USA Today gives a rundown of the movies that - on paper -- look very promising. Martin Grove of Hollywood Reporter offers suggestions for how to improve things, most notably by declaring the move to late February that rushes everyone, hurts the indie films, and makes the Oscars blur so much into all the other award shows that it feels more like an exhausted coda than a finale. I was all for the move -- when the Oscars came in late March, we were already so far into the new year, it seemed like an afterthought. But he makes some good points. Another suggestion of his will never happen: adding a people's choice award for favorite film, which would invariably go to blockbusters like "Pirates of the Caribbean," with voting online or by during the broadcast with vote tallys shown onscreen. They wouldn't get an Oscar, just an acknowledgement and some completely un-Oscar like statue perhaps. That's not a bad idea, though it would make the Oscars seem like the People's Choice Awards. But how sad that the USA Today article doesn't even suggest Spiderman 3 might be an Oscar hoopeful. Spiderman 2 was one of the most acclaimed films of the year and got some Oscar nods. Why not? The Lord of the Rings won Best Picture. So did Titanic? Why a knee-jerk impulse to honor only art films?
I'd already been thinking about the Oscars that might have been: a respectable listing of terrific, notable films that would have drawn on much more popular genres and be far more appealing to people but still honor the best of the industry. Why couldn't the five Best Picture nominees be:
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
These were in fact, five of the most acclaimed films of the year -- certainly "Borat" was a thunderous, remarkable event and it was absurd that the film and the star weren't nominated. "Casino Royale" and Daniel Craig brought a beloved franchise to new heights of box office AND critical praise. You could substitute other movies in and out of the list like Little Miss Sunshine and The Good Shepherd and Happy Feet (another massively acclaimed film that was a technological delight, entertaining and a massive hit) and numerous others. But the point is that the Academy Awards could EASILY have honored some of the best movies of the year but delviered a lineup of genuine popular hits as well. I certainly don't think box office equals quality and I'm glad the Oscars is focused on quality but the two aren't mutually exclusive and the Oscars shouldn't think they are. And the ratings would have jumped tremendously if Borat and Casino Royale were in the mix instead of the (less deserving) Babel and The Queen. Am I right or am I right?