“The Artist” was the favorite at last night’s Academy Awards: In addition to winning the Oscar for Best Picture (the only silent film to win since the ceremony’s very first year), the movie also snagged the awards for Best Director and Best Actor. But even though it was the favorite among the Academy types, “The Artist” is probably unfamiliar to many moviegoers: It didn’t even come close to being a top-grossing film last year.
2011 wasn't the most interesting year for film, but it did have its moments: The silent film reasserted itself while Scorsese went 3D, Terrence Malick recreated the genesis of the universe and Maya Rudolph got diarrhea in a wedding dress. But how will these ambitious projects fare at the 84th Academy Awards show this Sunday night?
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] From Gavin Polone's anti-Oscars piece in New York magazine: Can you really say that Borat didn’t deserve a [Best Picture] nomination but Letters From Iwo Jima did? Er, yes. Yes you can. Which reminds me: the Academy Awards is in danger of reaching a unique place in our culture--a place currently inhabited by the festivities surrounding Christmas. Very briefly, the Oscar telecast is annoying and silly. So is Christmas music, and so is phony holiday cheer. But much more annoying are the people who complain incessantly about these things.
On Thursday January 5th, I was trying to read the Seth Schiesel column on the front of the Arts section of the New York Times. After a few paragraphs, it said, “Continued on Page 5,” and my fingers made the natural leafing gestures to get me to five (no matter that I am used to Schiesel having large and merited front-page display). But “page 5” turned out to be “C3B” and a full-page ad for The Descendants.
Cliff Robertson died the other day. He was 88, and I suppose he was what is called an establishment figure. Long ago he had won an Oscar for his performance in Charly (1968) about a retarded man who is given an experimental drug that lets him find genius (and his doctor, Claire Bloom) but then slips back to being a fool, and he was perfectly OK in the film if you can manage to sit through it now, in which case you may surmise that nearly any actor in that begging role might have won the Oscar.
So what happens now? That's the question Britain asks itself this morning. It would have been easier to answer if the country had managed to make its mind up yesterday. but for the first time since 1974, a British general election has produced no winner, only multiple losers. Gordon Brown remains prime minister for now but his credibility is destroyed and it seems most unlikely that the country would wear any coalition deal he cobbled together.
The Oscar nominations rolled on out this week, but with a difference: In a rather explicit admission that it does not trust its own judgment, the Academy has upped the number of Best Picture nominees from the usual five to ten. Let’s begin there. Best Picture Last year, there was widespread disgruntlement that critical and popular hits Wall-E and The Dark Knight missed the cut for this award. So the Academy decided, in essence, to protect itself from its own ineptitude by nominating more pictures.
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.