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.)