It’s Oscar time again! Which also means it’s time for Dennis to get his blood pressure checked! Because, as ever, Hollywood’s tried-and-true method of determining the best films and performances of the year has proven precisely as insightful and precise as that of a dart-throwing monkey doing Jagermeister shots. (We’ll learn the results March 2.)
Is this just the typical film snob griping? Well, sure, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues to somehow operate with its collective toupee-d head wedged firmly up its primly liposuctioned keister. Let’s go to the nominees!
Nominees: “12 Years a Slave,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Captain Phillips,” “Her,” “American Hustle,” “Gravity,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena”
What they got wrong this time: When the Oscars increased the Best Picture pool in 2009 from five to as many as 10, I was absurdly, naively hopeful. At least by opening up the nominations, some lesser-known independent films would have to squeak through, right? And, if nothing else, attract some new viewers with a “Best Picture nominee” sticker on the DVD? I was young and foolish. Instead, it has served to water down the already iffy selection process to NHL playoff levels.
Basically, the Best Picture race is an “everybody gets a trophy” battle among the nice movie your mom saw (“Philomena”), based on a true story feel-goodery (“Dallas Buyers Club”), overrated blockbusters (“Gravity,” “American Hustle”), a few sorta-artsy flicks with no chance in hell (“Nebraska,” “Her”), and whatever Martin Scorsese and Tom Hanks did that year. Plus “Twelve Years a Slave,” which should win.
Are there good movies in there? Sure. In fact, there isn’t a single nominee this year that makes me want to punch a mailbox. But, as ever, the academy can’t be bothered to toss a bone to something truly spellbinding and original (“Upstream Color”), near-experimental and gripping (“All Is Lost,” “Before Midnight”), or the Coen Brothers (“Inside Llewyn Davis”). And would the academy implode like the Death Star if a foreign film made the cut?
Nominees: Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale
What they got wrong this time: This looks like a two-man race, with Leo (getting the best reviews of his career) facing off against my man Chiwetel (sorry, but I’ve been in his corner since “Dirty Pretty Things,” and don’t get me started about him in “Serenity”). An otherwise solid field, with the requisite valedictory nomination because you might die (Dern), guy who lost/gained a scary amount of weight (McConaughey), and Bale, who I continue to find technically sound and uninvolving in everything.
Nothing too egregious, although I thought they’d toss one of those “might die” noms to Robert Redford for taking some chances in “All Is Lost,” or reward Oscar Isaac for his tricky (and musical) turn in “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Plus, the fact that Hanks isn’t on the ballot is pretty shocking, since “giving Tom Hanks Oscars” is listed under “hobbies” in every member’s OK Cupid profile. Sadly, the academy continues to hold fast to its “only one black nominee” per year policy, snubbing Michael B. Jordan’s universally lauded work in “Fruitvale Station.”
Nominees: Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep
What they got wrong this time: My almost complete lack of excitement for this category stems from the fact that it was again a lousy year for decent female roles in Hollywood. Shocker. Sure, there’s Meryl (unlike Hanks, the “nominate Streep” directive is mandatory now), and Dame Judi joins Dern in the “take a nice parting gift” column. Sandra gets the showy one-woman show nom (but she remains one of the most undeserving Best Actress winners in history), with the ever-pleasant Adams bringing up the rear. Blanchett can do no wrong, so I’m fine with that one.
As to who should be there, everyone swears by young Adele Exarchopoulos in the controversial French drama “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” but, you know – foreign. However, the snub for the ages is Julie Delpy who, alongside co-writers Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke, continued her wrenchingly beautiful, decades-long examination of a single relationship in “Before Midnight.” Delpy is remarkable, embodying the dissatisfactions, resentments – and love – of a mature woman coping with the disappointments and rewards of a genuine, decidedly un-Hollywood romance. No wonder she’s not on this list.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.