Not being required to pay attention to the Oscars last year, I didn't. Indeed, for the first time since childhood, I didn't even watch the show.
That gave me a little perspective on exactly how important the Academy Awards really are. An awful lot of ink gets spilled in the three months leading up to a show this year slated for Sunday (March 5) at 8 pm on ABC and CTV that is essentially about handing out trade association awards.
Some quick thoughts.
Now that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti have received long-overdue nominations, we can go back to worrying about Donald Sutherland 's status as the best working actor with a long career who's never been nominated. I thought he might finally pick one up for his work as Elizabeth Bennett's father in Pride And Prejudice .
New Line certainly miscalculated by not campaigning for Joan Allen 's performance in The Upside Of Anger . The best-actress category is so thin this year Judi Dench on autopilot in Mrs. Henderson Presents , Charlize Theron , nominated for dressing down in North Country that she might have won.
Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain . This is the kind of conflict set up by entertainment journalists looking for a hook. The press tends not to identify nominees as a lock because that's not news. And they don't want to tell you that films that win the Directors Guild and Producers Guild Awards have an alarming tendency to win the best-picture Oscar. Look it up.
That's not a good story, of course, so let's take Crash's win for best ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild and say that its didactic L.A.-centric portrait of race relations in an innately segregated city will upset Brokeback Mountain's inexorable charge toward the best-picture Oscar. One word. Sideways. Its SAG ensemble award last year didn't lead to an upset of Million Dollar Baby.
By the way, as much as I disliked Crash, I'm not rooting for Brokeback Mountain. If I had a vote, my best-picture decision would be between Munich and Capote.
Now that the "precursor" awards are concentrated in a six-week period, predicting the Oscars is easier than it used to be. On the other hand, it's much harder for the prognosticator to find interesting dark horses.
A dozen or so years ago, I was about the only person to predict the Marisa Tomei best-supporting-actress win, based on a handful of indicators I'd worked out. Now everyone knows how to use the masses of information lying around, and I suspect Tomei would be much less of a shock these days.
If you're in an Oscar pool, don't give any thought to what you think about the movies. Your opinions don't matter. Do pay attention to the "minor" awards. Anyone can get the big ones. Oscar pools are won and lost on documentary short and best costume design.