The Oscars are just hours away, and as much as I look forward to watching while I participate in Greencine's Oscar Night Live Blog likely arguing with several other smart film folks as to why my opinions are more right than theirs (because that's what it comes down to for us all, no?), I currently sit here enraged by the current Cablevision/ABC Disney dispute (fodder for another post), hoping that something gets resolved so I can watch and chat sitting on my comfy couch in front of my nice TV. I also find myself reflecting further upon my will win/should win picks (published on indieWIRE the other day). It seems like this could be one of the most predictable Academy Awards in recent memory, although, the one constant almost every year also seems to be that each year many of us say that only to discover that the vast majority of the time we're right save for the one or two wins that are true surprises.
Roger Ebert's Oscar predictions post from a few week's back begins with the same claim: "I can't remember a year when it seemed easier to predict the Oscars." And yet today, I've read several tweets (including from Ebert) stating a feeling that there could be some huge surprises tonight, especially in the Best Picture category. I very well may regret these words as the credits begin to roll sometime during the 11 p.m. hour (at least, we should all hope it finishes before midnight!), but with the exception of a few categories, I still anticipate extreme predictability. Momentum is always a funny thing in Oscar campaigns, but the entire nature of the nominations and award voting process this year has taken on so many bizarre storylines -- for my money having less to do with actual filmmaking quality than usual (and that's saying something) – that variations from the conventional wisdom seem more impossible than ever.
Anyone who thinks the Spirit Awards sweep by Precious last night bodes well for its Oscar hopes be ignoring the fact that the overlap between voting blocs is relatively minimal, and history has shown that with the exception of acting awards, the winners rarely overlap. The films that are the small fish in the Oscar ocean get to be the barracudas in Spirits pond.
This is the year of The Hurt Locker, plain and simple. Some months ago on Twitter, before seeing Avatar, I said I thought Up in the Air would likely stop Precious from having a real chance at the big prize, thinking that The Hurt Locker had not been seen by enough people, did not actually tap in to the current zeitgeist as well, had not earned enough at the box office and, in my opinion, frankly was not as good a film. I still hold that last opinion, but I didn't count on a couple things: I didn't count on the surge to the top of critics' lists that far outstripped the reception the film had received even at its Toronto premiere. I didn't give enough credit to the idea that awarding the Best Director prize to a woman for the first time, especially coupled with all the press and conversation about how Bigelow makes antic-Nancy Meyers/Nora Ephron movies, would be so powerful. But most of all, I didn't think about how compelling the Bigelow vs. Cameron storyline would be, with one participant being the supremely arrogant "king of the world" who, in his own words, revolutionized all cinema with the pioneering female director who made a war movie. Personally, watching the trajectory of The Hurt Locker during this awards season, I think nothing has helped the film's chances more.