Yep, that’s me now, nine years after I first started this blog.
Back then, I was a sophomore in high school, watching films almost every day after school. With all the films I’ve been watching, I found it necessary to look online for other cinephiles as I was not contented with writing on my own journals about the films I’ve watched.
In this search, some of the first blogs I discovered were The Film Experience (whose comprehensive discussion of the Oscar race that time really interested me), Nick’s Flick Picks (whose coverage of film and actresses is something to aspire), and Alex in Movieland (whose discussion of different Best Actress years tapped into my love for acting and actresses).
Also, something happened around that time: Meryl Streep delivered her two-punch performances that forever changed things. Her work in Doubt and Julie & Julia made me realize that wow, I think this actress is fantastic. Playing characters distinctively different from each other – one a guarded depiction of traditionalist paradigm, one a joyous celebration of life and love – Queen Meryl has opened a wide array of possibilities of what film and film acting can do. She has set the standards of excellence for me, and she still continues to do so.
Feeling the need to join the discussion, I decided to put up my own blog. With no clear vision on what to do, I just started writing random posts (reviews, predictions, etc). And with the sea of bloggers discussing Best Actress around that time period (there were a lot), I felt I wasn’t alone in my love for film.
I hosted two Smackdowns (with the idea originating from Stinkylulu), pitting Best Picture nominees per year and having different bloggers vote, and then coming up with a consensus on what was the eventual winner. I did two of those: 2008 and 1995. I was so happy being able to host two, but school caught up, and I had to do less hassle things for my blog.
Then came the Best Picture Project: a seemingly deranged attempt to watch the Best Picture nominees per year and then ranking them, in the style of Alex in Movieland‘s discussion of Best Actress. I admit originality was not by strongest suit, and since I didn’t know how to do things, I just emulated what other bloggers were doing. But while almost all did Best Actress, I was doing Best Picture. It lasted for a long time: I was able to do twelve Best Picture years (you can find the link at the sidebar).
While this is all happening in my blog, I’ve started making short films in high school, and then perhaps the biggest step in my love for film happened: I applied (and eventually got in) to a film school. I got to meet so many people, became a part of a student film organization, and was able to make ‘serious’ short films, including my thesis film that I’m still very proud of.
As the rest of this are all happening, the Best Picture project waned. I’ve become more interested in doing the TFO Awards, honoring excellence in film for a specific year. This one was the most interesting for me since it forced me to watch films that I wouldn’t have normally seen. Driven by my strong opinions of shoulda been nominated, I challenged myself saying go ahead, watch more films and then you make your own awards. I’ve been doing this now for seven years, with the recently concluded 7th TFO Awards honoring 2015 in film.
Imagine that: awarding 2015 films in 2018.
The backlog was insane. Truthfully, it’s an insane task to even try watch all the best of a specific year. There is not enough time to even watch the best of a year, let alone all the best films of all time. And look at what I said:
This one was the most interesting for me since
it forced me to watch films that I wouldn’t have normally seen.
Yes, there were moments when I do feel I’m just forced to watch films since it’s for the blog. And there aren’t even a lot of readers here. But I was doing it as personal closure for years in film. Now, I’m on to hopefully finishing 2016 in film by December. But just imagine the daunting task.
Truth be told, it’s taxing to do it anymore. I mean I love film and I always will, but I miss those younger years when I was watching films because I want to and not because I have to. And no one’s even forcing me: it’s all self-inflicted responsibilities for this blog.
Add to that the fact that I’ve fallen out of my love for filmmaking and film in general due to burnout after making my thesis film. Basically, the latter half of 2016 was confusing times for my relationship with film.
Something happened in January 2017 that reignited my love for film(making): watching La La Land on the big screen.
So for the big part of 2017, I felt recharged. I got a full-time job for the first time, and it has afforded me to watch films on the big screen when I want to. I started writing scripts again, I’ve met with my friends from film school semi-regularly. Basically, just to bring the spark back to my dream while keeping it all grounded in reality.
My thesis film got minimal film festival exposure, which was nice (and it still does). But at that point, filmmaking wasn’t the biggest dream anymore. How ironic for someone who cannot dream of anything to do except making films when I was still in high school.
However, after more than a year, something happened again. In February of 2018, I:
- watched I, Tonya on the big screen and discovered this thing called figure skating and it just thrilled me;
- watched the 2018 Canadian Nationals free skate of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge!, and;
- watched the 2018 US Nationals short program of Adam Rippon. You know, just owning the ice and being out and proud.
You do get to watch a lot of things when you are unemployed. I discovered something that I really love now: figure skating.
