We’re through the looking glass here people. Suddenly, the Oscar race is being headlined by a pair of uncompromising, boldly conceived pieces of formalism. A pair of films helmed by established neo-auteurist superstars unabashedly admitting their works to be inspired not by Paul Haggis, but instead the likes of Robert Bresson, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick. A pair of films that are celebrated by the critical establishment (the two split the four critics’ awards that matter) and punkass fanboys alike (they are currently the two highest ranking films from 2007 on the IMDB top 250 master list). Thanks to No Country for Old Men (which we loved too) and There Will Be Blood (which we’re deeply conflicted on, but will take any day over most Oscar contenders), we’ve finally arrived at what we assumed was a mirage in the desert all this time: an Oscar ceremony in which artistic quality actually appears to be the foremost quality, a ceremony that helps us remember that this is also the organization that gave Best Picture nominations to both Nashville and Barry Lyndon in 1975. And now, naturally, it’s possible the entire ceremony could vanish into thin air in the wake of the prolonged WGA strike like the cinephile pipe dream it so feels like; and I caught one sound bite earlier this week in a post-Golden Globes wrap suggesting some writers are starting to feel the mad rush of power that shutting down Hollywood’s biggest night of self-congratulation would give them. So, while we’re personally behind any developments that could potentially invalidate (more so) the careers of the so-called “journalists” like Dave Karger, who seem to make entire careers out of telling the Academy what they feel, we also admit we’d feel a tad bummed to miss out on what figures to be the one Oscarcast of late whose possible winners wouldn’t make us want to stuff wads of Oscar ballots in our eye sockets.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.