When I posted my early Best Picture predictions last week, a college friend asked my why I didn't include a small indie such as The Spectacular Now. I replied and told him that I thought that the movie was too small, and the members of the Academy don't really go for movies that focus on the teen experience (young love, finding your way, etc.). Yesterday, I saw the trailer debut of How I Live Now. The drama, starring Saorise Ronan, is about a young Manhattan teen who stays with cousins in the English countryside during the outbreak of a fictitious third world war. Check out the trailer:
I was listening to podcasts on AwardsDaily (catching up, because I've gotten so behind), and Sasha Stone and Ryan Adams both briefly mentioned how the Academy doesn't really go for movies starring teens. Or at least films that deal with teen problems. I thought to myself, "That can't be right. They have to go for good movies that coincidentally star teens." Well, I was wrong, and I dug a bit into it. On a side note, you should really check out their podcasts. They are currently going through Oscar's history year by year and analyzing the films that won. It's really interesting.
I thought last year's The Perks of Being a Wallflower would snatch a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Perks was pretty well-received, and it really captured the feeling of being a new student in high school. Logan Lerman's Charlie is likable and relatable. His shyness is rather adorable, and you really feel for him as he befriends the characters portrayed by Ezra Miller and Emma Watson.
Juno and Precious might be the last movies relevant to today that were nominated for Best Picture. Teen pregnancy is almost a fad nowadays, and Precious focused on a teenager struggling in almost every way in Harlem in 1987 An Education and Winter's Bone are both set in specific areas of the world. Education, set in London in 1961, does deal with the feelings of growing up and being romantically linked to someone older. Bone deals with a teen (Jennifer Lawrence, grabbing her first Best Actress Oscar nomination) struggling to locate her father in the Ozarks before her family is evicted from their home.
Neither An Education or Winter's Bone gained much traction in the Best Picture race, however. The Best Picture race was extended to ten nominees those years, and I doubt they would have even been part of the conversation if the category only had five entries. The big winner from 2008, Slumdog Millionaire, focused on a teen in Mumbai searching for the love of his life. Slumdog relies heavily on the setting. The poverty and economic climate play a major part of Jamal's story. It's not really about his age.
The last few years had some younger characters at the center of the films, but the films aren't focused on teenage life per se. Beasts of the Southern Wild does indeed hinge a lot on Hushpuppy's perception of life, and Life of Pi's Pi goes on a life-altering journey with a tiger. War Horse, Hugo, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close all feature youngsters going through personal journeys. The Kids Are All Right has some supporting characters dealing with finding their father, and Atonement centers on the outcome of a young girl's (Ronan, again) misguided accusation of older characters. The Sixth Sense featured a young boy with an extroadinary gift, and, that same year, American Beauty had teenagers on the sidelines trying to not become as screwed up as their parents.
The teenage experience itself ia quite absent from the Oscar conversation. The Spectacular Now is receiving good notices for its performances and screenplay. It's probably not enough to gain any momentum. Does the Academy just not take anything in that age group seriously? Do they simply overlook work focusing on teens because they don't take teens seriously in real life? Or perhaps it's simpler, and they don't think the movies are that good.