The Oscars You Didn’t See

Yeah, she’s hot. And also gifted. Deal with it, boys.

While I salute the Academy for shattering barriers at this year’s ceremony by bestowing the Best Director award on a talented and well-deserving woman (congratulations, Kathryn Bigelow!) as well as the first African American (how has Spike Lee not won this thing?), I’m more than a little miffed by a letter (okay, a mass mailing) I received from Michael Moore highlighting the best films he saw in 2009.

This is not about political agendas, people. Besides, isn’t it a given that Hollywood is the last bastion of left-leaning radicals who are all aligned with Sean Penn in a Commie plot to turn America into a socialist country? As a matter of fact, the more you think about what I’m trying to say here, the scarier it gets. Because if Hollywood is supposedly so radical and out to destroy America, why haven’t I heard about any of these films? Why wasn’t I even given a choice?

Alice in Wonderland is playing on, like, a gazillion screens. While I have my own issues about making Johnny Depp the center of a film that ostensibly is about the imaginary journeys of a little girl (who has precociously — and creepily — been sexualized in a generic way for this telling), I’m more upset about the lack of diversity in the availability of what’s out there to watch.

And I live not too far from LA. It’s rather sad. And makes me wonder how many great films both left and right of center I am missing simply for not having a say in the matter.

I have little doubt that were I to ask the manager of the local cineplex, he or she would tell me ad nauseum about how people just aren’t interested in those alternative movies, that they want their Hot Tub Time Travelers and whatnots. That this is a capitalist society and we vote with our wallets every day. But that’s where Michael Moore’s list hit upside the head. Cause I don’t know about you, but I was never given much of a choice about whether or not I wanted to see a single one of these films.

I present Michael’s list without any commentary of my own to add to his. I hope people don’t mind, and realize that this is not about furthering an agenda, but questioning choice and availability. The films seem diverse and fascinating to me. I’ve already added the majority of them to my Netflix queue.

If there’s another list out there somewhere featuring well-made movies on the right that didn’t make it to my cineplex either, I’ll be more than happy to post a list of those as well. I repeat, this is not about favoring one side of the story. It’s a question about access, and the corporatization and homogenization of the voices and visions we’re able to see, hear and think about in 2010 America.

Michael’s List:

1. “Troubled Water” (see http://www.michaelmoore.com for comments)
2. “Everlasting Moments” – A wife in the early 20th century wins a camera and it changes her life (from Sweden).
3. “Captain Abu Raed” – This first feature from Jordan tells the story of an airport janitor who the neighborhood kids believe is a pilot.
4. “Che” – A brilliant, unexpected mega-film about Che Guevara by Steven Soderbergh.
5. “Dead Snow” – The scariest film I’ve seen in a while about zombie Nazis abandoned after World War II in desolate Norway.
6. “The Great Buck Howard” – A tender look at the life of an illusionist, based on the life of The Amazing Kreskin starring John Malkovich.
7. “In the Loop” – A rare hilarious satire, this one about the collusion between the Brits and the Americans and their illegal war pursuits.
8. “My One and Only” – Who woulda thought that a biopic based on one year in the life of George Hamilton when he was a teenager would turn out to be one of the year’s most engaging films.
9. “Whatever Works” – This was a VERY good Woody Allen film starring the great Larry David and it was completely overlooked.
10. “Big Fan” – A funny, dark film about an obsessive fan of the New York Giants with a great performance by the comedian Patton Oswalt.
11. “Eden Is West” – The legendary Costa-Gavras’ latest gem, ignored like his last brilliant film 4 years ago, “The Axe”.
12. “Entre Nos” – An mother and child are left to fend for themselves in New York City in this powerful drama.
13. “The Girlfriend Experience” – Steven Soderbergh’s second genius film of the year, this one set in the the post-Wall Street Crash era, a call girl services the men who brought the country down.
14. “Humpday” – Two straight guys dare each other to enter a gay porn contest — but will they go through with it?
15. “Lemon Tree” – A Palestinian woman has her lemon trees cut down by the Israeli army, but she decides that’s the final straw.
16. “Mary and Max” – An Australian girl and and elderly Jewish man in New York become pen pals in this very moving animated film.
17. “O’Horten” – Another Norwegian winner, this one about the final trip made by a retiring train conductor.
18. “Salt of This Sea” – A Palestinian-American returns to her family’s home in the West Bank, only to find herself caught up in the struggles between the two cultures.
19. “Sugar” – A Dominican baseball player gets his one chance to come to America and make it in the big leagues.
20. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – A smart, adult animated film from Wes Anderson that at least got two nominations from the Academy.

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