March 4, 2010

#065: The Oscars

The entire film world is gearing up for the Oscars this coming Sunday.  If I want to pretend to be a critic, I should at least pay a little attention to this event.  I have never been big into the Oscars, but it seems this year nobody is.  I have heard some talk about the 10 nominations for best picture, but there hasn't been much other than that.  I think "the public" is still pissed that The Dark Knight got snubbed from the list of nominees last year.  I wasn't as big a fan of the film as most, but I have to admit it was a hell of a lot better than Slumdog Millionaire.  Generally speaking, most people would have to agree that the best picture winner is rarely the film of the year that they liked best.
I am not saying that I have never liked a film that won the award.  I loved No Country For Old Men.  It remains one of the "best" films I have seen over the past few years.  I would disagree that it was one of the most loved films by the general public in 2007. The critics got behind it, and that is one of the major reasons it won.  Then the public went out and rented the film, and liked it because they thought they were supposed to.  Even though I might have agreed in 2007, I can't have any respect for an academy that bestowed its best picture award on such films as Crash or Slumdog Millionaire.

Enough reminiscing about the past.  Let's move on to this year's best picture race.  From looking at the list, I can assure you that the winner this year will be a far better film that the one that won last year.  Top to bottom the 10 nominees this year are all very good.  Granted, I haven't seen them all, but I have heard very positive things.  Expanding to 10 films might make it harder to predict the winner, but I doubt it will complicate things much.  We can probably eliminate the ones that didn't get a nod for best director.  That gets rid of Up, A Serious Man, An Education, District 9, & The Blind Side.  My favorite of those 5 is probably District 9, which I never thought had a chance to win best picture anyway. The 5 remaining films are all strong, but I haven't seen Precious or Up In The Air.  I really doubt Precious will win best picture.  Up In The Air might have been a strong candidate, but its buzz seemed to have fizzled out over the past several weeks.  I don't think it has enough meat to really compete for the prize.  I am still looking forward to its dvd release so I can finally see it.

We are left with 3 films;  Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker.  This is an interesting group because two films represent the polar opposite ends of the spectrum, and one falls right in the middle.  I will quickly review my thoughts on these three films.

Avatar:  If you walk the streets and poll random people about their favorite film, it is almost assured that Avatar would get the majority of the votes.  It has made more money than any other film in history.  So many people have see it, it is hard to ignore its heft coming into the Oscars.  There are also a lot of aspects of the film that may weaken its Oscar hopes. While most agreed it was an enjoyable film to watch, few critics were able to overlook the crappy dialog and unoriginal, shallow story line.  I know nothing about what makes a quality film, and even I could clearly see the corny acting and plot holes.  Avatar has evoked a lot of hatred from a lot of film critics.  People who love this film are not content with other's merely liking it.  To them everybody has to love it, and if you don't love it, then you hate it.  This rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and they actually did start hating it.  Still, I think this is the odds-on favorite to win.  Avatar not winning would be almost as bad as The Dark Knight not getting nominated.

The Hurt Locker: Earlier I mentioned a film can get consideration based on the critics response. This is exactly what I think happened with this film.  Critics have really got behind it, and pushed it to the forefront.  Katherine Bigelow won the Director's Guild award for the film, and its presence has really been growing right up to the Oscars.  Consider this.  The Hurt Locker was released in June.  If you total up all the money it has made up to now, it is still less than what Avatar made in single weekend 2 months after its initial release.  Um, nobody went to see The Hurt Locker.  It came out on dvd a while back, so a lot more people have had the opportunity to watch it now, lending to its growing popularity.  Still, not many people have seen it.  Nobody wants to watch a war movie, no matter how well it is made.  This film has a decent chance to win best picture, but I don't think it can knock Avatar off.  I do think Bigelow will take the oscar for best director.

Inglourious Basterds:  This is the film that splits the middle of the other two films.  It has received tons of praise from the critics, and it did pretty well in the box office.  Not everybody loves this film, but enough people do to make it a competitor.  Probably Tarentino's most accessible film, it has gotten significantly more mass appeal than The Hurt Locker.  It is more artistic, better structured, and a written a shit-ton better than Avatar.  I don't really think Inglourious Basterds will win, but I think it will be closer to the top that what a lot of people would expect.

All of the speculation is just as meaningless as what the award is.  The most telling result would be if Avatar doesn't win.  I think that is the outcome that would generate the most conversation.  Maybe the Oscars can alienate even more people than they did last year, ensuring that nobody will watch in 2011.

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