it's not a rare occasion that I exit the cinema having been truly moved. And perhaps the greatest self-referential irony of all is that the reason I even contemplated this project in the first place was as a direct result of seeing Julie and Julia last week. Probably not destined to be a classic, but it did what every film should aspire to do - it inspired its viewers. (Well, it inspired me at least, but I figured it would sound a tad narcissitic if I said every film should aim to inspire me specifically.) So, I guess you could say this is a blog inspired by a film inspired by a blog. It's already beginning to sound like a Charlie Kaufman screenplay.

So, that's it, then. The reason I'm embarking on this insane journey is because of cinema's power to inspire... And probably the procrastination thing.

Now, on to the practicalities...

I had considered doing the whole thing chronologically, but in the interest of giving the project a bit of variety, I thought better of it. So, instead, I will jump back and forth through time, like a movie-blogging Marty McFly. However, I will always watch all nominees from a particular year before I move on to another year, thereby making it possible to deliver my own verdict on the best of that year (or, more accurately, my favourite of that year). Plus, in order to be able to make a fair comparison, I will watch every single movie on the list, regardless of whether I have seen them before this project began.

I'm giving myself the arbitrary deadline of the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony, which is as yet unscheduled, but will undoubtedly take place in late February or early March of 2011. By my calculations, that means I will need to view roughly six movies each week.

I also encourage you to take part as well. I will announce ahead of time which awards year I will be moving on to next, including a list of the movies in contention that year. So feel free to join in the movie-watching bonanza and give your own opinions on my verdict.

I will be starting with the nominees from the year 1966, a choice arrived at solely for practical reasons - four of the five nominees are available to watch instantly on my Netflix account.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1966 are:

A Man For All Seasons
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming
The Sand Pebbles
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Let the movie marathon begin...

Update - January 11, 2010

After a valiant attempt at sticking to the timeframe mentioned in this inaugural post, I have slipped by the wayside and it is now becoming increasingly impossible to meet the deadline. However, Matt vs. the Academy is most definitely still alive and kicking. It is just currently deadlineless. As explained in the Jan. 11, 2010 post, the Best Picture nominees will continue to be watched and enjoyed, just at a more leisurely pace.


  1. Brilliant. Bloody freaking Brilliant. Xx

  2. Oh, that was me BTW - Buckers.

  3. You are a brave man, Matt. Possibly mildly insane but brave nonetheless. I much look forward to accompanying you on your crazy journey. A while back I set out on a mission to try every flavour of Pringles. I'm now starting to wish that I had blogged about that. Particularly after discovering "Screamin' Dill Pickle" in Tokyo. If there were an Oscar for Best Pringle, that would have won my vote hands down.

  4. Hi Matt: Sal sent me you Blog link and I applaud your ambitious undertaking. Now don't go skipping auditions because you just have to watch The Human Comedy on TCM. By the way, I think there are a few of the early nominated Best Pictures that are "lost" or unavailable.

    When I was reading your intro, the first thing that crossed my mind was, "This has to be more fun that cooking your way through Julia Child's Book." Then I saw your reference to Julie and Julia. What can I say - cinematic minds think alike.

    As an unabashed fan of The Academy, I have often said that anyone willing to watch all of their nominated Best Pictures, will have gained a wonderful appreciation of American cinema. Sure they have omitted some great films, but more often than not, their nominees are well represented of their respective movie years. You are in for a real treat, and I hope to cheer you on, and offer my choices as you click each year off your list. Happy viewing! Mike Kelly

    This may post as anonymous until I figure out how to select a profile.

  5. Followed your link from LAMB. I'm Tips from Chip (#1062.) Welcome. This looks like an interesting site that I will enjoy coming back to.

    About a year or so ago I made a list of the nominated movies that I had not seen. I had covered all of them since the mid 80s, with many from the 70s being seen. Earlier than that, though, and I was very spotty. I still have never even gotten around to seeing the winners Hamlet, Cavalcade, How Green Was my Valley, and The Great Ziegfeld, even though I own all by Cavalcade.

  6. Second general comment on blog now that I've explored:

    Great layout with the years being clickable, and thank you for including the list of all the nominees. I didn't have to root around on my hard drive for my spreadsheet. I counted 287 nominees that I have managed to see. Some of them I saw quite a while ago, so if I were ever to review them like you are doing I would need to watch them again.

    Once you are done with this are you going to move on to the "other" Best Pictures (Foreign Language, Documentary, Animated)?

  7. Great site, Matt. I love your sense of humor as you tackle this fun project. I've got you in my Reader, and I'll be following you to the end!

    Welcome to LAMB!