First things first: I love watching the Oscars. It’s the one time of the year that I get all fired up about things that shouldn’t matter to me so much. I want this year to be good. I want it to be awesome. Right now, though, it looks as if it might just infuriate me. I hope the 2010 telecast can avoid these pitfalls, so I’ve gone ahead and listed them below—hopeful that they may not come true. This is a predictive Top 10. Keep in mind that the Oscar nominations are not announced until Feb 2. Ballsy? Sure. Why not? I criticize because I care.
The 2010 Oscar telecast should be quite different from years past. Former studio executive and producer Bill Mechanic and “Hairspray” director-choreographer Adam Shankman are co-producers of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards and they’ve made some pretty big changes. Additionally, this year’s awards season has produced a lot of clear-cut frontrunners in certain categories, yet the two biggest seem up for grabs. Either way, it looks like we are in for a pretty lame Oscar TV event, especially for serious fans of movies.
10. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are co-hosting
OK, this is at number 10 because it really could go either way. Martin hosted the show in 2001 and was alright I guess, but year after year of sub-par family remakes and their sequels (“Father of the Bride” 1 and 2, “The Pink Panther” 1 and 2) have probably dulled his edge a little. Baldwin’s dry humor may spice things up a little (his timing is impeccable), but sometimes he can come off as boorish. I’m hoping they have a good time making fun of each other—maybe that will be enough.
9. James Cameron will speak Na’vi again
Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects will all go to “Avatar.” Done deal. The mega-blockbuster might also pick up awards for Cinematography, Director, and Picture. Either way, chances are we’ll get a face full of Cameron speaking in that language that was made up specifically for his movie. Since proclaiming himself the “king of the world” after winning everything in sight for “Titanic” obviously wasn’t enough, Cameron actually had the chutzpah to speak Na’vi at his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. Expect him to do the same at the Oscars. (Maybe Baldwin and Martin could learn some Klingon and they could have a nerdtastic conversation with funny subtitles. There, Oscar writers, you can have that—just be sure and give me credit.)
8. They should’ve expanded the Best Actor category to 10 instead of Best Picture
OK, I’m not seriously suggesting this. What I would like to point out, however, is the abundance of talent in this category—coming up with 10 nominees is easy. Also, I’d like to point out how dangerous it can be to have all these televised “predictive” awards shows (like the upcoming SAGs, last weekend’s Critic’s Choice Awards, and the Golden Globes). Because of the nominees there, we can surely predict the nominees for the Oscar: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”; George Clooney, “Up in the Air”; Colin Firth, “A Single Man”; Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”; and Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker.” Those are just five. And not even the best five. But what are the odds that Viggo Mortensen (“The Road”), Ben Foster (“The Messenger”), Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”), Sam Rockwell (“Moon”), or my favorite performance of the year Nicolas Cage (who won the Toronto film critics poll for “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”) will get nominated? Zilch. It’s this narrowing down; this critical consensus that there are only five real competitors worthy that really ticks me off. Read further in the list for who’s going to win this category, hands down.
7. A Shut-out of “Where the Wild Things Are”
This one’s not too hard to call. The best movie of the year according to The New York Times’ A.O. Scott, a handful of other critics, and myself, will be completely glossed over for Oscar nominations on the morning of Feb. 2. Spike Jonze’s aching portrait of childhood disguised in big fuzzy monster suits was a polarizing film. And since the lead performance is that of a little kid (a naturalistic Max Records) while virtually everyone else is hidden under layers of fur, there’s very little to nominate in the acting categories. The Academy will overlook the film’s sumptuous cinematography, its creative art direction, Jonze’s masterful film direction, and—most criminally—its perfect adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s nine-sentence children’s book. If they got anything right, the Academy would nominate it for Costumes, but I’m not counting on anything.
6. No Lifetime Achievement Awards
For casual watchers of movies, maybe this is the portion of the broadcast where they tune out. Perhaps they don’t like watching old people accept recognition for a life spent in film. Screw ‘em! Watching Robert Altman and Elia Kazan win the Lifetime Achievement Award in recent years was very satisfying. Not only do I love seing these film legends get their due, but I love the movie-clip montages. (The Scorsese one at the Globes almost made me weep, it was so good!) Well, this year, in order to speed up the show’s pace (and to allow them to give more awards without having to worry about TV time constraints), the producers awarded producer John Calley, legendary lenser Gordon Willis (“The Godfather”), living legend Lauren Bacall, and B-movie king Roger Corman their statues at a small banquet in November. Lame.
