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Hindsight is 2020: In Defense of the Best Picture Nominations…

It’s a strange position to be in, to mount a radical argument that the Best Picture race is actually fairly solid this year.

To be fair, there are legitimate grievances to be had. The Academy went with old favourites in several of the acting categories, overlooking amazing work. The Best Actress category would be stronger if the voters opted for Lupita Nyong’o for Us over than Charlize Theron for Bombshell. The Best Supporting Actress race would have been more interesting had Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell been replaced by Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers. The all-male Best Director category is also frustrating, considering the fine work done by directors like Olivia Wilde, Lulu Wang, Céline Sciamma, Lorene Scafaria, and more over the past year.

However, there is also something inevitable about the tone of the debate over the Best Picture race. The Academy Awards is never going to actually please everybody. There are several hundred films released every year that meet the criteria for eligibility. Taste is inherently subjective. Everybody likes different things. More than that, the Academy is a large body comprised of a variety of different voices, especially after recent diversity pushes to modernise the membership. Even if there was a list of (up to) ten films that would satisfy everybody, the Academy would never be the body to produce it. And that is okay.

Instead, the Best Picture nominees this year offer a snapshot of cinema as it was in 2019. They offer a glimpse of the breadth and the depth of mainstream movie-watching, a list of nine very distinct films that offer nine very distinct perspectives on where the medium is and where it might be going. The beauty of the Best Picture nominees this year is that there’s something for everyone, but nobody gets everything. This seems fair, even if the impulse is to want an entire slate that reflects personal taste.

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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...

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Should There Be a Distinction Between The Best Picture and the Best Director Oscar?

Ignoring the fact that, in practice, the Best Director Oscar simply exists to be a “runner-up” award in a really tight Best Picture race (like with Crash and Brokeback Mountain), with there being a huge overlap between the winners in both categories, I have been thinking a bit recently about whether there should be a more practical distinction between the two. Perhaps we should divorce the two awards, and decouple them in public consciousness. Of course, this is a purely academic argument (as the Academy voters will continue to associate them), but is the link between the two yet another indication of Hollywood’s director-centric culture?

Is it two for one?

 

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Has the Email Controversy Hurt The Hurt Locker’s Chances?

Well, balloting is official closed. The deadline has passed and, by the time you read this, counting will more than likely be under way. It’s been an interesting Oscar season, and – since this is my last post before the ceremony – I should probably make some sort of generic observation about the competition. In truth, the acting races seem to have been sewn up since before nominations were even announced, but it looks like there’s a genuine race on for the Best Picture Oscar. In the interest of objective journalism (okay, blogging), I should concede that I have a €10 bet with my brother on the race. He expects Avatar to win because (and I quote) “it looks awesome”. I was backing The Hurt Locker, but part of me wonders if the anti-Avatar fiasco means that I should just give him the tenner now and be done.

Chartier attempts to defuse the situation...

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Could Avatar Flip The ‘Populist Oscar’ Debate?

With the Golden Globe firmly in hand, James Cameron’s double victory at the Golden Globes cemented Avatar as a serious contender for the Best Picture Oscar. Not that there was ever really much doubt about the film receiving a nomination: the Academy loves Cameron. It still just seems a surprise in a race that has generally seen debate over Precious, Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker, with a fringe advocating Inglourious Basterds. Still, give the people what they want, right? An Oscar win for Avatar clearly indicates that the Academy is moving back to embrace popular tastes, right? I’m not so convinced.

Yes, that's James Cameron biting his lips to stop himself from reminding you how awesome he is...

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More Thoughts on the Best Picture/Best Director Voting Divergence

I read an interesting article over at The LA Times which suggested that we may be able to spot how radically the new voting rules have changed the way that the Academy awards people and films.

Going for gold...

Going for gold...

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Awards Season Forecast…

It’s summer time! That means blockbusters, comic book movies! It’s comic con time! That means more blockbuster and more comic book movie gossip! It seems that everything from the Tron viral campaign to the impending release of the Alice in Wonderland teaser is generating a lot of buzz. And quite right, too. We do live in the era of the geek. However, once we get into autumn proper, there are more prestigious films approaching. Looks like the studios are sticking to the tried-and-true “cram as many Oscar contenders as you can into the least amount of time” method, and there’s a huge schlock of films coming out. Here are just some of the main ones I’m looking forward to during awards season.

Starring Morgan Freeman? Check. Directed by Clint Eastwood? Check. Story of an iconic figure? Check. Story of triumph over adversity/prejudice? Check. Set in the past? Check. Oscar Gold? Check.

Starring Morgan Freeman? Check. Directed by Clint Eastwood? Check. Story of an iconic figure? Check. Story of triumph over adversity/prejudice? Check. Set in the past? Check. Oscar Gold? Check.

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Looking Back at This Year’s Best Picture Race

I’ve finally gotten to see all the five Best Picture nominees for the 81st Academy Awards. I’m honestly disappointed it took me so long, but that’s what happens when a flood of prestige movies hit the cinemas over three weeks in January and the Academy doesn’t even pick the good ones. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the contenders, in retrospect. The previous year’s awards featured a fantastic line-up – Juno, No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood – that hit just about every demographic and represented the awards at their best. This year, we got a closed shop.

The statuettes are actually quite creepy when you get to looking at them...

The statuettes are actually quite creepy when you get to looking at them...

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Welcome to the Academy!

Wow.

The Academy might actually be serious about changing things. I was indifferent about the expansion of the Best Picture category, and a bit miffed about the demotion of the Honorary Awards to an event outside the regular show, but today’s list of new members of the Academy gives me a little cause for hope. These are the people who will vote on the nominees in coming years and I’m actually surprised: I recognise most of the names. Don’t get me wrong, these are only 134 new members in an organisation of 5000. This announcement by itself won’t move the Oscars back to the centre of popular culture where they belong, but – if the Academy can stick to its guns on this one – it may prove a better way of incorporating mainstream tastes than simply doubling the size of the Academy’s net.

Marlon Brando with his trophy... and his Oscar...

Marlon Brando with his trophy... and his Oscar...

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Academy to Cut Honorary Awards from Telecast…

I’m going to give the expansion of the Best Picture category the benefit of the doubt and I don’t really care about the Original Song rules, to be completely honest, but I am a little ticked off at the announcement that the Honorary Oscars are being shunted back stage. Talk about completely missing the point – the Academy doesn’t seem to get that most viewers aren’t clamoring for that extra High School Musical song so badly that they’re shunt off someone who has made such a massive contribution to popular culture as to warrant the Honorary Award. I just don’t get this decision.

We want the Academy to take its hat off to Charlie Chaplin...

We want the Academy to take its hat off to Charlie Chaplin...

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