Is "Up in the Air" this year's "Crash?"

The last critics organization, The National Society of Film Critics  (I would been there but my flight to New York for the meeting got snowed out) has voted, and it looks like "The Hurt Locker" has pretty much cleared the table with these groups,  (in a mirror image of Boston, among others), Best Picture, Director, and Actor.

This might not be good news, however, for Kathryn Bigelow and company, for, as some people have already pointed out, such an alignment of critical organizations is not necessarily an omen of Oscar success.

Which makes sense. Everybody hates critics, and in a year when the Oscars are trying to expand their audience by increasing the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten, they don't want to appear to be slavishly echoing the opinions of those noxious, elitist and obsolete pinheads with their own awards. Besides, who wants to watch a film that is a realistic depiction of a war that nobody even cares about any more, that doesn't star any big names, and doesn't draw any easy, clichéd resolutions or leave you sated with cloying platitudes?

On the other hand, they still want to maintain the illusion that the Academy presents its awards on the basis of artistic merit, which might augur badly for "Avatar." True, a number of critics, perhaps desperate to assert their relevance, have lauded the film. Also, there are no doubt a lot of Academy voters among those listed in the film's credits, which is about as long as the LA phonebook,  enough maybe to give it an edge, especially since there are as many Best Picture nominees splitting the vote as there are candidates in an Iraqi election. But I think that in the end they just won't find it seemly to honor a film that's making over a billion dollars and whose vestigial human cast of actors is utterly superseded by CGI simulacra.

And so the next likely candidate is the film that has all the trappings of a "serious" movie but which in fact is just another glib piece of Hollywood crap -- "Up in the Air." In short, this year's Oscars looks like a reprise of 2005, when every critics group pounced on the "controversial" "Brokeback Mountain," and the Academy gave its prize to the pseudo-art piffle "Crash."  


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