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How Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Oscars…

This is a bit of a belated reaction to the Oscar nominations announced last Tuesday. Going in, I was pretty much agreed with the general consensus – in fact, the only prediction I really bothered to make was that Christopher Nolan would be snubbed in the Best Director categoryagain. A lot of people were surprised that he was omitted, but I really wasn’t – the Academy has made some cosmetic changes, but there’s still that sense of elitism which excludes the director of “common” blockbusters. Anyway, perhaps it’s because I predicted it, but I’m actually fairly okay with the list of nominees this year. When the one snub is the snub you see coming, there’s really not too much to complain about.

Leo won't be strutting to the Oscars this year...

I think a large portion of the reason I am so okay with the nominees this year is because – generally speaking – they’re very high quality. Granted, the Oscars list and my own top ten don’t synch up (and not just because I live overseas, where half the movies weren’t out last year), but I’m hard pressed to find a truly undeserving nominee. Even amongst the films that I haven’t seen – like Black Swan, True Grit or The Fighter – general consensus is quite good.

It’s very sweet that the Coens are so humbled by their “upset” nomination for Best Director. “We don’t want to take anyone else’s,” they stated, seeming as surprised as anyone about the ten nominations that True Grit received. I wasn’t exactly surprised – I figured the spot would go to Boyle or the Coens before Nolan, simply based on pedigree. And is there anything wrong with that? All three candidates – Nolan, the Coens and Boyle – are amongst the best directors working today, so there’s no shame in nominating them.

Doe The Social Network still have a clear run to the prize?

There isn’t a nominee I’d readily boot out of the category and replace with Nolan, which says something. Sure, if you told me that I could replace one with the director of Inception, I would probably eventually make a decision – but I couldn’t immediately and reflexively boot one out. This isn’t a case like when Nolan was snubbed last time. The Reader and its director had no business in that line-up. Regardless of my own concerns about the content of that film, it simply wasn’t a well-made movie. Had Darren Aronofsky took the place instead for his work on The Wrestler, I might have been less angry – at least it’s a good film.

I think that’s the key to why I’m not upset. There isn’t a horrible film amongst the nominees – at least not that I can find too easily. There isn’t a film as racist as The Blind Side just sitting there, awkwardly. Even the frontrunners in each category seem to genuinely deserve it (both for their work on the films in question and in their careers to date), which means I can’t get too frustrated. I’ll be happy for most of the major winners on the night, even if I would have chosen differently myself.

Maybe the guys with have an Oscar to play with next time... though the nomination is just toying with them...

Don’t get me wrong, the system is still broken. The Academy succeeded at picking five high quality directors and ten high quality films, but that doesn’t mean they picked the best in each of those fields. I still think Nolan deserved a place, even if I’m not unhappy at any particular nominee. The expansion of the Best Picture field to include populist choices that can’t win is still a cosmetic remedy for an underlying problem. Just because this year the system didn’t make a wrong choice doesn’t mean that it made the right one.

But I’m still contented. I’m satisfied. I’m not angry or upset, I’m not baying for blood. I might even watch the show this year, but I still doubt it. Credit where credit’s due, I think the Academy as a whole made better choices this year than it has in quite a number of years. Still, there’s quite a lot left to be fixed – but I’m willing to call this a victory. At least for now.

2 Responses

  1. You put it best, though I’d probably very quickly replace the guy who directed the King’s Speech.

    • Yep. Hooper? Where did he come from? But still, Director isn’t really a nomination for Directing (which ticks me off) – it’s just (now) a way of tiering the Best Picture nominees into two groups (with or without directing nominations).

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