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Countdown to Oscars

Sunday, January 9, 2011
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I have a quick question for the (dwindling number of) people who keep insisting that Academy members will never recognize a film about a group of nerds squabbling over which one of them deserves credit for creating a Web site: a decade ago, would you have believed that they would recognize films about hobbits, a female boxer, gangsters, a serial killer, Indian slumchildren, or the war in Iraq? The reality is that there is no “Oscar-type” of movie anymore. It is no longer good enough to make a movie that simply checks off the boxes of things that pull at the heartstrings of voters — period pieces, costume dramas, Holocaust movies, etc. The Academy has never been younger, hipper, more diverse (in terms of age and race/ethnicity), or more in-tune with critics than they have been over the past decade. Sure, some members are still living in the past and susceptible to pure and simple emotional manipulation — they’re the ones responsible for nominating something like “The Blind Side” (2009) every once in a blue moon — but, at the end of the day, today’s members respond to quality, above all else, no matter what packaging it comes in.

Photo: Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network.” Credit: Columbia.

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  • filmboy88

    amen, my brother….amen.

  • jason

    here here! I think oscarologists will look back on this year, and feel a bit sheepish that they ummed and ahhed about who was going to win for so long!

  • Kenmandu

    The “best movie” is an anachronism in itself. The Golden Globes even some of the also-rans like People’s Choice, etc, acknowledge categories like comedy, horror, romance, etc, and honor, in their modest way, films that hit that target. Comedy has always been grievously over-looked at the Oscars with genius performance like Peter Sellers in “Being There” losing out to Dustin Hoffman in “Kramer vs. Kramer” because people thought that was an “important” film… It’s time to be fair award Oscars in Categories making it more democratic. Bet Animated film was a start. Also the Weinsteins proved that you can out-spend opponents to buy and Oscar. With mediocrities like “English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love” they proved you can buy the bacon and then bring it home.

  • Hassann_x

    Something intriguing about this “best movie” talk–in late 2009 and early 2010 many critics compiled best of the decade lists, and many movies that appeared on them did not in fact win or in some prominent cases even garner nominations. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” performed really well. On many lists, it did better than ALL but 1 or 2 Best Picture nominees from 2000-2009 (53/55 nominations). It did not get one in 2004. “Mulholland Drive” appeared so frequently that one commentator wondered whether it was the consensus choice for “Best Movie of the Decade.” It did not get a Best Picture nod, which is particularly noteworthy in light of what won that year.(http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2010/01/consensus_mulholland_dr_is_la.html )

    Many less prominent but still frequently showing-up films also highlight this: Zodiac, Children of Men, United 93, Far From Heaven.

    I completely endorse the stance that one should not write off the “Social Network”, but the philosophy of “the best film will win now” seems to forget the fate that many of the finest works of cinema from the past decade faced when the Best Picture nominations were announced in their respective year.

    • darklayers

      just to specify, I meant “Eternal Sunshine” did not get a BP nod. I know it won screenplay and Winslet was nominated.