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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What if we *really* had to pick the Oscar nominees right now?

As Gawker’s Richard Rushfield reminds us, “September Is the Month to Make Bad Oscar Predictions”::

Over the next weeks Hollywood gets its first look at many of the Oscar heavyweights at the Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals. But that doesn’t hold back the pundits from weighing in today on who owns this race.

In his intro to the list, Guru-master David Poland cautions, “about half of the contenders haven’t been seen. Darts are flying in the dark. Some are hitting expected titles and others are real surprises.”

How then does the punditry deliver such judgments on films which may still be getting worked over in the cutting room? A combination of factors go into a Oscar savants’ calculations – first, as noted above, hitting certain tried and true notes (historic epic, biopic, Clint Eastwood directed) move a film straight onto the field, no questions asked. And then the pundits note the buzz from friends at the studios and in the marketing departments; what they are hearing about the film. One will note that Lovely Bones, which just on the basis of its provenance seemed to have the Best Picture crown locked up two years ago before it was ever shot, now falls surprisingly low on the Guru scale. Could there be some bad buzz flying about from those few on the inside who have seen the film?

I always find it hilarious myself, these late-summer Oscar predictions. I mean, I understand the impetus to look at an upcoming slate of fall films and see a Clint Eastwood movie and another movie based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel and a third starring Meryl Streep and just wrap up the Oscars then. But it’s not like those ultrapremature predictions are mostly accurate, with only occasional forays into fantasyland: they’re almost always entirely wrong.

So let’s turn it on its ear. Let’s imagine that some horrifc celluloid-eating virus invades from other planet and destroys every film that has not yet been released this year. So we’re left having to put together the Oscars from what’s been released up to and including today. What will the Best Picture be? Who will be Best Actor and Best Actress? Best Director? What will the song-and-dance numbers at winter’s ceremony consist of? And so on.

In other words: What if we really had to pick the Oscar nominees right now?

If you need a few reminders of what our options are, check out Wikipedia’s rundown of the year in film so far. Critic Mike D’Angelo keeps an amazingly comprehensive list of everything that releases commercially in New York City — his 2009 list is here. My 2009 ranking is here, but remember that it’s not comprehensive: I don’t see everything; it also includes films that haven’t opened yet, so watch out for that.

Be serious with it, or have fun.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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