I always have unrealistic hopes for the Oscars, such as the dream that the acceptance speeches say something about winning rather than list agents and producers I've never heard of.
But here goes: I hope “Up” wins Best Picture.
OK, not really. I don't like it the most, or think it more deserving than the two most popular nominations, “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker.” “Up” is sort of a mix of the two, a more modest 3-D movie with a soul. The important thing is that it's also nominated for Animated Feature. If it wins the top award, it has to win the other, right? And which would be more hysterical, if it did or didn't?
Having “Up” in both categories highlights how nonsensical the Oscars are becoming. Why do films get nominated? Does the best one win, or is it the most audience-friendly, or the one that earned the most money? Or the one that makes the Academy feel the best about itself? The only safe guess might be whatever is most convenient.
Some years the audience and critic favorite is a shoe-in, and sometimes it gets shut out. Making the switch to 10 nominations for Best Picture this year was intended to fix that, but that's created other problems. There were 10 nominations in 1939, one of Hollywood's greatest years. This year isn't one of the greats, but we could have been given better nominations. If “The Blind Side” and “Up in the Air” had to stay, couldn't “Up” have made room for “The Road,” “Two Lovers” or “Bright Star”?
The nominations are the way they are for some reason, but if that reason is to interest the broadest possible swath of the public, I argue the results will cause more harm than good. You can rig the show to make sure movies such as “The Dark Knight” get in, but that portion of the audience doesn't necessarily care about Versace gowns, or the long instrumental by Alexandre Desplat, or who's going to win Best Adapted Screenplay, or even which film has the most artistic merit.
The Academy's goal, paring down to the essentials of best moviemaking and making an enjoyable show out of it, has been elusive. Glamour and audience take care of themselves. What you risk otherwise is not pleasing anyone.