In an ever-repeating and growing trend of disappointing award shows, the recent release of the 2019 Academy Awards nominations offers no reprieve from eye-rolling and face-palming. Toni Collette (Hereditary) was robbed of a Best Actress nom, Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow’s (Annihilation) spine-tingling score was overlooked, and not even a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes could scrap together anything for Paddington 2. But the annual slap-in-the-face, absolute disrespect-filled, bullshit snub continues to be against the 2003 masterpiece, Holes. This is a movie that has stood the test of time as the quintessential comedy-drama/adventure/mystery film of its time… and no one seems to care.
Most people play a little game called “six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” but we like to play a game called “holy crap there are a lot of incredible actors in Holes, lets play six degrees of Holes instead because as cool as Kevin Bacon is, he’s not in Holes so he doesn’t matter.” For those of you who don’t know, here is the cast-list of Holes: Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voigt, Tim Blake Nelson, Patricia Arquette, Shia Labeouf, Eartha Kitt, and Rick Fox. Folks, this group together totals to 2 Academy Awards, 8 Golden Globes, 6 Emmys, 2 Teen Choice Awards, and 3 NBA Championships. Not to mention it also features pop culture legends, Fonzie, and that other guy from Borat. You are kidding yourself if you say this movie isn’t stacked with talent, and yet, it seems the Oscars are just a bunch of fools (we won’t bring up the fact Best-Actress nominee, Melissa McCarthy, is also nominated for TWO Razzies this year for TWO different movies).
In addition to its incredibly neglected casting, Holes features one of the most eclectic soundtracks in all of cinema. You’re given a wide range of musical genres from artists like Moby, Dr. John, and the Grammy-winning song “Just Like You” by contemporary blues legend Keb Mo’. Holes also features different hip-hop flavors, from the Wu-Tang Clan to Shaggy. Of course the pinnacle of rap is achieved in the Walt Disney Records’ original song “Dig It” featuring the D-Tent Boys. Has a harder verse ever been spit than: “A-R-M P-I to the T / What is that you smellin? / Dawg, that’s me / I don’t take showers and I don’t brush my teeth / All I do is dig holes, eat, and sleep?” No, we didn’t think so, and yet once again, the Academy fails to recognize the talent right before their eyes.
At this point, most of you are probably thinking “Byz, the Academy would never nominate a kids’ movie and a film is only eligible for the Oscars for one year.” First of all, fuck you. Jon Voigt didn’t get yeeted off a truck and slapped in the face with rattlesnake venom nail polish for you to call this a kids’ movie. Secondly, there is no written rule saying that a movie cannot be submitted for nomination voting in consecutive and multiple years. A movie only has to meet the minimum requirement of being shown three times a day, for a week, at least once between January 1st and December 31st. Considering we have watched this movie four times a day, every day, for the past 15 years, we’d say it meets the motherhecking requirements. However, in a sign of good faith, we’ll entertain the idea that, perhaps, Holes is not up to snuff year after year, and look at what truly makes a movie Oscar-worthy.
Holes was (first) eligible for the 76th Academy Awards in February 2004. Already, there arises the problem that this was the year The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won 11 Oscars. In film terms, that’s a shit-ton, and has only been accomplished by other movies featuring dudes sinking ships – Ben-Hur and Titanic. Other winners that year were Finding Nemo, Mystic River, and Master and Commander (which is solely about a dude sinking ships). This starts to form an interesting pattern, as now we begin to see the most subconscious of Oscar-bait strategies – sinking aquatic vehicles… and no, it’s not just a coincidence.
Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October was turned into a movie in 1991, and features Alec Baldwin as the first cinematic Jack Ryan. It also features a dude sinking a ship and even won an Oscar for it. Most people would assume Jaws (1975) is about three men hunting a great white, when in actuality it’s more about how the pursuit of self-interest over the safety of all is never a good thing. It’s actually Quint who pushes the engine too far and has it explode, putting a hole into the bottom of the boat. A great movie thriller and the first summer blockbuster? No, just another movie about a dude sinking a boat, and it won… 3 Academy Awards. The Perfect Storm (2000) has a not-so-perfect string of critical reviews (47% on Rotten Tomatoes) yet still garnered 2 Academy Award nominations all because they sank the damn boat at the end. The African Queen (1951) sinks two boats and gets 4 nominations and 1 win. Life of Pi (2012) sinks a big ol’ boi and the Academy just ship-gasmed all over it, handing it 4 wins out of 11 nominations. The German submarine classic, Das Boot (1981), sinks the damn thing once, repairs it good as new, then sinks it again. A double sinkage of the same ship? Nah, it’s a foreign film, the Academy doesn’t care about- IT WAS NOMINATED FOR 6 OSCARS.
One of the most glaring problems in Holes that relates to this bias is that the vast majority of the movie takes place at Camp Green Lake… which is, in fact, a desert. Already we begin to see where Holes falters; it has a severe lack of large bodies of water. This makes it particularly difficult to also include boats, as aquatic vehicles tend to be best put to use in aquatic environments. Those who have seen the movie will, however, remember the frequent flashback scenes that provide narrative context for present situations (my God, this movie is so beautifully layered) that challenge the characters in the present-day timeline. One of these flashbacks features two boats – a rowboat and a mini steamboat, and beautifully contrasts the labor division of a hard-working farmer and silver spoon rich boi. It also makes a subtle commentary on the racial tensions of late-1800s America, in which the rowboating farmer, Sam, is targeted for having relations with the white schoolteacher, Kate. In the pinnacle scene, Sam tries to escape a mob by rowing across Green Lake but is caught by the pursuing steamboat, shot, and killed.
This however is where Holes fails to impress the Academy. Despite interweaving multiple storylines among a tightening plot that incorporates elements from each and does no character a disservice in representing their contribution to the story as a whole, a story that encapsulates the gilded falsehood of the American dream in a desolate wasteland littered with folktale and mystery, a wasteland conquered only by the journey of friendship and self-discovery that may also break a 150-year old curse, a journey that delves deep into our own subconscious excitement of adventure and hate and revenge and glory, despite all of this… they didn’t sink the boat. It just stays there floating, until the lake dries up and there it remains, unable to sink in a sea of sand. This is the ultimate Academy blue-ball moment and the sole logical reasoning behind Holes‘s failure to garner the awards and critical recognition it so deserves.
Holes‘s failure to recognize and execute the hidden secret of Oscar mouthwatering excitement is no criticism of the movie, but a solemn reminder of the twisted state of the film industry. We live in a world where boat-sinking is held to a higher standard than Sigourney Weaver slowly taking off her sunglasses, smiling, and very passive aggressively asking, “excuse me?” If anything is to be learned from this experience, we hope that our readers do not invest too much into the Oscars as a pathway to good films; rather, they should understand the system in which the Academy operates. There are a plethora of incredible movies out there, and while some of them feature sinking boats, some of them do not. Regardless of ship-wrecking content, Holes will remain one of those great films, whether it be in 2003, now, or in another 15 years. In a way, Holes‘s rejection of the film industry’s boat-fetish strangle-hold is indicative of its positive message towards humanity. We are asked to not only stay afloat against all that wish to drag us down, but dig a little deeper within ourselves as well.