2/28/11 – 12:09 am: Update: Not too shabby this year, going 20 for 24. Missed out on Tom Hooper in the close Best Director category, and was delighted (and surprised) to see Inception take home Best Cinematography, though I feel badly for Roger Deakins. Missed Art Direction, though Alice in Wonderland surely would have been my second guess. And didn’t see The Lost Thing beating Day & Night, and am surprised and somewhat happy that a little short film could take down Pixar. It deserved it, being one of the many very good animated shorts this year. Glad I took a chance on God of Love, but that’s more of a wild guess than anything. May as well enjoy beating my wife (finally) this year, as I’m not sure it’ll happen again anytime soon.
It’s that time of year again, when Hollywood movie studios spend millions of dollars in the hope of persuading Academy voters they are worthy of the little gold statuette, which in turn (studios hope) will translate into more dollars at the theater and home entertainment market. So they politic and campaign, blanketing Los Angeles with advertisements with the aim of reaching many of the fewer than 6,000 Academy voters. Perhaps it is a shame that the Oscars represent so little in the way of quality or technical expertise, or perhaps not. There is an art to the campaigning, and this year it again seems Harvey Weinstein will lead his little movie-that-could over several other little movies-that-could (and a couple larger movies-that-did).
I don’t wish to seem cynical; this is merely the way the system works. What is quality, anyway? And what is good? The critics leaned one way with all of their year-end awards, and the guilds leaned another direction. Who knows best what “good” means; those who study and analyze, or those who do? The question can go much deeper than entertainment: ask teachers and educational specialists the best way to teach, and I suspect you will find different answers. I favor the idea of an “art world” consensus, the thoughts of those who pursue academic study in the field aggregated into a rough, general consensus opinion on a piece of art. This is one way to determine if something is “good,” but only one way.
But again, the Oscars are not about which films or performances are “good” or the “best.” Predicting the winners is more a matter of judging the campaigns, more akin to political polling than anything else, only with a much smaller electorate. It is still a tricky business, particularly in a year when a couple of key categories are almost too close to call. While many races are fairly sure runaways, a number of races will provide the telecast with a modicum of suspense. Below are some of my thoughts on who will win, and a brief comment on whom I think should win. These will rarely align, but I am not an Academy voter.