With today’s release of the Oscar nominations the 30 plus film critics groups are patting themselves on the back, or wondering if they saw the same films as the Academy voters. The buzz a few years ago when the Academy announced it would begin nominating 10 films in the Best Picture awards was louder than the applause for the actual nominees. Yet this years’ list – Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone – seems appropriate and is reflected in a majority of the critics groups’ five Best Picture picks.
The slew of film critics groups across the country that begin releasing their own picks about the second week of December sets off an avalanche of online sites who release the groups’ votes. Some of the web hosts also add their own comments – good, bad and even sarcastic – they certainly add an even further entertaining element to this entire process.
As a co-founder and member of the San Diego Film Critics Society since 1997, I’m still surprised and in some ways proud of our eclectic year-end picks every year. The group, made up of radio, online and print critics, begins the season with a think list, discussions about the films and then the lively day of voting.
It’s true we rarely follow the mainstream critics’ choices. Whether this is good or bad is up to interpretation. But so are reactions to movies. In fact, place 15 people of any workforce – movie, film, theatre critics, policemen, farmers, truck drivers – together and most likely the majority will not agree on everyday issues.
Movies today are one of the most influential mediums in our world. They showcase our history; take us away from reality and become a part of our everyday lives by determining what clothes we wear, what we say, how we react to others, impacting us financially and more. Critiquing a film is quite different than having an opinion about it. Some of the best critics today have degrees in film studies, but most others who do not can still dissect a movie intelligently.
What’s interesting about group selections is that if one looked at each individual’s top picks they are often vastly different then the groups’ final selection. Because our group’s picks are so eclectic online blurbs begin the afternoon we release our selections. Since a large majority of the nation’s critics groups voted The Social Network as Best Picture and we did not, we were a target for controversy. The first comments are usually sarcastic. Some this year included, “Is there a conspiracy theory about how come they awarded a movie other than TSN?” More followed questioning our thinking abilities, credentials and reasons why. We didn’t have to do a thing to defend ourselves because then the accolades came flooding in. Comments included: “Good for the San Diego critics, who always manage to avoid catching groupthink disease,” “First to buck the trend were the iconoclasts at the San Diego Film Critics Society,” “A few sprinkles of something resembling an original though,” “Definitely a set of nominations I can respect,” San Diego film critics, who put a distinct voice forward,” “A breath of fresh air.”
Our vote for Best Picture was for Winter’s Bone – also on the Oscar nominations list as was many of our picks in the other categories. We stood out even further though for our pick of Colin Farrell for Ondine. Yet this is just an example of moviegoer’s different observations about movies and why someone might prefer to watch The Other Guys than Black Swan, or Inside Job than True Grit. There are even differences between recognized major awards shows. True Grit received 10 Academy Award-nominations, but none from the Golden Globes.
We’re a diverse county, and when an average of 400 films is released every year there’s something for everyone. That’s what makes Academy Awards night – February 27, 2011– so compelling. It’s often more rousing when a favorite film or performer doesn’t win. Will it be Natalie Portman or Jennifer Lawrence; Toy Story or How To Train Your Dragon? Whether waiting to see a favorite actor, a trendy music group perform the Best Song, or what everyone is wearing, Oscar night is a tradition not to be missed.
A complete list of the 83rd Academy Awards Nominees may be found at the Academy’s official site.