by Sam Juliano
Is the Coen Brothers’ True Grit now officially the “Oscar” film for 2010? Will the western re-make now lose it’s luster in the eyes of those who look down their nose at anything and everything Oscar and awards shows, and eternally see the embrace of the Golden boy as the artistic kiss of death? In a heated e mail exchange with several members of the Wonders in the Dark fraternity a few days ago, it was suggested that David Fincher’s The Social Network was an “Oscar” film, because of it’s wide popularity among critics’ organizations. While that declaration was foolhardy both for the bankrupsy of its implications and for the subsequent nominations announced early this morning on the west coast, it underscores the intense contempt for the annual awards and for those who cast ballots.
Truth is the Oscars, while frustrating and often brutal in their omissions and ludicrous rules and regulations, are no better or no worse than any other groups that gives awards. Serious cineastes find them mediocre at best, and in any given year one will both celebrate and mourn the nomination scroll. This year’s nominations have resurrected the spectre of Joel and Ethan Coen’s lovingly mounted western True Grit, vaulting it into a serious bid to win top honors with Tom Hooper’s exquisite period piece The King’s Speech, which leads the field with 12 nods. This unexpected development has now affirned the “Oscar” film The Social Network as the “critics” film (a fact I’ve always known) and has reconstructed the long allure of the costume and period drama.
What will ultimately happen on Oscar night? I still see Fincher’s film as a slight favorite over the two nomination heavyweights, though some are now thinking that The King’s Speech may prevail. In a close race, True Grit could well sneak into the winner’s circle. As always the nominations have resulted in some inexplicable snubs. The most laughable is the nomination of Michelle Williams for Best Actress, while the far better Ryan Gosling sits on the sidelines. Of course the overriding reason Gosling was left off has more to do with the stronger comeptition in the lead actor’s race, but it flies in the face of sane judgement. Once again the foreign film list is preposterous in a year of strong work from abroad. Academy rules prevented Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Tilda Swinton from getting nominations, (shameful) and a great performance like the one given by Edgar Ramirez in Carlos was passed over by perennial favorite Javier Bardem for Biutiful. On the positive side was the showing of the exceptional inde The Winter’s Bone. Young hattie Seinfeld much deserved her nomination for her spunky performance in True Grit as well.
So what has changed? In truth, very little. The Oscars, like the voters who decide them are a frustrating blend of the popular and the eclectic. Hence, they’ll always be cheers and jeers at the nomination announcement. Stay tuned.