Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

And they talk about Christmas coming earlier ever year.

Oscar voters consider the year’s releases. Before anybody else says it, let me clarify that I am aware the Oscars are nothing more than a combination of crap shoot and marketing beano. Look through the records and you will struggle …

Thu, Oct 29, 2009, 17:52



Oscar voters consider the year’s releases.

Before anybody else says it, let me clarify that I am aware the Oscars are nothing more than a combination of crap shoot and marketing beano. Look through the records and you will struggle to find a single instance in which the Academy awarded the top prize to the best film of the year. Indeed, once or twice — I’m thinking about A Beautiful Mind here — they have actually managed to garland one of the very worst. Despite recent victories by Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men, the Academy still seems to think its job is to recognise the most middle-brow, meretricious releases and the chewiest, most self-regarding performances.

So why pay any attention? Well, it’s become a sort of sport. As in all sports, success depends on talent, but, here, the talent is less in the fields of acting and directing than in marketing and scheduling. Nothing demonstrates this more effectively than the Oscar success of The Reader last year. The film got pretty ordinary reviews, but, by a characteristic sleight of hand, the brothers Weinstein managed to fool voters into thinking it was a critics’ favourite. They pushed Winslet up a few red carpets and, sure enough, come February the nominations rolled in.

It is, however, a sport I continue to follow. Thus I find myself being drawn into the debate that has already begun about the potential nominees for best picture. There are a great many sites devoted to the Oscars, but the most obsessive remains an offshoot of the LA Times entitled The Envelope. Here, a gang of philistines, who believe the awards actually mean something, argue endlessly about the intentions of a bunch of geriatrics who wouldn’t know a masterpiece if it bit them in the genitals. At least one of their contributors thinks the notoriously bad Irish film Strength and Honour is a masterpiece for the ages. There’s plenty here to get Oscarologists such as me fuming.

Anyway, as you will be aware, the Academy is putting forward 10 nominees for best picture next year (up from the usual five). This should allow in a few more commercial pictures, but, with no trippy, dippy Amelies about the place, we will probably not see a foreign language flick in the shortlist. Here is my current nap for the final ten. Let me be very clear: these are not my personal favourites (indeed there’s a few I haven’t seen). These are the films I think the Academy will pick. It all could change if The Lovely Bones gets a kicking or Nine lives down to the standards of director Rob Marshall’s distinctly iffy back-catalogue.

The likely nominees for best picture in no particular order…

Nine (Everyone’s in it and Daniel Day Lewis is a statuette magnet.)

The Lovely Bones (Based on big fat, Judy-and-Richard friendly book. Hello?)

An Education (For many in the Academy, being British makes a flick an art film.)

The Hurt Locker(Best-reviewed American film of the year)

Invictus (Clint Eastwood directs Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. Need I say more?)

Precious (The little indie film that could.)

Up (Wall-E just missed out on last year’s top five. Our apologies.)

Up in the Air (We love George! We love George!)

A Serious Man (May be a bit dark, but it’s just so darn good.)

The Road (Serious. Important. Again, based on a big book by an important person.)

Coming up on the rails: Star Trek, Bright Star, District 9, Avatar, Brothers.


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