January 26, 2012

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It is that time of year again for self-congratulation in Hollywood. The Golden Globes have come and gone and the Academy Awards will be announced this week.  By the time this goes to print, we will have the nominations and the speculation can truly begin. If the Globes are any indication, there will be scores of familiar faces among the nominees. We will likely see George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Ryan Gosling and Tilda Swinton in the Best Actor and Actress categories, respectively. Scorsese, Spielberg and Allen will represent in the Best Director category. The people included in the nominations are easy to guess because the Academy chooses the people they promote. Big names draw big ratings which equals big money. It is important to remember that the Oscars, despite their glamour and pomp, are not much more than a lavishly produced and expensive commercial for Hollywood films.

Which isn’t to say that the films that win nominations don’t deserve accolades. I very much want to see “The Artist,” a grand homage to silent film that will likely be nominated for multiple awards including Best Picture. It also may get a nomination for Best Original Score, despite largely being an adaptation of the score from “Vertigo.” Last year, the score for “Black Swan” was not nominated because it was an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” I loved the way “Black Swan” used that music to color the tone of each scene, and if Clint Mansell didn’t get the nomination, giving it to Ludovic Bource this year seems a little inconsistent.  

I haven’t seen “The Artist,” of course, because a silent movie isn’t going to sell well here in the Scenic City. But its nomination would bring it to the Majestic 12. If there is one good thing about the Oscars, it’s their ability to bring more obscure films to a mainstream audience.  But there are several films that I’ve seen this year that will likely be passed over despite good performances.

For instance, “Warrior” is a film that was surprisingly powerful. Tom Hardy, Joel Egarton and Nick Nolte give performances as good as any in “Ides of March” or “The Descendants,” two movies which both star George Clooney. Hardy especially deserves acclaim for the quiet rage he brings to his character. But “Warrior” is about the world of Ultimate Fighting, and while a film about an aging professional wrestler was just bohemian enough to draw the Academy’s praise in 2009, Ultimate Fighting is still decidedly plebian. “Warrior” won’t get any nominations.  

So the Academy will again try to strike a balance between the popular and the penetrating. “The Help” and “The Artist” will occupy the same categories, despite being wildly different in terms of quality and appeal. I will watch dutifully, passing judgment on the decisions and rolling my eyes at patter.  Thus passes another year in film.  

The 84th Academy Awards

7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26

ABC (Channel 9) Host: Billy Crystal


January 26, 2012

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