Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Oscars: The Great White Hopes

The State of the Union Hollywood was this morning, and it's pretty clear how Hollywood wants to think of itself this year, based on total nods alone: The King's Speech got 12 nominations, True Grit got 10, and The Social Network got 8. And yeah, nominations don't always translate into statues, but it's not the potential winners that I'm pondering here, it's the marketing. Neither movie with the most nominations is based on current events, unlike The Social Network, which, compared those two, is more like an HBO movie that got released to theatres than a "film." The British Movie has two things going for it: it takes place 75 years ago, which is about the average age of the Academy voter, and it's intelligent without actually being smart, which is how Hollywood defines clever. The Remake Western has two things going for it as well: it's a remake, which means it strokes Hollywood's business-based ego as a supplier of product rather than a creator of originality, and it has that Independent Outsider Vibe, aka it's a Coen Brothers Film, something which actually used to be outside the mainstream once but can now be found in that insider room down the hall. So, based on nomination totals, these two are the pre-emptive heavy-hitters which Hollywood is angling to see square off against each other in the ring, for exactly the same reason as NBA officials always try to make sure that LA and Boston get into the Finals: it's a better story.

So what does the entire Best Movie field say about the state of Hollywood? Well, to my mind, the 10 Best Picture nominees are clearly divisible into two separate groups:

1. Best Picture For Reals: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King's Speech, The Social Network and True Grit. It's no accident that these five represent the five Best Director nominations. These are the heavy-hitters, the ones to beat. And what are they? A soft-core torture-porn version of The Red Shoes, this year's Holiday Sports Movie, this year's must-see Snob Hit, The Movie The Kids All Watched, and a xeroxed Western. Which are my admittedly snarky descriptions. So how will Oscar describe them? In the same order, A Young Girl's Struggle With Her Inner Demons, An Aging Young Man's Struggle To Compete, A Duke's Struggle To String Two Words Together Without Choking, A Young Asshole's Struggle To Change The World, and A Young Girl's Struggle To Catch Her Father's Killer Without Ever Once Speaking A Contraction.

MY FRIEND AMANDA: Still snarky there, pal.
ME: Sorry, can't help it.

2. Best Picture Nominees Who Are The Filmic Equivalent Of A Plus One: Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3, and Winter's Bone. And I use the plus-one comparison deliberately. These movies are the arm candy that make you look good, but none of them have a chance in hell of winning anything. Toy Story 3, for instance, which is one of the two actual best movies this year, is also nominated as Best Animated Feature, so cross that one off the list. Winter's Bone, this year's live-action best movie, was directed by a woman, and since Kathryn Bigelow's victory last year means there'll be a good five years of women directors being happy just to be nominated, that takes care of both Winter's Bone and The Kids Are All Right,which was also directed by a woman. Inception is on the list because it made a ton of money, but it was actually very smart, not just Hollywood smart, so Christopher Nolan will be punished for not talking down to those 75-year-olds by having to settle for making a ton of awardless money. And 127 Hours? Really? Come on--we all know Hollywood would cut off its arm rather than give this movie an Oscar.

As for the acting awards, in each category but one there is at least one actor who's won a previous award. (The exception is Best Supporting Actress, which means that somebody in that group is going to win an Oscar for the first time. My guess? We'll get to predictions later.) The award-winning thesps include Kidman, Bridges, and Rush, and to continue that fighter image, the ringside match-ups are Bridges vs Firth, Rush vs Bale, and (yes folks, I'm going there) a three-way in the Best Actress category, with Kidman vs Bening vs Portman.

Overall impressions?

1. God, what a lean year for good movies.
2. I see white people.
3. 127 Hours? Really?


Horvendile said...

4. And what's the under on a Best Actress five-way?

amanda said...

still snarky there, pal.