erik lundegaard

Oscars: Which are the Real Best Picture Nominees?

It's a shame A.O. Scott can't remember back to December. In his day-of-the-Oscars piece he writes:

By the time it opened in December, “Avatar” was the movie that everyone in the world had to see, as soon as possible, and it held on to that status week after week.

The second part is truer than any movie since "Titanic." The first part? I remember otherwise. It opened at no. 1, certainly, with $77 million for the weekend, which ain't bad, but it's hardly the movie that everyone in the world had to see as soon as possible. Here are "Avatar"'s various rankings. All Time Domestic: #1. All Time Worldwide: #1. Yearly 2009: #1. Yearly Opening Weekends 2009: #5. Five? Yep. The movie that has now grossed more than twice as much worldwide than any movie besides "Titanic" opened poorer than the following 2009 films: "New Moon," "Transformers 2," "Wolverine" and "Harry Potter." I know everyone didn't need to see it opening weekend because I was there and it was pretty easy to get a seat. What distinguished "Avatar" is what distinguished ol' man river: it just kept rolling along. 

Then there's this:

The 10-film best picture list, while it was created in part to ensure the presence of hits, also makes room for more smaller-scale, artistically ambitious movies than before. And one of these, “The Hurt Locker,” has emerged as the main rival to “Avatar” — and even, in the view of some handicappers, the favorite.

I know Scott isn't implying this but it sounds like he's implying that "The Hurt Locker" wouldn't have been nominated if the best picture list hadn't been expanded (idiotically) to 10 pictures, but that's nonsense. In fact I'm not sure what the point of Scott's Oscar piece is. He talks up the big and small, the blockbuster and the long tail, and adds, "The money to produce and publicize the kind of middle-size movie that has dominated the Oscar slates in recent years is drying up." Which middle-size movie in what recent years? "The Departed"? "Million Dollar Baby"? "Juno"? Are these middle-sized movies? If anything, recent years have been dominated by the small and indie, haven't they? I guess I wouldn't appreciated greater clarification. If I were Scott's editor, I would've asked for it.

But the article does bring up an interesting point: Which five nominated movies wouldn't have been nominated if the best picture list hadn't been expanded (idiotically) to 10 pictures? This is what we've got (ranked by U.S. box office):

  1. "Avatar"
  2. "Up"
  3. "The Blind Side"
  4. "Inglourious Bastards"
  5. "District 9"
  6. "Up in the Air"
  7. "Precious"
  8. "The Hurt Locker"
  9. "An Education"
  10. "A Serious Man"

So which wouldn't the Academy have chosen? Starting up from 10, let's eliminate "A Serious Man," which not enough people took seriously (or saw), as well as "An Education," which is an impeccably done coming-of-age story but didn't make the impact, either critically or commercially, it needed to get Academy notice. "District 9"? The only sci-fi movies that get nom'ed are no. 1 at the box office for the year; this thing was no. 27. Pass. "Up," too. It's my favorite of 2009 but it's an animated feature, animated features rarely get nom'ed, and it has its own category now anyway. And if there's a God in heaven and sense in the Academy (not sure which is the greater likelihood), "Blind Side," an awfully mediocre movie, wouldn't have been part of the discussion.

Hey, that's five. Easier than I thought. So the nominees would've been:

  1. "Avatar"
  2. "Inglourious Bastards"
  3. "Up in the Air"
  4. "Precious"
  5. "The Hurt Locker"

That wouldn't have been so bad, would it?

No live-blogging this evening. Hosting. Talking. Drinking. Groping. (That means you, Tommy.) For live-blogging go to Brother Nathaniel.

Dead-blogging tomorrow. Enjoy the show, everyone.

"The Hurt Locker" has the long tail? Has A.O. Scott even seen us?

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Posted at 09:58 AM on Sun. Mar 07, 2010 in category Movies - The Oscars  

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