Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

This year, I was struck by a revelation…after the nominations, the Oscars are actually pretty boring. Until the nominees are announced, there’s still a degree of suspense about who/what could get nominated: “Will Gary Oldman get his first nomination?” “How many Best Picture nominees will there be?” However, from the day of the nominations until the final envelope is opened, the front-runners begin to run away with their categories, leading to a relatively tedious evening of self-congratulation and posturing.

So why do I continue to watch? Well, the main reason is because, whether I like it or not, I still enjoy supporting some of the films I loved most, and who knows, maybe there will be a surprise? Plus, there’s always a good bet that I’ll have at least one horse in the race that I can at least hope will win. This year, that was “Hugo,” and because of the way the broadcast ordered the awards, they teased me with the notion that maybe, just maybe, the film (my favorite Best Picture nominee since 1995 winner “Braveheart”) would go home with the top prize, or at least, that Martin Scorsese would win his second Oscar in five years.

Alas, it was not to be. As many saw coming, especially after it won Best Picture at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before, “The Artist” reigned supreme, making it the second consecutive win for a film distributed by Oscar powerhouse Harvey Weinstein, who has long been a master at marketing to Oscar. (Who can forget his success in getting “Chocolat,” an otherwise forgettable romantic comedy, nominated for Best Picture? Or his ability to get voters to check off “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan,” of all films?)

And make no mistake, “The Artist’s” win on Oscar night was very much a product of the Weinstein’s ability to campaign for it’s victory. As with politics, money has really polluted the process to an unsettling degree. Not to the level of corruption it has in politics (even Warner Bros. couldn’t land it’s critically-acclaimed “Harry Potter” film a Best Picture nomination), but if money were less of an issue, I do believe we would have seen a very different Oscar night, one where maybe “Hugo” would have won Best Picture. Or “War Horse.” Or Gary Oldman winning his first Oscar.

Or, maybe, things would have gone down exactly the same way. I’m not writing this to take anything away from the lovely “Artist,” but to put my own two cents out there as to how money might play more of a factor in the final votes than Academy voters are willing to admit. That said, for now I’ll just say that as with politics, the horse race to the nomination remains the most interesting part, because once the lineup is set, it’s actually kind of easy to see how things are going to play out in the end.

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle

2011 Oscar Winners
Best Picture: “The Artist”
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Best Original Screenplay: “Midnight in Paris” (Woody Allen)
Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Descendants” (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash)
Best Original Score: “The Artist” (Ludovic Bource)
Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” (Bret McKenzie)
Best Animated Feature: “Rango”
Best Foreign Language Film: “A Separation” (Iran)
Best Documentary Feature: “Undefeated”
Best Visual Effects: “Hugo”
Best Sound: “Hugo”
Best Sound Editing: “Hugo”
Best Cinematography: “Hugo”
Best Film Editing: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Best Art Direction: “Hugo”
Best Makeup: “The Iron Lady”
Best Costume Design: “The Artist”
Best Short Film- Live Action: “The Shore”
Best Short Film- Animated: “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
Best Documentary Short Subject: “Saving Face”
Honorary Oscars: Oprah Winfrey (“The Color Purple,” “Beloved”), James Earl Jones (“The Lion King,” “Dr. Strangelove”), Dick Smith (makeup artist, “The Exorcist”)

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