Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscars alignment

There are years when my own year-end list has been heavily aligned with the Oscars, as when my #1 Birdman won best picture in 2014, when my #1 A Separation won best foreign language film in 2011, and when my #1 Inside Out won best animated feature last year.

Rarely do all three types of alignment occur in the same year.

That's what's happening this year, when my top five movies of the year are all nominated for three of the four awards that honor an entire feature length film (and not one of its specific collaborators). The only category I missed is one on which I pretty much always miss: best documentary feature. (I've only seen two of the nominees, and didn't have either of them ranked higher than 58th.) Seven of my top ten films are actually nominated in one of the three remaining such categories, with only Swiss Army Man (#6), Other People (#7) and The Purge: Election Year (#9) missing out. (Though how The Purge didn't get nominated for best costume design is beyond me. I jest.)

The category I've got the most skin in this year has to be best foreign language feature, as my top two movies of 2016 -- Toni Erdmann and Tanna (pictured) -- are both nominated in that category. Tanna was a true surprise -- it was a movie no one I talked films with had even heard of when I first saw it, and only one or two have subsequently seen. (And one of those is a guy who makes a point of watching all the nominated films every year. Yeah, he's crazy.) It stands no chance of winning, of course, but that's because my #1 movie is perhaps the evening's biggest shoe-in not named Casey Affleck.

And then my #3 film, Zootopia, is a best animated feature nominee, and the current frontrunner according to (And yes, I somehow decided to return to that website despite considering it painfully emblematic of our collective deception about the 2016 presidential election, and irrationally blaming Nate Silver for Donald Trump's victory.)

As discussed yesterday, my favorite best picture nominee is my #4, Hell or High Water, which does not figure to win. But there's a good chance that my #5 film, La La Land, will win best picture, as we all seem to be in for a couple more sessions of soul-searching and hand-wringing about what we value when it comes to the movies we choose to represent the best and brightest of the medium. (Would I rank La La Land lower than #5 if I were doing it today? Probably.)

So there's a very real chance that the best foreign language film, the best animated film and best picture will all come from my top five movies of the year.

Is this something to be excited about, or is it further concerning evidence of my own conventionality?

It's hard to say. Toni Erdmann and Zootopia both seem to be fairly unconventional choices to be great films, Erdmann for any number of reasons and Zootopia because social commentary in children's movies runs the risk of being terminally didactic when it's as ambitious as what we see in Zootopia. So I guess I don't need to eulogize my own iconoclastic streak just yet.

Still, it seems fairly certain that my #1 film will be recognized at the Oscars for the third straight year. Means in 2017 I really need to go back to more eccentric choices for #1s like I had in 2012 and 2013, when neither Ruby Sparks nor Beyond the Hills even made the lists of prominent Oscar snubs.

But I still don't figure I'll be watching the Oscars any more attentively than I usually do, in part because my enthusiasm for the actual ceremony has been on the decline for probably a decade now (the nominations remain the most interesting part for me), and in part because I won't have someone to watch it with for the first time in as long as I can remember. I'll still make a series of fairly uninformed choices on a ballot, just out of habit, but not having someone sitting next to me, checking off correct choices and putting a red X through incorrect ones, will be a bit sad.

I don't know how my wife can't watch if only to see the barbs thrown at Trump. The Oscars may pale in comparison to real-world events, perhaps more than ever this year, but even if we don't need an evening of Hollywood glitz and glamour, we could always use more barbs thrown at Trump.

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