Alf Cryderman

Alf Cryderman

Long-time movie buff offers picks for Academy Award predictions

Long-time movie buff offers picks for Academy Awards predictions

Yes, I know the Oscars are mostly hype, glamour and movie industry public relations. But I’ve been a devotee of the event since childhood, staying up late on a school night to watch the event (in the 50s it was telecast on Monday nights and often didn’t end till after midnight in eastern Canada).

It’s a great evening, now helped by popcorn and beer, but I also agree with George C. Scott who refused his well-deserved Oscar for Patton in 1970 when he described the Oscars as a meaningless popularity contest.

Often the most deserving movies and people don’t win. Box office success is often more important than artistic merit or acting ability. Sentiment and popularity play a big role too. People often win Oscars for their careers, or for performances they didn’t win for rather than the performance they are nominated for.

Paul Newman never won for great performances like Hud or The Hustler, but finally got an Oscar for The Color of Money, a so-so performance. Al Pacino lost seven times before finally winning for Scent of a Woman, certainly not his best performance. Henry Fonda, a very fine actor who deserved several Oscars, only won for his last performance in On Golden Pond and was on his deathbed when his daughter Jane picked it up for him (sentiment at play again).

Marlon Brando, out of favour in Hollywood at the time, was nominated for Best Actor for A Streetcar Named Desire and lost, while every other main actor in the film (Vivien Leigh, Best Actress, Kim Hunter, Best Supporting Actress and Karl Malden, Best Supporting Actor) won, even though Brando’s is the performance you remember. The examples are endless.

The list of talented and deserving people who never even received an Oscar is amazing too and includes Alfred Hitchcock (five nominations), Peter O’Toole (eight nominations), Deborah Kerr (six nominations) and Richard Burton (seven nominations). But the Academy often gets around that by giving them an Oscar for their career. Edward G. Robinson only got his after he died and Burton never even got that. You could write books about deserving performances and films that lost or never even got nominated.

And it leads to all kinds of funny situations. In 1972 Cabaret won eight Oscars, including Best Actress (Liza Minelli) and Best Director (Bob Fosse), but not Best Picture (mind you it was up against The Godfather, which did win).

It really is a “meaningless popularity contest” and often not fair, let alone realistic. Academy voters are fickle and trendy so why do I watch it every year? I think it’s for the pleasure of seeing the stars when they are not acting, to see what people say when they win, because it’s one of the few live TV events left and to see an overview of a year’s films and maybe some film history too. Sometimes it’s worth seeing for the host (s), although no one has been as good as Billy Crystal in recent years. They need Ricky Gervais, who was nasty, but funny, hosting the Golden Globes.

Anyway, here are my fearless predictions for this year’s Oscars. Colin Firth seems to have a lock on Best Actor for The King’s Speech, as does Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter and they both deserve them.

Natalie Portman should win Best Actress for Black Swan and Melissa Leo deserves it for Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter, although lately there’s lots of buzz about Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, so there may be an upset there.

Best Picture and Best Director are not so clear. While The Social Network is a good film I think The King’s Speech is better and deserves Best Picture, as does Tom Hooper for Best Director. But The Social Network is getting lots of buzz so it may win, and if it does, trendy and box office win again too.

But come what may, I’ll be watching on Feb. 27 — popcorn, beer and cynicism close at hand.