I’m an old-timer with the Oscars. I was invited in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences writers’ branch nearly three decades ago, so I have had a long time to be blasé about the whole thing. And I am, more or less.
You can pretend not to care, but there are less than 6000 voting members and only a few more than two hundred in the writers’ branch, so, unless you’re Woody Allen, you have to feel at least slightly honored to be part of it.
Earlier this year, the L.A. Times attempted to stir up controversy by pointing out the Academy was 94% Caucasian and 77% male. They didn’t give the percentage that are liberals (not their narrative), but I would guess that is somewhere around 80%, give or take a Clint Eastwood and a Robert Duvall or two.
This year, for the first time, we are voting online. This is no mean trick since the median age is 62 and I have a suspicion a serious number of geezer members are, shall we say, technologically challenged. (Evidently the powers that be are nervous, given the detailed explanatory emails we have been getting.) This particular voter, who has been running an online media company for seven years, even had minor problems when voting today that were taken care of speedily with a quick call to a 24-hour support line.
The votes I cast today were in the nominating process. All members can nominate for the five best picture slots. Members of each branch also nominate in their specific areas of expertise. Hence I got to nominate as many as five each for best screenplay and best adapted screenplay. All the members vote in all categories in the finals in February.
For the nomination process, I rarely vote for the full five, even for best picture. I guess I’m just one of those persnickety types who is hard to impress. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies. Whatever the case, I’d be a lousy film critic because I’d give too many pans and make everyone think I was a grouch, which maybe I am. Also, the studios would hate me.
Nevertheless, I don’t think 2012 was a bad year for films. I quite liked two movies and enjoyed several others. (I won’t tell you whether I voted for them — that’s against Academy rules. But I’ll leave you to extrapolate, Sherlock.)
The two I most admired were Amour, the film by Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke that won all the prizes in Europe, and Silver Linings Playbook by the talented American writer/director David O. Russell.
Amour was as close to a perfect film as you can find, although its subject matter — love in the face of death — is not exactly an upper. Still, the performances of the now octogenarian Jean-Louis Trintignant (remember A Man and a Woman?) and Emmanuelle Riva (remember Hiroshima, Mon Amour?) are exquisite and actually uplifting. I predict this movie will be watched many years from now and become something of an austere classic.
Silver Linings Playbook is not nearly as perfect but it is an original and surprisingly affecting love story between two highly disturbed individuals, reminiscent in some ways of the Oscar winner As Good As It Gets. The performances here by Bradley Cooper and, especially, Jennifer Lawrence are also exceptional.