I originally titled this post Cinema Pathetico, a play on Cinema Paradiso, one of my all-time favorite movies. (If you haven’t seen it, you must. You owe it to yourself. Seriously. It could change your life. And if you have seen it, am I right or what? That movie’s amazing.) I changed it, though, because I thought Cinema Pathetico might suggest I have some sort of disdain for the motion picture industry. Sadly, no. I mean, the motion picture industry may well be worthy of my disdain, but that’s not the point of the title. So, I made a play on Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer instead, for reasons which will soon be pitifully clear.
And what is the occasion for all this cinematic reflection? Well, the 2010 Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday morning (25 January 2011, if you’re reading this in the future), and there was a time when I would have lived for that news. The Oscars used to be my thing. I had an encyclopedic knowledge of not only the winners but also the nominees in at least the big six categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supp. Actor, Supp. Actress), and for some years, I could even do the screenplay nominees (Original AND Adapted). So there.
My fascination with the Oscars began in childhood, when I would beg to stay up to watch the end even when I had no idea what the movies were (“Chariots of Fire?” “Gandhi?” “Out of Africa?”). When I got older, I would even make sure I was up in time to catch the live nomination announcement, which comes about a month or so before the ceremony. It’s a peculiar thing, this announcement, with two celebs standing at a podium in Los Angeles at 5:30 am, reading the names of the nominees at an almost dizzying pace. I’d sit in front of the TV, scribbling down the nominees as fast as I could, so that I’d be able to parse them and digest them and regurgitate them as quickly as the people on E!. I knew this stuff backwards and forwards. Inside Oscar was like a bible, and my friend Mario Taormina and I would often play this game where we would challenge each other to name the nominees in a given year or a given category or a given film.
You get where I’m coming from, right? It’s trivia, but it was my trivia, and I had an impressive command of it.
And then we got an internet.
Suddenly, it didn’t matter so much that I could remember this information, because, oh, look, it’s all right here on IMDB or Wikipedia, and slowly it evaporated from my cerebral cortex. My own armchair handicapping of possible nominees didn’t matter much anymore, because other, better-connected people were taking care of the prognosticating, and you could easily read fifty articles that all said essentially the same thing. It’s not so much that I stopped caring. It’s that my caring became obsolete. The internet was doing the caring for me, and I could dip into it whenever I felt like stoking the fading embers of my old obsession.
Somewhere along the way, I also stopped seeing as many movies as I used to. I don’t know why or how that happened. I mean, I know why I see fewer movies in New York: BECAUSE THEY COST A FREAKING FORTUNE.
Before that, I don’t know. Katrina, maybe? Being busy? I don’t even watch as many movies on video as I once did, and that’s despite the disturbingly-addictive convenience of the “Watch Instantly” feature on Netflix. For example, of the 248 movies eligible for Best Picture this year, I have seen a whopping 5. FIVE MOVIES. That’s it. Only one of these choices embarrasses me, but it’s a modest embarrassment at best: The Other Guys with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, which was diverting and did not make me want to punch Will Ferrell in the face. The other four are perfectly respectable: City Island, Despicable Me, Made in Dagenham, and The Social Network. And one of those is likely to win the big prize in…well, when are the Oscars nowadays? February, March? I don’t know anymore. They keep moving shit around, and I can’t find anything.
So if I were to give out Oscars on just the five movies I’ve seen, the results would be something like this:
BEST PICTURE (OF THE FIVE FILMS I SAW): The Social Network, yes. But if you have a chance, watch Made in Dagenham. It captures a moment in history – when women were guaranteed equal wages for equal work – that we should all be much more aware of. (Despicable Me would take the Animated Feature category, where its real-life chances are unfortunately dim.)
