The Oscar nominations are in. As a 25 year Academy member who votes each year for these awards, here’s my perspective on the crosscurrents I sense this year from my fellow Academy members:
I’m personally thrilled that Avatar and The Blind Side are the two most nominated films. Yes! They both richly deserve that recognition. While I expected Avatar to get its due, I was very pleasantly surprised to see such warm acceptance of The Blind Side. Usually, the Academy is very snooty about films that do not win critical accolades, and it was not exactly a critic’s favorite. It’s way too positive and emotionally satisfying for the cynics, uh, critics.
Of the 10 films I nominated on my own ballot, only three made the actual list: Avatar, The Blind Side, and Up. Oh, well … Mainstream, I’m not. My sister is a film critic and she teases me that she knows exactly who will win Best Picture each year by noting which of the major nominated films I like the least. Last year, she was dead on: I couldn’t stand Slumdog Millionaire and it won. This year, that film would be Up in the Air. I find it to be a cold, manipulative, and depressing film about three cold, manipulative, and depressing people. So, we’ll see what happens.
The Academy has become very aware of, and sensitive to, the fact that most Oscar nominations and awards in the last few years have been going to small, mostly dark, and non-commercial films. As a result, the public has lost interest and the ratings for last year’s Oscar show were the lowest ever. In a quest to lure more viewers to the Oscar telecast on March 7, the Academy expanded the list of nominated films to 10 this year. The audience should, at the outset at least, be bigger this year. Let’s hope that those nominations for Avatar and The Blind Side translate into several awards as well. If not, fans of those films will again be disappointed and the Oscar audience will continue to shrink.
At this point, it looks like the Best Picture award will most likely go to either Avatar or The Hurt Locker. Avatar is now the highest grossing film of all time and has garnered huge critical acclaim. That should make it the odds-on favorite. However, the Academy might continue its history of embracing small, dark, non-commercial films like The Hurt Locker. In addition, please remember that the 6,000 people who vote for the Oscars each year are all industry professionals. Putting it bluntly, professional jealousy exists and some members may just not want to add an award to the commercial success of the film. In my opinion, that kind of attitude is just awful, but it is there.
In the same vein, I believe that James Cameron should win for Best Director. The achievement of Avatar is so transcendent that no one even comes close to it. However, keep that jealousy factor in mind again, and also note that The Hurt Locker was directed by a woman, Kathryn Bigelow. The Academy just loves “firsts” and Bigelow would be the first woman to ever win the directing Oscar. As a father of five young women, I too will be ecstatic when a woman finally wins the Best Director award (Come on, Nancy Meyers, get that next film ready!). I also think that voting for Bigelow simply because she is a woman is in and of itself a sexist act. The Best Director award should go to the person who did the most extraordinary job and there is simply no way to compare the directing challenges of Avatar to any other film this year … or maybe in any other year. Bigelow just won the prestigious Director’s Guild Award that most often predicts the Oscar winner, so that bodes well for her.
Jeff Bridges is looking like the biggest favorite of all the major nominations to win Best (oh, how I wish that could be changed to Favorite) Actor. Bridges is brilliant in Crazy Heart and he has a lifetime of wonderful performances. Let me put this directly, he’s the single biggest lock of the night. He’ll win and he deserves to win.
Best Actress will go to either Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock, and I will be thrilled either way. I think that Streep is the greatest actress in the history of cinema. She is fabulous, as always, in Julie and Julia. Bullock is also wonderful in The Blind Side and she just might be a sentimental favorite this year. It’s also very significant that Bullock won the Screen Actors Guild Award this year. SAG actors and actresses are, by the far, the biggest voting bloc in the Academy itself, so the SAG Award is most often a harbinger of the Oscar itself.
Overall, I think that Avatar will indeed win the most Oscars because it is such a heavy favorite in the technical categories for which it is nominated. I think we Blind Side fans may have to settle for only one or two Oscars. The other Oscars will, I think, be spread around to several other films including Supporting Actor and Actress awards for Inglorious Basterds and Precious, respectively.
And there are always a couple of big surprises.
Those are my thoughts on the major awards. What do you think? Who will win? Who should win? Share your thoughts below.