But when has the Academy ever really gotten it right? Or perhaps a better question is, whose "right" are we talking about? Each year I'm amazed at how worked up everyone seems to get over the Oscar race. Either people feel vindicated when the movie they championed made the cut, or disgusted when it didn't. Maybe they think the selections are overly commercial, or they're complaining that they're too arty for a mass audience. Perhaps they blame the Academy members, calling them a bunch of old fogies. Or maybe they're saying that the voting population is packed with left wing nuts who hold political grudges against films or filmmakers.
Every year these arguments get trotted out, whipped into a frenzy in the weeks leading up to the star-studded night, then slowly seep away like a malfunctioning whoopee cushion as everyone shifts their focus to what really matters -- how boring/funny/long/controversial the awards broadcast was.
I can understand all the hoopla and hysteria over a campaign that had to do with something that actually affected our lives -- like, you know, an election. Even if the democratic process is starting to seem like donor-backed political theater, it's still a process that, in the end, each and every eligible citizen can participate in.
But the Oscars? It's all hot air. It's movie studios spending months and millions ramping up their lobbying efforts to convince an exclusive group of individuals to support their candidate. Sometimes really amazing work is rewarded with a statue, and all the glory and money that comes with it. Just as often, a hack gets the gold. Again, it depends on who's talking and, when it comes to the Oscars, it isn't the moviegoer that anyone's listening to. More often than not, it's the Weinsteins.
The best spin I can put on it is that it's horse race political coverage with no real consequence. In politics, all that breathless minute-by-minute reporting tends to distract and detach the voting public from what's happening in the larger context -- stuff that actually effects their lives. But with the Academy Awards we can root and hoot, complain and caterwaul, ogle designer gowns and celebrity dates, all without undermining our own democracy. I guess that's what you call entertainment!
So what do I think of the nominations. Well, first of all I'm happy to say I interviewed
- Passing on Bigelow was an overstated and unjustified slap in the face.
- Passing on Affleck, petty.
- Love that "Amour" got so much love. Same for "Silver Linings Playbook."
- A bit baffled that "Django Unchained" made it to Best Picture, but pleased Christoph Waltz did too.
- I was sure Joaquin Phoenix would be ignored since he's so bitter about Oscar campaigning, but thrilled he wasn't because he was amazing in "The Master."
- Disappointing that Jean-Louis Trintignant wasn't recognized for his amazing work carrying the other half of "Amour's" heavy load, but Emmanuelle Rivas' recognition is a delight.
- Nice to see "Searching for Sugarman" on the documentary list (I neglected to mention it in my cheat of a Top 10 - plus 12 more - list). Equally pleased that the overhyped, accidental commentary on the most vulgar of American consumerism, "Queen of Versailles," was left off.
If I make it through the campaign season, I'll give you my predictions when we get a little closer to the big night. In the meantime, don't you have some movie catch-up to do?