first_imgPure Class… Jack Orlik defends the Academy AwardsTry to go a year, even a month, without mentioning, hearing or reading the word ‘Oscar’. Bet you couldn’t do it. Even Trappist monks love films. Yet the Oscars seem to be under almost constant fire by the press and populace as a whole: here we see a ceremony designed to boost the egos of all those in the ‘movie-biz’, something entirely false and apparently based barely on how good a film actually is. Nonetheless, while it may all seem a little overboard, there’s undeniable glamour (even excitement?) with the red carpet, priceless dresses and gold statuettes. The Oscars do more than provide an imaginary platform for the overpaid and overexposed. Categories exist for almost every aspect of a movie’s production and nearly anything that may be projected ‘for our viewing pleasure’: Animated Short Film, Documentary and even Sound Mixing get a look in beyond the Actors and Actresses in Leading Roles (who doesn’t enjoy a few capital letters?) The enclosed voting concept allows the celluloid universe to be shot open for new stars, while more seasoned filmmakers are also frequently honoured. However cynical you want to be, those in the film business do work incredibly hard to entertain huge numbers of people. If a showy, world-famous event is how they want to congratulate their colleagues, who are we to stop them?…or fool’s goldBen Williams on the fatuous OscarsEver wondered why a barrage of good films are packed into January and February? It’s because of the Oscars. Film studios are so desperate to reap the extra profits gleaned from academy recognition that they wait to release their best films until just before the ceremony to ensure they receive maximum attention. Three of this year’s best picture nominees were released in the last month, whilst throughout the long summer we were treated to the delights of Bruce Willis looking too old to save the world, Sylvester Stallone looking old enough to save on a bus pass, and wishing that Orlando Bloom was that old so that he might retire sooner. And when the Oscars finally do arrive, the ridiculous rules and favouritism of the judges ensures that the most deserving rarely win. France’s wonderful The Diving Bell and the Butterfly missed out because it had the nerve to compete for Best Picture rather than Best Foreign Language Film. That foreign films should be excluded from that category, like some lesser art form, is inexplicable in itself. And because the academy loves George Clooney as though every voter were a middle-aged woman, the mediocre Michael Clayton is up for best film. And just to reaffirm their ineptitude, the Academy has rewarded Norbit’s repulsive, fat-suit humour with a best make-up nomination. That’s no surprise really. It’s that time of year again. As expected, the writer’s strike was resolved, by coincidence, just in time to finalise the occasion of the 80th Academy Awards ceremony in its normal format. So all of the anticipation and coverage that surrounds the ceremony – the best, and worst speeches, the unfortunate actresses who turn up in matching dresses, the academy’s traditional surprise decision – will be present again come 23 February. Like the Oscars or not, they are now unquestionably the world’s foremost awards ceremony. We preview them here.BEST FILMAtonementJunoMichael ClaytonNo Country For Old MenThere Will Be BloodBEST DIRECTORJulian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the ButterflyJason Reitman, JunoTony Gilroy, Michael ClaytonJoel & Ethan Coen, No Country For Old MenPaul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be BloodBEST ACTORGeorge Clooney, Michael ClaytonDaniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be BloodJohnny Depp, Sweeney ToddTommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of ElahViggo Mortensen, Eastern PromisesBEST ACTRESSCate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden AgeJulie Christie, Away From HerLaura Linney, The SavagesMarion Cotillard, La Vie en RoseEllen Page, JunoBEST SUPPORTING ACTORCasey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse JamesJavier Bardem, No Country For Old MenPhilip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s WarHal Holbrook, Into the WildTom Wilkinson, Michael ClaytonBEST SUPPORTING ACTRESSCate Blanchett, I’m Not ThereRuby Dee, American GangsterSaoirse Ronan, AtonementAmy Ryan, Gone Baby GoneTilda Swinton, Michael Claytonlast_img

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