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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Everyone who griped about this year's Oscars had it wrong

This is such an old topic for a rant that I almost just said "forget it, move on," but providence, the universe, my nagging rant-muscle, they have all compelled me to comment. Remember when it was all the rage to pile on the Oscar noms for being downers and depressing and out of touch with the American public? Well, it was, even if I can't be bothered to find those old articles from a few months ago. Just go google "Oscar hates America" or something. But it was a punditry trend back in January and February, that much is for sure.

I should have written about it those many months ago when the story was hot, because for once I kinda disagreed with the opinion that the Oscars were out of touch. Well, no, they are still out of touch to a certain degree, but I couldn't jump on the bandwagon against the Best Picture noms, because this year was the first time since 2003 where I had actually seen a majority of the Picture nominations and had actually really liked them (No Country, Atonement, and Juno). I can't help it that more people didn't go see No Country for Old Men, because it's actually an awesome suspense thriller, but whatever. Of all the years to gripe, I just couldn't feel the hate this time around. Last year? Sure. The year before? Definitely. The year Million Dollar Baby won? I just gagged a little thinking about it. But this year's Best Pictures were awesome and I just couldn't get my bristle up about them.

Of course, that doesn't mean I didn't complain. I did. And, of course, I was totally right. Who got an undeserved Best Actress nom? And who didn't get a much deserved nom? Excuse my smugness for a minute, but, *G.O.B.-style*Come On!*G.O.B.-style* The Best Pictures for 2007 were great and not worth picking on. But the acting noms? Yowza. Out-O-Touch. The Oscars were out of touch with regular people on many of these and the way to get in touch is to start considering nominating actors and actresses in movies that people have actually seen. And this doesn't mean nominating sub-par work. This isn't the false choice between No Country for Old Men and Transformers for Best Picture. That's why all those articles earlier this year were so pointless. Sure, more Americans saw Alvin and the Chipmunks than they did There Will Be Blood, but that doesn't mean we should nominate something that doesn't deserve it just to cater to general tastes.

But guess which movie also made a ton of money AND had an Oscar-worthy performance? Yeah, okay, I already mentioned that. But how about some love for "McLovin"? Was that kid not hilarious? Was his movie not popular and critically acclaimed?

And this whole rant got restarted in my brain because last week and over the weekend I was overwhelmed with the comments from family members about the wonderfulness of Enchanted and especially the wonderfulness of Amy Adams's performance. Now, I loved Enchanted when I first saw it back in November, and I loved Adams's performance. But I kinda tossed my "Amy should totally be nominated for Best Actress" zeal up as being a result of my girl-crush. Sure, I might think she's cute as a button and want to be her BFF, but that just calls my objective judgment on the Oscars situation into question. But when other people -- people I had not broached the subject with, or even knew had any interest in the movie or the actress -- started approaching me and saying how totally awesome they thought the movie was and who-was-that-girl-who-played-the-main-girl-she-was-so-amazing, well, my previous, strongly-held opinions resurfaced. If you want to bring the Oscars back into relevancy, it's not about making sure National Treasure II gets a Best Picture nod. It's about saluting quality work that also happens to be popular. It's the choice between a Cate Blanchett role no one cared about and a star-making, lovable, iconic turn by an actress everyone in my familial and social circles is raving about. It's not about sacrificing quality for popularity; it's just a substituting of one type of quality for another. Can you imagine the wonderful publicity, the buzz and excitement, the throngs of viewers who would tune in to the broadcast if this McLovin kid had been nominated, or if Amy Adams had, or if Seth Rogen had. And I don't think it would be a "lowering" of Oscar standards to have nominated any of these three. Or Imelda Staunton for Harry Potter (yeah, I'm just not gonna let that one go).

Anyway, I don't really have a pithy wrap-up that makes a blistering, well-written final point of brilliance, so I'll just say: Oscar, start recognizing comedies and family films and the performances in them. You've ghetto-ized animation, but at least they still get some recognition. Comedy (and to an even lesser extent, family/kids movies) don't even get that. Okay, maybe the occasional screenplay award, but only if the comedy is "indie." That's not a very good way to keep The Public smiling, happy, and invested in what you do. I feel like I should end with the "Comedy's hard. . ." maxim, but I won't. Instead I'll just say, it shouldn't be this hard to get a little Oscar love.

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