2012 Oscars

The yearly finger-wagging

The theme of the award shows this year seems to be nostalgia.  Topping the Academy’s ladder for Best Picture are Hugo and The Artist, two films about transitions in the world of cinema.  Also nominated is The Descendants, a better film than either, as well as The Tree of Life, a masterpiece from earlier in the year.  I’d like to see Kaui Hemmings’ novel-to-film take home the Oscar, but I expect the winner will be one of the top two.  More so, it would have been nice if Mike Cahill and Brit Marling’s Another Earth was nominated, but I suspect its modest budget and lesser-known performers caused the Academy to shy away.  Also unfortunately omitted was My Week With Marilyn.

While we’re on that topic, Michelle Williams deserves the Best Actress award, if our only choices are the nominees.  However, I’m guessing Glenn Close or Meryl Streep will win, because if you’re the Academy, you’re thinking that Michelle Williams will have plenty of occasion to be nominated later, while the roles of Albert Nobbs and Margaret Thatcher may very well be the crown jewels in the careers of Close and Streep.  Williams won the Golden Globe, however, so no sour grapes, although it is an absolute crime that Mia Wasikowska was not nominated for her heartbreakingly wonderful performance in Jane Eyre.

Also regarding crimes, Michael Fassbender received no nod for Shame, although he won a good amount of other awards for his excellent run as sex-addict Brandon Sullivan.  Similarly, Michael Shannon is nowhere to be seen for Take Shelter.  George Clooney rightfully receives a nomination for his role as Matt King in The Descendants (although, shamefully, Shailene Woodley was left out of Best Supporting Actress contention), and Gary Oldman receives a surprise nomination for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  If patterns are to be trusted, the winner will be Jean Dujardin for his role as George Valentin in the brilliant silent film The Artist.

Here are my most current fundamental issues with this year’s awards (apart from the hackneyed formula by which the Academy chooses nominees, which you can read more about from Roger Ebert if you care):  a “best” award, leastways for an actor, should be based upon that actor’s volume of work for the entire year, if they’re receiving an award which represents that entire year.  For example, take a look at Jessica Chastain’s 2011 track record.  The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Debt, Wilde Salome, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus – mostly leading roles, and an astounding collection of characters.  She’s receiving a nod for Best Supporting Actress in The Help, but I imagine this award will go to her co-star, Octavia Spencer, and it perhaps should go to Bérénice Bejo for her brilliant performance as Peppy Miller in The Artist.  Therein lies the issue: we’re comparing one character from one film to one other character from one other film, which may or may not even be the same kind of film (a problem the Golden Globes avoids by splitting their “bests” into the categories of Drama and Musical/Comedy), and not on the work from the entire year.  Jessica Chastain is only slated for two films so far this year, one of which is animated, so it may unfortunately be awhile before we see her at the podium.

There are other things I could go on about, but suffice it to say that I think there’s one sweeping solution: understand that the Golden Globes, an international show, is more prestigious, and that there are plenty of other award ceremonies throughout the end of the year that equally (and quite often more truly) highlight the year’s bests.  The Oscars, being the one strictly American ceremony (notice A Separation is nominated only for Best Foreign Language Film and not Best Picture), has always sought to be the “best” source, perhaps because Americans are obsessed with referring to others to find out what the most appropriate behavior is, but at the same time do not want to check multiple sources.  Don’t be fooled.  I enjoy the Oscars every year, but it’s only one measuring stick in the proverbial plastic bin.


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