As a lifetime fan of the Academy Awards and a former film critic, I've made it a point to keep up with the Oscars, even as the years passed and the awards lost some credibility. (Hi, 2005 Best Picture winner Crash.) I can't remember the last time I hadn't seen all the Best Picture nominees. Missing from my list this year: War Horse, The Help, and The Artist. Tell me if I'm wrong here, but I don't feel like I'm actually missing much.
The Artist in particular is the movie I should watch before tonight's awards: it's looking like a shoo-in for Best Picture, and I feel like I should at least have an educated opinion on the eventual winner. But I can't bring myself to care — just as I couldn't bring myself to watch the screeners of War Horse and The Help that have been lingering on my desk for weeks.
As far as I'm concerned, I learned my lesson with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which I put off with the same sense of, "I have to watch this, but I already know that I'm not going to like it." I realize approaching films with such low expectations can have a negative effect on one's opinion, but I've also been pleasantly surprised by plenty of movies in the past. I finally did give Extremely Loud a chance, out of obligation — and because sometimes, I'll admit, I'm totally wrong.
I wasn't wrong about Extremely Loud: it was a tedious, saccharine, exploitative waste of time, and I say that as someone who actually teared up at the first trailers. I can't say I was disappointed, because I knew what I was getting and I got it. The film's absurd final shot — a freeze frame of a little boy on a swing — was just the kind of bullshit touch I'd expected. So if I feel like I already get The Artist and War Horse and The Help, can you blame me for not actually wanting to sit through them?
Let me be clear — I'm not passing objective judgment on any movies I haven't seen. I can tell you that I don't want to watch these films, but I couldn't rate them or tell you how worthy they are of Oscar gold. It's just that there's something particularly straightforward about this year's crop of Best Picture nominees: they're obvious to the extent that I don't feel like I need to see any of them. Even movies I enjoyed, like The Descendants and Midnight in Paris, didn't come out of left field. Those were both films by directors with a fairly distinctive style I already admired.
It's not exactly groundbreaking to suggest that Oscar nominees are mainstream, but I don't think I'm alone in labeling this year especially disappointing. The Artist (and again, this is only from what I've read and been told) may be the most unique — and that's only because it's an homage to an earlier form of filmmaking. I'll shrug when it wins, because a) I don't have any strong opinions about the other nominees, and b) Harvey Weinstein is obviously pushing this one to the stage. Its victory feels like a foregone conclusion.
Whatever happens tonight, I'm probably never going to watch The Artist. I guess I just needed to share that. If you're as underwhelmed by this year's Best Picture nominees as I am, feel free to admit what you skipped out on. I'm not here to judge.