1st Annual Joshcars Awards

I lay awake last night when an idea came to me. What if there was an annual show where awards were given to film-makers for outstanding achievements in a variety of categories? Upon doing some research I discovered that someone had beaten me to the idea. Someone named Oscar.

After reading about Oscar and his Academy, I came across some startling information. In the wake of the recent #oscarssowhite controversy I unearthed a long history of people being dissatisfied with the Academy. Its demographics may also indicate certain, biases, shall we say. From Wikipedia:

In 2012, the results of a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times were published describing the demographic breakdown of approximately 88% of AMPAS’ voting membership. Of the 5,100+ active voters confirmed, 94% were Caucasian, 77% were male, and 54% were found to be over the age of 60. 33% of voting members are former nominees (14%) and winners (19%).

Maybe someone oughta knock these folks off their pedestal. Maybe I still have a chance to shine.

But, I thought, how could I ever hope to compete with the Oscars? With all their money and resources, my dream was destined to failure… Then I remembered I had a blog. What a time to be alive.

I immediately set about forming a new judging committee. Unfortunately due to budgetary constraints and personnel limitations the composition of this new committee shows a similarly skewed demographic make-up, consisting of a shocking 100% white, 100% male panel, with exactly one member total. I would ask our readers to please excuse this discrepancy, and know that the committee was constructed with the best of intentions.

oscar_trophy copySo folks, without further ado welcome to the inaugural episode of the Joshcars. We’re sure in for an exciting night. (Full disclaimer, I’ll only give awards to films I’ve actually seen, which means there’s undoubtedly going to be many excellent films that won’t make the cut due to the Joshcademy’s personal failings. For that I apologise.) Now on with the awards!

ACTOR* WHO WAS THE BEST AT ACTING

*Note “actor” in this context is not gendered. I don’t see any good reason to have separate categories.

Honourable mentions!

Emily Blunt was great in Sicario. Tom Hardy is great in everything, including Mad Max. Rooney Mara was captivating in Carol. I thought Mark Ruffalo did really well in Spotlight too. Jacob Tremblay in Room was the best child actor I’ve ever seen. Lots of solid performances, I think it’s a tough year to pick because there was nothing particularly unique, just good dramatic acting. But if I had to give it to someone…

WINNER! Brie Larson in Room. Pretty much made the film for me. Unbelievable performance.

ACTOR WHO WAS BEST AT ACTING, BUT WASN’T THE MAIN ACTOR IN THAT FILM

Honourable mentions! Cate Blanchett did really well in Carol. Tom Hardy was easily the best thing about The Revenant. Benecio Del Toro was excellent in Sicario.

WINNER! Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Great Performance, great character.

PERSON WHO WAS THE BEST AT POINTING A CAMERA AT THINGS (AND OTHER IMPORTANT JOBS)

Honourable mentions! J.J. Abrams captured the look and feel of the original Star Wars really well in The Force Awakens. Lenny Arahamson used perspective really potently in Room. George Miller knocked it out of the park with Mad Max.

WINNER! You can’t take it away from him, The Revenant is a well-shot movie. Alejandro G. Iñárritu takes it.

PERSON WHO WAS BEST AT MAKING SOUNDS FOR A FILM

Honourable mentions! Honestly I’m not a big sound guy so this one is probably a bit of a mess, but I did love the scores to The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but not as much as…

WINNER! Mad Max again. Dem drums…

MOST SURPRISINGLY NOT SHIT FILM

Honourable mentions! No big shocks. The Force Awakens was much better than I thought it would be.

WINNER! It’s not even that I thought it would be shit, just that I really didn’t expect it to be very, very, good. Creed. Go watch it.

FILM THAT MADE ME THINK THE MOST AFTERWARDS

Honourable mentions! I thought Spotlight was powerful. The Big Short was thought-provoking. Inside Out was very poignant, with a surprising amount of maturity.

WINNER! Anomalisa. I still don’t really know what to make of it. I love Charlie Kaufman, but man, that was the most brutally nihilistic film I’ve ever seen.

PRETTIEST FILM

Honourable mentions! The Force Awakens looked exactly how it should have. Mad Max made brilliant use of colour. The Revenant was gorgeous.

WINNER! Crimson Peak. The costumes and sets in that film were incredible. Worth watching just for the atmosphere.

PERSON WHO WAS BEST AT WRITING WORDS FOR ACTORS TO REMEMBER AND THEN SAY OUT LOUD

Honourable mentions! I couldn’t make a writing category and not nominate Charlie Kaufman. Tom McCarthy wrote a great script for Spotlight, very naturalistic with some really poignant one-liners. Taylor Sheridan did a good job with Sicario.

WINNER! Inside Out. Such a good movie. Probably the best Western animated film of the decade.

FILM THAT WAS MOST GOOD

Honourable mentions! Inside Out was the only other film I would call genuinely outstanding.

WINNER(S)!

Okay this might seem like a cop out but it’s a bit silly to say one film is “better” than another without listing the actual criteria for how that decision was made. Is it the most entertaining? The most thought-provoking? Most competently made? Some arbitrary combination?

Out of all the films I saw in 2015 I thought that Mad Max: Fury Road was the film I would most watch again. Constantly. Forever. Probably the best action movie I’ve ever seen. Enough said really.

Spotlight was probably my “favourite”. It had strong performances, it was gripping, informative, accurate, a little depressing and it really tried to say something about journalism. It’s the one I would most strongly recommend.

And that  about brings us to a close folks, hope you enjoyed my totally professional, totally amazing awards ceremony! Unfortunately none of the winners could make it here to accept their award, but hey, maybe next year!

