I love and hate media awards ceremonies like The Grammys and the Emmys.
What are they measuring, really? Whatever is “Best”? Best how? Most commercial? Strongest technically? Most likable?
Voters of the various academies aren’t any more interested in thinking hard about the merits of “Best” than the guy that sat next to you on the bus. They nominate and vote for what they like, and they like what they know.
Does that occasionally highlight the best work in a year or coincide with the zeitgeist? Sure. But one look at the Golden Globes and the Grammys tells us that’s not necessarily the case.
The Oscars are the one set of awards that can still excite me. The one that at least nominates the most worthwhile performances and works, even if some genre fare slips through.
However, equal to that excitement, the Academy Awards also introduce skepticism to my film diet. I love a great many event movies, serious movies, and indie movies, but I have a contentious history with Best Picture nominees. It’s a good year if I like 2/5 of them.
Maybe it’s because I already pre-judge movies pretty harshly – before they get heaped with incongruous praise. If I haven’t seen a movie before it gains steam as an Oscar front-runner I become commensurately more skeptical that it’s actually any good. I enjoy being proven wrong (The Queen, Juno), but more often my prophecy is fulfilled and I’m either ambivalent (Michael Clayton) or I hate the movie (The Wrestler).
In this year’s field of ten (of which I’ve only seen the pair of sci-fi flicks) that movie is The Hurt Locker. It may be great; I haven’t seen it. However, my sneaking suspicion is that it will be a tedious movie about THE REAL WAR (TM).
I guess I’ll see. Eventually.
(Seeing only the sci-fi flicks in cinemas is characteristic, as I hardly ever pay theatre prices to watch talking heads. I can safely say neither were best.)
(Okay, maybe Avatar, but not the heavy-handed, lazy bullshit of District 9. )
What should win? I’ll tell you next year, when I’ve seen most of them.
What might win? If Avatar doesn’t neatly sweep it will be splitting heavily with Hurt Locker, leaving an outside shot for one of the smaller films which isn’t too similar (i.e., District 9 and Up are both splintering Avatar votes just on genre/style).
What am I rooting for? I already know I universally despise Coen Brothers movies, and I could care less about Push, so of the remaining films I suppose I’m pulling for Tarantino, even though I suspect I won’t like his movie very much. I suspect I’ll like An Education the best of them all.
For what it’s worth, this was my take on 2008:
– Benjamin Button, my favorite director and lead actors, but it was shitty, pointless, and overlong.
– Frost/Nixon, a decent documentary that was really a movie.
– Milk, stunning, beautiful.
– The Reader, still avoiding, sounds soul-crushing.
– Winner, Slumdog Millionaire, a middling crowd-pleaser.