I gave up watching the Oscars a few years back, not because of its politics but because of its excruciating boredom. Football and baseball games keep running over their allotted television time too, the result of packing more and more ad time into game breaks (and crotch-scratching time in baseball by pitchers and catchers), but at least they have a point other than self-congratulation. One might think that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences might try whittling down the number of awards given out at the big bash — they do have another ceremony for most of their technical awards — but instead, they’ve doubled down by expanding the number of nominees in the Best Picture category from five to ten films.
How’s that for listening to your audience? It’s akin to solving the problem of a large, bloated federal government by spending more money and expanding Leviathan exponentially. Which, actually, most of Hollywood thinks is a super-great idea, too.
Unlike some years, I’ve seen quite a few of the nominees, although not all of them. A couple of the nominees are a surprise; District 9? Avatar made a ton of money and wasn’t a bad film, but the Academy already gave a bunch of Oscars out when it was done the first time as Dances with Wolves. The Blind Side is a great, feel-good movie with a surprising jolt of self-reflection, but its true story will be too politically incorrect for a win; it’s lucky to be nominated. Inglorious Basterds was a strange feast of vengeance porn and a weird choice for this list, although it had some excellent performances. Up may be the most emotionally resonant animated film I’ve ever seen, and it has some homages to Spencer Tracy and Kirk Douglas — but it’s still animated, which is a kiss of death.
If I had to pick one from the films I’ve seen, it should be either Up, The Hurt Locker, or Up in the Air. Hurt Locker had some momentum until a few recent comments about how it didn’t reflect precise reality, which is usually SOP for Hollywood. Up in the Air starred George Clooney and was a brilliant but depressing look at social isolation and how it impacts even those who claim to cherish it. It didn’t wimp out and fall for a happy ending, either, which greatly disappointed the friends with whom I saw it, but instead it opted for honesty. I’m rooting for The Hurt Locker (especially since The Stoning of Soraya M didn’t get noticed by Oscar this year), but if Up or Up in the Air win, I’ll be happy. If Avatar wins, I’ll post the South Park takedown of it tomorrow.
Which film do you want to see win? Take the poll. And by the way, The Stoning of Soraya M gets released on Blu-Ray on Tuesday. Mine is already on its way.
Update: Should have been Dances with Wolves, not Dancing. Sorry about that.
Update (AP): Bumping this up top as tonight’s ceremony approaches…