Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Oscars: More MOR than ever

Last year the movie world trembled when it was announced that the number of Best Picture Academy Awards would double from five to ten, returning it to where it had been in the mid-1940s. The intent--to jack up the ratings for the sagging telecast by pulling in the likes of The Dark Knight--was purely commercial, a move to placate the popcorn picture crowd that's illiterate about, say, The Reader. Not a terrible idea; maybe Star Trek would get in. Then, the second thoughts, the doubts, the night terrors--would the Globe-winning Hangover get nominated? Or something even...worse?

The fears were allayed this morning. While I wouldn't have minded a big broad hit like either of those two to compete the whorehouse is secure...and Oscar is more middle-of-the-road than ever. The overrated District 9 and The Blind Side (picture), which I'm now obliged to see, are the only challenges to the established order, and don't pack all that much rooting interest. Why not, say, the edgy-charming (500) Days of Summer, 2009's only real indie success/surprise story, and a movie to pull in the prized younger demographic that made it a hit in the first place?

Unless Transformers hottie Megan Fox reprises Pink's hot wet dance Grammys number at the Oscars expect the ratings to go up not much more than a tick, as lovers of A Serious Man and An Education wheel themselves in front of the TV at the retirement center. Kidding: All things considered it's not a bad list, and not so different from my own Top Ten, but the wow factor just isn't there. What was the point?

A few thoughts:

So I'm stuck seeing The Blind Side, though I'm pleased at the rehabilitation of my long-faltering crush object Sandra Bullock.

Jeremy Renner, Christopher Plummer, fist bumps!

I've never missed a Peter Jackson picture but The Lovely Bones may be it, sorry, Stanley Tucci--why not a nod for Julie & Julia? (Jackson gets the District 9 nods as a consolation prize for its failure.)

Matt Damon? Invictus? Seriously? Not going to see an Eastwood picture that his acolytes in the press wrote off. The hoariest nomination was Freeman's.

Maybe its tiny distributor will give The Messenger the chance to deliver a few more viewers.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga, nice going, too bad about the Mack truck in front of you.

More kudos: Nick Hornby and the In the Loop writers, keeping the British end up in a more American-centric field than usual.

A surprise to see some tech love for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. On the other hand it's Avatar all the way in seven of its nine categories, with Hurt Locker stealing director and picture thunder.

I hate to say it, but Sherlock Holmes really did have the most flavorful score of the year. I may need reminding on Fantastic Mr. Fox, though.

Disney's at it again, swiping Best Song noms. But "The Weary Heart" is a lock.

The Secret of Kells? What?

A Prophet (une prophete) is the best foreign-language film I've seen in recent months. Riveting.

The Cove for Best Doc. Dead dolphins, tears, outrage.

Best title: A Matter of Loaf and Death (Animated Short).

The Oscars air March 7.

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