With the Academy Awards dust now settled, let’s take a step back and look at the three biggest lessons learned from this year’s Oscar winners and losers, shall we?
Lesson One: Listen to the Guilds I can’t recall another year where the guild awards matched so consistently with the Oscars. Look at SAG, for instance. 19 of the 20 SAG individual acting nominees repeated at the Oscars, and all four individual winners did as well. The Directors Guild matched five-for-five and Kathryn Bigelow won both. And the Producers Guild predicted eight of the 10 Best Picture nominees, while The Hurt Locker won both prizes. The only major guild that was inconsistent with the Oscars was the Writers Guild, but that was mainly because of their pointless eligibility requirements. But while The Hurt Locker won the WGA and the Oscar for original screenplay, Precious took home the adapted screenplay Oscar after losing the WGA to Up in the Air. Which brings us to…
Lesson Two: Deportment Matters (Usually) Geoffrey Fletcher wrote an amazing script for Precious and is very deserving of his surprise win. But I’m convinced that it was the clear discomfort between Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, who were co-credited on Up in the Air after an arbitration battle despite never working together, that cost them the Oscar. With each Up in the Air screenplay victory—at the Globes, Broadcast Critics, WGA, or BAFTA—the whole situation appeared more and more awkward. And in a close race, that made a difference, especially when Reitman and Turner’s main competition was a single writer, not a team. Similarly, I think it can be assumed that James Cameron’s polarizing persona cost Avatar some votes in the big races. But if anyone had a problem with Mo’Nique’s unique campaign style, it didn’t matter at all. Locks are locks, even with a little bad press.
Lesson Three: Without Writing and Acting, You Can’t Win I’ve been asked several times since Sunday why Avatar couldn’t win Best Picture despite its massive gross and industry-changing status. And my answer is, look at the nominations. Avatar may have had nine nods, but it didn’t have any in the screenplay or acting races. Now, it’s possible to win Best Picture without any acting nominations (Slumdog Millionaire, Braveheart) or, more rarely, without a screenplay nod (Titanic). But in the last 78 years, no movie has been able to win without either one. In retrospect, maybe we were silly to think Avatar even had a shot.