Culture & Conversation

Oscar Fever & Mythic Tackiness

Sure, award ceremonies are cheesy. But, when you’re in the thick of things, they can also feel exciting. They can become a bringing-together of community. A validation of community, even. There’s no question that, in North American culture, one award ceremony trumps all others in the popular imagination. The annual televised Oscar ceremony has become a shared ritual of religious proportions, even for many who deride it for aesthetic, political, or whatever other reasons.

Most years, although I try to see as many new films as I can, I end up not having seen most of the Oscar nominees. They’re rarely the sort of thing I’m interested in, tending as they do toward bloated mega-productions displaying money rather than talent, sentimental pap, romanticized biopics, heavy-handed screeds, or meandering melodramas with postcard cinematography.

And yet, I often watch the Oscars anyway. It’s the only awards show I ever watch. There’s something mythic about, in spite of and maybe even because of all the pomp and tackiness.

I’ll fess up now to the Oscar contenders I didn’t see. Avatar. The Hurt Locker. The Blind Side. An Education. Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. The Messenger. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Crazy Heart. Invictus. The Lovely Bones. Nine. Julie & Julia. Coraline. The Secret of Kells. The Princess and the Frog. The Young Victoria. Some of these films are probably very good. But, good or bad, most of these didn’t interest me enough to see. A few I missed, despite being somewhat curious about them.

Anyway, this year I ended up seeing 26 new films. This week on my Rover blog, tapping into the Oscar buzz and gearing up for the big night (Sunday, 7 March), I’ll be discussing those 26 films I did see. I’ll bemoan the ones that disappointed me the most (Monday). I’ll marvel at the most outstanding performances (Tuesday). I’ll remember the scenes that etched themselves most profoundly in my imagination (Wednesday). I’ll examine the genre that dominated the year (Thursday). And finally, in a nod to the Oscars’ newly expanded list of nominees for Best Motion Picture, I’ll pick my top 10 films of 2009 (Friday).

So, you may ask, if I didn’t see all those films I listed above, what did I see? I’ll leave you with my full list – winners and stinkers – but without comment. Check back on my Rover blog for what I have to say about them.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
• The Brothers Bloom
• District 9
• Duplicity
• Fantastic Mr. Fox
• The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
• In the Electric Mist
• In the Loop
• Inglourious Basterds
• The International
• The Invention of Lying
• Jennifer’s Body
• The Men Who Stare at Goats
• Moon
• 9
• One More Week
• The Road
• A Serious Man
• Sherlock Holmes
• A Single Man
• Star Trek
• Sunshine Cleaners
• Up
• Up in the Air
• Watchmen
• Zombieland

Be sure to tune in to Claude’s blog next week for a daily dose of pre-Oscar fever.

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