You'll have to wait 'til tonight to see who wins the Academy Awards. But our David Edelstein's predictions are available right now:
The Oscars are tonight: Hooray!
Because then it'll be over, and I can talk about movies as something more than fodder for awards.
[I know, don't invite me to your Oscar party!]
It's just Oscar prognostication has become a twelve-month industry. Papers have awards correspondents. The Web is choked with Oscar prattle.
Gifted artists campaign like politicians. They know, if nothing else, their obits will begin with: "Academy-Award winner so-and-so died today…" In a culture geared toward competition, that's immortality.
The major acting prizes are about Hollywood politics. They'll give it to Jeff Bridges not for the tepid recovery movie "Crazy Heart," but his landmark performance 12 years ago as the Dude in "The Big Lebowski," which no one dreamed of nominating because it was, you know, a comedy.
A week ago I thought Meryl Streep was a lock for "Julie & Julia," but that's another comedy, and Sandra Bullock's comin' on!
She was brilliant in "The Proposal" - oops, another comedy. But she's nominated for her tears as a Great White Savior in "The Blind Side," a feel-good blockbuster about adopting an African-American child and turning him into an NFL star.
So Bullock appeals to two key Hollywood themes: feeling guilty because you're white and rich, and wanting to crash people on the playing field.
Nominating ten movies for Best Picture instead of five is genius, because few people saw last year's nominees, and fanboys were furious when "The Dark Knight" got snubbed.
This year, chances are you've seen "The Blind Side" or "Avatar" or "Up" or "Up in the Air."
And if you're in that coveted youth demographic, "Inglourious Basterds" and "District 9."
"District 9"! The splattery South African sci-fi/apartheid allegory with giant prawns from space! It won't win, but every pimply teen has a shrimp in this fight.
The big contest is between the little film, "The Hurt Locker," and the gi-normous one, "Avatar."
They'll give Best Director to "Hurt Locker"'s Kathryn Bigelow, not just because she's a woman and no woman has won, but because she's a woman who made the most macho war movie ever, and a war movie set in Iraq that doesn't have divisive politics.
Best Picture is trickier. Industry money says "Avatar," because that 'I'm the King of the World Titanic Guy' James Cameron figured out how to get people back into theaters. I say they'll pause before giving him another reason to think he's King of the World. Maybe they'll want to stand up for the little indie, and for Bigelow, who's Cameron's ex-wife.
I personally don't think either picture is the best of 2009, but I'll tune in to the Oscars, as always, for the Great American Soap Opera.
For more info:
The Projectionist (David Edelstein's Movie Blog)
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