Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to Predict the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards have long been a sort of joke to me. Even when you put aside the hackneyed speeches, the ridiculous clothes, and the creepy contest to see which dead people will get the most applause during that “In Memoriam” film they show, you still have to consider the awards themselves, which are almost always absurdly chosen. Gladiator? Forrest Gump? Crash? Were these really the best films of their respective years? Of course not, but to make this complaint is to fundamentally misunderstand the way the Academy Awards function as a social construct. See, while the various critics’ awards that come earlier in the season have sometimes been known to honor the best films of the year, the Oscars and their retarded cousin the Golden Globes usually give out awards to the most obvious choices-- that is, the easiest and least controversial films that have built up the most hype in the run-up to the ceremony. Undoubtedly the Academy, whose members include writers, directors, and actors(which means that hacks like Michael Bay and assholes like Alec Baldwin are voting), is strongly influenced by what has already been winning awards and what is getting the most media attention. Combine this influence with political correctness, the academy’s own partisan leanings, and the historical pattern of what kinds of films win and which don’t, and you’ve got a nearly foolproof algorithm for determining what will be honored as the best works of the year.

With this in mind, I offer some very early predictions of what will win at the Oscars this year. It is worth noting that no films have even been nominated for the Oscars yet, nor have I even seen the majority of my predictions. It’s simply not necessary.

Best Picture

Based on everything I’ve seen and heard about it so far, Atonement will be the winner of the award for Best Picture, even though it won’t win many others. This kind of safe, sophistic fare that’s in love with its own artifice always does well at the Oscars, especially when there’s no epic film like The Lord of The Rings or Braveheart around to steal its thunder. Mark it.

Best Director

No Country For Old Men will be nominated for Best Picture, but I simply don’t see a film that bleak and nihilistic winning it all at such a mainstream awards show. Hollywood generally leans toward more epic films or superficial message movies like Crash and Million Dollar Baby. That being said, I think the Coens will be rewarded for their technical prowess and receive the award for Direction. Fortunately, this one will be deserved.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis will more than likely win for the second time with There Will Be Blood, but this will probably be that film’s only award. That’s three awards, three films. I may be spreading myself a little thin here, but I don’t see one film making anything close to a sweep this year. Denzel Washington is a shoe-in for yet another nomination, this time for American Gangster, but this ain’t his year.

Best Actress

This is the category that I know the least about this year, and the one that I’m most likely to get wrong. Julie Christie is far and away the critics’ choice for Away From Her, but I have the sneaking suspicion that if Atonement actually wins for Best Picture then Keira Knightley might win Best Actress as well. If there were an actress in a major film who’d made herself look ugly for a role then this one would be a cinch (in image obsessed Hollywood the most daring thing a beautiful actress can do is play someone homely), but no such luck this year. Instead, I’ll bet on the recent trend of awarding older actresses and go with Christie.

Best Supporting Actor

Javier Bardem should and will win Best Supporting Actor for No Country For Old Men. If anyone manages to unseat him I guess it’ll be Casey Affleck, something I never thought I’d say a year ago when Casey was just the sickly-looking little brother of a mediocre actor. I still haven’t seen the films he’s supposedly so good in, so for now I still think of him as such.

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett for that dreadful looking Bob Dylan movie. A woman playing a man is just too novel of a concept for these people to resist. If anyone beats her it’ll be Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone. As I’ve seen neither film, I’ll rely on shock value to help Blanchett pull out the win. (By the way, this trend is something that feminists and other PC-obsessed people should be getting up in arms about. A woman is almost never awarded for simply giving a good performance at the Oscars-- there’s always a catch. She’s either the first black person or fat or old or playing a controversial role or had the audacity to look like a normal person. No matter how you spin it, it seems weird.)

Best Original Screenplay

Here’s the one I’m most sure of and the real inspiration for making this lame little list: Diablo Cody will win for Juno. Why? Because it’s exactly the kind of smart-aleck, kitschy script that always wins for Best Original Screenplay. As far as this category is concerned, the more gimmicky and “offbeat” the better. And people like the idea of a former stripper winning an Oscar, even if that little factoid has been shoved down everyone’s throat for the last two months. Mark it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Generally as Best Picture goes so goes the Screenplay award, usually in the adapted category. Atonement will get this one then, unless there’s an unusually large contingent of Cormac McCarthy fans out there.

And I’ll stop there, because this is getting a little tiresome. But hopefully I’ve made my point. It’s generally hype, oddness and political correctness that guides what wins these awards, which are themselves just one very cleverly concocted advertisement for the movie industry. Is this shameful? Sure. But anyone who believes that a ceremony made by and for the Hollywood elite is not solely about money and publicity is being willfully ignorant. What is shameful is how many legitimately good artists, critics, and movie fans still go along for the ride. George C. Scott is the only star in recent memory to rail against what he called the “meat parade” of awards shows when he turned down his Oscar for Patton in 1970. In today’s world of cinema, where the studios are part of multimedia conglomerates and actors are owned in ways that put the old studio system to shame, we’ll probably never see such a display again.

And by the way, Ingmar Bergman will win the clapping contest.


Dustin said...

now i have a reason to watch!

Joshua said...

do you want to place bets on this? a dollar a guess?