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The Oscars go to Hell

The Devil knows what the nominations will be for this year’s Oscars
By PETER KEOUGH  |  January 18, 2008


Peter’s Picks
The films that will (not should) earn Oscar nominations

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
Sidney Lumet (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead)
Sean Penn (Into the Wild)
Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd)
Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl)
Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Denzel Washington (American Gangster)

Julie Christie (Away from Her)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)
Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)
Laura Linney (The Savages)
Ellen Page (Juno)

Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James . . .)
Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson’s War)
Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild)
Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton)

Cate Blanchett (I’m Not There)
Ruby Dee (American Gangster)
Saoirse Ronan (Atonement)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton

Maybe it’s just as well if the writers’ strike forces a cancellation of the Oscars show.

Like so many things we’ve taken for granted as good and normal throughout the years, the Oscars have become the handiwork of Satan and benchmarks of the coming Apocalypse. And we don’t need Mike Huckabee or Mayan horoscopes to know this — the signs are there for all to see.

Let me explain. Many mistakenly think that the Oscars merely reward the best films of the year. (Maybe even some Academy members believe this.) But in fact, consciously or not, Oscar voters choose not the best movies, but those that demonstrate what Hollywood does best. And what Hollywood does best is sell fantasies, through which moviegoers can vicariously experience what it is they really want and fear. Theoretically, then, by predicting the Oscars, one can also read the mind of society at large — at least as accurately as the pollsters in the recent New Hampshire primary did.

And what’s showing up in the crystal ball this year isn’t pretty. Damnation. The Devil. Joyful indulgence in the worst excesses that demented male behavior can contrive. And, on the distaff side, fragility, dependence, incapacity, and defeat. Every year, the Oscars seem to present a dichotomy between the roles of men and women, and this year — reflecting, perhaps, the presidential ballot-box victories of a man who is looking forward to 100 more years in Iraq and a woman who cried — the contrasts couldn’t be starker between demonic men and defeated women.

Greed vs. Milkshakes
Take, for example, one of the leading Oscar contenders, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. In it, Daniel Day-Lewis’s fulminating performance as ruthless oil baron Daniel Plainview has created a charismatic and irredeemable icon of American rapacity unequaled since Michael Douglas won a best-actor Oscar 20 years ago as Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Both bigger-than-life characters are heroes of their times, embodying its worst qualities.

Back in 1987, the situation was much like today’s: a two-term Republican administration (Ronald Reagan’s) was coming to an end; the country was in the midst of a presidential campaign; Congress was investigating the White House (Iran-Contra); and the economy was in trouble (remember Black Monday, when the Dow dropped 22.6 percent?).

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Related: The Boston Phoenix–Alumni Film Critics’ Poll, Are we grading on a curve?, War zones, More more >
  Topics: Features , Elections and Voting, Politics, Denzel Washington,  More more >
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