We start the close of this season like we do every season with our favorite Iggy Pop quote, “it’ll all be over soon.” It always gets ugly this time of year. Someone has to take a hit in our world because the truth is most journalists hate, and I mean HATE Oscar bloggers. Not the nice ones, of course, but the majority of those with any modicum of self-respect. Okay, not really, but for the purposes of this article…it’s time to survey the damage of Oscar season 2008 – when the campaigns get rolling people get run over, careers that aren’t busy being born are busy dying and everyone has their claws bared.¬† So now we get to the winners and the losers.
1) Kate Winslet as Nazi sympathizer. The Reader took all of the heat for taking the slot of The Dark Knight. Letters from Iwo Jima had squeezed Dreamgirls out of the running in much the same way: when voters think they don’t have to fight for a movie, or a movie isn’t as fresh in their minds, they often place it lower on the weighted ballot. The Academy should dump the weighted ballot because it doesn’t accurately reflect a film’s popularity; it merely tells you who is in love with what at any given moment – kind of like Facebook. Poor Kate Winslet. Here she is at the height of her career and someone apparently gave her the advice to go out there and get that Oscar. For a humble and hard-working actress to do that it would take some phony baloney Hollywood dance of the seven veils. And she did it, man.
On Sunday we’ll find out if it worked or if it was too much. Either way, she took a hit in the process, as they all do. Winning an Oscar seems like it could be the best thing to ever happen to you or the worst thing to ever happen to you. All of that good will generated for Kate all of these years as we watched her smiling from the sidelines, each and every time a loser, has vanished. We love winners. We hate winners.
2) Slumdog as poverty porn. I suppose that the perfect Oscar champion had to take some flack but the way they ripped out the belly of this beautiful creature was kind of tough to bear, and all because it was “winning everything.” The truth is that Slumdog Millionaire could have been held in any poverty-stricken region of the world and it would have been just as good. It was, as it turned out, a traditional story that did not need India. But being the frontronner makes people want to see you stumble. A few more weeks of campaigning and Slumdog would not be winning all of the Oscars it’s going to win on Sunday. It’s just the nature of the beast.
3) Benjamin Button as Forrest Gump – I maintain that only weak minds find the two movies to be the same. It’s true that there are similarities in the story and if anyone on the Button team had figured this out early on they could have and would have done something about it. The beauty of that film, though, I think, was lost in translation. It was the frontrunner before it was seen, that’s never a good thing. Even though we know this, we continue to follow the dangerous behavior of predicting films before they’re even being filmed, before they’re even written sometimes. Button was doomed to fail because of this. 13 Oscar nominations, though, does not a failure make.
4) Mickey Rourke as wife-beating, right-wing homophobe. Sean Penn was suddenly elevated to hero status this year because he played a hero. Suddenly everyone forgot it was Sean Penn. Mickey Rourke, though, will prove whether or not change is possible. The Searchlight campaign was focusing too much on Rourke’s comeback and something told me that he couldn’t win on that — for one thing, people don’t like him that much to begin with. For another thing, one part in a film, and even winning an Oscar, may not a comeback make. Hollywood loves a good story of redemption, though, and Rourke’s atonement for his past sins may be what finally wins him an Oscar. On the other hand, there have been many burned bridges over the years — and many think him a wife-beating, Bush-loving homophobe. You gotta love Oscar season.
5) The Academy themselves.¬† Their choices this year have not won them any fans. They picked movies that have nothing to do with the average American’s life, only with the insular world of th awards race.¬†¬† Everyone is predicting doom for Sunday night. Meanwhile, Laurence Mark and Bill Condon have to put on a good show and working like madmen to get her done. Many people are saying they won’t watch — but I’m gonna bet people do watch. I think that the Oscars mean something when the economy is in the toilet, maybe more than ever. Wasn’t it during the Depression when audiences just wanted to watch rich people? Money anxiety will make many want to tune in to see all of those expensive jewels and dresses. The set itself looks like diamonds in a bottle. That makes me think people will watch.
The losers in the Oscar race always out number the winners.¬† These losers are also winners. Therein lies the rub.