The following is a post we originally set out to write in February.  Only Adam and I responded to the call, so I never posted it.  But since I ranked Zombieland #1, I figured I’d do so now.  Plus, it’d be a shame to waste something that Adam wrote.

You probably remember, from our wildly popular pre-nomination series, that we mysteriously exempted one film from our discussion the films and performances we’d nominate, if we ruled the Academy.  Well, it just isn’t fair to keep you on the edge of your seats any longer.  We’ll hopefully maybe eventually get to our favorite films of 2009, but so far, one film stands heads and shoulders above everything else (in terms of what the group as a whole thought of it).  It failed to register with the awards circuit, other than than a Critics Choice nomination for Best Comedy Movie.  Granted, comedy films rarely do well with awards, but this film does boast three Oscar nominees, including one actor nominated this year.

Obviously it is clear by now that I’m talking about Zombieland.  Below we are going to advocate for the film to have received a number of Oscar nominations.

Adam:

I couldn’t decide what I liked more about this movie, the writing or directing. I guess it comes down to how much of what I liked about the movie was ordained by the script and what was added in during production & post-production. I would like to believe it was the script, since it was a phenomenal one – much better than most/all of the ones nominated for an Oscar. The rules, the narration, the guest appearance by BM, and, of course, the play-of-the-week-type zombie kills made for an extremely entertaining movie. Add to that a well written and executed (if not entirely fresh) story, with some terrific dialogue and you have a thoroughly enjoyable movie…which apparently makes it immediately ineligible for an Oscar.

Since I chose writing as my focus, I won’t talk about the acting in this movie, but it was actually pretty great as well. I’m sure Jared will more than make up for my lack of treatment with his not-stop praise of one Emma Stone.

Also, in light of the fact that it has been awhile since I actually saw Zombieland, I will now focus on why the Academy proves year-after-year that it is archaic and lacking taste. So, what is it about Zombieland that makes it un-votable? Is it because it is a comedy? That probably factors into it. That it has zombies as its subject matter? That also probably factors into it. But I don’t understand why that detracts from its ability to be a great movie – at least in the Academy’s eyes. They have no problem voting for movies ranging from mediocre to horrible if they fit into the mold of plodding, overly “artistic”, dramas (or period pieces). But give them something the masses might enjoy, or even something new and different, and they completely shut it down. Some may argue: “But look at Avatar. The masses loved that and it is up for a ton of awards.” That’s true, but even Avatar gives the Academy something comfortable to vote on. It’s uses (and doesn’t even attempt to modify) and well-used (and I’ll grant, beloved) story, and relies heavily on CGI. “But CGI is new and different.” No, it’s not. It may have been 15 years ago, but it isn’t anymore. It’s something the Academy can look at and pat themselves on the back for voting on because it is “hip.” They think because they voted for something the masses like, and something that they perceive as “revolutionary” that that absolves them of voting for any other type of fare – that they can continue picking the same (type of) movie over and over again. It is disheartening, and worse, it is destructive. How many more great movies would be made if the few great ones that are put out every year were actually recognized? I mean, really, how many people would like to see more Benjamin Button’s, or Frost/Nixon‘s, or, heaven forbid, more Frozen Rivers?

In our own ranking, Zombieland easily had the highest average score of any movie in the last two years and the second highest score since we started recording – behind Juno. That’s not to say this was any individual’s highest ranked movie, but across the board, we all loved it – and that is saying something given our wide-ranging tastes in movies. Also, of the 10 movies nominated for Best Picture, only 4 of them have an average Grouches score above an 8 (out of 10), and one of them doesn’t even break 6. I don’t understand how the Academy can continue to justify voting mediocre movies as “Best Picture of the Year” and still look themselves in the mirror. I look forward to the day when these types of movies are considered the “classics” and are eligible for the recognition they deserve.

Jared:

In all likelihood, Zombieland will be my favorite 2009 film.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did see it at a drive-in, with some of my fellow Grouches, hopped up on an embarrassingly large amount of candy, giving it, perhaps, an unfair advantage.  Still, the film itself is darn close to note-perfect.  It sounds vague, but maybe the film could best be described as “refreshing.”  The film is so different, and so good, that it washes away the bad taste of whatever movie rut I was in, and has me excited again to watch movies.

I could go on, but I’ll stop gushing about the movie and start gushing about one of its actresses, Emma Stone.  Now, again in the interest of full disclosure, I’m madly in love with Emma Stone, perhaps best known (for now) as Jules from Superbad.  I actually have a whole different post in my head about her that I’ll get to someday, but the money line is that…remember in 2008 when The House Bunny came out, and everyone was talking about how Anna Faris was one of the funniest women in Hollywood?  Emma Stone actually stole that movie.  Now, lest you think I’m completely nuts, let me refer you to this recent Vanity Fair cover story.  In case you are too lazy to click, the article details nine women set to rule the upcoming decade.  It includes two of this year’s Oscar nominees (Anna Kendrick and Carey Mulligan), near-nominee Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Evan Rachel Wood (both of whom creep me out a little, I think), Mia Wasikowska, two actresses I’ve probably incoherently raved about before (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Seyfried), and, of course, Emma Stone.

If I had filled out an Oscar ballot, Emma Stone would be at the top for Best Supporting Actress.  Frankly, in this admittedly weak year, she blows the other contenders out of the water, and really, it isn’t very close at all.  And while I never seriously thought she had a shot, the odd thing is that her performance (and her character) have all the hallmarks of an Oscar performance.  She’s a tough, independent woman who repeatedly outsmarts Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg.  She’s stronger than Eisenberg, and has managed to survive on her own, while looking after little sister Abigail Breslin.  Yes, ultimately, she’s the damsel in distress, but doesn’t Oscar still kinda love that?  In my mind, Stone’s Wichita is everything, say, Gyllenhaal’s Jean Craddock is, except a more developed character who faces actual problems.  It is therefore confusing to me that Stone is penalized for being funny as well.  (Not to belittle Ms. Gyllenhaal, in my world she’d already have a statue for Secretary.)

If there is one thing the Academy has never been accused of, it is knowing how to kick back and have a good time.  It is easy to believe that they believe a film must be fraught with Meaning to be Cinema.  Zombieland has no meaning.  Not really.  But I’ve still yet to hear any convincing argument why that should prevent such a zany, goofy, funny, sweet, action-packed, taut, amazing film from receiving recognition.

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