Oscar predictions.

Based on my experience of watching and reading about the Academy Awards in past years, here are my Oscar predictions… BEST PICTURE

Of the nine nominees, the Academy will give the Best Picture award to the movie  that, at one particular (but fleeting) moment, wins the most approval based on a mix of these factors:

• how much money the studio spent marketing the film;

• political trendiness;

• the popularity of the values it obviously endorses;

• audience accessibility;

• celebrity popularity;

• and absence of involvement by anyone currently inspiring Hollywood’s scowl of disapproval.

Some consideration may also be given to the actual artistry on display in the film. But all of the aspects listed above pollute the Academy’s ability to discern a film’s artistry. Thus, artistry is unlikely to be a major influence on the voting.

If voting had occurred a few weeks earlier or later, the mix of influencing factors would have been different, and a different film probably would have taken the award.

Thus, the award will be relatively meaningless in the long run, except that it will earn a great deal of money for the studio involved with the film.

In less than a year, most of the Oscar audience will have to pause and think hard to remember which film ended up winning, even though as they watch the Oscar-cast it will seem like a very, very important ceremony.

Those are my predictions.

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS

The winner of the Best Actor and Best Actress award will go to the actor and actress who hold the most favor from Hollywood at the moment for…

A) how many admiring friends they have in the Academy;

B) how much money was behind their Oscar campaign;

C) the actor’s avoidance of scandal;

D) the showy-ness of the actor’s transformation (as opposed to subtlety);

E) the actor’s political favor (extra points for actors who either 1) represent an ethnic or sexual-orientation minority, 2) play an ethnic or sexual-orientation minority, or 3) both;)

F) the intensity of moments in which the actor was shown weeping;

G) the level of onscreen disgrace like prejudice or sexual abuse the character is made to suffer. (Graphic nudity often gives an actor an advantage here.)

Some consideration may also be given to how the actor met the challenges of the role, and how artfully he or she performed, but this is unlikely to have a major influence on the voting. All of the aspects listed above pollute the Academy’s ability to discern the true artistry of an actor’s performance.

If voting had occurred a few weeks earlier or later, this mix might have been different, and a different actor or actress probably would have taken the award.

Thus, the award will be relatively meaningless, except that it may earn the actor high-profile roles in the next few years. In less than a year, most of the Oscar audience will have to pause and think hard to remember which actor ended up winning, even though as they watch the Oscar-cast it will seem like a very, very important ceremony.

Those are my predictions.

TEN, TWENTY, THIRTY YEARS FROM NOW…

The movies from 2011 that have the most influence on filmmakers, that are most closely examined in film schools, and that are emerging as enduring works of art will probably not be the movies that won big at the Oscars. They may not even have been nominated. And they may never have been widely distributed in the U.S.

That’s because the strengths of any great work of art are slow to make themselves known, and they only make themselves known to attentive, observant viewers who visit and revisit those works. Great films rarely inspire us to cheer at the end. Rather, they inspire us to engage, to question, to explore, to wrestle, to look again… closely, and to discuss. Such strengths are rarely what earn a film box office success or Hollywood’s fleeting favor.

SO, WHY WATCH THE OSCARS? 

You could find better ways to spend the evening.

Me, I enjoy watching them sometimes, so long as the films being honored aren’t horrible. Why?

Because it is a rare pleasure to see so much prime-time television devoted to speeches full of gratitude. It often moves me to hear celebrities and unknowns alike getting up to name those in their lives who have contributed to their work. Because any film, any performance, any screenplay is a collaborative work.

Thus, I’m grateful when anybody who stands up to accept an award remembers to express thanks; remembers to express humility; remembers to observe just how fleeting and inconsequential Hollywood’s favor really is; remembers to demonstrate that it is nevertheless a beautiful thing to support and encourage and bring out the best in one another.

[UPDATE: My Facebook friend Janet predicts (bold text mine): "The Best Picture prediction this year is easy. The largest voting group in the Academy is the actors' branch. The Artist is not only a movie about actors, it is a movie in which being unemployed is the greatest calamity that can befall an actor, and in which the world is made right when an actor is once again gainfully employed. Ergo, The Artist wins best picture. There is no contest."

Janet's prediction reminds me of how I concluded my review of The Artist: The Academy Awards are the biggest annual party that Hollywood throws for itself, and The Artist is a movie that worships Hollywood — its vanity, its values, its people-pleasing, its superficiality. Looks like a done deal.]

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