Oscar Rant

I’m watching the Oscars for now, but I’m just not that invested.

When it was announced several years ago that the Best Picture category would be expanded, I was cautiously optimistic that this would provide an opportunity for smaller, more original pictures to earn a nomination and have a chance at a bigger audience.

And, it sort of worked.  Two years ago I was thrilled that The Hurt Locker topped Avatar.  Last year, I was pulling for Winter’s Bone.  Earning the nomination was a prize in and of itself.

This year, I don’t care much which picture wins.

Okay, maybe I should pull for Hugo because of the movie connections and the craftsmanship of the film.

But, what about the others?  Here’s an alphabetical rundown:

The Artist – cute but overhyped and over-rated.

The Descendants:  Not Alexander Payne’s best work.  Polished but pretty forgettable.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close:  This is better than most of the other nominees and has some original elements.

The Help:  Despite the controversy, this is a classically well-made Hollywood film that delivers some emotionally powerful moments.

I’ve already conceded that Hugo belongs on the list.

Midnight in Paris:  Sure, it’s the best film Woody Allen has made in years, but it’s really a bit modest at its core.  Besides, I’ve never cared that much for Allen’s forays into the metaphysical.

Moneyball:  Another somewhat forgettable film.  Margin Call is infinitely more complex and formally accomplished and should have been on the list instead.

The Tree of Life:  This film contains some of the most beautiful and perfect moments I’ve ever seen in a film, but it doesn’t hold up for me as a complete work.

And, finally, War Horse:  It’s terrible.  I resent the space that War Horse is taking up among the nominees.

Overall, The Best Picture category makes me want to yawn.   Most of the categories have a similar effect on me this year, though a few are better than others.

Take Actress in a Leading Role, for example, which seems the strongest overall category this year.

All of the nominees are terrific, but one of them knocked out Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin.  She is remarkable.  I’m not sure which of the other nominees I would ditch to make a place for her because they’re all strong.  I don’t have a firm favorite…I just like to gripe that Tilda Swinton doesn’t have a nomination.

Despite the ennui I feel about the Oscars, I don’t think this was a particularly blah year at the movies.  2011 was at least average.  I saw a lot of films and enjoyed many of them, but for some reason it does seem to be a particularly blah year for Oscar nominations.

Maybe voting members were playing it safe.  Of course, when your industry is losing money from the previous year, I think the last thing you should do is play it safe.

There has always been a terrific tension in the American film industry between art and commerce.  Maybe I need to remind myself that the Oscars have always been an evening to dress up and celebrate commerce under the guise of art and social conscience.

The evening is, as it always has been, a bit of a masquerade.



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