I'm not a big fan of Sean Penn to begin with, but I have a special reason to know that I would be perfectly happy to never see him or his freakish wife in a movie ever again. Penn has won two Best Actor Oscars over the course of his dull, uninteresting career. One for Mystic River, and the other for Milk (which, fine, I actually did enjoy). I don’t begrudge the guy his successful, nearly-thirty-year career as a director and actor. I’ll never be a great admirer of his work, but I don’t wish death on the man. I’m not hoping to one day drive past him at seventy-miles-per-hour with a shovel in hand.
I try not to devote that kind of irritation to someone I’m probably never going to meet.
Still, I do have a weird resentment against the man responsible for winning his two Oscars at the expense of the only two times when I could be made to care about the winners and losers of the Academy Awards. The first was Bill Murray in 2003, and the second was Mickey Rourke in 2008, and the fact that Penn won over them both still has the honor of bugging me a lot more than it has any right to.
It’s annoying and kind of pathetic to get into something as superficial, pointless, political and behind-the-times as the Academy Awards. It’s even more annoying and pathetic when you don’t even get the satisfaction of at least being right about your guesses.
My relationship with the Oscars has always been like that. There’s no payoff or gain from watching, and it’s even worse when I’m actually interested. It wasn’t so bad when I was a kid, but there came a time as I got older where I couldn’t come up with even a good excuse to keep watching three and half hours of arrogant tedium year in and year out. When I was little it was because my mom watched it every year, and partially because one of the VHS tapes in our collection was an assortment of clips from 1970-1990 (and this was a nice thing to have at a time when most of those movies were unavailable to me). Both of these things fueled my ability to watch the show year in and year out. As I hit my teen years, watching the telecast was just something to do to kill a Sunday night before school. I still enjoyed it, but found it more and more difficult to match what I thought might be Oscar-worthy against the films that actually won.
Over the last few years I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched the show for any reason other than tradition. Sure, it was nice to see people like Martin Scorsese, Marion Cotillard, Denzel Washington or Jeff Bridges be recognized, but nothing about their nominations or the show itself made the broadcast a must-see. It was just a habit that came out of my obsession with film in general.
And it remains a habit. The Oscars has become a friend that I keep putting up with in spite of not really knowing why. I continue to devote entirely too much of my attention to film, and the Oscars is just an integral part of the deal. I still get annoyed when the films and talent I dig don’t get so much as a glance, and I still place my bets in spite of knowing that perspectives like mine are rarely rewarded for their opinion.
This year continues that trend. I’m annoyed at the very prospect of The Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, and yet I know that like any hateful junkie I’m going to watch, pay attention and get pissed off when someone I don’t think deserves to win does.
I assume you have at least a working understanding of what I’m rambling about, or else you wouldn’t be reading my Oscar picks for the year.
As part of the Academy’s compromise on the notion of not being even remotely in tune with the time of the day, the Best Picture field was extended to ten films in 2010. I can still list films I wish had been granted the honor of being nominated, but I’m honestly quite pleased with the field of contenders this year. Watching the Oscars in spite of knowing better is a lot like being a Woody Allen fan after a certain number of years, so it’s nice to see his best comedy in over twenty years, Midnight in Paris, be up for a Best Picture nod. It’s not going to win, but it belongs in the same category as other nominees like Hugo, War Horse and The Descendents. Films by veterans of the business who can prove they still know how to craft something worth a damn. The bets for the winner seem to be placed between the nicely-told, well-acted The Help and the surprisingly fresh The Artist. As much as I like Hollywood to tell me that white people solved the whole messy business of racism, I see The Artist topping the awards. Hollywood seems to love nostalgia, and The Artist is certainly that. It’s a clip show that runs for an hour and forty, and it’s also pretty damn good.
It’s kind of shocking that Gary Oldman hasn’t been nominated before. There are numerous films that prove he’s the kind of actor who can make even the most ungodly film tolerable. I’d love to see him acknowledged for thirty-plus years of proving that, but I suppose Jean Dujardin is a more logical choice. It’s hard to be completely cynical about his electric, engaging performance in The Artist.
Best Supporting Actor:
A whole arena of actors I like. As much as I’d enjoy seeing Nick Nolte’s acceptance speech (running time be dammed), I would be just as happy to see Christopher Plummer cap off a long career of being decadently intense by winning another trophy (because the Golden Globes are usually a pretty good indication of who’s going to win at the Oscars) on the biggest night of his career.
Jabs about The Help aside Viola Davis knocked me on my sorry ass with one of the best performances I’ve seen in my life. The rest of the nominees are just window dressing.
Best Supporting Actress:
Melissa McCarthy was the only thing I liked about Bridesmaids, so it wouldn’t bother me a bit to see her use an Oscar win as a step to future endeavors. Jessica Chastain wouldn’t break my heart either.
Best Writing: Original Screenplay:
Kristen Wiig bugs me as an actress, but her talent for writing a deeply funny screenplay is impossible to deny. I wouldn’t have a problem with her and Annie Mumio taking it over Woody Allen’s fantastic screenplay for Midnight in Paris.
Best Writing: Adapted Screenplay:
Generally the winners in this category have been a mixed bag for me. My wretched childhood hopes Brian Selznick’s flawless tale wins out, but I suppose Kaui Hart Hemming is the frontrunner. That doesn’t hurt my feelings, but I’m still holding out for my wretched childhood.
Best Foreign Film:
If In Darkness doesn’t win, I’m probably going to pull an Elvis on my TV.
Best Documentary Feature:
A nice change of pace here. My favorite and the obvious choice, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory are one and the same.
Best Animated Feature:
Rango is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, period. It’s a glorious blend of Chinatown and the best of Chuck Jones. And how can I not love a “children’s” film that throws in a Fear and Loathing reference for good measure?
The rest of the categories? I have my choices, but I won’t bore you with them. I’ve already indulged my movie-nerd passion enough, and like any nerd who actually has something better to do, I know when to shrug and move on. Acting as though I won’t watch The Academy Awards this Sunday is like acting as though I’m too strong to cry every time Vincent Price dies in Edward Scissorhands. I might be able to fool myself, but I can’t convince anyone who has had to listen to me for more than ten minutes.
I have my picks, but I wouldn’t put it past that Sean Penn bastard (who is not nominated for anything) to show up and annoy me for a third time.
Consistency is nice, I guess