The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
The expansion of the category has had some impact on the talk around the Oscars, mostly negative. It would appear that you could easily eliminate five films from the top category as being also-rans, if still good films. Where last year it would have served mostly just to allow The Dark Knight its nomination and sate the anger of so many over-hyped fanboys/girls, this year it felt as though the Academy was just reaching further to grab films from all corners, as if to indicate that they are not scared of honouring ‘popular’ films. The fact that they have never really done this and the actual small films almost always get screwed, that was left to the side of the discussion.
You can read a full list of nominations here, but I thought it best just to note a few little aberrations and nice surprises which the Academy threw our way this year.
- The Blind Side for Best Picture – I don’t know how, why or for what reason this has happened, but awards boards and ceremonies are becoming increasingly too interested in rewarding the most popular rather than the quanitifiably ‘best’ films of the year. How this syrup-fest slice of mawkish shit has managed to score a few nods, I really don’t know. This nomination does give hope however to all those Hallmark/Lifetime movies about retarded children in inner-city schools or single mothers dealing with cancer that they could one day make the leap up.
- District 9 for Best Picture – Rewarding a film which was not only popular, but broke all the present rules of blockbuster filmmaking – intelligent plotting, no on wearing catsuits and made on a budget which didn’t allow egomaniacal directorial masturbation. Blomkamp strikes on for all the people out there convinced that summers can be better.
- Lee Daniels, Best Director for Precious – Not that Precious isn’t specifically well-directed, but there seems a much better argument to have Neill Blomkamp in there for District 9 given his handling of his material. Some of the decisions in Precious make the film play a little flat, which means that some of what should be the most powerful scenes lose much of their intended force.
- Penelope Cruz for Nine – Yes, she is the only person that comes out of the film with real dignity left intact. No, this does not mean she should be rewarded over Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds. Julianne Moore in A Single Man and Rosamund Pike in An Education would also have been more deserving.
- No Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – A film which not only should have been given a nod in the expanded animation category, but also for its sparkling script. Probably one which many Academy members failed to see on the same terms as a film like Up which, my opinion only, it is just as successful as.
- An Education for Best Adapted Screenplay – The characterisations are not what made An Education a decent film. That is a movie saved from flat direction and a weak script by great acting, so the script getting a nomination, over the wonder that is Where the Wild Things Are, is a travesty.
- In the Loop for Best Adapted Screenplay – A fantastic, completely deserved nomination for a film which has some great performances but, like The Thick of It, is driven by the foul-mouthed poetry of the script.
- Avatar nine, but no script – Avatar gets nine nominations in all the right places. Undoubtedly a breathtaking cinema experience, I’ll allow its Best Picture nod. But the Academy had the sense only to reward Cameron’s direction in the upper categories, meaning that it rightly competes to take home, deservedly, every technical nod it can be given.
- Nine for Hurt Locker, Eight for Inglourious Basterds – I’ve had a short-term turnaround in Inglourious Basterds, a film I didn’t enjoy in first watch, liked more on second and now fucking love. Eight nods is right. The Hurt Locker, the only film from the past year considered for my Best of Decade list, is a deserved recipient of nine nominations, with the script and Bigelow’s direction the most likely places for it to be triumphant.
It would seem to me that the awards season should be used to reward the best films, the best performances in terms of the measurable quality of the product put out rather than the popularity of the nominees. The Golden Globes, as if edging, as my podcast colleague Tommy suggested today, towards becoming a glorified version of the MTV Movie Awards, has this year chosen to nearly-exclusively reward the popular choices.
I have no real problem with James Cameron getting best director; Avatar is an incredible achievement from a technical standpoint. But to reward that film, a confused hodgepodge of political allegory, predictable plot and stock characters, the prize for the best picture seems ridiculous. It is a huge milestone for technical filmmaking, but when put into 2D and playing on television screens across the land after its DVD release, the massive problems with the story and characters will become increasingly clear. To suggest other winners could easily be written off as me just griping that my favourite films didn’t win, but I don’t think many could deny that the success of the vision of The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds far, far surpasses that of Avatar as a piece of storytelling.
Outside of that, witness the prize handed to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side, a mawkish TV movie-style sleeper hit, beating the nuanced skill of Carey Mulligan in An Education. Witness The Hangover, winner of Best Musical/Comedy, rewarded for managing to convince an entire audience that it was funny despite having only one good performance and then three douchebags, one terrible cameo and one borderline-racist gangster. It was a weak category, but at least (500) Days of Summer spoke to a sense of truth and actually could fit into being both comedy and musical.
There should be some sense of duty for awards that, rather than pander to bringing in the largest possible audience for the truly pointless televising of the ceremony, they should seek to reward those filmmakers that have made films which, even if they failed to connect with audiences, have something to say beyond ‘see how fucking cool this looks!’
Time to have a little guess again at which films could be nominated for Oscars in a couple of months time, just entirely based on hype and vague attempts to understand the predictable nature of the Academy. So, for debate and conjecture’s stake, enjoy these predictions for the Oscar nominations in 2010, post jump. Continue reading →