The Oscar nominations are out, and here’s my immediate predictions: ratings will be down dramatically this year. How do I know? Because nobody has ever seen any of these movies. Matt Drudge, who always has his finger on the pulse of American culture, normally leads the Drudge Report with pictures of the Best Picture nominees. This year, they’ve been relegated to the middle of the middle column.
Here are the Best Picture nominees, along with their box office takes:
The Artist ($12.1 million)
The Descendants ($51.3 million)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close ($10.7 million)
The Help ($169.6 million)
Hugo ($55.9 million)
Midnight in Paris ($56.4 million)
Moneyball ($75.5 million)
The Tree of Life ($13.3 million)
War Horse ($72.3 million)
As Box Office Mojo reports, “On average the movies have made just $57.5 million prior to the nominations. That’s up on the five-nominee years from 2004–2008, but way off from ten-nominee years 2010 ($119.5 million) and 2009 ($151.5 million).” Perhaps some of these are good movies — but if a good movie is shown in a handful of cinemas and nobody comes, what is the sound of TV remotes across the nation flipping the channel?
The leaders in terms of nominations were The Artist and Hugo – a surprise showing for Hugo based largely on the fact that the vastly overrated Martin Scorsese directed it. The acting nominations are similarly anonymous: Demian Bichir in A Better Life, anyone? When Brad Pitt, known mostly for directors forcing him to chow down during scenes in order to look more lifelike (seriously), and George Clooney, whom I’ve previously derided as an affordable-housing Robert Wagner rather than a low-rent Cary Grant, became “real actors” is beyond me. Clooney’s the favorite here because he’s a massive liberal, and the voters want to reward him with what will undoubtedly be a President Obama 2012 campaign speech.
For the Actor in a Supporting Role award, Christopher Plummer is the runaway favorite because he checks two Oscar boxes: he’s playing gay, and he’s owed one (plus he was nominated last year). Jonah Hill’s nomination has excited younger audiences, although it’s not a standout by any means (Nick Nolte was far better in Warrior, an underrated crowd-pleaser). For Best Actress, Meryl Streep gets her annual nomination, and Glenn Close steals one for playing a guy, but the favorites are probably Viola Davis in The Help and Michelle Williams channeling Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. The big surprise nomination in Best Supporting Actress goes to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. I haven’t seen the film, but I do appreciate the Oscars nominating someone from a comedy once in awhile.
This has been such a rotten year for movies that even the animated category — usually dominated by Pixar — is terrible. When the battle is between Puss in Boots and Rango, you’re in serious trouble. The only good news about the nominees this year is that J. Edgar received precisely zero nods. Good riddance.
Getting Billy Crystal to host the Oscars should return some of the faithful to the fold. But in the end, it’s the glamour of the nominees that counts. We like to root for the films we like. It’s tough to do that when we haven’t seen any of them.