Maybe I’m just not checking the right pulses, but I don’t sense the excitement about “Avatar” for best picture it seems like I should be feeling.
This is the awards season Oscar has been saying it wanted for a dozen years: A year like 1998, when James Cameron’s “Titanic” was No. 1 by several hundred million at the box office and movie fans were excited to see it add some award-show cred to its huge profits. Again, we have a James Cameron pic, “Avatar,” his first since “Titanic.” And again, he picked up best director and best picture at Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards. But it rang a little hollow.
Maybe it’s because, unlike “Titanic,” “Avatar” doesn’t have any on-screen talent in the awards race like 1998, when Kate Winslet was a nominee, and many thought Leonardo DiCaprio should have been. Maybe, being more of a sci-fi genre film, it’s not attracting awards-show-friendly audiences the way the more classic-Hollywood “Titanic” did. Maybe, at the Globes, it was because Cameron seemed more interested in talking about his bodily functions.
Maybe it’s just too early.
As we get closer to Oscar night, March 7, maybe the excitement will build — the nominations will pop up at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 2.
“Avatar” could have also suffered from being the big winner on a pretty ho-hum Golden Globes.
Ricky Gervais was the first actual emcee in recent memory, but the main thing we’ll remember about him is how a recurring joke of him pushing his own shows got really tired.
Goldie often gives us train wreck speeches courtesy of Moët & Chandon, but the closest we got tonight was Robert Downey Jr. accepting his trophy for best actor in a comedy or musical for “Sherlock Holmes” saying, “If you start playing violins, I’m going to tear this joint apart.”
That seemed to stem more from personal bravado — and probably some annoyance at an orchestra that seemed bent on playing people off before they could say, “Thank yo … ” — than getting a kick from champagne.
There were some other cute lines, like Paul McCartney, presenting the award for best animated feature saying he is now known as, “that guy from ‘Rock Band.’”
Animated feature seemed to portend a routine evening on the movie side, giving Pixar’s “Up” the trophy despite strong competition from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” — bad omen for “Fox” star George Clooney. Hollywood’s favorite Kentuckian also came up short in the race for best actor in a drama for critic’s darling “Up in the Air.” Four-time Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges won for “Crazy Heart” and is emerging as a sentimental favorite for the Academy Awards — I’d give it to him for “The Fisher King.”
In Oscar’s best actress category, it looks like Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side,” who won the drama award, vs. Meryl Streep for “Julie and Julia,” who won the comedy/musical award. That Bullock would be facing off against Streep would have seemed as unimaginable a few years ago as an actual comedy winning the best comedy-musical award.
The last few years, the award and most of the nominations have gone to musicals or “serious” comedies such as “Lost in Translation” (2003) or “Sideways” (2004). Then,there was 2006, when it went to a drama, “Walk the Line,” that just happened to have music in it. But Sunday night, an unqualified comedy, “The Hangover,” won. It was immediately controversial on Twitter, with posters such as Entertainment Weekly’s Dave Karger incredulous.
Here at le blog, we say bravo Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and we don’t say that much. Comedy really gets the short shrift this time of year, but filmmakers deserve recognition for something that is simply laugh-out-loud funny without having to make a profound statement about the human condition or possess the cachet of a name like Woody Allen atop the marquee. Maybe “The Hangover’s” win will be a bellwether of more open mindedness by the HFPA.
Is it a sign “Hangover” will be a finalist for Best Picture when Oscar nominees are announced Groundhog Day? Who knows. Film fans need something to get excited about for Oscar night.