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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

are the winds of change blowing through the Oscars?

Such a strange and subdued Oscars this year! No outrageous gowns to make fun of, no long-winded or pompous acceptance speeches to smack down. Even Jon Stewart, for all his snide snarkery, was gentler than I would have expected, and seemed genuinely moved more than once.

The tone was probably exactly right, what with the writers’ strike barely over, and no matter that there’s something to celebrate in the writers’ win, the shutdown of Hollywod did cost all the non-fatcats who work in the industry a ton of money: Los Angeles is still mostly a company town. And as three of the five feature documentary nominees remind us, we are at war, and have been for too long, so a certain seriousness felt right.
But the most startling thing about last night’s Oscars is how it felt like all the new, younger members of the Academy — recent inductees include Steve Carell, Daniel Craig, Peter Berg, Paul Greengrass, JJ Abrams — suddenly made their perspectives felt. I based my predictions for who would win on the way the Academy usually behaves, or has, at least, during my memory of the Oscars, which stretches back at least 20 years. You know: Statuettes get handed to certain recipients more as lifetime achievement awards rather than for this particular role (Better hurry up and give Performer X an Oscar before his dies!). Awards in certain categories are consolation prizes for not giving particular films wider recognition (Let’s give a screenplay Oscar to this film we really liked a lot, but not enough to give any other awards!).

I turned out to be wrong, on nearly every guess. Amazingly enough, the should-have-wons and did-wins match up way more often than they have in recent years. Javier Bardem actually won. No Country for Old Men actually won a lot, including Best Pictire. That would have been a dark choice for the Academy not too long ago. I doubt Marion Cotillard or Tilda Swinton would have won if not for this refreshing new sense that the Academy has shifted gears.

This is one of those instances in which I love to be proven wrong. It means exciting things may be happening. It means change is coming. It means — maybe — that Hollywood is on the verge of big shift into a new state of mind. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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