I even enrolled in figure skating lessons, and I intend to pursue doing the higher levels. It’s taking most of my time now, and I’d rather do off-ice exercises than watch a film.
I’ve even done this just for fun.
And we go back to the 7th TFO Awards: just like its previous edition, it was supposed to have video presentations, just like the Academy Awards. However, I grew tired of it. Was my love of film starting to dissipate?
I don’t think so, but now I’m starting to prioritize more.
Obviously, I think I’m over the phase of doing the Best Picture Project. Watching the pantheon of Best Picture nominees at the Oscars doesn’t interest me that much anymore (even if I memorized all the nominees just for fun).
Do I still want to watch films per year to determine my personal choices, hence the TFO Awards? Yes, although I won’t be as crazy as watching 200+ films, I hope.
I found myself asking this question: what’s something in film that still has my passion and interest?
There are two categories at the Academy Awards that has interested me the most: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.
The former because there is so much cinema has to offer rather than just sticking yourself to Hollywood. Representation matters, and in this world we live in right now where there is so much divisiveness and othering, it’s important to know and discover how multi-faceted the human experience is.
Human experience is not just the white American experience.
There is the European experience, the Latino experience, the Asian experience, the African experience, the Australian experience, the indigenous peoples’ experience. And cinema has the capability to do that. And while the Best Foreign Language Film category is not without its flaws, it’s a great starting point to explore what is going on around the world in relation to world cinema. Special mention also to the Best Documentary Feature category.
Now, the latter. Best Actress.
Again, representation matters. With the colossal shift caused by the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, we are having conversations about women now more than ever. Lack of (leading) roles for women, gender pay gap, sexual harassment allegations – issues of women, LGBTQ+, and minorities have been put to the center of spotlight for the first time in Hollywood, and let’s do our best to keep the conversation going and the change coming.
That leads me to what I’m about to do in this blog.
I’m tracking the Best Actress contenders per year, starting back from 2009 (the first year I blogged) all the way to 1927/28, the first year of the Academy Awards. Yes, from the supposed snubs, runners-up, long shots, up to the longer shots with eligible films.
And no, I’m not attempting to watch them all. Of course, I cannot. However, I want to take a look at how the roles of women in film have evolved. And I’m talking about the quality, quantity, and diversity of roles eligible for the Academy Awards.
From the years called the strongest (1950, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1987, 1995, 2006) to the weakest (1953, 1970, 1975, 1984, 1994, 2003, 2005), I would like to see how far we have come in terms of representation of women in film vis-à-vis the Academy Awards.
And I would want to see: are those “weak years” a result of lack of good performances of women in film? Or perhaps good roles for women? Or perhaps it’s the laziness of the Academy to look for outside-the-box choices to fill the final five? Or perhaps the laziness of Hollywood to even make films with women at the center? Or maybe the critical reception at time affected it (remember: majority of film critics are white male)?
Part of me thinks there is a smidge of sexism in these claims, but we’ll see. With that, I’ll try doing something
I’m calling this non-committal project (of sorts):
Best Actress nominees as well as contenders will be reviewed and given performance profiles. I’m still thinking whether it would be a written blog post (normal, easier) or a video essay (time and effort consuming; I haven’t tried it).
Performances will then be rated, with increments of 0.5 (if only necessary), but here’s the general grading system (with some random rambling about the rating):
FOR THE AGES/FANTASTIC
achieves high level of excellence in film acting
with skill and over-all emotional impact
my enthusiasm isn’t as sky high as the ones above,
but distinctive and remarkable in its own right
there is so much to respect and even like with
the work despite noticeable flaws and/or limitations
major problems exist, but okay to good OR
lacking but with shining moments
either squandered potential with objectionable acting choices
or not even trying to elevate awful material; despicable
I’m not really hard to please, so you may notice if I would get too generous, but I’ll do my best to keep things in perspective. (Objectivity in film criticism is almost a myth).
I’d want to watch films because I want to, not because I need to. And that is how I would roll with this endeavor. I’ve seen myself getting exhausted of the rigid per year thing (and I’ve seen other blogs struggle with that as well), and I’d just want to do something that I would like to do.
Props to the wonderful blog Oscargasms who does diligent Oscar coverage, starting from the 1920s as he works his way to the present years. I have come across his blog during my blogging drought and has truly inspired me to write again (I hope).
So I’m hoping to revive this blog. Yikes, I wouldn’t even be able to regularly post here (I’ve tried to do that several times since this blog went dormant).
And just to quote the legendary film critic Roger Ebert, another inspiring figure of film criticism:
I’ll see you at the movies.
Juan Carlos Ojano
The Final Oscar