It’s that time of year again, folks! What I like to call “movie Christmas.” And like an actual holiday, the Academy Awards often end up as more of a disappointment than anything else — any Oscars handed out to not-so-great nominated films like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Iron Lady can be chalked up to the cinematic equivalent of “ugly sweaters from grandma we’ll throw in the back of the closet and never speak of again.” But it’s really the excitement leading up to the big show and the discussions of film it creates that make it all worthwhile.
So here’s where I like to make up for the Academy’s occasional lapses in good taste by recognizing the movies and performances that are really worthy of celebration. Because what has a group of thousands of filmmakers with decades of experience in the entertainment industry got on me?
(Yes, yes. The “if” in that title should almost certainly be “when.”)
From the moment the Oscar nominations were announced last month, it was already a foregone conclusion: The Artist is the year’s Best Picture winner. It has been since mid-December, before it was even released in most major American cities.
Some seasons, the Academy Awards have a bit of suspense leading up to the Best Picture winner. These days, though, there’s so much up-to-the-minute coverage that it’s hard to pack much of a surprise when it comes down to it. It can lead us to a feeling that the telecast itself is underwhelming — as it sometimes is. Last year’s biggest Oscar “surprise” was just how wretched Anne Hathaway and James Franco were as hosts.
And you thought it was all about the Oscars, didn’t you?
Nope. The Academy Awards are basically the last group to have their say about which films are the year’s most esteemed, and their picks don’t necessarily (or even often) reflect the feelings of the critical community, which is why you’ll see a lot more of The Tree Of Life, A Separation, and especially Melancholia below than you’ll see of them on the Oscars telecast.
Another day, another smattering of kudos from an organization most filmgoers don’t even know exists. This list keeps Hugo and The Artist on top of things, as will as giving The Help a little more awards-wind beneath its wings.
Brad Pitt was named 2011′s Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle, which marks a notable shift in the thespian’s career. It’s not that he’s never been given awards love before, because he has. But Brad Pitt used to be a sex symbol — and I guess he still is, in that People magazine sort of way. But not really. That’s because he’s playing dads now.
It’s a big deal when actresses shift from playing the hottie to the mommy. Less so for men, who can still sex it up with pretty young things until they’re literally in the coffin. Still, the Brad Pitt recognized for The Tree Of Life and Moneyball is very different from the Brad Pitt nominated for his (CGI-enhanced) pretty boy leading man status in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button just a few years ago. Pitt has officially moved into George Clooney territory — good-looking, sure. But before you get it on with him, wouldn’t you first inquire whether or not he’s got a son you might hit it off with instead?