Monday, February 24, 2014

Film Critic Ariel Fisher Thinks the Oscars Are Mostly Bullshit

Get your Oscar ballets ready, everyone! Film critic Ariel Fisher will be sharing her Oscar predictions with TorontoVerve tomorrow, but before she talks about Christian Bale’s comb-over or Jared Leto’s push-up bra, she tells us a bit about herself and how she really feels about the Academy Awards.

TorontoVerve: Do you remember the first film you saw in theatres? 

Ariel Fisher: When I was two years old my parents took me to see Home Alone and apparently every time the burglers were on screen, I cried. I have no recollection of this, but Home Alone started it all. From then, we always watched movies: Back to the Future trilogy, Indiana Jones trilogy, Godfather and The Karate Kid. I loved everything that I saw because back then I wasn’t thinking critically. I was just so in love with the magic on screen and the worlds that were created and the fantasy of being a part of them -- even if it was just a few hours.

TV: So when did you start reviewing films? 

AF: That started for me when I was in my last year at McMaster University. I was taking Art History and Film. I was really directionless, but I love movies and wanted to be involved with it. I began writing film reviews for McMaster's arts magazine, A.N.D.Y., and it was a wonderful environment. My editor really encouraged the free-thought process and thinking out-of-the-box. It was that moment that made me feel that I can do this.

TV: You had an interesting movie marathon with your boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. While most couples were watching romantic features like The Notebook or The Vow, what did you and your Valentine watch? 

AF: This Valentine's Day was the first my boyfriend and I have spent together. Neither of us are particularly fond of the "holiday." That being said, we figured we'd have a bit of an anti-Valentine's Day. We watched the original Last House on the Left, Cannibal Holocaust, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

TV: So why horror on Valentine’s Day? 

AF: The truth is we didn't really think of it as being a horror Valentine’s. In fact, we wound up being more romantic than we'd intended. Bob’s a horror junkie and our first couple of dates consisted of watching horror movies. His collection is nearing the 700 mark, and a solid 80% minimum of his collection are old VHS'. Easily 90% of his entire collection is horror and he ended up teaching me a lot about the genre.

TV: What’s your style when you review films?

AF: I take notes a lot when I’m in a screening…

TV: You actually take notes when you watch a movie?

AF: Yeah, I do. Sometimes I can come out of a movie with 10 pages of notes or just one sentence.

TV: Is it hard to do that and pay attention to a movie?

AF: You kinda get a knack for it. It’s difficult with subtitled films obviously -- unless you speak the language of the film. I happen to speak french so with a French film it’s not that difficult for me to turn my attention away for a couple of seconds. If the movie is particularly bad, it’s very easy to turn my attention away and write 3 or 4 pages of my review. When I first started, I could only write reviews immediately after the film while it was fresh in my head. Now I’m getting better at taking my time to create a finely tuned critical piece. It’s better that way to put the pieces together and evaluate the film as a whole.

TV: So what’s your opinion about the Academy Awards?

AF: Honestly?

TV: Yes.

AF: It’s bullshit. It’s politics -- more so every year. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. It’s fun. Honestly, I always watched it for the dresses. I’m not going to lie. The moment when I realized the Oscars was bullshit was when Shakespeare in Love won for Best Picture. That day for me was when the music died.

TV: Yeah, that year Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan.

AF: This will date me, but I was 10 for that Oscars and I had seen Elizabeth and loved it. I wasn’t allowed to see Saving Private Ryan yet. But I thought Elizabeth was an incredible film and when Gwyneth Paltrow beat Cate Blanchett for Best Actress, I was livid. I thought it was bullshit. Who is rigging this? Saving Private Ryan wasn’t yet on my radar, but now I can look back and say, come on! It’s all politics in some way or another. Whether or not it’s the Weinsteins flexing their muscle….

TV: Harvey is the master.

AF: Yeah. There’s always a string to be pulled. It’s seldom actually a measure of quality and talent. It’s more a measure of popularity or politics.

TV: So what do you think of this year’s nominees?

AF: Frankly I think the idea of having 10 Best Picture nominees is ridiculous. It over saturates the categories and negates the entire notion of there being a higher level of quality. I don’t understand some of the nominees this year. It doesn’t feel like a celebration of film -- it feels like a celebration of Hollywood this year. You’re no longer celebrating an achievement in film-making. With the exception of a few, none of these films are particularly remarkable.

TV: Like you, I lost my faith in the Oscars -- especially when Spike Lee was robbed from getting deserved nominations for Best Director and Picture for Malcolm X, but despite how we feel, we always end up watching the show. Why do you think?

AF: I think we’re enchanted by the system. Everybody has their excuse. The most common one for me is watching the show for the dresses. Every year when the nominees come out, I’m still hopeful that I’ll be surprised, but that hope is dwindling. I’m like a kid at Christmas when the Oscar noms first come out, but lately, I don’t get the Easy-Bake oven I always wanted -- I get a scrunchy instead (laughs).

TV: What do you think -- should we boycott it? 

AF: Boycotting isn’t the answer. Film lovers should demand for better content and fight harder for the little guys. And it’s alright if they aren’t nominated for an Oscar. No one takes the Academy Awards seriously anyways. That’s one of the problems -- we need to promote independent films more. They get overshadowed by the glitz and glamour.

TV: What’s your favourite film in 2013 -- whether nominated or not? 

AF: That would be Belgium’s Broken Circle Breakdown because it’s fearless, beautiful, painful, elegant and dirty. It’s so many things that you always hope film is going to be. It embodies the full range of human emotion -- all of its angsts and conflict. It’s stunningly scored, excellently acted and superbly written. Even in a couple of scenes where it’s a little heavy-handed: the father gets angry over stem-cell research -- ok we get it, you have an agenda, but it’s still a worthwhile cause. It’s a film worthy to be recognized.

Be sure to drop by tomorrow for Ariel's Oscar predictions!

Follow Ariel on Twitter.

Watch the 86th Academy Awards on CTV Sunday March 2nd at 8:30pm EST.

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