My general disaffection with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences aside, it is always a pleasant gratification to play the game of predicting the Oscar winners. I’ve not yet come across any betting pool to take part in and make money off my predictions (or lose it), but I’m willing to take bets from any readers who think they may have a better handle on the odds or decision-making logic than I do. True, you’ve seen enough articles in newspapers and on your Facebook newfeeds laying out the probable choices – not to mention that my own post is going up at the latest possible moment – and one wouldn’t think it’d be particularly difficult for anyone to predict winners as I do now. Notwithstanding, I’m still eager to make a few last-minute calls, and, after all, it’s not my fault everyone else seems so intensely interested in the silly business. Bored entertainment journalists are entirely free to publish yet another article on how this year is “Leonardo’s year,” and on how he deserves this Oscar more than anyone else has ever deserved anything; but – as I reminded a group of unsuspecting shoppers yesterday morning while reading just such an article in yesterday’s Beeld in Pick ’n Pay – you and I, dear reader, are just as free to shout out angry expletives when a journalist does so.
This year’s batch of nominees is particularly dismaying, with not a single daring work of artistic excitement among of the seven best picture nominees I’ve seen (I have yet to see Room, and will hold out on commenting on it, hoping that it may be the one contender to get behind). In recent years, the Academy has indeed nominated a few magnificent films (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Tree of Life, Hugo, The Social Network), along with a handful of excellent ones (Selma, 12 Years a Slave, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, Black Swan) and the idiosyncratic works (Inception, War Horse, Lincoln, Her, Boyhood etc.); but this year offers pitiably little to stand up for. With frontrunners like The Revenant, Mad Max, and Spotlight, one resigns oneself to a season of glum, pious head-nodding at the winner’s solemn proselytising, and chest-swelling pride at the winning films’ social “victories,” which – oddly – no one seems eager to note are all pretty easy positions to take up years or decades after the true radicals, visionaries, and champions have cleared the path and tarred the road.