Of this year’s Oscar nominees, so far I’ve seen three: The Descendants, Moneyball and War Horse. Tonight, the wife and I may go see The Artist. Maybe we’ll get to some of the others too, but really: the nominees are no longer must-see cinema, are they? Were they ever? We just go for the same reason we suddenly tune in to a couple of NFL games during the playoffs: We like to stay in touch with the zeitgeist (which is a word I try to use in a sentence at least once a week).
Quick question, and no Googling: Remember which movie won Best Picture last year? Remember who won Best Actress? Me neither. Had to look ’em up. I had no idea who won the Super Bowl, either. Which kind of puts it all in perspective. These massively hyped things are not really about determining excellence or rewarding it. Like every big thing in American society, they directly reflect contemporary buzz and the amount of money spent on promotion. Remember when The English Patient beat out Fargo? If both movies were on TV right now, which would you watch? How about a choice between True Grit and The King’s Speech? I rest my case: An Oscar winner is not necessarily a movie you’d care to see again.
None of which will stop me from weighing in with superficial opinions. Moneyball? I liked it, but if Jonah Hill’s comatose turn as a statistician makes him best supporting actor, the bar is not very high. The Descendants? It’s the best of the pictures I’ve seen, but seemed to lack any of the truly resonant moments you hope for in this type of story. War Horse? I’ve talked about this before, and I suspect only Steven Spielberg’s stature as director put it in the running. It’s pure treacle, elevated by some stirring scenes but finally undone by an incredibly shallow script.I’ll let you know what we think of The Artist. Meantime, consider the nomination of Melissa McCarthy as best supporting actress in Bridesmaids. I enjoyed that movie quite a bit — a lesson to the Hangover 2 folks on how to make a gross-out comedy that’s actually funny. McCarthy doesn’t have a prayer of winning, but I’m glad to see the movie mentioned. One thing, it’ll make for some entertaining clips during the show.