An Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 2015. This year’s ceremony is on Feb. 9. Associated Press/Matt Sayles, Invision

“The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.”— Bong Joon-ho, director of 2019’s Oscar-nominated “Parasite” and all-time cool guy. 

Look, as the resident indie film snob, I could rail once more against the Oscars, whose nominations were announced recently. I could, just for an example, spend an entire column mocking the ridiculous 11 nominations for “Joker,” a cynically nihilistic, white resentment-courting cash-in on the current superhero movie juggernaut from a middle-talent bro-comedy director who stole every decent idea from not one but two Martin Scorsese movies for unearned weight, and who whines about “PC culture” because moviegoers thought his “Hangover” trilogy was exhausted, smirky tripe. Stuff like that. 

But, honestly, what’s the point at this point? The Academy Awards are good for a few things. One: Oscar parties, mainly so you can cash in on the Oscar pool and make fun of the Oscars. And, sure, the occasional rarity where a truly independent film or under-appreciated actor makes it up to the stage to give a speech on national TV is a kick, especially since such people traditionally use their brief time to call out the moviemaking establishment for its still laughably retrograde culture of racism, sexism, homophobia and bias against movies not backed by billion-dollar corporations. Just to illustrate, “Little Women” got nominated but not director Greta Gerwig, suggesting that Oscar voters think that best picture noms directed by women were really just directing themselves. And the fact that Lupita Nyong’o didn’t get a Best Actress nomination for her double tour de force in Jordan Peele’s “Us” makes me want to throw things. But I said I wouldn’t complain too much. 

Oh, and then sometimes someone reads the wrong name from an envelope and the world holds its breath for a few minutes, but that sort of entertaining debacle is, regrettably, rare. 

Still, in writing about local film for so long, the knowledge that a nod from any film festival – not to mention an awards spectacular where the biggest stars in the world woodenly read very bad jokes – can make an entire career can’t be discounted. There was some local buzz recently when the short film “Sometimes, I Think About Dying” (which was shot in Bangor and Mount Desert Island and co-written by Fryeburg native Katy Wright-Mead) was placed on the official “short list” for the best live action short film Oscar. The film ended up not making the cut as one of the five nominees for this year’s Feb. 9 ceremony, but having the association with the Academy Awards is a monumental thing for a little movie trying to be noticed in the bustling, overcrowded entertainment landscape. And, yes, the short film winners are traditionally played offstage by the band in approximately 12 seconds, but the experience is gold in the hand for directors whose short films might otherwise sink into obscurity, so kudos to everyone involved. 

That’s sort of my key to enjoying the Oscars these days. As a film fanatic and champion of the local, there’s still a very real and tangible thrill in seeing a Mainer or Maine-made movie get even the faintest Oscar buzz. Sure, Portland’s own Anna Kendrick (now upgraded to America’s sweetheart) has an Oscar nomination under her belt, but Anna’s doing just fine, thanks. As Bong Joon-ho (who also directed the brilliant South Korean films “The Host” and “Mother,” and the international-cast “Snowpiercer”) put it so succinctly, the world is a lot bigger – and smaller – than the Oscars. 

That the challenging, gripping and destined-to-be-remembered “Parasite” got a handful of nominations (including a rare foreign-language best picture and best director nod) is neat and all. But “Parasite” has been lauded, feted and showered with awards at film festivals all over the world, and that’s what makes Bong’s offhandedly insouciant remark so refreshing. A great filmmaker – just like an aspiring indie filmmaker from Maine – doesn’t need the glittering Oscars to finally catch up with what real film fans already know. But it’s still worthwhile cheering on the underdogs of quality filmmaking for what the Oscars can do to bring the real best pictures some attention. 

For those looking to cheer on this year’s short film Oscar contenders, PMA Films is screening showcases of the best live action, animated and documentary shorts, starting Friday and up until Oscar night. Check out portlandmuseum.org/films for showtimes and details. It’ll also help out your chances at that Oscar pool.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: