It’s 10:39 a.m. It’s an unusually warm and wet Thursday morning for January and I’m woken up by a familiar iPhone ding. I fall off my friend’s couch lazily reaching for the message, and lying on the ground I unlock the phone. It’s a text with a picture of today’s top headline, written in bold red type: LINCOLN LEADS OSCAR RACE WITH 12 NOMINATIONS.
What a relief, right? Lincoln was admittedly one of my favorite films of the year (a movie so nice I saw it twice!) and seeing my favorites get nominated is a rare treat in Oscar season. Phew. This is usually the part where I should start to feel something. And yet…
Nothing. No excitement, no nervousness, no righteous anger. Nothing. I lie motionless on the ground. This might make sense to the average filmgoer, but as passionate and annoying of a film buff as I am, this is undoubtedly a strange sensation. What was different?
But I already know: I’m bored.
Even with a few surprise nominees and a few surprise snubs, this race was over from the start. It is Lincoln’s to lose all across the board.
I realize it is not the Academy Awards job to entertain me. It exists solely to reward and honor what its voters feel are the best films of the year (That, and to make millions of dollars off advertisements, of course). And by that standard, why shouldn’t Lincoln earn the praise? Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis and their massive cast and crew took a dense and potentially dull bit of backroom drama−the passing of the 13 amendment−and made it fascinating, thrilling and perfectly relatable to modern times. It is a stunning film and without a doubt a worthy candidate for Best Film.
But much like a one-sided sports matchup is rarely entertaining, an Oscar race without any danger or wild cards is hardly a race at all. Honest Abe has already crossed the finish line, grabbed his prize and enjoyed a juice box back at home. So to speak.
This is a lot of nitpicking, of course, for a year that was in many ways pretty satisfactory for the Oscars. Several unexpected underdogs, such as Amour, Beasts of Southern Wild and my beloved Django Unchained, got recognition in a number of categories, and there’s not a weak link in any of the nominees.
But still, I lament. I hoped for a year where a daring and important film like Zero Dark Thirty would be rewarded for the dialogue it instigated rather than crucified for its controversy (though it did rack up a few nominations, director Kathryn Bigelow’s snub essentially kills the film’s chances). I wished in a year where action and superhero films dominated the scene and changed the perception about what they could be, films like the deliciously entertaining Avengers, the challenging Dark Knight Rises, the reinvented Bond and the mind-bending Looper could have entered the awards conversation. And like every year, I prayed for a little Wes Anderson love, only to be limited to a Best Original Screenplay nod for the whimsical Moonrise Kingdom. These snubs are especially depressing when you consider that only nine of the available 10 slots for Best Film were filled. In a year as rich with good movies as 2012, why, Academy? How and why?
I’m not saying Lincoln shouldn’t have been nominated, and I’m not saying it still wouldn’t have had a good shot at winning had some snubs been unsnubbed. All I mean is that a year without surprises means a year without the giddy speculation and anticipation leading up to the big night this February. And that makes this movie fan a bit disheartened.
But that doesn’t mean the ceremony itself will be dull, and with Seth Macfarlane at the helm, it could make for an entertaining night on its own terms. Plus, a year with easy predictions could result in some serious winnings if you’re the gambling type. And who knows? If there’s one thing the Oscars are good at, it’s messing up the obvious winners, which could lead to some surprising results (I’m looking at you, Benh Zeitlin). Lincoln could shockingly walk away empty handed.
But that ain’t going to happen. So I get up off the floor, walk to my car, head to the nearest Redbox to check out Beasts of Southern Wild and remember what it’s really all about: A love of the