On one level, I think the Academy Awards are the dumbest waste of money and attention in the world. Rarely do they actually select the movies that most agree are the best of the year, and even more rarely do they identify movies and artists that history determines as the most important of their time (the most famous examples of which include the Academy’s lack of acknowledgement for the likes of Citizen Kane and Alfred Hitchcock). They’re notoriously the product of the most shameless PR campaigns you’ll come across, complete with schmoozy politicking by producers and whisper campaigns designed to discredit Oscar contenders. Very little of the attention seems to be paid to the integrity of the films themselves, the quality of the movies that were made throughout the year and the performances that were actually memorable for audiences and critics alike.
And still, we can’t help but pay attention to them. Part of this is that we’re so inundated with coverage and speculation for months on end that it’s impossible to ignore. It’s a conversation that is occurring, and demonstrating a resistance to participating in such an event is too great a task for any movie lover to undertake. It’s a time of year when more people are talking about movies than any other moment, so we’ve got to take advantage of it. It also gives many of us an opportunity to distinguish ourselves by our contrarian opinions and self-righteously voice our opposition to the selections made by the silly mainstream, or the elitist critics, whichever more comfortably suits us. We know better than those jerks and morons!
Nevertheless, awards make a difference. They provide the recipients a certain cache within the industry as well as at the box office. Oscar winners often get re-released in theaters, resulting in more people getting to see them. For those of us who feel like the best movies deserve a wider audience, this makes silly things like awards potentially important on a real, tangible level. So we take special interest in who they’re awarded to, in addition to the usual sick fascination with horse race excitement.
For these reasons and more, I’m optimistic at the prospects of Lincoln or Les Miserables taking home the top Oscar prize for Best Picture. They’re excellent movies that, in the case of Lincoln, critics all seem to agree warrants award recognition, and in the case of Les Mis, audiences hope it is number one with the Academy, as it is in their hearts. Silver Linings Playbook is another favorite that I think is terrific in every way, and would be happy if it won. But there’s one film that seems like it has a more-than-outside chance of being named Best Picture, and I feel it’s been largely underrated by North American audiences: Life of Pi. Here’s a few reasons why I would be quite happy if it were to (sort of) upset the more celebrated films in the category.
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