Academy Awards

It’s that time of year again. Yes, the draw for UEFA 2012 is only 6 days awa…Oh, right, the Oscars. And after months of speculation surrounding the “opening up” of the Academy Awards to more “mainstream” movies than in years past, things haven’t changed to my mind that drastically at all…

Best Film is now open to 10 movies, increased from 5. The smart money will be on Avatar, natch, which suggests Best Director will go to Kathryn Bigelow for Iraqi invasion drama The Hurt Locker. Newspaper copy written right there, without much effort.

Of the others nominated for Best Film, Precious appears to have been far better received in the US than the UK, A Serious Man may well be the best Coen Brothers film not to receive the Oscar for Best Film, and District 9 is the only true “popcorn attractor” to get a nod despite the opening up of the field supposedly was done for that very purpose.

Great news for fans of The Thick Of It will be very pleased to see the film adaption, In The Loop, nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Or as writer Armando Iannucci put it;

Bloomin heck. In The Loop nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Bonk me purple.

Okay, so neither Thick Of It, nor In The Loop, are quite Yes, Minister, but that has a lot to do with the times we live in. Yes, Gordon Brown, you unstable Stalinist walking disaster, I am talking about the likes of you with your sudden pre-election conversion to a pro-Labour voting system.

Anyhoo, the acting awards. Best Actor is probably a defo for George Clooney, whose role in “feelgood film of the moment” Up in the Air has been received in the same swooning fashion as all his recent roles. I must be the only one – or is it because I’m a bloke? – who wonders why Clooney is not treated with the “same old same old” criticism given to Hugh “Bumbling Englishman Out Of Context” Grant?

If you want to put a cheeky fiver on the Actor slot, I’d go for Jeff Bridges. You heard.

Best Actress will probably be Meryl Streep, because the Academy hasn’t awarded her in at least 5 minutes and it’s a kind of Hollywood by-law. If Americans have by-laws. They probably do. It’s the same one, or at least somehow associated, which has helped Helen Mirren receive a nod for a film about being married to Tolstoy. No, wait, sorry, “It’s about marriage, not being married” as I heard her explain to marshmallow-brained Christine on The One Show last week. Adrian seemed to be the only person bar Mirren who had even heard of Tolstoy. Bless. His long-long-long-lost decedent is standing as UKIP candidate for Witney, didn’t you know?

(Tolstoy, not Adrian Chiles. Can you imagine…)

Das weiße Band/The White Ribbon is the runaway (if that’s quite the right word) favourite for Best Film not in the English Language. Being a bit of a geek, I am more interested in the run down of films which didn’t even make the short-list in this category, so in no particular order, and with thanks to Wiki, here is an arbitrary list of films which didn’t make the cut. What is the Internet for – as Stephen Fry would no doubt say – if it is not for suggesting you all go out and find obscure movies in a language you’ve never heard spoken before?

* J’ai tué ma mère / I Killed My Mother [Canada, is an exposé on the complexity of the mother and son bond]
* 梅兰芳 / Méi Lánfāng / Forever Enthralled [China, follows the life of Mei Lanfang, one of China’s premiere opera performers]
* Келін / Kelin [Kazakhstan, ‘Looking like a cross between a goth goddess and a fairy-tale queen, Kelin (Gulsharat Zhubayeva) is about to be married. High in the Altai Mountains, her father bargains with two suitors who are each vying for her hand. Unfortunately, her true love, Mergyen (Kuandyk Kystykbaev), loses out to the richer bachelor, Baktashi (Erzhan Nurymbet). Before losing the competition, however, Mergyen takes a blood oath to eventually claim Kelin for his own’]
* El baile de la victoria / The Dancer and The Thief [Spain, ‘attractively shot, energetic romp, and a likeable genre-bending tale of crime and love among the lost and marginalised of post-Pinochet Chile’]
* Samson and Delilah [Australia, in English and Warlpiri, which as you know is one of the Ngarrkic languages]

All that aside, then, what else? Are these radical and different Academy Awards than usual? Is the likelihood of The Hurt Locker winning anything to be cheered? Will Terry Gilliam be upset at all for the almost total blanking of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, picking up as it does nominations for the “technical awards” of Art Direction, and Best Costume? Are we to be cheered at all by the 4 nominations – count them, FOUR – for Star Trek?

Insofar as these awards mean anything, it at least suggest cinema is someway healthy. Somehow there exists screenwriting and ideas away from franchises and sequels, torture porn and anything “staring” Will Ferrell. Sensible money should be put down this year, surprises seem abundant in the nomination process, but this is no “Heath Ledger” year, this seems to be a set up for someone saying “The Winner is…” without too many gasps at the end…