Thursday, February 4, 2010

Best Picture Noms--Your Comprehensive Gripe

Nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards were posted Tuesday morning, and henceforth we, the internet, have conducted our annual foot stomping, arm crossing, and frantic, pretentious blogging (hey, that’s my cue!).

The big news this year is the expansion of the best picture category from five to ten films, presumably in effort to coax a more diverse range of moviegoers into tuning in, and to generally bait more people out to the theater. But honestly, beyond casting recognition on films that would otherwise be relegated to the outskirts of our collective conscious, the Academy’s new capacity is fairly pointless. Every other category still sports only five nominees, and there can still be only one best picture.

And if you’re the gambling type, then I’d suggest scrolling past the lucky films to this year’s honored directors. You’ve got Bigelow for “Hurt Locker,” Cameron for “Avatar,” Reitman for “Up in the Air,” Tarantino for “Basterds,” and Lee Daniels for “Precious.” This existence of this category alone is like having the 50/50 lifeline on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” You can bet that “Serious Man,” “Blind Side,” “District 9,” “Education,” and “Up” are going to walk away empty handed for the last award of the night.

So who won’t?

Most of the time, predicting best picture is a matter of gut reaction with acknowledgement to the hype machine, and my impulse is to guess “Hurt Locker” for tops in 2010. But I’m not certain. Much like a real “Millionaire” 50/50, halving the options only cuts out the obvious. “Blind Side” will be deemed too sappy and unhip, “District 9” will be discarded for fanboy fantasy action, “Basterds” is just too bloody, “Education” and “Serious Man” are too far under the public radar, and “Up” will win best animated feature and likely nothing else.

I have a feeling “Precious” will be too abrasive and potentially alienating to win, which leaves “Avatar,” “Up in the Air,” and “The Hurt Locker.” It’s hard to argue with what’s now domestically the highest grossing film of all time, but after Cameron’s film stormed the Globes, I think the academy judges will skew more highbrow. “Up in the Air” and “Hurt Locker” are both topical, but let’s face it, historically, comedies don’t have the best odds come Oscar night. I think the prospect of inducting an Iraqi war film into the best picture pantheon will appeal to the judging body more than Cameron’s 3D camera, and more than Reitman’s cross-continental comedy.

It’s hardly worth getting worked up over the Oscars anymore, though, and it’s been years since my personal favorite film has synced with the Academy’s. I’m satisfied with the selections given that “Inglourious Basterds” and “A Serious Man” made the cut, and in a perfect world, the Coens would walk away with it. But I know Oscar all too well, and he’s got his target locked and loaded.

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