The Browser, Post-Oscar edition 2/25: Best Day Ever!, Critics picks, and Raymond Chandler

Thank you for making this the best day ever at Looking Closer. My blog stats inform me we’ve had a record number of visitors here in the last 24 hours, meaning that the Oscars proved a bigger deal than The Lord of the Rings and The Golden Compass controversy among Looking Closer readers.

How do critics’ picks differ from the Academy?

Now, let’s forget about the Academy for a moment. Let’s look at the Best Films of 2007 according to those who *study* hundreds of movies every year. Here’s indieWIRE’s article about the favorites of 100+ movie critics, and then the list itself. Note how many of their favorites have never been distributed in the U.S., and how many were overlooked entirely (or disqualified) by the Academy Awards.

Raymond Chandler on the Oscars

Author Raymond Chandler ponders the Academy Awards, and the art of cinema. A thought-provoking article. Do you like to have your thoughts provoked? (Thanks to Scott Coulter for bringing it to my attention.)

… the motion picture is not a transplanted literary or dramatic art, any more than it is a plastic art. It has elements of all these, but in its essential structure it is much closer to music, in the sense that its finest effects can be independent of precise meaning, that its transitions can be more eloquent than its high-lit scenes, and that its dissolves and camera movements, which cannot be censored, are often far more emotionally effective than its plots, which can. Not only is the motion picture an art, but it is the one entirely new art that has been evolved on this planet for hundreds of years. It is the only art at which we of this generation have any possible chance to greatly excel.

In painting, music, and architecture we are not even second-rate by comparison with the best work of the past. In sculpture we are just funny. In prose literature we not only lack style but we lack the educational and historical background to know what style is. Our fiction and drama are adept, empty, often intriguing, and so mechanical that in another fifty years at most they will be produced by machines with rows of push buttons. We have no popular poetry in the grand style, merely delicate or witty or bitter or obscure verses. Our novels are transient propaganda when they are what is called “significant,” and bedtime reading when they are not.

But in the motion picture we possess an art medium whose glories are not all behind us. It has already produced great work, and if, comparatively and proportionately, far too little of that great work has been achieved in Hollywood, I think that is all the more reason why in its annual tribal dance of the stars and the big-shot producers Hollywood should contrive a little quiet awareness of the fact. Of course it won’t. I’m just daydreaming.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.


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