The heated, ongoing Democratic presidential nomination contest might be an interesting historical footnote, but what really concerns most Americans at the moment is, what’s wrong with Oscar? I thought the ceremony went rather briskly this time, but then again I was also eating pizza, doing the Sunday “Times” crossword puzzle and paying my bills (don’t ask!) while watching. Much of America apparently disagreed, however: the ratings were the lowest ever, rivaling those of the last Republican debate. Nor was this a fluke, but part of a inexorable trend since the Awards reached a peak in 1997 when the winner was “Titanic.”
So, what to do? Top among “Entertainment Weekly”’s suggestions is “picking better nominees.” Starting, I’d argue, with the songs. I think every one of the performances of the three “Enchanted” tunes probably bumped off a good 5 million viewers. But then again, that’s what mute buttons are for.
So really it comes down to the nominated films which were, admittedly, grim and poorly attended. In short, the kind that critics like myself adore. Not to brag, but of late the award winners of the Boston Society of Film Critics (of which I’m a member) and the Academy have been eerily similar.
This year the Academy echoed our choice for Best Picture (“No Country for Old Men”), Best Actress (Marion Cotillard for “La Vie en Rose”) and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem for “No Country for Old Men”). And our winners for Best Director (Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Ryan for “Gone Baby Gone”), Best Screenplay (“Ratatouille”) and Best Cinematography (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) were all Academy nominees.
And last year we did even better, the Academy matching our winners in Best Picture (“The Departed”), Best Director (Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”), Best Actor (Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland”), Best Actress (Helen Mirren for “The Queen”), Best Screenplay (“The Departed”) and Best Cinematography (“Pan’s Labyrinth”).
Hey guys, we didn’t know you were going to take us seriously. Well, as was pointed out in one non-Oscar-winning hit movie, “Great power brings great responsibility.” Should we lower our standards so the Academy doesn’t go bust? I don’t think we have to; just cut out the snobbery when a blockbuster movie like “The Bourne Ultimatum" also happens to be one of the year’s best films.