It is always a good thing when the best writers are attracted to, or forced to write about, the Oscar race. It automatically elevates the material. When the New York Times’ David Carr tripped into the Oscar race it changed everything. For a minute. But then it was back to business as usual – who can you trust, is anyone level-headed? Well, now Mark Harris is on the beat and, as most legit journos do when thrust into our clusterfuck, he takes a bit of a bemused tone to it all. Perhaps, to the outside world, our crowded little conclave of Oscar watching does sound weird and confusing, with premature calls being hurled right and left — but the trick to writing about the Oscars is to write about them as if you care about them because otherwise no one is going to want to read what you write. I think Harris walks a healthy line between bemusement (Manohla Dargis, for instance, who gives no attention to the race unless pressured to do so) and genuine interest; I happen to know he does have a real interest in the race and that is, perhaps, what makes him an engaging read.
Why am I writing about the 2012 Academy Awards race a full 181 days before the ceremony? If you have to ask, it means you’ve missed the news that when it comes to the Oscars, obsessive overkill is part of the fun. Also, because this post-Labor Day moment is the last opportunity to weigh in before things get complicated, and because in the minds of the people and companies that are spending money on it, the race has not only begun, it has already descended into tragicomedy. (Exhibit A: The mailed invitation that some Academy members have already received to attend a screening and mull the question of whether this year’s pantheon of Best Picture nominees should include Transformers: Dark of the Moon.)