The typical post-Oscar water-cooler conversation is a bitch-fest about who wore what and who gushed most.* But we here at Movie Reviews For Greedy Capitalist Bastards are, in fact, far more concerned with who won what, whether the predictions were right, and who on the Hollywood Power List wins and loses. Coming off of the London Film Festival, I’d strongly tipped Ben Affleck’s ARGO for Oscar gold, on the basis that while it was “just” a straightforward thriller, it showed Hollywood producers’ saving the day, thus pandering to the infamous narcissism of the Academy. When the nominations were announced and Affleck was snubbed for Best Director, the movie became the sure winner for Best Film purely on the basis that it would attract the sympathy vote. This left the Best Director award dangerously unpredictable. Would Steven Spielberg, often overlooked, benefit from Affleck’s omission? We can all agree that LINCOLN is basically a vehicle for some great performances and a superb script, but there’s something admirable and almost shocking in the fact that the Master Purveyor of Schmaltz had the balls to show America’s most iconic president as a vote-buying, devious tyrant. .
It turns out that, despite watching well over 300 films last year, reading all the trades, and trying to read the runes, that I was almost comprehensively wrong in my predictions. In the event, the Academy almost took the earnest, gold-plated film-making of LINCOLN for granted, and shied away from the controversy surrounding the veracity of ZERO DARK THIRTY. Instead, they awarded prizes to Anne Hathaway, maybe because she wanted it so damn much; to Christoph Waltz, because he’s so damn cool; and to Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI. This last choice is the one that intrigues me the most. LIFE OF PI is the quintessential art-house film. With no marquee names and an impossible-to-categorize plot, the film is almost willfully obscure. Worse still for a voter demographic that skews old and conservative, the movie has a pronounced anti-religious message and an ending that is, to put it bluntly, a monumental downer. And yet, this is the movie that won the most Oscars, not least Best Director and the most prestigious of the technical gongs, Best Cinematographer for Claudio Miranda.
So, to put it bluntly, how did we all get it so wrong? (And by we, I refer to the loose fraternity of cinephiles, critics, bloggers and rune-readers). Well, I guess that in the words of the famous William Goldman, “nobody knows anything”. Nobody knows if a movie’s gonna be a hit. Nobody knows if a movie’s going to make money. If there were any kind of science to this thing, movies wouldn’t be, after airlines, the easiest industry in which to lose money. But nihilism aside, I suspect that moving Oscar voting online probably skewed the voter demographic younger and edgier. Anecdotally, the e-voting was glitchy and hard to work around. More substantially, maybe there was a sympathy vote for LIFE OF PI because the CGI studio that did the spectacular work on the movie’s virtual star, the tiger Richard Parker, went bankrupt the week before the ceremony.
Or maybe, it's just another example of the triumph of the Hive Mind over elite judgment? PR company Way to Blue analysed over one million social media mentions in the week leading up to the Oscars, to find that the British cloud chatter correctly predicted the four Majors – Best Film, Director, Actor and Actress – in sharp contrast to most film critics. The message from the Oscars, as with the US Presidential Election, seems to be that pundits claim to know everything but know nothing; while the Hive Mind claims to know nothing but knows everything. Which leaves us with the following score-sheet:
Life of Pi 4; Lincoln 3.
Rousseau 1; Hobbes 0.
*I think we can all agree that most of the actresses in white looked like they were wearing wedding dresses; Nicole Kidman needs to dress her age; and that if we were married to a fashion mogul, we’d have dressed better than Salma Hayek.