It's very easy to be cynical about the Oscars, especially since at their worst, they're little more than a smug, self-satisfied display of onanism practiced by people who already have too many reasons to feel pleased with themselves. This year's ceremony could potentially be even worse thanks to the presence of host Seth Macfarlane, a man who is the very embodiment of smug, self-satisfied onanism. At their best, though, the Academy Awards act as a celebration of the pageantry and magic of the movies, and even a disastrous slate of nominations can provide for plenty of discourse, and a car-crash of an awards ceremony promises to be great fodder for the rubberneckers of the world.
As far as the nominations go, this year's seems pretty reflective of the good, not great nature of 2012. There's plenty to get annoyed about - the exclusion of The Master from Director or Picture, whilst understandable, is irritating - but most of the films are solid, middlebrow fare from a year that provided plenty of it. As always, the really interesting stuff never gets a shot at the Oscars (Ann Dowd certainly deserved a Best Actress nomination for Compliance) except in crazy years where something like The Tree of Life somehow gets a look in. For the films not nominated, it's probably a greater tribute to know that they will live on and grow in esteem regardless of whether or not their creators get to sit in an old theater and be bored for several hours.
Whilst it's all too easy to focus on what the Academy gets wrong, it's valuable to point out what they got right. Even a fairly bland, predictable slate like this year's has some delights buried within it, and I think it's worth celebrating them.
Delight No. 1: Searching for Sugar Man's nomination for Best Documentary
|It's either Rodriguez or a lost member of Suede. Perhaps we will never know.|
Delight No. 2: The very real possibility that Roger Deakins might finally win an Oscar
|They'll go with Skyfall, but they'll be thinking of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford|
Delight No. 3: The lack of nominations for Hitchcock, Promised Land or Hyde Park on Hudson
|Matt realised too late that Ben had lied to him about where the Oscar ceremony was being held|
Delight No. 4: Amour escaping the Foreign Language Ghetto
|"I can't believe I wasn't nominated!"|
Amour is a more quietly devastating film than, for example, Funny Games, and it was generally expected that the film would pick up a nod for Emmanuelle Riva for Lead Actress in addition to an assured Foreign Language nomination, but there remains a barrier that most world cinema never seems to be able to cross when it comes to cracking the major awards (with exceptions such as last year, when A Separation was nominated for best Original Screenplay) and it seemed that Amour would be the latest to bash its head against that barrier to no avail. So for it to get nominations for Screenplay, Director and Picture is nothing short of astonishing. There's almost no chance that it will win, obviously, but in this instance, it truly is an achievement just being nominated.
Delight No. 5: The scant love for The Master
|This remake of On The Town has taken a dark turn...|
With all that said, it's a shame (and most likely due to the efforts of minions of Xenu) that it didn't pick up deserved nominations for music or cinematography. That indignity is salved somewhat by its strong showing in the acting categories, as well as the correct designation of Joaquin Phoenix as Best Actor and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Supporting. This might seem a trivial point, but I'm still mad about Forest Whittaker winning Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland when he was clearly not the lead. And relax.
Delight No. 6: The nomination for Paperman in Best Animated Short
|He's even more upset about all the nominations for Silver Linings Playbook than I am|
Delight No. 7: Quvenzhané Wallis being nominated for Best Actress for Beasts of the Southern Wild
|Roaming charges are atrocious on a phone that can literally roam around|
Delight No. 8: Not letting controversy get in the way of nominating Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty for Best Picture
|I would pay good money to see Jamie Foxx wear this down the red carpet. And by "good," I mean "no," because that was a lie, but I would still like to see it happen.|
Of course, it would have been even better if they had nominated Bigelow for Director, but this is not a place for negativity. It's all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows right now.
Delight No. 9: Ted being nominated for Best Original Song
|Mark Wahlberg seems really surprised to discover he has a middle finger|
Mainly, though, this nomination rubs me the wrong way because it gives me hellish visions of a situation in which Seth Macfarlane wins on the night and spends the rest of the telecast parading around with his statuette and slowly disappearing up his own rectum. It'd be like if William S. Burroughs scripted the Oscars telecast and it would be horrifying, yet strangely watchable. In reality, I fear that it might be the former without the later.