Monday, February 23, 2015

My highest Oscar stakes ... ever?

I haven't missed an Oscars since sometime in the late 1980s. But it's been a good ten years since I really felt the stakes of the contest.

Sure, every year I have my favorites, as well as those I really want to see shut out. But it's been since 1997 that my favorite film of the year actually had a legitimate chance of winning best picture. Titanic did that, but there also wasn't much drama to it. It was the foregonest of foregone conclusions.

In 2014, my favorite movie was Birdman (let's do away with the subtitle, even though it took more words to explain doing away with the subtitle than it would have to just type it). Birdman has an actual shot of winning best picture, and according to whom you ask, it may actually be the favorite. But it has no Titanic-sized lead, so it will be pretty exciting when some aging Hollywood luminary finally tears open that envelope.

A moment I'll be seeing probably about eight hours later than the rest of you will see it.

Yep, I'm in Australia, and yep, it's Monday, and yep, that means I go to work. The Oscars air both live here (at 12:30 p.m., the time I have to remind myself to get off Facebook) and then at some ungodly hour at night on replay (I think it's like 9:45, though only the broadcasters understand the thinking behind that time slot). Fortunately, I did remember to set up the recording last night (after a weekend away, when my brain was fried), so we should be able to settle in at a more reasonable 8 or 8:30, once our kids have finally given up for the night.

I said a few weeks ago that I may actually be rooting for Boyhood, Birdman's main competition, despite the fact Boyhood was only my #8 of the year, while Birdman was #1. I can't deny, though, that my tune has changed since then. I feel myself growing more excited the more I hear Birdman discussed as the potential winner, the more I see Birdman detractors starting to show sour grapes, which somehow seems like a confirmation of its impending victory. I mean, I won't be disappointed if Boyhood wins -- it's a great film whose win would say a lot for the Oscars' capacity to surprise us -- but I now know where my true rooting interests lie.

I don't know why I need the Academy or some other body to confirm my own tastes. Over the nearly 20 years I have been keeping track of my favorite movies of the year in list form, my #1 has only received a nomination for best picture five previous times: Titanic, Gosford Park, Lost in Translation, There Will Be Blood and 127 Hours. And that last probably only made it because of the expanded field of nominees. So I haven't had this type of alignment much, and I can honestly say I haven't needed it. If the Academy does not want to save a best picture slot for Ruby Sparks, that's their business. (Ha.)

But now when I'm faced with it, with the possibility of my own favorite film being feted as everyone's favorite film (so to speak), I am really relishing the possibility. Although critics should be confident in their pronouncements and must trust their own aesthetic sensibilities, we also want to be right. A conclusion we reached about a film before it was nominated for an Oscar is something we want to have validated, because it means, deep down, that we are actually good at our jobs. Or it might mean that, anyway.

So yeah, that's pretty high stakes indeed.

We will see in a couple hours whether I'm any good at mine.

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