The 84th Academy Awards

for Best ActorIt’s awards season again and for the 4th year in a row I’ll be “live tweeting” the Oscars over on Twitter. As usual, I haven’t been able to see all the Best Picture nominees but in all honesty most of them hold little interest for me. I did see a lot of 2011 releases but overall I thought 2011 was a rather lackluster year for modern movies. And many of the films I enjoyed watching such as Abbas Kiarostami’s CERTIFIED COPY and Nicolas Winding Refn’s DRIVE felt all too familiar. There’s been a lot written about the nostalgia surrounding Oscar nominated films such as THE ARTIST, HUGO and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS but I think it’s symptomatic of something bigger. Director’s are relying much too much on “homage” lately when they should be developing their own vision, their own voice and their own ideas.

So if I’m not all that interested in most of the movies up for nomination this year why am I watching the Oscars? As I’ve explained many times before, I’ve been watching the Academy Awards since I was a kid and I appreciate the pomp and circumstance of the whole gaudy affair. I like seeing my favorite actors dressed to the nines and hobnobbing with one another. And I enjoy rooting for my favorite artists and performers to take home that gold statue even if they don’t. And they usually don’t. Most of my favorite directors and actors have never won an Academy Award and they never will. This is showbiz folks and showbiz has very little to do with the fine art of making great motion pictures.

But the fact remains that every year one or two people I greatly admire usually gets nominated for an award and I have fun rooting for them. This year I’m particularly excited for Gary Oldman who’s an actor I’ve admired for a very long time and I thought his low-key performance in TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY was brilliant. The odds are stacked against him but I really hope he takes home that gold statue on Sunday night. His terrific work in films such as SID AND NANCY, PRICK UP YOUR EARS, TRACK 29, ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, JFK and LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL (just to name  a few standout performances) should have won him a nomination many years ago. I also appreciate the comedic skill of his top competitor, Jean Dujardin, but Oldman’s quiet, thoughtful and intimate portrayal of an aging British spy was some of the best acting (or non-acting) that I’ve seen in years. None of the actors nominated along with Oldman for Best Actor can match his range or hold a candle to his incredible body of work.

Among the Best Supporting Actor nominees four of the men nominated are performers I admire a lot and none of them has ever won an Academy Award. It seems bizarre (and it is) but even though Nick Nolte, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer and Kenneth Branagh have all been nominated in the past, none of them has ever taken home an Oscar. I think Max von Sydow and Nick Nolte are both extremely talented actors and I have a soft spot for Christopher Plummer. As for Branagh, he’s also done some great work and recently he’s been in top form on the excellent PBS crime drama WALLANDER so it’s nice to see him getting some much deserved attention. It would be fun to see any of these talented men win the award even though I’ve only had the opportunity to see Plummer in BEGINNERS, where he was his usual charming self. Kudos to them all!

We lost a lot of noteworthy performers last year as well as directors and composers. Elizabeth Taylor, Ken Russell and John Barry are three names that come to mind immediately but there were many more. I hope the Academy makes time to properly honor the memory of some of these people. Just seeing their picture flash by in a quick montage with some sappy song played over it will not do. I’d like to see a musical tribute to Barry and Dame Elizabeth deserves a tribute fit for a queen. Hollywood owes her something special and they better deliver but I’m not getting my hopes up. It’s the Academy Awards after all and chances are I’ll be grinding my teeth and bitching through the whole spectacle tomorrow night. See you on Twitter!