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The Oscars are odd. It’s just about the only reason left for having them; that and for the sake of the people who make red carpets. Every year when the nominations come out, there are three or four days of stories about the “surprises” and the people who were “snubbed.” So Tom Hooper and Kathryn Bigelow were overlooked, but Michael Haneke was remarked on. And Helen Hunt got a supporting actress nod for The Sessions. No, I’m not suggesting that she was undeserving—far from it.
Leave it to the Oscars to frustrate me even when they’re properly awarded. On Friday, I loudly declared my belief in inavataribility, arguing that, given the Academy's lifelong emphasis on movies' commercial success, there was no way it would give Best Picture to a $12.6 million-grossing indie (The Hurt Locker) over a well-reviewed juggernaut that made 50 times as much (Avatar). On Sunday, it gave Best Picture to a $12.6 million-grossing, etc., etc. How did this act of cinematic sanity come about?
As we approach this weekend’s Oscars, there are two predominant takes on the Best Picture category: Either it will be a close race between James Cameron’s 3-D (and nearly 3-hour) money-mill Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq indie The Hurt Locker, with the latter a slight favorite (as this gambling site submits); or Bigelow’s picture already has the award in the bag.
What does it say that three of the top five films on my list this year--and another that could easily have made the top ten, Coraline--are “kid’s movies”? In the end not much, I think. Two of the three, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, were directed by talented indie auteurs (Spike Jonze and Wes Andersen, respectively) who merely happened to adapt children’s books in the same year.