5. 10 Best Picture nominations didn’t help: “Avatar” would have been nominated even with five nominees
Part of that move to get better TV ratings was the bold choice this year to expand the Best Picture race to 10 movies rather than 5. It’s the first time since 1943 that the Oscars have had 10 noms here, and the idea was one of inclusion. Had there been 10 nominees last year, “The Dark Knight” would have been one of them and more people would care about watching the Oscars. In theory. Well, guess what? “Avatar” (poised to break “The Dark Knight’”s box office) would have been nominated even if the category had stuck to five. And other big-grossing films like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and the new “Harry Potter” don’t stand a chance. The only beneficiary I can see is Pixar’s “Up,” which should stride right out of the Animation ghetto and into the Best Picture race. A downside? With the vote system the way it is, its possible that “Avatar” might actually become Best Picture even if no voter chooses it as their favorite movie. The new system assigns a point value to each movie based on its ranking on a list. First is worth more points, but a movie voted second place by tons of people could overtake it. (So a movie that no one liked the BEST could win BEST Picture.)
4. The Best Actress race is poised to be downright embarrasing
Sandra Bullock tied at the Critic’s Choice and won the dramatic lead actress award for “The Blind Side.” That is such a mind-boggling reality that I’ll repeat it: Sandra Bullock won two previous awards for “The Blind Side.” OK, Meryl Streep (who tied with Bullock on Friday) may still be the frontrunner for playing beloved chef Julia Child in “Julie & Julia,” but the fact that Bullock even has a chance to win an Oscar for playing the noble rich white woman who takes in a poor black kid and teaches him to play football is just insane. Nevermind Gabourey Sidibe’s searing performance in “Precious” or Carey Mulligan’s mature-beyond-her-years work in “An Education,” let’s give the award to the millionaire movie star who never takes chances on roles with actual substance. (And, no: “Crash” doesn’t count.)
3. “Anvil” snubbed for Best Doc = huge missed opportunity
The best documentary of the year is the most human one out there. It doesn’t revolve around an important issue (and perhaps that’s why it wasn’t shortlisted by the Academy for a nomination this year) and it doesn’t have any movie stars doing voiceover narration. It’s a moving tale of determination, friendship, and courage—and it’s about a Canadian heavy metal band still plugging away at their career in their fifties. (Jpeg from The Film Experience.) Besides missing out on seeing band members Lips and Robb Reiner decked out in tuxes at the show, the producers are missing out on a huge opportunity by not being able to book the stars of “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” to actually perform. That would have been the most bizarre Oscar musical performance since Isaac Hayes disappeared in a cloud of smoke during his Oscar-winning “Theme from ‘Shaft.’” And it would have seriously brought the audience to its knees, because …
2. Anyway you slice it, the song category will suck
Another less-publicized change in the Oscars was made this year in the Music – Original Song category. If no song achieves a minimum average score of 8.25 in the nominations voting, there be no nominees and no Oscar presented for the category. We could only be so lucky. If only one song achieves the required minimum, it and the song with the next highest score will be deemed the nominees. This continues as laid out, but only up to five nominations. The Oscar will go to “The Weary Kind (Theme From ‘Crazy Heart’),” a safe, boring, mellow folk number that’s masquerading as “real country” and has already won the Critic’s Choice and Golden Globe. Let’s just hope it and only one other song gets nominated so we don’t have to sit through too much awful music on the show. The problem with this category is that most of these songs are afterthoughts; songs deemed too crappy to put on established artists’ albums so they get put in movies just to run through the credits. Kudos to the Academy for trying to limit the number of nominees with a quality scale. I just don’t trust it to work.
1. All the Major Awards Races (minus the two biggest) Are Already Over
Nominees haven’t even been announced yet, but here are your winners in all big categories other than Picture and Director:
Actor: Jeff Bridges, Actress: Meryl Streep, Supporting Actor: Cristolph Waltz, Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Screenplay: “Inglourious Basterds,” Adapted Screenplay: “Up in the Air,” Animated Film: “Up,” Foreign Film: “The White Ribbon,” Documentary: “The Cove,” Original Score: “Up,” Original Song: “Crazy Heart.” Knowing there won’t be any surprises until the very end could make for a long slog of a telecast. I am hoping that, against all odds, I am wrong, but this is how I see it. And as usual, (pity me), I’ll be glued to my TV to find out!