Oscars 2013: Forget the hype, just watch the films
The Oscar nominations are in and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln leads the charge with twelve nods closely followed by Life of Pi with eleven and Silver Linings Playbook with eight.
Les Misérables and Argo each notch up seven nominations while Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty manage only five apiece.
There are a few surprises. Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin have been nominated as best director for Amour and Beast of the Southern Wild respectively. Eighty-five-year-old Emanuelle Riva becomes the oldest ever best actress nominee for her performance in Amour while nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis becomes the youngest ever for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Presenter Seth MacFarlane’s horrifically misjudged joke about Hitler might also have come as a surprise to those watching live streaming of the announcement. But other than that I can’t help thinking that this year’s nominations feel distinctly underwhelming.
One problem for film fans here in Britain is that many of the most talked about films to be nominated haven’t been released here yet. Lincoln, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty… Even Les Misérables isn’t out till tomorrow. So most of us haven’t seen any of the frontrunners and consequently could be forgiven for feeling less excited about today’s nominations.
On top of this, there are few truly British films or individuals in competition this year and there’s nothing like cheering on our fellow Brits to draw us into Oscar mania. Yes, Les Mis is a British film but the original musical came from France, is set in 19th century France and features a largely international cast.
And Skyfall may have become the most successful film ever to be released in the UK but it’s only picked up a handful of craft nominations as well as best original song. Brits Daniel Day-Lewis and Naomi Watts have been nominated for best actor and actress but only Day-Lewis is in with a serious chance – and, although widely respected as an actor, he hasn’t ever really been embraced as a national treasure.
Another obstacle to engagement in this year’s Oscar nominations is the number of films that now make the shortlist for best picture. There used to be just five on the list but since 2010 there have been ten (nine this year) – which means a nomination in this category is less meaningful.
The Academy has also brought forward the announcement of the nominations by two weeks. With more and more film awards competing for attention, there’s some speculation that Oscar is flexing his muscle and trying to deal a knock-out blow to the Golden Globes, traditionally seen as a warm-up event for the Oscars and set to take place this weekend.
But with the proliferation of awards shows in January (the Critics’ Choice Awards are happening tonight in the US, the Screen Actors Guild Awards on the 27th and the Bafta nominations were announced yesterday here in the UK), over the past few years there’s been a feeling of awards fatigue by the time the Oscars come around. So Oscar is fighting back!
There’s also much more awareness now amongst the general public of how awards work. There used to be a time when we all accepted awards such as the Oscars as a badge of artistic excellence. But recently more and more actors, such as Joaquin Phoenix and Anthony Hopkins, have spoken out against the campaigning to curry favour with the Academy’s 6,000 voters that goes on from November until now, with actors appearing on TV chat shows and film companies taking out full-page ‘For Your Consideration’ adverts in the trade press.
These days there’s more of an acceptance of awards like the Oscars as some kind of marketing tool for film companies – and as a result they’ve undoubtedly lost some of their sheen.
But there is some consolation for all those film fans left unenthused by today’s nominations. Most industry insiders agree that this year’s competition is too close to call. Which can only mean one thing — that there are a lot of great pictures either already out there or about to be released. So my advice is to switch off from the awards hype this year and head down to the cinema to watch the films!
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