January 29, 2008

The Back Lot (FILM NEWS & RUMINATIONS): Oscar season has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A

Oscars all around and, as Mickey Rourke said (playing Charles Bukowski in “Barfly”), “Drinks for all my friends!” Everyone at this point deserves an Oscar. Given the baloney pouring out of Hollywood each year, these awards give rise to a quasi-Clintonian maxim: It depends what your definition of “best” is. The nominating process is still dominated by rich white men, and this year’s slate of nominees reflects medieval male fantasies of sex and violence. There is not much of anything resembling a feminine touch.Which doesn’t bother some of us: Trekkies, war film enthusiasts, blood junkies, would-be whodunit detectives, boxing fans. Aside from “Atonement” (and not entirely there, either), there is a glut of testosterone on this year’s Oscar ballot. The two most highly regarded nominees for best picture are heavily weighted toward anger and revenge. One has the word “blood” in the title.The weeks between now and Feb. 24 will be no doubt filled with lamenting and prognostication. I offer both. There are certain seeming shoe-ins — Daniel Day Lewis for “There Will Be Blood,” Cate Blanchett for “I’m Not There” — but a number of tight races as well. Partisans of “Blood” and “No Country for Old Men” may end up casting votes that cancel each other mutually. The same calculus might allow “Atonement” to squeak through as best picture. Many of the nominees worked on films no one saw. Meanwhile, a small handful of fine pieces were ignored entirely. Anyone see the extraordinary Marion Cotillard in “La Vie En Rose”? Julie Christie in “Away From Her”? And what is Sidney Lumet to do to claim at least a consolation Honorary Achievement Award like the ones given to Marty and Woody or Elia Kazan? Javier Bardem and Julian Schnabel and Paul T. Anderson get solid nods, but where is “3:10 to Yuma” or “The Darjeeling Limited”? Will “Sicko” take the doc category for Michael Moore? Doesn’t seem to have much competition. Up against Iraq disaster essays, it’s easily the most entertaining film in its somewhat dour category.Does any of it matter? Yes, but not too much.