The Academy Awards are, for better or worse, the most prestigious motion picture awards in the world today. The reason being is that the nominations come from people in the same field. So actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors, etc.
The nominations for these awards came out Thursday. Here are my initial reactions.
The most obvious snub was Ben Affleck for directing Argo. It was not his best film, but that was mostly due to the shortcomings in the writing. Yet it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and not for Best Director? I don't know why other directors could not see the skill of his work. My guess would be jealousy at the success of Affleck's second act to his career. But I could be wrong.
Kathryn Bigelow was also snubbed. I have not seen Zero Dark Thirty, but when an Academy Member comes out publicly and denounces the movie based on "moral reasons," I don't think the artistic merit of her work was seriously taken into account.
The Dark Knight Rises, the second best film of the year, was completely overlooked by the Academy. The movie does have some flaws, but it was a better film than a number of the ones nominated.
In my last post on the Oscars, I pointed out how last year's show was a complete disappointement because people did not care about any of the movies nominated in any important way. Only one of last year's movies made over $90 million.
This year, the majority of the nominees have made over $90 million. This means that it should generate more interest than last year. But is there a dog in this race? Is there someone to really root for?
People loved Titanic and people loved The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and thus they were excited to see them win.
As of now, Lincoln has made the most money of the nominees, and no one I know has disliked the movie.
But Les Miserables has a strong emotional connection to the people who loved it. One of the reasons I believe it is the best movie of the year is because of how it touches the emotional core so directly. Of all the movies nominated, this one has the most potential for popular support.
Zero Dark Thirty just went into wide release and won the box office this weekend. I'll be curious to see if there is any groundswell for that.
I'll write more about this in specifics later, but here are some thoughts.
-Since Lincoln has the most nominations, that is a good sign of its Oscar changes. It is very respected in a diverse number of fields. I would say that as of now, that is the movie to beat.
-But if the Academy gets into "we are going to tell you what is good" mode, then I would look to Silver Linings Playbook to sweep a number of awards. It is a moderately successful film that is not nearly as good as everyone says it is, but it is the alternative choice this year. It is The Hurt Locker to Lincoln's Avatar.
-If the Academy wants to go for popular support, they will focus on Les Miserables. They have two acting nominations that are strong contenders. But since Tom Hooper was not nominated for Best Director, it's chances of getting Best Picture are not very good.
Seth MacFarlane will be the host. He is witty and sharp, but I don't know if he is more Billy Crystal (humor with a broad base), Whoopi Goldberg (humor directed at only a small portion of the viewing audience), or Ricky Gervais (humor so acid-tongued that it makes this uncomfortable). If he plays this right, he could have a nice consistent gig, since he is talented.
He is also a big song and dance man so I look forward to his attempt to keep the show moving and making it a fun night.
Overall, I think that this Oscar Ceremony will not cary the thrill of 1998 or 2004, but it will be better than the last 8 years.