I was happy to hear that Billy Crystal was returning to host the Oscars. Despite his questionable status as a legitimate celebrity these days, I don’t think anyone has topped his performance at the 2004 Oscars. That’s not to say the talent wasn’t there either, but most of the time (or in Jon Stewart’s case, times) they just weren’t funny.
But this isn’t necessarily the fault of the host. One of the reasons we watch the ceremony is to see the host perform, but it’s not a show dedicated to stand up comedy. We watch the ceremony first and foremost, to see who wins.
Look at the films from 2004. Billy Crystal had Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Lost in Translation and many more all up for major categories that he could use as joke material. I find Crystal to be a better comedian than Stewart, but Stewart was rather limited in jokes he could make about films like Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Capote, or Munich.
The Oscars may not be about comedy films, but there is an excitement factor to the telecast that has to come from somewhere, or else no one is going to watch. The ratings have been going down for years; people just aren’t as excited as they used to be. The Academy may like to nominate movies that don’t make any money in the box office, but that won’t translate into revenue from their telecast.
I’m not saying that only big money movies should be nominated. I’ve been quite pleased with the past two winners, The Hurt Locker and The Kings Speech. Those were both great films, and it was an exciting race because there were plenty of great films. Which makes this year tricky.
The Academy decided to switch the rule that called for ten Best Picture nominations. The new rule states that between five and ten can be nominated depending on votes. This was a necessary rule change, since ten films rarely genuinely compete for Best Picture. But I’m having trouble finding five films to put up for the award.
Last year I correctly picked nine out of the ten films that were nominated for Best Picture. I managed to do this despite being employed by The Observer. This year I’m struggling, not because I’m at The Rock, but because there weren’t as many great films.
I have almost no chance at guessing with such accuracy this year since no one knows how many films will be nominated. There’s no real way of knowing how strict the Academy will be with the selection process, we could very well see ten again. But we do know that at least five will be nominated. Let’s work from there.
The Golden Globes give an idea of what to expect, but it’s not a very good cheat sheet. The two separate categories for Drama and Comedy/Musical make this very difficult. Last year all five movies that were nominated for Best Drama at the Globes were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, but The Kids are All Right was the only one from Musical/Comedy. Rotten Tomatoes Top 10 Highest Reviewed of the Year is even worse; Harry Potter is not going to get nominated.
Despite having Rotten Tomato fresh ratings below 80%, I think War Horse and The Help should get nominations. Midnight in Paris should be a lock as well. The Academy loves its perennial directors, so Hugo could benefit from Scorsese. I only see it getting nominated if there are more than five nominees though.
Shame could be this year’s dark horse. The film made no money, but Michael Fassbender has had a great year and this stands more of a shot than Jane Eyre or X-Men First Class. The Academy has been good to indie films in recent years, which would benefit Shame. 50/50 is getting some attention but I doubt the Academy is ready to acknowledge something starring Seth Rogen.
So there are four slots taken on my list (The Help, War Horse, Shame, and Midnight in Paris), I think if there are only five than The Artist would round out the noms. But My Week with Marilyn should get enough attention to warrant at least six nominees.
Some people are more sold on The Descendants than I am, but if I were to pick a seventh, that would be it. I don’t see Bridesmaids getting in under any circumstances. The Academy will not let a vulgar comedy stand a chance at getting Best Picture. I underestimated The Fighter last year, and this could be my mistake this year. I also say no to Moneyball since it didn’t have much of a climax beyond a home run by a mediocre baseball player and a World Series ring won by a team that wasn’t the focus of the movie. Moneyball was nowhere near as good as the book and will not be rewarded.
If there must be ten films, than I will include A Dangerous Method, Hugo, and The Tree of Life to round out the list. The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, which means that it will most certainly not win Best Picture. But as films like Precious, Toy Story 3, Inception, 127 Hours, The Winter’s Bone, An Education, and A Serious Man, you can be nominated without anyone believing you can actually win.
That’s the foolish part of having so many nominees. The past two awards have largely been two picture races (Avatar/Hurt Locker and The Social Network/Kings Speech). But more nominees mean more money. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it…
So here are my ten nominees. Who knows how accurate they’ll be. This Oscar ceremony will probably not be one for the ages, but maybe it will convince the Academy to build a better system.