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The Profitable Explosion Principle

Video games! We all love them and we all want to see them continue to enrich our lives in interesting and innovative ways. I think most of us already know that a lot of the common tropes associated with games and gaming culture are outright fallacious but let’s look at it in a little more detail.

In 2012, the Entertainment Software Association published this report with many statistics concerning the gaming industry. Some findings are surprising, some aren’t. However it certainly does go a long way towards disproving the myth of the “average gamer”, this notion that we’re all fat, pimpled American teens, swearing down our headsets and shoveling pizzas and doritos down our faces while playing BulletFuck V: Redemption. One of the more interesting finds is that 47% of gamers are female. (I wonder what qualifies as a “game” in these studies, I imagine games on mobile devices and social networks go a long way towards equalizing the percentages. The reemergence of heavily gameplay centred gaming, particularly on mobiles, is fascinating and I wonder if there should be more of an effort to class these as a distinctly different art form. But hey, “defining games” is a really interesting topic and deserves it’s own full article!)

“But Josh!” I hear you shout defiantly through the monitor (is that healthy?), “if 47% of gamers are female, then why are all the mainstream games so clearly marketed towards men? Personally, I find it hard to believe that all of these game developers are so blatantly misreading the market data.” Hmm. An excellent point. Let’s take a look.

This is a list of the best selling games of 2012.

  • 1. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II
  • 2. FIFA 13
  • 3. Assassin’s Creed III
  • 4. Halo 4
  • 5. Hitman Absolution
  • 6. Just Dance 4
  • 7. Far Cry 3
  • 8. FIFA 12
  • 9. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • 10. Borderlands 2
  • 11. Mass Effect 3
  • 12. Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
  • 13. Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • 14. FIFA Street
  • 15. Mario & Sonic At The London 2012 Olympic Games
  • 16. Skylanders Giants
  • 17. Battlefield 3
  • 18. Call Of Duty: Modern Warefare 3
  • 19. Max Payne 3
  • 20. Sleeping Dogs

Notice a trend?

flickr-3330913348-original
I’m not overcompensating, I just love war!

All right. How do we get to the bottom of this? Why is it that the most saleable games appear to involve copious amounts of violence and teabagging? Well to help us out, let’s look at gaming’s nearest cousin: film.

This is a list of the best selling films of 2012.

  • 1. Marvel’s The Avengers
  • 2. The Dark Knight Rises
  • 3. The Hunger Games
  • 4. Skyfall
  • 5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • 6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
  • 7. The Amazing Spider-Man
  • 8. Brave
  • 9. Ted
  • 10. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
  • 11. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  • 12. Wreck-It Ralph
  • 13. Lincoln
  • 14. MIB
  • 15. Django Unchained
  • 16. Ice Age: Continental Drift
  • 17. Snow White and the Huntsman
  • 18. Les Miserables
  • 19. Hotel Transylvania
  • 20. Taken 2

Notice a trend?

What he said.
What he said.

Okay so there’s a couple more kid’s movies than there are high grossing kid-games but let’s not forget that children have rubbish coordination and can’t be expected to pay large sums of money for entertainment they’re not able to operate effectively. Why? Because kid’s are lazy. Back in my day I spent hundreds of hours parked in front of a television playing video games. Kids these days. What happened to the world?

This still doesn’t explain why more games aren’t geared towards women, but it does explain what kinds of things people seem to be willing to pay for. I think the biggest factor is to do with development. To make a film all you need is a camera and some can-do attitude. To make a game you need a hefty amount of IT experience. It means that there’s big pressure on games to deliver and if something is selling, they’re going to exploit that. A film studio can justify more risky endeavours, and I think we can all think of a few low-budget gems. Depending on what type of game you want to make, you may need several developers all working on different areas which makes it difficult to get a unified goal. Plus the cost of making a top-selling game is astronomical and getting more expensive, not to mention the shear length of time it takes to develop a modern video game. We can grow disillusioned with the repetitive formula in the Hollywood bigs but in gaming it’s a nightmare. There’s no room for risk when your dealing with cash and time investments on that scale. The growing prevalence of indie games is certainly a redeeming factor though, and honestly it really deserves a full article to itself too!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Let’s analyse the data. What comparisons can we draw between blockbuster games and blockbuster films? Three simple words. Ex PLO! sions.

There's literally an explosion on the cover, like it's a member of the freakin' team.
There’s literally an explosion on the cover.

I watched the trailers for the top five highest grossing films of 2012 and counted the number of explosions in them. My findings were explosive.

The Avengers: 19 explosions

Dark Knight Rises: 12 explosions

Hunger Games: 1 explosion… Sort of. The logo bursts into flames. This proves nothing.

Skyfall: 6 explosions

The Hobbit: 1 explosion, BUT! they had plenty of ancient equivalents to explosions, like rocks crumbling and hitting other rocks, and fire. Lots of fire.

So it’s clear. Men are willing to pay top dollar to see stuff explode. Some directors even make a living out of exploiting this fact.

Case and point. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, had 283 explosions! This video on youtube has almost 12 million views.

I call this the Profitable Explosion Principle.

Reddit user MikeDane drew up this graph on imgur. Using advanced mathematics, it proves conclusively my theory correlating profitability to explosions (also that M. Night Shyamalan is terrible and after what he did to The Last Airbender he should never be allowed near any filming equipment ever again).

Utterly disgreased!
Utterly disgreased!

To me, the answer is simple. We all want better video games. We want games that are deep and meaningful and enrich our lives. For too long have these types of games been considered “risky” or “not profitable”. All we need to do to make these artistic games saleable is to periodically make something in the game explode. So simple. It was staring us in the face this whole time.