Sunday, November 8, 2009
Weekly Rant: The Black Stallion
It’s November, which means it’s time to start forecasting Academy Awards nominations. I’m not happy about it. In general, I could do without box office reports and awards season horserace analysis. Then again, I’d be lying if I suggested that critical hype hasn’t helped steer me to legitimately great films I might have otherwise overlooked while helping me avoid some bombs. Still, I find it all so uninteresting. I’ve long since outgrown the stage of my life when I got worked up over what is and isn’t nominated and awarded each year. Sure, I root for my favorites to win. Sure, every now and then the overhyping of a film will get under my skin. But the Oscars are a marketing exercise, I know. I try to embrace the good and ignore the bad.
That said, a few weeks ago when I got lost in the (occasional) scenic splendor of Where the Wild Things Are, I found myself thinking of another movie about a boy who washes up on an island and bonds with a friendly beast: The Black Stallion. And that got me thinking about what I consider to be one of the biggest Oscar crimes of the past 30 years: The Black Stallion was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1979, but none of them was Best Cinematography.
This defies explanation. It doesn’t matter whether one thinks Best Cinematography is an award recognizing excellence in cinematic storytelling or excellence in pretty filmmaking, because The Black Stallion, shot by Caleb Deschanel, is marvelous by either standard. The winner of Best Cinematography that year was Apocalypse Now, and that’s fair. But the other four nominees were All That Jazz, The Black Hole, Kramer vs. Kramer and 1941. Kramer vs. Kramer for Best Cinematography? Really?
I could hammer out a few hundred words about the magnificence of the cinematography in The Black Stallion, which goes almost entirely without dialogue for its first 45 minutes. But instead why don’t I just show you. What follows are screenshots from the two moments in which Alec (Kelly Reno) and “The Black” bond through feeding. The images alone tell the story here. And isn't that the point?