Two More Grouchy Notes...
More worryingly, I'm reading some commenters who are dismayed that a movie without a "major" nomination for directing, acting, or writing could "sneak in," no matter what other, presumably "minor" nods it scores. Even a movie that had one acting nomination, as The Dark Knight did, has been mentioned on one blog as a possible "sneak" in the new system. I.e., a movie that has plenty of nods, but not in the "right" categories, might trespass into a category where, by Oscar logic, it has no business.
Surely it is high time for Oscar bloggers to acknowledge (and we all need to) that Editing, Sound, Cinematography, Score, Art Direction, and Visual Effects are "major" crafts, and if you take either the industry or the art of filmmaking seriously, there's nothing less "major" about them than about acting or writing. Believe me, I understand what you mean, and as we know, I idolize great actors as much as anyone. But I'd also venture, in the abstract, that a film with some of the best editing of the year and some of the best sound work of the year is on average a better film than a film with one of the best performances by a leading actress and one of the best adapted screenplays. Or at least as good, anyway. We're not helping Oscar stay more "relevant" by perpetuating these lame shorthands for what "counts" as film art and what doesn't. Some of the same folks who claim to want to see Oscar broaden its horizons into less parochial "genre" fare turn around and slag off exactly the categories where these "genre" films often cop the most recognition, and make their most earnest stabs at lasting popular or artistic value.
Someone is bound to say, "But what about Best Director? Certainly that's major," to which I will reply, we all know films have been scoring Picture nods without reinforcing Director nods forever. The new change doesn't structurally change that, it just creates more films without (heavily politicized and genre-influenced) director nods. I suspect that Apollo 13, Sense and Sensibility, and Moulin Rouge!, lacking Director nods, still got more Best Picture votes in their years than did Il Postino or Gosford Park, which had them. It's not an absolute test of being in or out of contention, and as we've all been discussing, the new size of the Best Picture race, which only requires 10.1% of the general vote to win, might redraw all those rules anyway. Let's wait and see.
It will be pointed out, more than fairly, that my sidebar keeps readers up to speed about what I've seen most recently in the Picture, Director, and Acting categories, and no others. Guilty as charged, but believe you me, if Editing weren't quite possibly the most egregiously misunderstood category in Oscar history, and if Cinematography and Sound hadn't had a dozen or more nominees for so many yearsmany of them harder to find these days than almost any Picture or Acting nominee, because DVD and video distributors buy right into, and even create, the same "major category" discourse that we too often perpetuateI'd have them right up there, too. But still, egg on my face. I'm grumbling at myself, not just at you.
In the meantime, "high-profile" and "most publicized" are great synonyms for what people mean by "major" or "important" categories. Let's try to use them, but let's also try to raise the profile and increase the publicity for these other categories while we're at it. While this news, off season, has suddenly got everyone talking Oscar and people are paying attention, let's seize the opportunity to be thoughtful and disciplined about how those of us who are silly and misguided enough to still give a rat's a** about the Oscars actually go about characterizing the awards we purport to love, and the artistic labor of important filmmakers, marquee names and otherwise, that they ostensibly honor.
P.S. I'll return to a better mood tomorrow.
P.P.S. Or maybe I won't, because look at this. If you need to know why this is a problem, Nathaniel can tell you.