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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Published: Friday, 2/22/2013

Academy Awards anything but academic

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

If on Monday morning Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t the Academy Awards’ first three-time Best Actor winner, I would suggest you get down on your knees and pray, for surely the end is nigh.

If on Monday morning Best Supporting Actress nominee Anne Hathaway isn’t clutching her first Oscar, I would also recommend making preparations for the coming collapse of civilization.

These Academy Award hopefuls are such shoo-ins, that any outcome other than Oscar glory can only be deemed apocalyptic, along with boiling seas, blood-red skies, and the shocking revelation that not all fast-food meat is as advertised.

But when it comes to the 85th Academy Awards, which airs beginning at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on WTVG-TV, Channel 13, Day-Lewis as President Lincoln and Hathaway as a dying French peasant who sings are the only sure things.

Unlike so many previous Oscar telecasts, in which the only drama was whether the presumed Academy Award winners would run out of family, colleagues, friends, and random strangers to thank in their acceptance speeches before the music cut them off, this year’s show offers the bonus intrigue of who exactly those winners will be.

Will Ben Affleck and his Iran-hostage thriller Argo have their revenge for the Academy snub — as in not nominating Affleck for Best Director yet recognizing his film as one of nine Best Picture candidates? Given its recent awards triumphs, clearly Argo has seized momentum as the favorite. No doubt the nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were aware of this when they submitted their votes by the Tuesday afternoon deadline.

But maybe the majority of those voters don’t like being swayed by other awards. In which case they bestow top prize on Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, the once-upon-a-time favorite after it received 13 nominations.

Such is the joy and frustration of the Oscars, a celebrated peer award that is inherently flawed by its very nature: subjectivity.

While we love to second-guess similar voting accolades, such as the major sports halls of fame inductions, at least when those respective voters gather, they wage their clashes of “does he or doesn’t he belong?” while armed with statistics. Such numbers can be twisted — and invariably are — to bolster or torpedo a candidate’s hall of fame selection, but it’s a passionately made case built on facts and accompanied with logic and reason.

With the Oscars, though, there are no statistics to support a vote. Each selection is more or less a variation of “I prefer this nominee” rubber stamped through all 24 categories — assuming, of course, a voter has done his or her due diligence and watched every nominee. That’s also not accounting for the more human elements of industry politics or logical justification that help determine voting selections.

For this year, such rationales might have been as simplistic as “I worked with Spielberg once, and he was such a nice guy, he deserves my vote,” or “It’s amazing how much Ben Affleck has grown as a director, so I’ll give him Best Director ... wait, I can’t. Well, then I’ll give him Best Picture.”

And that’s the charm of the Oscars.

That’s why my gut says that Affleck along with fellow Argo producers will walk away with Best Picture. And also that those same voters will feel guilty for essentially inviting Lincoln to prom and then dumping him for another date, so they’ll award Best Director to Spielberg as consolation prize.

This would, in effect, be a repeat of the 1999 Oscars, in which Spielberg won Best Director for Saving Private Ryan, but lost Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love. And we all know how fondly the latter selection is regarded nearly 15 years later.

As for the rest of my Oscar predictions, look for them in Sunday’s Blade and online at toledoblade.com.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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