January 10, 2012


I don't care much about the Academy Awards.  But longtime readers of Tom the Dancing Bug will know that I do find the hype and excitement around them pretty funny.


I don't remember where or when, but years ago, I read an amazing article showing how one particular entertainment writer would keep writing, year after year, that THIS year's "Best Picture" Oscar race was particularly wide open, as opposed to previous years when it was absolutely clear which movie was going to win, or which couple of movies would contend.  And the next year he'd write exactly the same thing.


[UPDATE (1/11/13):  The writer of this article has stepped forward, and it is Daily Show and Mad Magazine writer Tim Carvell, who originated the study of Oscar Amnesia in 2002.  The article appeared in Slate Magazine in 2002.]


I was reminded of that when I read this article this morning in The New York Times.  Michael Cieply writes that while three movies have emerged as contenders -- "The Artist," "The Help," and "The Descendants" -- this year's race is particularly wide open:


"By this time last year, “The King’s Speech” had been all but crowned best picture, and the 2010 contest by January had turned into a match between “The Hurt Locker,” which ultimately won, and “Avatar,” which didn’t. This time around, more than a dozen pictures and their components are continuing to jostle for position in a chaotic contest."




I thought it would be interesting to do a quick Google search to test Cieply's memory.


Sure enough, last year, just a bit later than today's date, January 14, 2011, Melena Ryzik wrote in Cieply's New York Times blog, "The Carpetbagger," that nominations for an editing award had revealed an insider's picks for Best Picture contenders, narrowing the field to five favorites to contend.


"Here’s who to favor in your Oscar pool: “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.”"


No mention of a coronation.


In fact, even much later in January, on January 25, after the Oscar nominations had been announced, Cieply himself (with Brooks Barnes) called the Oscar race a "wild scramble".  "The King's Speech" got the most nominations, but in their view that merely brought it into a pole position.  And clearly, the day before there had been other frontrunners:


 "“True Grit” surged into second position, and “The Social Network,” which had seemed a frontrunner, was matched by “Inception,” followed closely by “The Fighter.”"


What about 2010's race, which in January had apparently become a clear race between "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar"?  On January 24, 2010, Cieply referred to the race as a "wide-open contest," writing in his lead paragraph in a story, "The Oscar race turned into a free-for-all over the weekend."  He does say that there is a "hot contest" between the two movies, but also includes "Inglorious Basterds" and any other movie that can be nominated, as competitors.


Next year, we'll all remember that in January 2012 it seemed all but inevitable that "Big Mommas:  Like Father, Like Son" would bring home the Oscar gold.



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