Oscar Watching: Changing It Up
As the 2014 Oscar season comes to an end, as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has solidified its 12-year timeframe in cinematic history in just a few months’ time. I wrote that last sentence on Jan. 14, but as we all know, a different story unfolded on Oscar Night. Birdman ended up with the top prize and the awards for director, original screenplay, and cinematography. But now, almost a month later, we take note of the surprises and the upsets that the hoopla has brought forth – among other things, one of our Friends solidified herself as a Serious Film Actress™ with several major award nominations (but not an Oscar nod) for her devastating turn in a small indie; a quirky art-house director “crossed over” to the mainstream (yet again) and landed major Oscar attention with a twee film that hit theaters last March; and an acclaimed, expertly crafted drama about a pivotal moment in the United States civil rights movement – for reasons that seem suspect, myriad, and indeterminable all at once – was nominated for best picture and… best original song (and won the latter category), while an old faithful hit a bull’s-eye with enough groups to land slots for his film in picture, actor, and adapted screenplay.
Of course, we who keep an obsessive eye on our Twitter feeds and on awards season(s) take the next natural step in this never-ending process: We predict who and what will pick up nominations at the 2015 Oscars – more formally known as the 88th Annual Academy Awards.
In the game of forecasting the hot mess of film festivals, interviews, Q&As, and general schmoozing we collectively call “awards season,” we are often told to use our heads and not our hearts. But at this stage in the game, I see nothing wrong with allowing the heart to want what it wants. Even folks like me who actively engage in this nonsense often criticize the act of year-in-advance Oscar prognostication, but our current freedom from year-end accolades and reactions to the films we see as contenders (“the films”) gives us a unique gift: We can shine a light on talent that might go unnoticed for whatever reason – too obscure or too “obscure” (films by/about/for queer people, people of color, women, and, of course, any and all intersections therein).
Besides, we must also realize that, to a certain degree, both the head and the heart notice issues that tarnish the entertainment industry and pervade culture and society, the Academy Awards included. To that end, we must be very critical of the whole thing – again, head and heart go hand in hand.