Thoughts on award season (plus Oscar predictions)

The Oscars are this weekend. What with life getting in the way, I’m not entirely as excited as I have been in years past. If we’re lucky, we’ll manage to see three of the Best Picture nominees before Sunday night, since The Social Network is supposed to arrive in my mailbox today. I really wanted to see The King’s Speech, but we were never brave enough to either go to the theater and hope our daughter would sleep through the movie, or to hand her over to a babysitter. Alas. In years past, three BP noms out of five wouldn’t have been that bad, but this year there’s ten. Supposedly ten, anyway … there’s really only a few major contenders. The rest are just happy to have been nominated. And that brings me to what I wanted to talk about.

Award season is the time of year when everyone who thinks they know anything about movies kind of becomes really obnoxious. We grumble about who got nominated for what, we grumble more over who didn’t get nominated, and we usually fall into one of two categories: those who sneer at the Academy (and the Screen Actors Guild, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., etc, etc.) for being “too mainstream,” and those who think all of those bodies are out of touch with actual filmgoers. First of all, the truth lies somewhere in between. Second of all, the whole thing is completely and utterly subjective. I don’t care how many people read your blog, your declaration of which movie is the best thing ever and which one sucked is still only your opinion. And the movie that winds up winning is also a matter of opinion … it’s just that the largest number of individuals voting happened to share that opinion. It doesn’t make it a fact. It doesn’t make it the best movie ever. It doesn’t make it a crap movie, either. It’s just what people think.

The other side to this is that it’s all really political. I appreciate if you saw a movie that just totally blew you away, and you think it’s the best piece of film-making you’ve seen this year, and you declare with absolute certainty that it will most definitely win Best Picture at the Oscars. However, if you have not stopped to take into account the fact that it has not won any of the other major prizes this year … you’re missing half the story. And that half isn’t about artistry, or performances, or script-writing. It’s about history and precedent. Should it be? Maybe not. But that’s how it goes. The people who vote for all these different awards probably overlap quite a bit, and so it stands to reason that nine times out of ten, the film that wins Best Drama at the Golden Globes or Best Ensemble Cast at the SAGs is likely the front-runner to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

My point is that there are multiple sides to the whole game. And that’s what it is: a game. So remember that while you’re watching that interminable telecast. Pick your winners. Pick ’em however you want. Root for your favorite. What matters is that YOU thought it was the best movie you saw this year, or that the individual performance was meaningful to YOU.

I remember 2001, when Gladiator picked up most of the awards. I personally think that was a bit of a triumph over the people who think the Oscars are too snooty to really understand what the average film-goer likes. Is it a brilliant movie? Maybe not. I think it’s very good, but it’s not some transcendent piece of film-making or anything. When Best Actor was being announced, I really didn’t think Russell Crowe had much of a chance, and so I was muttering “Anyone but Tom Hanks, anyone but Tom Hanks” under my breath, because I hated Castaway, and because everyone loves Tom Hanks. And then Crowe won, and since then, I’ve seen Quills (for which Geoffrey Rush was nominated) and Before Night Falls (ditto Javier Bardem) and I think either of those performances was superior. But there you go. Politics. A game. For whatever reason, Gladiator was just the big deal that year.

Back to my point, though. Whether or not your film wins an Oscar doesn’t make it any less great if you thought it was amazing. It doesn’t mean a thing that you think some random indie film was totally awesome and that the Academy is stupid for not even recognizing it. Or that your favorite guy didn’t get the nod. It just means that’s not how the Academy works (and also that there are a finite number of spots: maybe your director *cough*Chris Nolan*cough* was a close #6). It’s all just groups of people getting together and talking about what they think was good this year. Kind of like on a blog, except they get to get all dressed up and stuff. Bottom line, I guess? Don’t take it personally.

Having said that, I will offer you my predictions for the major awards to be handed out on Sunday. They are not really based on my rather limited viewing experiences this year so much as on the precedent of previous awards and on my understanding of how the machine works.

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo for The Fighter. A lot of people think she won’t win on the big night, despite having won the rest of the season, but I’m not so sure. Runner-up: Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit.
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale for The Fighter. Pretty much a lock. It’s a great performance among many, and he’s just so dedicated to his roles. It’s time. Runner-up: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech.
Best Actress: Natalie Portman for Black Swan. Another one who has paid her dues. Runner-up: Annette Bening for The Kids are All Right. She’s also very much due, but Portman’s performance is a juggernaut.
Best Actor: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. Again, this is about awarding someone who’s been around for a while and hasn’t been recognized yet. By all accounts the performance is tremendous as well. I will see it SOON, I swear. Runner-up: Pick one. There isn’t a clear second place, as far as I know.
Best Director: David Fincher for The Social Network. Runner-up: I would say Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, but The King’s Speech has gained a lot of traction lately, so maybe Tom Hooper is more likely at this point.
Best Picture: And here we have an interesting discussion. I still think that The Social Network is the frontrunner, but a lot of people are now betting on The King’s Speech. It is my understanding that TSN (which has still won most of the major awards) is a really strong movie overall, whereas TKS is moving mostly on the power of the performances, hence the reason it won the SAG Awards’ version of Best Picture. The BAFTAs aren’t entirely a good indicator here, IMO, since it’s such a British film. I’m still going with The Social Network for the win, although I think it’s really, really close.

So there you go. That’s what I think. I’m usually pretty good at predicting … I did win my Oscar pool last year, although that was my first ever, and it was really close. I’m not looking to offend anyone with my choices; I’m working off of facts rather than opinions, and overall, I don’t really have any personal feelings about this year’s crop of nominees. Best movie I saw this year? Inception. However, it would be completely unrealistic to think that it will win, regardless of what all of us movie bloggers think. So remember, boys and girls: It’s all a game. Grab a beverage, sit down, relax, and watch the fun.

2 responses to “Thoughts on award season (plus Oscar predictions)

  1. Interesting read, Sam and I totally agree it’s just a GAME! I like that you said ‘Kind of like on a blog, except they get to get all dressed up and stuff.’ Ha..ha.. so true, isn’t it? I don’t get all worked up if my fave doesn’t win, I mean, I’d yell at the tv when that happens probably but it’s not going to affect my day or that I’d lose sleep over it.

    I agree with a lot of your choices. I’m kinda partial between TKS and TSN too, which is what I predict would be the two it all came down to. But I’m pulling for Fincher for Best Director.

  2. Melissa Leo has been getting a lot of buzz, but I didn’t really see her performance to be all that worthy of an Oscar OR her Golden Globe. She was good, undoubtedly. But was she truly better than Amy Adams or Hailee Steinfeld or Helena Bonham Carter?? That remains to be seen, and, as you said, is all a matter of opinion in this “game.”

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