It’s rare to read a genuinely thoughtful and nuanced analysis of our collective love/hate relationship with the Academy Awards, since so much of what is written about the Oscars is basically carping and naysaying (guilty as charged). “Oscar cynicism has become its own special form of Oscar hype,” wrote A.O. Scott, in last Sunday’s New York Times, “and I wonder sometimes if the whole thing — the nominating process, the heavily publicized tweaks in the rules, the dreary broadcast and the endless drudgery of the ‘season’ — is exasperating on purpose. The louder we criticize, the more we must care.”
But, Scott continues, “I think that underneath all the empty pomp and hyperventilating coverage there is something worth caring about. Yes, the Academy often recognizes mediocrity and overlooks excellence. Yes, the documentary and foreign language film categories are hobbled by ridiculous rules that seem designed to exclude some of the best work… Yes, the show goes on too long, with too many bad jokes and not enough moments of genuine emotion or surprise. Yes, Hollywood is a swamp of vanity, myopia and bad taste. But it is also a community of hard-working and talented people who approach this annual ritual of self-congratulation with a sincere spirit of respect for the labor of others and reverence for the traditions that bring them together.”
Mr. Scott is right (about that, anyway — he then proceeds to defend Billy Crystal, which is unconscionable). There are plenty of complaints to be made about this year’s nominees (and we’ve certainly made them), but there is nonetheless something exciting about the whole Oscar thing, about the ranking and predicting, the flurry to see the films, and the ceremony itself (Crystal or no). So yes, the exclusions continue to rankle — there’s no bigger Drive fan than this one, you guys — and the inclusions are befuddling — not to continue to beat a dead horse, ha ha, but seriously with the Best Score nomination for War Horse? — these are the nominees we’ve got, and this is the show we’re gonna get, and we’re going to watch it, and enjoy it, and, yes, even live-blog it. Until then, we’ve put together both our picks for the best film in each of the major categories (“major categories” being chosen by the highly scientific method of “the ones we felt like writing about”), and our prediction for what actually will win. They’re all after the jump; check ‘em out, and add yours in the comments.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
PICK: Hugo. As we mentioned earlier this week, much of what The Artist does well, Hugo does better, though without the (admittedly well-executed) novelty of its silent film construction.
PREDICTION: The Artist will win, though, and it’s not an injustice or anything; it’s an utterly charming (if somewhat thin) evocation of the silent cinema, with surefire appeal to the Academy’s very, very old voting bloc. The Help could stage an upset (and if Viola Davis wins Best Actress, that will become more likely), but for now, The Artist is the safe bet.