I’m writing to ask you a favor or two (or three or four or a whole lot more) in this upcoming Oscar season. I’ve been extra good this year, seeing many movies and pumping lots and lots of money into the industry. You would be ever so proud of me!
Anyway, enough of my foolishness, I’d like to get straight to the point. As you finish your checklist, giving notice to which films have been naughty and which have been nice, there are just a few that you may have forgotten, and I’d like to take just a few minutes of your time to remind you of them.
For some of the smaller categories, I’d like to first throw out a few kind words for the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography of the current Best Foreign Film favorite, The White Ribbon, the outstanding musical scores for both Star Trek and Coraline, the art direction of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the eerily effective sound design of Paranormal Activity. And how about some love for Drag Me to Hell in the Best Makeup department! (If Norbit can do it, why not a good movie?) And as few for Avatar as can be allowed.
In the Original Screenplay category, I don’t believe I have too many qualms. I wholeheartedly approve of a lot of the scripts that I understand are locks (or at least near-locks) for a nomination—The Hurt Locker, Up, Inglourious Basterds, and A Serious Man all showed up on my end-of-the-year top ten. There are a couple that I’m really hoping won’t be featured here…but I’ll save that for later.
I realize that your perceived obligation towards films like Up in the Air (an excellent film), An Education (a decent one), and Precious (still haven’t seen it), might find the Adapted Screenplay category fairly crowded, but here are a few I hope you saved some good will for. First off, the terrific, clever, and wildly fun script for Star Trek is such a well-put-together story that redefines the concept of a reboot with such brazen ingenuity that it surely deserves some notice. Also, Where the Wild Things Are was an outstanding expansion on a classic children’s story—all of the terrible movie versions of Dr. Seuss books really ought to take a look at this one.
And I know this is a long shot—and there will be many who flat-out disagree with me—but the script for Watchmen deserves some recognition for the way that it improved on an already excellent story by slightly altering a thing or two so that it made more sense and even resonated more strongly thematically. Again, I realize I might be the only one who thinks this, but I thought I’d just throw it out there.
And save for Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, the prospects of the Best Supporting Actor category are looking rather unimpressive. Allow me to offer up a suggestion or two. Really, any number of actors from the wide ensemble of the hilarious political satire In the Loop (also worthy of consideration for Best Adapted Screenplay) would be entirely deserving of recognition, but the most likely candidate would probably be Peter Capaldi, whose consistently irate foul-mouthed political advisor provides a constant barrage of solid laughs. (Also, it would probably present the biggest challenge for finding a TV-friendly Oscar clip since Mark Wahlberg’s nomination for The Departed.)
Also, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, and George Wyner from A Serious Man could also use some love. Keep them in your thoughts.
It might be asking too much to see Nicolas Cage’s name show up in the category of Best Actor for his fantastic and outlandishly over-the-top work in Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask such a fate for, say, Viggo Mortensen in The Road or perhaps—my favorite performance of the year—Michael Stuhlbarg in the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man. He is so good, so funny, so likable, and easily makes for one of the Coen brothers’ best characters ever—and for the creators of The Dude and Marge Gunderson, that’s really saying something.
And I understand that consideration for Melanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds is being emphasized in the Lead Actress category instead of the Supporting Actress category. What that means for her chances of getting nominated, I’m not sure, although I’ll just throw out that I’d be pleased to see her name pop up in either category.
Oh, but what about the big one? Best Picture. This is a historic year for this category, as it will include ten nominees for the first time in about 60 years. Now, I’ve been reading up pretty regularly on various predictions for the category. There seem to be five locks: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air. Then there are four “likely” nominees, which include An Education, Invictus, A Serious Man, and Up. And then there’s the phantom tenth spot—what could it be? Many predictions I’m seeing are saying it will likely go to the summer’s sci-fi sleeper hit District 9. If this prediction turns out to be true, then I would be perfectly content with that. I might also suggest Star Trek for the Phantom #10, but I loved me some District 9 too, and that would be just fine with me.
However, for this category, I’m not going to campaign for what I want, but rather what I really, really don’t want.
Now, Invictus and An Education were okay in my opinion. I’d certainly never nominate them myself, but seeing them included here—especially in a category of ten—doesn’t really irritate me.
No, Oscar, I’m shooting a bit higher here. Specifically, I’d like to see everything that happened at the Golden Globes not come close to happening at the Oscars.
With that in mind, the film that had better not sneak into the Best Picture nominees is the Best Musical/Comedy winner at the Globes, The Hangover. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to seeing that kind of movie (i.e. whacky fun comedy) getting awards recognition if it really delivers the goods…but The Hangover is NOT that movie—it’s a tired clusterfuck of misogyny, bad slapstick, clichéd gags where large sleeping animals wake up in the back seat of cars and then destroy the car, and multiple jokes about how funny guys’ asses are. It was bad enough when it won the Globe and even worse when it actually wrangled up a Writer’s Guild nomination (when far better fare like Inglourious Basterds and Up were deemed disqualified), but it had better get shut out of the Oscars like it rightfully deserves.
Now, I’ve made peace with the fact that Avatar is going to get nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and a generous assortment of technical awards. It wasn’t easy. I’ve had a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around the ludicrous popularity of this movie. I saw the film at the midnight screening the night before it officially opened and, after my initial excitement to see it had been beaten senseless and left for dead, I walked out hating it. But not only did I hate it, I felt sure that it would completely bomb. I thought that Avatar’s lazy performances and bad script, complete with horrendous dialogue, hackneyed plot, and socio-political ignorance would alienate snobby critical types and movie geeks like myself just as strongly as it would alienate general audiences with its intensely demanding 162-minute runtime, funny-looking blue people, overly obvious environmental agenda, and blatant lack of any kind of originality that went beyond its visuals, which were good, but geez, they weren’t that good. Hell, I enjoyed the effects in 2012 more than those in Avatar.
Anyway, I thought for sure that this movie just wasn’t going to cut it for anyone. Brother, was I wrong. It’s now the highest grossing movie of all time and I just don’t get it. I mean, I hate Transformers too, but at least I get why people find it entertaining…with Avatar I feel like I’m going insane and everyone I know is just letting me. All of the things that people hate about George Lucas’s Star Wars Prequel Trilogy are all present in Avatar and then some. What the hell am I missing here? I can understand it making a couple hundred million dollars, but the highest grossing film of all time??? Whatever good faith I had in the movie-going community after The Dark Knight became the #2 all-time domestic earner has been destroyed, and its ashes pissed upon.
Anyway, Oscar, that’s all a big build-up to this: please don’t nominate its script (a script which in my review of the movie I called one of the worst of the decade, and I stand strong right beside that statement), and please, please, please, please don’t award it with the Oscar for Best Picture. The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds are CLEARLY so much better.
When I was about 14 or 15 I took on the wild task of trying to watch as many Best Picture winners as I could get my hands on. I did pretty well. Fifty years from now, when some other young, budding movie nerd decides to take on the same insane task…please don’t make him watch Avatar.