The Oscar Warrior: Does the Academy Need to Keep Things Light?

One of the more frustrating aspects of the Oscar predicting game is all the logic by my colleagues that goes into deciding which movie has the best chance at winning the Best Picture race. Because of The King’s Speech‘s victory last year, one of my peers, who will remain nameless, has gotten into his/her head that the Academy is made up of old fogies who need to “keep things light.” That dark and edgy fare doesn’t stand a chance. And with that in mind, it would mean that movies like David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Nicolas Refn’s Drive don’t have a chance even of being nominated in the category.

Sure, the Academy did give Best Picture to The King’s Speech and 1999’s Shakespeare in Love (over Saving Private Ryan!!), but there’s very little that’s light about movies like Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, Paul Haggis’ Crash and even the Coens’ No Country for Old Men. They’re just movies that cover all the bases in terms of being good stories told by master filmmakers with strong writing and performances, which is why they won over other movies in their respective years.

This year, they do have a lot of light options but does that mean darker fare like Drive and David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo don’t have a chance of getting into the Best Picture race? No effin’ way. There are plenty of 20-to-30 something Academy members as well as those in the technical branches who could easily pick one of those two movies over something lighter like The Help or Midnight in Paris, which are fun movies but not that technically proficient or impressive. In fact, one can say in both cases that they’re more about the writing and/or performances, which is good enough for two Academy branches, but what about the rest?

So yeah, we could see a light and airy movie like The Artist win this year, but one shouldn’t discount movie with gravitas like War Horse (which actually is fairly light) or Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, just because they’re darker. I do believe that Academy members realize they’re meant to be honoring quality filmmaking and not just listing the movies that made them laugh or smile at the movies this year. And sometimes, the best movie is something darker and edgier and not nearly as pleasant.


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