Oscar nominations 2009

Every morning that the Oscar nominations are announced my stomach churns with panic and anxiety. One of these days, I know, I will get so many of my predictions wrong that I will have to accept the fact that I've lost all touch with reality, since what can be more real than the Oscars?

So far, though, I've managed an 80%-85% accuracy - in other words, about a grade B. Eh. Nothing great, but not disastrous, either. But this year, with ten Best Picture nominees, I felt my comeuppance was due.

So I was more than gratified when out of the 35 predictions I made, I got 32 right, or 91%. That's an A-! And all without my Magic 8 Ball, which dried up two years ago.

So I'll enjoy it while I can. Sic transit gloria predictionium Oscar.

So much for me, then. What I think is more significant is the accuracy of the choices of the much derided film critics organizations. These are the kind of people who, according to right-leaning cultural critic Michael Medved, writing in a CNN commentary, are responsible for dividing the country and destroying morals by championing pointy-headed, anti-American and godless art movies and cajoling the Academy into nominating them against their best interests. The result: declining ratings and the Obama administration.

So is he happy for the expansion of the Best Picture category this year to ten, allowing the voters to squeeze in some of the pictures people really like as  well as the ones the Academy is foisting on the public as art? Heck, no. That just leads to further "fragmentization" of our culture, ie: a broad choice of films from different genres and appealing to different tastes.

"By swelling the number of nominees," says Medved, "the Academy contributes to the ongoing fragmentation of our culture. In recent years, only a handful of ferociously committed film buffs (and professional critics) could claim to have seen all five of the top nominees, and with ten choices now for the top prize, the number of moviegoers to have seen them all -- or even able to talk about them all -- will shrink even further."

How dare we nominate something that everyone hasn't seen and can't talk about except in ignorance! Not that has ever stopped anyone before -- it's actually these days a qualification! And don't tell me people should demonstrate some curiosity and make an effort to see them! That's socialism! That's like letting in illegal immigrants. For Medved, it's all popular hits or nothing.

Nonetheless, despite Medved's objections, the arbiters of good taste did have their say. Take our local bunch, the Boston Society of Film Critics, of which I'm a member. With one exception (the BSFC Best Foreign Language winner was "Summer Hours," which failed to get an Oscar nod), the winner in every category of the BSFC also got an Academy nomination. Including Jeremy Renner for Best Actor, who will personally collect his BSFC honor on Feb. 6 at the group's annual Awards Ceremony at the Brattle Theatre. (Check here for details).

Speaking of "The Hurt Locker," all of a sudden everyone is noticing now that Bigelow's film and James Cameron's "Avatar" got nine nominations apiece that the ex-husband and wife combo will go mano-a-mano on Oscar night. And that the two films present diametrically opposite stylistic takes on a similar theme. Not one to shy from self-aggrandizement, let me point out that I wrote that story six weeks ago.


Be that as it may, the match-up is such a Hollywood narrative that you have to wonder if the whole thing is a scam and was scripted to jack up ratings. Will intense naturalistic filmmaking beat out 3-D CGI fantasy? Will the story of a whole hero who gets broken in war beat out the story of a broken hero who is made whole? Will the Oscar broadcast boom back in popularity despite the fact that with the expanded roster it will be running until 2 a.m.? Most importantly, will my decent showing on predicting the nominations collapse into humiliating and utter failure when I attempt to pick the winners?

On March 7th, all will be made clear.

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