In the end, didn't we basically end up where we always do with Best Picture: a mix of message movies, epics, dramas and war films. Same as it ever was only more diversely populated. We definitely did not end up where we usually do with Best Director: a woman, white men of different generations, a gay black man? It's still kind of amazing, right?
Things that got AMPAS all hot and bothered this year: the color blue and/or flying (Avatar, Up, Up in the Air), race (Avatar, Blind Side, District 9, Precious), thinly disquised allegories (Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker), young girls coming-of-age (An Education, Precious), existential crises (A Serious Man, Up in the Air), war (The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds) and illiteracy (Precious, Blind Side, Basterds).
Things that AMPAS dated but couldn't commit to: race dramas that didn't star aliens, Sandra Bullock or illiterate black kids (Invictus with 2 big nominations), stage bound musicals about cinema (Nine with 4 nominations)
Things that turned AMPAS off: literacy (Bright Star), manboy comedies (500 Days of Summer, The Hangover) the apocalypse (The Road) and live-action children with animated imaginations (Where the Wild Things Are, The Lovely Bones).
Predictions? I did pretty well on my complete predictions scoring 86% correct in the big eight categories, 77% if you count the technical categories. And if you include the shorts and the docs which most people aren't foolish enough to try and predict, it falls to a less impressive but respectable 72%. But I got the two hardest ones: The Blind Side and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart. So uh, "yay me!" he said sheepishly.
I am less concerned with statistics than most pundits because what I love best is trying to catch the weird detours or catching things really early. You have to take risks if you hope to do that. While I'm still proud that I never predicted and always doubted Daniel Day-Lewis making the Actor list for Nine (I took a lot of heat for that one), I was shaking my head today looking at my "year in advance" predictions. I totally fell for ALL of the majors that didn't pan out: Invictus, The Lovely Bones, Nine and Public Enemies. Oy. This is my way of saying that it was one of my least impressive "year in advance" showings so that either means I've lost it (possible) or the year was a bit hard to predict before it really got going (equally possible).
At least I never bought that weird media meme that 'ANYTHING could be a Best Picture nominee' (The Hangover! Star Trek!) as if there were 35 spots open and they had replaced the entire Academy membership with randomly selected moviegoers of mystery tastes.
It's a quirk of mine that I care so much about these. Many movie addicts are content to just wait until December to see movies that hope to wow adults with a mix of subject matter, ambition, and big stars. I prefer to see that type of movie intermingled with all the other types of movies all year long. Can you imagine eating food the way movies are released: you may only eat grains in the spring, vegetables in the fall, desserts in the summer and sandwiches in the winter! BO-RING. So I thought I'd break down the release dates and how they're reflected in the Oscar nominations.
The chart to the left clearly shows that you don't need to be a December release to win the highest honor (a best picture nomination). In fact, you could argue that December is the likeliest time to fail if you have gold statues on your mind. The Lovely Bones, Nine and Invictus were all somewhat crushed by the weight of expectations implied by their release dates. But unfortunately, the chart to the right reiterates why the studios cram everything into one month. Even though December isn't hogging the best picture spotlight at all (The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds and Avatar lead the race and they're spread out:June, August, December) you're still more likely to win nominations in random categories if you come out late in the year. Even if people aren't that into you (see the three December failures again). Would The Young Victoria or Crazy Heart be up for 3 Oscars each if they'd been released in May? Would Bright Star be up for the tech prizes it definitely deserved had it opened in December?
Just about the worst news for we devout year-long moviegoers is that the dread "qualifying release" -- wherein a movie only pretends to come out but doesn't -- actually worked this year. It had been failing in recent years but I fear it'll be back with a vengeance after these successes. The Last Station managed two major nods, despite that "f*** you moviegoers!" tactic. The Secret of Kells, the surprise animated feature nominee, also refused to let you see it before seeking Oscar's seal of approval.
Why did it take me so long to speak to you today? Real life interfered. Plus, in more related news, today marked my first ever live news interviews which were broadcast somewhere in London and Canada respectively. If you saw or heard me, I apologize! You see, I do a lot of talking. And I have a head. And but I am still learning to combine the two... don't call me for your documentary just yet!
Actor and Actress Trivia? You know you want it.
The Oscar Map. Find out which actors and movies you're closest to.
Now that you've had a few hours to think about the nominations, what's still bothering you? Or do you think the Academy basically done good?