MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Oscar, Schmoscar

I haven’t been able to get that excited about the Oscars this year. Probably it’s partly because I was pretty much out of the movie loop for five or so months dealing with illness, but partly, to be honest, it’s this whole idea of ten best picture nominees that has me feeling decidedly “meh” about the whole thing.

Something about it just rubs me the wrong way; it reminds me of when public schools had this whole trend to boost students’ self-esteem by “catching them being good.” Such things may be fine when it comes to boosting the self esteem of little kids, but when it comes to the Oscars, which is already Hollywood’s biggest self-congratulatory back-patting party, it just feels too me like trying too hard to make everyone happy. And really, how prestigious can a nomination be when so many films can garner the honor?

It’s not even that I disagree with (many) of the films nominated, although as every year, there are arthouse films that I would have liked to have seen on the list, even if they didn’t have a prayer of making the cut (for instance, I think Goodbye Solo and Two Lovers are both head and shoulders above some of the films on Oscar’s Top Ten list). I am delighted to see The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air on the list, and I’ve been expecting An Education and Precious to get some Oscar love since I saw them at Sundance last year. And I was pleasantly surprised to see Up there — it was one of the best films I saw all year, hands down. At the very least, if there was an Oscar for Best Opening Sequence, Up would win it hands-down.

I liked District 9, but I wouldn’t have put on a Best Picture list, and I don’t think it would have made the cut in a five-picture year. Nor do I think A Serious Man would have made the cut, Coens or not; I like it, but I don’t consider it one of the Coens’ best — it’s more Coens for Smarty Pants Arthouse Cinema Fans than Best Picture Coens for me. And then there’s Avatar, neck-and-neck with The Hurt Locker on our Gurus chart for Best Pic … I see that and I think … I don’t know. It was pretty enough, and certainly pushed the envelope with technology, but the story just wasn’t great for me (and I think it’s notable that the screenplay did not get a nomination). Is Avatar really a Best Picture we would look back on a decade from now and feel great about, or is it riding a wave of its director’s huge personality and an equally huge tsunami of hype?

And The Blind Side? Really? Love Sandra Bullock in the film, and totally back up her nomination for the performance, but is the film overall worthy of a Best Pic nom? Not in my book.

If I was narrowing this 10-film list down to five films, it would include The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, An Education, Up, and Precious. The only film on the list I didn’t manage to see yet because I didn’t get a screener for it was Inglourious Basterds, so I’m not including that one, but I generally am a Tarantino fan and expect that if I had seen it, it might have made my hypothetical cut, probably bumping out Precious.

The category I care most about this year is Best Director. I really, really want to see Kathryn Bigelow win this one, both because she deserves it for making such a completely kick-ass film, and because dammit, it is LONG past time for a woman to win Best Director. This is the year for it to happen. And if it does, I hope that no one will take away from Bigelow’s outstanding achievement directing The Hurt Locker with any snide-ass remarks about the “token” female director winner.

Looking at the the acting categories, I get that there is a lot of sympathetic pull for Jeff Bridges to win this year, but I hope he doesn’t. He is great, he has deserved to win in the past, but not for this film. Crazy Heart, for me, was little more than this year’s The Wrestler, only The Wrestler (and Mickey Rourke) deserved all the accolades they got and this film just does not. It’s a mediocre film with a decent enough performance by Bridges, and I hope it gives him the opportunity to make a really fantastic film next year or the year after that, but this film is just not the film for which he should win the naked golden man. Jeremy Renner is slipping behind George Clooney on the Gurus chart (oh, Gurus, how fickle thou art!); I could live with either of them winning, though I think Renner’s more deserving.

As for the women, it’s looking like Gabby Sidibe is losing the early tide pull as Sandra Bullock’s momentum for The Blind Side grows. And you know what? Much as I don’t think The Blind Side deserves a Best Pic nod, I am all for Bullock winning the prize for her performance. I thought she was really terrific in this role, showing depth to her performance that’s always been dormant there, waiting for a role that wasn’t in a lame rom-com to bring it to fruition. I’d be equally happy to see Carey Mulligan take it for An Education, but Mulligan is just getting started and has the potential for a long career of Oscar-worthy performances. Bullock, on the other hand, has the potential here to make a whole career transition from rom-com queen to actual serious actress at an age when Hollywood starts to be less interested in women. Good for her, and I hope she takes the gold.

Best Supporting Actress is still Mo’Nique’s to lose. It was a powerhouse performance, no doubt, but the two performances from Up in the Air were also strong, if less flashy. The problem with Kendrick and Farmiga is the question of whether one of them (but which?) was really more a lead role than supporting, and whether they will cancel each other out. I’d love to see either of them when, but I think this is going to Mo’Nique and since she scared the hell out of me as the abusive mom to Sidibe’s long-suffering Precious, I’m all for her winning the Oscar we’ve all been writing about since Sundance ’09. And then, for the love of God, can we stop talking about it?

As for the Oscars themselves … if you double the number of Best Pic nominees (and toss in a few for the multiplex-loving masses), will they come? We’ll see.

– by Kim Voynar

February 3 , 2010

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