And because I really cannot resist this speculation, which will Oscar pick? Ask most people, “who do you think’ll be nominated, who do you think’ll win,” and they’ll tell you they haven’t seen everything. But that doesn’t matter in the least. It’s not like you’re actually voting. You’re guessing. It’s possible to make very educated guesses, though, because the Academy is somewhat predictable. Well, since they recently expanded the Best Picture field to 10 nominees, it’s harder to say, but you can still gauge with some degree of accuracy. Expect to see The Social Network, Inception, Black Swan, The Fighter, True Grit, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, The Kids Are All Right, mmmmmm, Blue Valentine maybe, and maybe even Made in Dagenham. (Predicted accuracy: 8 out of 10)
BEST ACTOR (OF THE FIVE FILMS I SAW): Jesse Eisenberg made intellectual superiority and paranoia unexpectedly sympathetic, but I loved Andy Garcia’s work as a secretive father and husband in City Island. And I’m not the biggest Andy Garcia fan. He was terrific.
Who will Oscar pick? Eisenberg definitely, and Colin Firth, who’s likely to win it for The King’s Speech. Also, probably last year’s winner Jeff Bridges (True Grit). James Franco has a lot of buzz for 127 Hours, and he’s hosting, so he’s a strong possibility. And, for the 5th spot, I think Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) is likely to beat out Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine). (Predicted accuracy: 4 out of 5)
BEST ACTRESS (OF THE FIVE FILMS I SAW): I loved Julianna Margulies as Andy Garcia’s hilariously suspicious and undersexed Noo Yawk wife in City Island, but I’d pick Sally Hawkins in Made in Dagenham. She’s wonderful in it, subtle and strong, but it could be my residual love for her in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky that’s influencing my decision. If you haven’t seen HGL, go find it. Like, now. Sally won the Golden Globe for Best Actress Comedy/Musical, but she was truly robbed of an Oscar nomination. (Really? Angelina Jolie for Changeling? And, no, I didn’t see it, but still.)
Who will Oscar pick? Natalie Portman for Black Swan, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, and maybe Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone. (Predicted accuracy: 3 out of 5)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (OF THE FIVE FILMS I SAW): Andrew Garfield is almost heartbreaking as the moral compass in The Social Network, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the new Peter Parker Oscar-nominated for his efforts. But I would be surprised to see Made in Dagenham‘s Bob Hoskins up there, and it’s a shame he’ll be overlooked, because his work is superb. As a low-down and dirty union representative, he is one of the catalysts for significant social change. And he’s pretty damn funny.
Who will Oscar pick? This one’s tough. Christian Bale for The Fighter. Geoffrey Rush for King’s Speech. Maybe a sentimental vote for Michael Douglas for Wall Street 2. Garfield’s got a shot here, but he could split the vote with (or get nosed out by) Armie Hammer for playing twins. But I’ll go with Garfield. And maybe Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right. (Predicted accuracy: 4 out of 5)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (OF THE FIVE FILMS I SAW): Emily Mortimer is solid as an actress with a messy past in City Island, and Geraldine James is touching as a factory worker caring for her shell-shocked veteran husband in Made in Dagenham. But Miranda Richardson had a grand old time as Dagenham‘s fiery Secretary of State, standing up to Parliament’s boys’ club. It’s a classic supporting role – lively, tough, jokes in the right places, heart – and the Academy will probably overlook it. Their loss.
Who will Oscar pick? Julianne Moore may end up in this category, but I really think she’s going to land next to Bening in Best Actress. Melissa Leo has been building momentum for The Fighter, and her co-star Amy Adams is likely to show up here as well. Helena Bonham Carter will earn her 2nd career nomination for The King’s Speech. Hailee Steinfeld is likely to score a nod for taking on the Kim Darby role in True Grit, and the fifth slot is probably going to go Black Swan‘s Barbara Hershey, although Mila Kunis (Meg Griffin!) could sneak in instead. (Predicted accuracy: 4 out of 5)
And that’s it. We’ll see what happens in the morning. The nominations will be everywhere within seconds, and this whole post will be obsolete. My writing is nothing if not disposable. Whatevs.
See City Island and Made in Dagenham, though. Both good little movies. You won’t be disappointed.