Two things happened to me recently. I am now going to attempt to combine them in a single post. Brace yourselves…
A couple of weeks ago I was watching Se7en. I love that film and have probably seen it 20-30 times. It’s such a brilliant reworking of crime thriller clichés that you almost forget the context of its appearance in 1995 (yes – it’s nearly 20 years old). The mid-nineties was jam-packed with fucking awful films (probably more so than now, and that’s saying something), so I just thought I’d check if Se7en was nominated for any Oscars, and if not, what was voted in ahead of it.
Even if we consider that Best Picture might have been a stretch given the subject matter, I think it’s fair to say that the photography, screenplay, art direction and direction were all faultless. So let’s just see what won:
Best Picture was Braveheart, the kind of film (ageing actor directing an epic – see Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven etc.) the Academy loved back then. But Se7en wasn’t even among the nominees, one of which was Babe – yes, the film about the talking pig.
A similar list for Best Director: no nomination for Se7en‘s David Fincher, but good old racist Mel Gibson won and the Babe director was nominated.
Screenplay was actually quite a good category that year. The Usual Suspects won, but other nominees included Toy Story, Nixon and Mighty Aphrodite. No Se7en.
Art Direction: again nothing for Se7en, but another nod for Babe and one for a film called A Little Princess.
Cinematography? Surely, surely this would break Se7en‘s duck. Nope, and one of the nominees was Batman Forever – yes, the really shit one with Jim Carrey as The Riddler.
Se7en did manage an editing nomination but lost out to Apollo 13.
So what I’m trying to say is that certain brilliant things may not be appreciated as such when people first experience them. The context might be wrong, the shock of the new might be too great or it might have needed time to marinade, revealing its depths and secrets with each passing view. Babe might as well be a pork pie for all the resonance it achieved, whereas Se7en lives on, making Gluttony eat several of the Babe pies over a protracted period of insane torture.
Which brings me to the second thing.
After last week’s post about Surfer vs NoitulovE I thought about the other Guinness ads that were mentioned in the comments. Then I thought about them some more. But it wasn’t till a few days later that I remembered one that was never even mentioned, and it’s a belter:
So why did no one mentioned the much-lauded Snails? It’s really good, everyone loved it at the time and it won a load of awards. I can only think that there must be a flipside to the Se7en phenomenon of appreciation after the fact, and that is the complete disappearance of something of real quality. For me this can take many forms: Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief album fell off my radar for several years; The Lives Of Others is a masterpiece that floated away like smoke, and I sometimes forget all about liquorice catherine wheels for months.
The memory’s a funny old thing, but if it could be a bit more reliable I’d feel less like shoving a screwdriver into my ear.