At this point in the Oscar race, post-nomination announcement and post-guild awards, the dust starts to settle. We've heard from the critics groups and seen live shows like the Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics Choice Awards. Now, it starts to get boring.
Boring isn't something most of the people concerned with Oscar are used to. Oscar-watching is a passionate pastime for many movie fans, especially with the rise of blogs like AwardsDaily and InContention, as well as the mainstream press response like Variety's Awards Central and the New York Times's Carpetbagger blog. Since as early as last March, we've been wondering who will win, making wild predictions that looked silly in December. And all that anticipation makes the next month hard for any seasoned Oscar-watcher. Nothing much happens until the show.
News this week of a nominated original song's (“Falling Slowly” from Once) questionable eligibility spread like wildfire across the many Oscar-centric blogs and websites. It was a minor kerfuffle, most likely started by fellow original song nominee Alan Menken (Enchanted), who hasn't won an Oscar since 1995. (Just kidding. I love you, Mr. Menken.) Yet, it was hot news in the cold, dead month between the nominations and the awards.
The tougher part will be awards night, when it looks like everything from the critics awards to the guilds have lined up behind unstoppable frontrunners. Not since 2002, when The Pianist unexpectedly took Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Director, has there really been a surprise contender who swooped in for a win at the last minute. Everyone kind of expected Crash to win Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, just like everyone kind of suspected Alan Arkin would snag an Oscar last year for Little Miss Sunshine over frontrunner Eddie Murphy.
This year No Country for Old Men looks unbeatable in the Best Picture race, as do its directors, Ethan and Joel Coen, in the Best Director race. Daniel Day-Lewis is rolling to a Best Actor trophy for There Will Be Blood and legend Julie Christie (Away From Her) hasn't hit any roadblock on her way to an inevitable Best Actress trophy. Javier Bardem is locked in for Best Supporting actor, and though any of the five nominees could win Best Supporting Actress, only a win for Atonement star Saoirse Ronan would have me falling out of my chair in complete shock.
Same as last year. Same as the year before. Expect the expected.
But for Academy members who may stumble on this page, I have three suggestions that can make awards night a little more interesting.
1. A Michael Clayton sweep. Isn't No Country for Old Men winning everything getting old? And are you really going to give an Oscar to a film that has a hoity-toity critics following like There Will Be Blood? Clayton is the great, socially conscious film you always wanted to give Best Picture to, but have never found the time to honor. While we're at it, give the entire cast their due by giving each of the Clayton acting nominees (George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson) awards, too. There's always Best Director for No Country for Old Men.
2. A wild Best Original Screenplay pick. Now, I know the old people voting aren't really down for giving Juno screenwriter and former stripper Diablo Cody the Oscar. Most of you are thinking, “Okay, I'll vote for Michael Clayton.” Well, my friends, consider the shock on people's faces when you give Tamara Jenkins the Oscar for The Savages screenplay. (And the millions of people watching will all exclaim, “What the hell is The Savages?”) What about the delight in awarding the year's most under-appreciated film Ratatouille with a major award? Or you can give the Oscar to Lars and the Real Girl's Nancy Oliver for successfully writing a human-sized sex doll story that a grandmother can watch with her grandchildren. Just let's everyone agree on one.
3. Four words: Best Actress Ellen Page. Even the most hopeful person isn't really expecting Page to take the Oscar for her magnificent work in Juno. If Christie doesn't win, most are kind of expecting Marion Cotillard to take the trophy for La Vie En Rose. Send a shout out to Gen-X and the Millenials by giving Page the Oscar. You might as well, they are probably going to pick your next president (cough…Obama…cough).
Of course, the most interesting thing you can do is try and put on an awards show during a writers strike. When none of the actors show up, please consider me as a possible seat filler. I imagine you are going to need thousands of those. And don't worry, I'll pay for my own plane ticket.
The 80th Annual Academy Awards air February 24 at 8 p.m. on ABC.