The Oscars have a bad rep and it’s getting worse. The primary problem lies in the fact that the decision makers, the Academy, are a bunch of dinosaurs who shy away from controversy by favouring schmaltzy fare over innovation and it seems real talent. Worse still, a couple of more disturbing trends have emerged in recent years.
First up is the ‘career Oscar’. This is the award that goes to those directors and actors who have been snubbed for their previous work, but that the Academy feels deserve eventual recognition. Most will cite Martin Scorsese as the most telling recipient, eventually winning for The Departed after missing out with Taxi Driver (picture), Raging Bull (director and picture), The Last Temptation of Christ (director), Goodfellas (director and picture), Casino (no noms), Gangs of New York (director and picture) and The Aviator (director and picture).
Regardless of the fact that The Departed stands up as one of Scorsese’s finest films, it stinks that he was shunned by the Academy for so long given the quality and scope of his work. And yet all of a sudden he’s flavour of the month, with Hugo garnering 11 nominations, which although it has its charms, reeks of hypocrisy at its best.
And with Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow squaring up in the Best Supporting Actor category for Beginners and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close respectively, it seems certain that one of these veterans will finally be rewarded for their lifetime work. A solitary Supporting statuette barely seems enough.
Worse still perhaps is the Academy’s piss poor recognition of the work of Hollywood’s black actresses. We all remember the rigmarole that surrounded the 2002 Oscars where Halle Berry blubbed her way through her acceptance speech after winning Best Actress for Monster’s Ball, becoming the first black actress to receive the accolade.
It was seen as a watershed moment for the Academy, who have only ever nominated nine black actresses in this category, yet in the intervening decade only one black actress received a Best Actress nomination, Gabourey Sidibe for Precious. Sidibe didn’t win, but this year Viola Davis is expected to pick up the prize for the RACISM drama The Help, whilst her co-star Octavia Spencer is a cert for Best Supporting Actress.
Whilst there is no denying the quality of their performances, the nature of the clamour for their recognition as well as the Oscar friendly subject matter of The Help, ensures that there are plenty of politics involved here.
Now, there has been plenty written about The Artist and how it is going to win everything, yet would it have done so if the Academy hadn’t been such a bunch of pussies?
Let’s look at the Best Picture noms first:
Midnight in Paris
Tree of Life
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
First off, fuck everything about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It’s gone, whoosh. Same goes for War Horse and The Help (great acting yes, great film, not so much). Replace them with Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the hideously overlooked Shame and the line up is immeasurably stronger.
Who will win: The Artist
Who should have won: The Artist would still have come out on top, but the Academy would have regained some respect for recognising edgier fare rather than the feel good schlock they’ve gone with.
Onto Best Actor:
Like most of the rest of the world I had to google Demian Bichir when the noms were announced. Now I’m sure he’s fantastic in A Better Life, but more deserving than Michael Fassbender who dazzled in Shame? Bichir’s nom seems to have been an ‘anyone but Fassbender in the sex movie’ call from the Academy.
Who will win: A two-horse race between Clooney and Dujardin. The bookies say Dujardin, but Clooney is a firm Academy favourite so can’t be counted out. I call Dujardin, but if there’s shock on the cards it’ll be here.
Who should have won: As great as it is that the Academy FINALLY nominated Oldman, he’s been far better elsewhere (Leon anyone?), my call goes to Jean Dujardin who lends unbridled charm to George Valentin.
This category pits three seasoned pros against two very promising young actresses. Streep is veritable Academy royalty, having won 17 nominations over the years, whilst Close has six to her name. Berenice Bejo can feel aggrieved that she was shunted to the Supporting category and should have been named at Close’s expense, given the niche appeal and limited success of Albert Nobbs.
Anna Paquin, Kirsten Dunst and even Olivia Colman can feel a bit put out after delivering career defining perfomances in Margaret, Melancholia and Tyrannosaur respectively. Once again, challenging vehicles that were completely overlooked.
Who will win: The Academy love The Help and only Meryl can stop Viola Davis picking this one up.
Who should have won: Mara or Bejo are the most unique and interesting roles this year. Mara would edge it for me, but then again, rape and murder aren’t Academy friendly are they?
No qualms with the Academy’s choices here. They represent the five best films in the Best Picture category, but perhaps David Fincher or Steve McQueen could have squeezed in somewhere, for oh I don’t know, Payne.
Who will win: Hazanavicius seems a cert, but we all know how enamoured the Academy are with Scorsese at the moment. With Hugo likely to win in the technical categories, could he nose ahead? That said, Midnight in Paris is Allen’s best work in ages. He’s an outside bet…
Who should have won: M Haz or Malick for daring to do something different.
I could go on, but I won’t. So, whilst The Artist will indeed be the big winner on the night, things could perhaps have been a little different. Well, not much, but a little.
2011 will almost certainly not go down as a vintage year, with many of the year’s best films not even nominated,ensuring that it will probably be best remembered as the year that the Academy extremely and most incredibly lost their collective bottle.
Perhaps a more open and relevant field in 2013 would inject this ailing institution with some much-needed life?