Some Thoughts About the Oscars

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I realize that I already posted a pretty long rant about the Oscars in response to an earlier post about the messed-up nominations, but now that almost a month has passed and I’ve calmed down a bit, I thought I would examine then again (and then throw in my predictions for who will win this Saturday.)

I think everyone knows that the Oscars aren’t really that important, insofar as they’re just another way for Hollywood to congratulate itself on how awesome it is. Yet, every year, I obsess about who might win and spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting my predictions, which are inevitably wrong in all but the most obvious categories. This year, though, I just don’t care as much, and I have a theory as to why that is: in the face of overwhelming public pressure and opinion regarding 1) The Dark Knight and 2) WALL-E, the Academy ignored both of them and picked, for the most part, the same old Oscar-bait movies. You know the Oscars aren’t that relevant when The Curious Case of Benjamin Button picks up a Best Picture nom just because it was “supposed” to, (that’s the only reason I can think of for its thirteen nominations) and other, unprecedented film achievements like The Dark Knight and WALL-E are practically absent from any of the major nominations.

This is weird to me, because last year the Oscars did such a good job of going beyond both typical Oscar movies and public opinion, and I wonder what brought about this year’s reversal. Consider: last year’s top-grossing movies were Spider-Man 3, Shrek 3, Pirates 3, and Transformers. Blatant Oscar bait like American Gangster and Charlie Wilson’s War was, for the most part, overlooked. Instead, we got to see movies like No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, and Atonement (kind of Oscar bait-y but still good) acknowledged–I’m pretending that Michael Clayton wasn’t nominated for anything. But this year–well, what happened? Benjamin Button, The Reader, Frost/Nixon, all movies that might as well be titled “Give me an Oscar” but aren’t all that good (although Frost/Nixon was very entertaining) dominate the major categories. The acting races are all fairly predictable, and the only genuinely eclectic category is Best Original Screenplay. I can’t give an explanation for this, but I do know that if the Academy can’t get its shit together and move with the times, they risk becoming truly irrelevant, to the point where no one, and I mean no one, cares, which I hope doesn’t happen.

There is some hope, mainly in the fact that Slumdog Millionaire is the favorite for Best Picture and Director. It’s an example of the Academy taking notice of a public reaction to a movie that is truly original, engrossing, and extraordinary, and deciding to acknowledge it as the year’s greatest achievement in film (obviously I’m a bit biased here.) Richard Jenkins’ and Melissa Leo’s nominations also give me hope that the Academy can rebound from its inexplicable adoration of the The Reader and Benjamin Button. We’ve come a long way from the days of movies like Titanic and Forrest Gump winning Best Picture instead of, say, L.A. Confidential or Pulp Fiction, and I suppose only next year will tell if the Academy can keep its credibility.

On a semi-related sidenote, my personal Oscar predictions, reasoning and deduction and whatever aside:

Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actress: Kate Winslet
Best Actor and Original Screenplay: Milk
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (I have a not-so-secret theory that Penélope Cruz only got a nomination because she made out with Scarlet Johansson.)

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8 responses to “Some Thoughts About the Oscars

  • evan

    while i wouldn’t give benjamin button a bp nod, i don’t think it’s any surprise that it got 13 nominations. it really is this years tech giant. the effects and makeup were pretty amazing, and i think david fincher definitely deserves some recognition. it is funny though that while it’s nominated in virtually every category, cate blanchett somehow got left out (i thought she was better than pitt and taraji p. henson).

    as far as the acting categories though, with the exception of supporting actor they’re far from predictable. much less so than director/picture anyways (slumdog’s a lock). for best actor it’s pretty much a toss-up between rourke and penn (i’m going for rourke), and it’s anybody’s guess for supporting actress, but i’m putting my money on cruz. i agree with you on winslet, but i’m crossing my fingers for melissa leo (long shot, i know) or even streep.

    it really is a shame that dark knight got left out of the major categories, but i think wall-e did pretty good with the nominations. yeah it didn’t get any major categories, but it was really only eligible for best director. i’d be upset about it not getting a bp nod, but with that awful animated feature category it really didn’t have a chance. and obviously it couldn’t get any acting nominations. so considering that, i’d say 6 noms is pretty good (plus isn’t that the most for any nominated film ever? or did ratatouille get 6 also?)

  • evan

    bah, at the end there i meant “animated film ever” not “nominated film ever.”

  • sdennison

    I pretty much agree with you on Benjamin Button–I suppose that I was mainly thinking of Picture, Screenplay, and the two acting nominations that it received, none of which it deserved. Cate Blanchett was easily the best performer in that movie, and I kind of wish she had gotten Angelina Jolie’s spot in the Actress category.

    As far as the acting categories, I still think that Actress, at least, is a foregone conclusion, if not Actor. And of course Supporting Actress is the most interesting and not at all predictable–I really hope that Viola Davis pulls an upset, since she gave the best performance of all of the nominees, and it was in a twelve-minute scene. I have yet to see Frozen River (I’m watching it tomorrow) or Rachel Getting Married, but I’d still say Winslet deserves the Oscar for her performance, even if the movie was so-so. The Best Animated Picture category is also a load of crap, since Pixar has consistently released the best-reviewed movies (minus cars) of the past several years. It is nice to see Wall-E getting recognized, though, and to see animated movies getting screenplay nods.

  • Mello D

    Evan…

    First, I don’t know all the nominees and I probably haven’t seen all the films nominated. But I disagree with your theory about Penelope Cruz’s nomination being based purely on the fact she had a very compelling and passionate kiss with the lovely Scarlett Johansson. I saw “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and Cruz was the only character in the movie who was funny, fierce, and believable. She was the only thing in that movie that made it enjoyable. I honestly think this was one of the worst Woody Allen films ever(and he has made some awesome movies-the older ones you know when they were funny), and miss Cruz made up for it.

  • bob

    I am so behind on Oscar films.

  • evan

    so yeah, daniel (mellow d), i didn’t post this, i just commented on it. i thought cruz was great.

    dennison- yeah i agree that jolie should have been exchanged for blanchett or even kristin scott thomas or sally hawkins. i think brangelina got pretty lucky this year.

  • sdennison

    I’ll admit my original judgment of Cruz might be a little harsh–she was the only enjoyable thing in a decidedly mediocre movie. I still think, though, that Davis deserves the win–seriously, her scene should be used in acting classes. 538’s prediction of Taraji P. Henson for supporting actress only makes this category more interesting, although if Henson does win I might turn off the TV. Plus I’m starting to regret picking Penn over Rourke, though if I’ve learned anything in the past it’s that there’s no way in hell to predict all of the Oscar winners based on logic.

    On a sidenote, I watched Frozen River last night, and holy shit–what an amazing movie. By far one of the best I’ve seen, and I’m so glad that both Melissa Leo and Courtney Hunt were recognized (that screenplay was stunning.) And yeah, I wanted a nomination for Sally Hawkins…oh well.

  • evan

    yeah frozen river was great! i really hope melissa leo pulls an upset.

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