You know us critics, we’re used to shrugging our shoulders about the whole Oscar rigamarole, aware that if we stamped our little feet and huffed, “The great Romanian film Police, Adjective was snubbed, snubbed I tell you!” we’d be kicked out of Starbucks for obnoxious cronyism. (For the record, it was: Police, Adjective is great, and I commend it to your Netflix queue.) But as an on-duty critic, and as an off-duty ticket-buyer, too, nothing that did or didn’t receive an Oscar nomination today surprises me, bothers me, or, for that matter, shakes my confidence in my own taste. You feel the same way, right? You either liked or didn’t like A Serious Man (I loved it); you either think The Blind Side is an uplifting, feel-good drama of hope or a gooey fable (I’m with Team Goo, much as I cheer Bullock). But what the heck, good for them for nabbing Best Picture nominations.
And good for the Wizards of Oscar for doubling the number of Best Picture nominees. Why not? The ten in contention are as reasonable as any to represent a consensus of discriminating-but-not-elitist American movie-going taste in 2009. Without ten slots, Up! wouldn’t have been recognized for the brilliant creation it is, as emotionally rich as any live-action title on the list. (Of course, Up! also received a reality-check nomination in the Animated Feature Film category, so if — er, when a live-action title wins Best Picture after all, Up! still stands to win in Pixar’s more traditional category.) Without ten slots, the utterly original politico-sci-fi serio-comedy District 9 (above) might have been left hovering in the air, awardless, like an alien spaceship stalled over Johannesburg.
And so long as I can sustain this magnitude of something-for-everyone amiability, I can proclaim here with Zen calm that this year’s roster of Oscar nominees for Best Picture is very good. Between now and the Academy Awards on March 7, I might give a passing thought to what the Best Picture list might have looked like if the ballot had been kept to five. (Got any suggestions for me?) But mostly, I’m happy to go about my business, which, between now and Oscar night, involves telling anyone who will listen that it will be the crime of the century if Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker.
Really. Don’t mess it up with Bigelow, Oscar voters, or I’ll have to care.