Sunday, January 8, 2012
An Unpredictable Rhythm
This time of year is always exciting for movie fans. The buildup to the Super Bowl of awards ceremonies is marked by the traditional blizzard of announcements by various voting bodies, with strong contenders emerging along the way. This year, the rhythm of awards season is paving the way for an Oscar night on which anything can happen.
The New York Film Critics Circle cast the first major awards vote of the season in late November when they named The Artist Best Picture of 2011. Later that week, the National Board of Review gave their top honor to Hugo. The critics in Los Angeles followed with The Descendants emerging as their year-end favorite, and just yesterday, the National Society of Film Critics picked Melancholia as the best film of the year.
Anyone who follows movies closely knows that this particular cycle is anything but predictable. In a cut-and-dried year, a critical darling emerges early and rides the tide of critical momentum all the way to the stage of the Kodak Theater. No Country for Old Men followed that pattern four years ago, as did Slumdog Millionaire the following year. At the 82nd Awards a year later, the alimony showdown that pitted James Cameron's Avatar against Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker made for a suspenseful matchup that shattered the gender barrier in the directing category and awarded the gripping Iraq War drama with six statuettes including Best Picture. The race was also notable in that it saw ten contenders in the Best Picture field for the first time in nearly seven decades.
Last year's awards season could very well be likened to a splitter pitch in baseball. The Social Network burst onto the scene when the National Board of Review named David Fincher's Facebook drama Best Picture of 2010, but the Producers Guild killed the film's momentum late in the game by giving their top honor to The King's Speech, a decision soon echoed by the Academy. In retrospect, the 83rd Academy Awards could be described as 1976 revisited, with a critically praised, courageous drama about living people -- All the President's Men/The Social Network -- losing to an inspirational tale that moved audiences everywhere -- Rocky/The King's Speech.
This brings us to the present day. As it stands, the critical establishment appears to be divided between The Artist and The Descendants in their Best Picture predictions. Steve Pond at TheWrap.com makes this astute observation about the role that The Weinstein Company is playing in this year's Oscar race. This Thursday's 17th Critics' Choice Awards will help bring the field into focus, as will next Sunday's 69th Golden Globe Awards. With the announcement of the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards a full two weeks away, this blogger is not quite ready to make any predictions. Not unlike this year's presidential election, the 2011-2012 movie awards season has thus far shown us that expected front runners can drop like flies and all but forgotten underdogs can jump to the front of the pack.
Which films will you be rooting for this year? Would you like to make any early prognostications about those coveted golden statuettes? Fill me in with your comments below.