January 10, 2013

Oh, you fool. You poor, pot-addled, ideal-carrying, attention-paying, credit card-swiping, Regal Crown Club-belonging fool. You actually thought the Oscar nominations could be announced this morning without you giving a semblance of a shit about the Academy’s continued commitment to flipping the bird at every dweeb silly enough to carry any kind of expectation about how they should go. “Maybe Skyfall will be recognized as the rare blockbuster film with artful intentions,” you muttered to yourself. “Maybe Kathryn Bigelow could become the first two-time female Best Director in history.” Then the nominations were released to ongoing confusion, because once again, the Academy whipped out the middle finger to the film punditry’s annoyingly confident predicative calculus, almost as though the voters have a Google search for “Oscar predictions” set up so that they can swiftly fuck with everyone’s brain. Here’s a few reasons why you’re headed to Twitter, armed with an opinion:

1. The Best Picture/Foreign Language Film divide remains ambiguously stupid. Can someone offer a legitimate reason why Michael Haneke’s supposedly excellent Amour (I haven’t seen it yet, but only because I hate crying in public) was nominated in both the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film categories? Not to get on Haneke for unintentionally double-dipping, but it’s not like he’s going to win both; instead, it seems like sort of a token acknowledgement of the film’s Seriousness (and implication that yes, you, the average American movie consumer, should see this instead of The Avengers for the seventh time, you philistine scum) that ends up denying another worthy film a moment in the spotlight, something like The Master or Killing Them Softly. (I guess no one saw/enjoyed that besides me, but whatever.) Also, Holy Motors didn’t get nominated in the Foreign Language category, which seems intentionally shortsighted—it’s one of the few foreign films that actually had some crossover success this year.

2. We can’t say “Academy Award-nominated director Ben Affleck.” B-Aff’s redemption journey from once destined C-lister to A-level director has been a long time coming, ever since the surprising non-shittiness of 2007′s Gone Baby Gone prompted a universal “What the hellllllllll” reaction. But even though Argo was tabbed by nearly every critic as this year’s ideal Academy movie, for its perfect mid brow midpoint between thematic drama and propulsive action and grounded production values, Affleck was curiously left out of the admittedly over-stuffed Best Director category. (Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Paul Thomas Anderson and Quentin Tarantino were also ignored, but they’ve been nominated/winners in the past.) Perhaps the Academy was scared by the idea of further legitimizing the dude from Gigli, which is a shame; it’s not like anyone would’ve minded if Steven Spielberg was denied another nomination, probably not even Spielberg himself.

3. Still a weird prejudice against good, original movies that don’t fit the Oscar mold. Here’s a list of entertaining, artistically authentic, well-performing movies that had no chance of being nominated but still: SkyfallLooperMagic MikeThe Cabin in the WoodsHoly MotorsCloud AtlasThe Dark Knight Rises, and plenty more; I mean, none of these are perfect or even great, but not noticeably less so than the movies called up. Yet another year where the Academy remains dedicated to nominating all the obvious candidates.

4. Poor Leonardo DiCaprio. Everything about Leo’s post-Titanic career has screamed Oscar ambition, and that he’d fail to secure gold for a slate of overly serious performances — remember the one in which he got really red-faced and shouted at something? — seemed a reflection that the Academy was beginning to tire of his barely veiled aspirations. But a lighter turn in Django Unchained seemed like the type of role to add a different dimension to his resume, even if he wouldn’t have won; instead, he’s left staring in the mirror, muttering “It’s not enough” while wondering where it all went wrong. Right now, Vegas is laying 1:3 odds on his next role being a paraplegic Holocaust survivor who becomes a brilliant jazz saxophonist; alas, he’ll lose to Elijah Wood’s portrayal of Steven Spielberg in Spielberg, directed by George Lucas.

5. THE HOBBIT GOT SNUBBED. Maybe I am the only one who believes this. In fact, I’m sure of it. But whatever, elves and orcs are forever infinite and Peter Jackson’s ambitiously dumb high-frame rate vision will be redeemed once the next two movies drop, thus completing a perfect arc of high fantasy adventure. I’ll be redeemed, I swear. 

But at least Seth MacFarlane will make everything better by hosting the ceremony, right? (backflips into an active volcano) The Oscars take place on February 24.

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