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Oscar Fatigue and the Pain of a Predictable Race…

You know what? At this stage I’ve seen nine of the ten Best Picture nominees this year, and I’m quite happy. There isn’t a stinker amongst them, and all I’m short is 127 Hours (maybe this weekend, before the ceremony). And yet, despite being happier with the field than I have been in quite a while, I have to admit I’ve grown somewhat tired of the Oscars this year. Usually there’s some element of surprise, but everything this year seems so sown up that there’s really no energy left in the race. One need only look at the overwhelming consensus at Awards Daily to get a feeling for how stale the race is. Admittedly there’s generally a frontrunner or two, but this year it seems that most of the major awards might as well be handed out before the ceremony begins (just to make things more efficient).

You'd have to be trapped under a rock not to see the way this race is going...

I know that The King’s Speech replacing The Social Network as Oscar frontrunner sometime in mid- to late-December perhaps represents an upset. After all, we all thought that Fincher’s drama had the big awards all sewn up. However, since January, it’s been “all The King’s Speech, all the time”, as the film seems to be picking up awards left, right and centre. When, by some fluke, The Social Network picked up the “Golden Eddie” at the ACE awards this weekend, it was a bigger headline that the British film didn’t win than Fincher’s drama did pick up the prize.

Pundits have since been racing to make claims about “ever-shifting momentum” or to remind us that “over the past five years, the Eddie, Oscar for Editing and Oscar for Best Picture have matched each year except in 2007” – both reasonably valid points, but it seems as if the writers are searching frantically for some sort of headline that will generate excitement or controversy. However, my own cynical heart tells me that it’s all pretty much assured.

Colin Firth is certain to win the Oscar as George was the throne...

Last year, myself and the brother had a €10 bet on the Best Picture Oscar. He reckoned Avatar would shade it, but I thought The Hurt Locker would take home the prize. I was sweating bullets down to the moment Kathryn Bigelow took home the Best Director Oscar – at which point I knew I had it. This year, he wouldn’t make a bet with me – it’s too safe a race for there to be any real chance of a dramatic upset.

And, to be honest, that saps the life out of the race. I mean, ideally, the race would be packed with genuine competitors who are all vying for the award, but I’m realistic to know that there are generally only two or three really competing. Being honest, the only major upset I could call would be the potential (and highly unlikely) win of David Fincher in the Best Director category, with The King’s Speech of course taking home the major prize.

"This is our time..." Errr, maybe you spoke too soon...

As I said, the chances are downright remote, but the past two times a director has gone home without the bigger prize (with Ang Lee in 2005 and Roman Polanski in 2002), it was a more upstart and inexperienced director behind a typical “Oscar bait” film who took the Best Picture Award. When Crash took the Best Picture award in 2005, director Paul Haggis only had one previous nomination (for writing Million Dollar Baby the previous year), while Ang Lee was an establish commodity.  When Chicago took the same award in 2002, it also gave director Rob Marshall his first and only Best Director nomination. Fincher is an established director, while Tom Hooper’s highest profile release before this was The Damned United.

Of course, last year the Academy gave the Best Director Oscar to the woman responsible for Point Break on her first nomination, so what do I know? That’s why it’s a long shot – but it’s worth keeping in mind that Bigelow’s closest competitor, her ex-husband, had already been showered with Oscars for Titanic not too many years before. Either way, Best Director is the only category where I see the potential for upset (although the equally remote possibility of Inception winning Best Original Screenplay also appeals to me).

Going for gold...

And there I go, I suppose. Trying to generate some impossible hint of controversy in order to have something to talk about. I guess I kinda proved my own point. By the way, stay tuned tomorrow for more Oscar-related hi-jinx.

9 Responses

  1. To be honest, I’ve definitely moved beyond getting too worked up about the Oscar. Sure it’s fun, but it ultimately doesn’t matter.

    That being said, I’m rooting against The Social Network purely out of spite. The idea of the critics gloating about TSN winning either Best Picture or Best Director would be just unbearable. And I even kind of liked TSN

    • You’re rooting against The Social Network because it feels presumptive? The King’s Speech is a very good film, but it almost looks like it was designed to win Oscars rather than to be an entertaining film. I’d argue that The Social network is a much better film, and a slightly (admittedly only slightly) less cynical awards grab.

  2. You need to see it for sure. I would actually rate it above “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” and “True Grit” – all of which I enjoyed immensely.

  3. I’m surprised your brother was willing to bet on Avatar but not bet this year. I think that by any metric, The Hurt Locker was exceedingly more likely to win than The King’s Speech is. In a statistical model I put together for my site, The Hurt Locker had an 88% chance at winning. The best odds it has ever given The King’s Speech (and this is when I really stack the model in favor of it) is a 65% chance, and an unbiased estimate favors The Social Network.

    • Thanks, I’ll check it out. I think the consensus is much stronger this year though. It seems more like a collective mind than in previous years.

  4. I haven’t seen the King’s Speech, but I kind of hate it on principle. In so many ways.

    • I enjoyed it. It’s not the best (don’t expect it on next year’s top ten), but it’s well made, well acted and very entertaining. However, it’s just a beast that seems to have been genetically designed to win awards, like an evolution spurred on by awards seasons.

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