Monday, January 14, 2008

Thoughts on the upcoming Oscar nominations

I didn't bother watching the Golden Globes last night. It wasn't so much that I was protesting the lack of star presence for the ceremony as I didn't want to subject myself to Billy Bush and company for an hour straight. However, I'm a little more conflicted about the possibility of a canceled or abbreviated Oscar ceremony. On the one hand, I could do without another 4 hours of Bruce Vilanch-penned banter and Chuck Workman montages. Yet I still want the Oscars to be given out this year for one simple reason- I'm almost certain to like the movie that wins Best Picture.

Let me lay it down for you. With all of the major critics and guild awards nominations announced, most of the Oscar prognosticators and handicappers have whittled down this year's possible Best Picture nominees to eight films. They are, in alphabetical order: Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd, and There Will Be Blood. Now, let's look at these films again alongside my ratings for them on 10-point scale:

No Country for Old Men- 10
There Will Be Blood- 9
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly- 8
Michael Clayton- 8
Sweeney Todd- 8
Into the Wild- 7
Atonement- 6
Juno- 6

That's right- I enjoyed every single one of the so-called "serious contenders" for Best Picture, with even the least of the bunch being a "pro" for me. Let me tell you something- this almost never happens. Usually, there's at least one bummer in the bunch that sullies the other nominees by association. There's always at least one Crash or Seabiscuit or Finding Neverland or Little Miss Sunshine or The Hours or Babel or (shall I continue? Oh, why not?) A Beautiful Mind or Chocolat or The Green Mile or Elizabeth to piss me off for having possibly nudged a superior film out of the nominations. But not this year, folks. All of the pre-ordained Oscar-grubbing junk like Charlie Wilson's War and The Kite Runner and *snort* Elizabeth: The Golden Age has more or less been dropped from contention.

How rare is this? Consider that the last Best Picture crop that was, if not necessarily all killer, then at least no bullshit filler was a full decade ago, with the 1997 nominees As Good As It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential and Titanic. No masterpieces in the lot- though L.A. Confidential has its share of moments- but all solid choices.

But what's even better is that two of the serious players in the Best Picture race are better than anything from 1997's memorable class. Better still is that No Country for Old Men, a bona fide masterpiece, is considered to be the front-runner. If you want to find another honest-to-goodness masterpiece that got nominated for Best Picture, you've got to go back to Pulp Fiction.

Now, I realize that the Oscars are a sketchy barometer of quality at best. But consider that much of our investment in awards of this kind has to do with the idea that they can validate our own tastes. Having our favorite films competing for awards gives us something to root for. In other words, it's nice to be able to really root for a movie I love instead of complaining that none of my favorites made the cut the way I do most other years. Now, if only the Short Films branch would nominate Everything Will Be OK, I'd be all kinds of giddy.



sadly and i hate to break this to you...

EVERYTHING WILL BE OK was up last year and they didn't nominate it.

Paul C. said...

*sigh* Disappointing. Oh well. We'll always have Rejected, one of the coolest nominations ever.

James said...

I've had a big Oscar party every year since 2002, with tons of booze and food and even gambling. And somehow the ceremony seems to get worse every year, less entertaining, more nominees that don't deserve it. I think there's a part of me rooting for the ceremony to be cancelled just so I can skip the party (or at least have a different one).