The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Do we really have to talk about the Oscars already?

The Dodgers just landed Jim Thome, who'll give the club a pinch hitter with more career home runs than even Manny Ramirez; USC has a new freshman quarterback; and the Lakers are still enjoying their summer vacation -- but, hey, it's already Oscar season, even though the awards don't unfold until next March. All I can say is: Gimme a break, please!

Oscar The always frisky Vulture blog has already put up its latest Oscar predictions, even though they admit that they've -- sigh -- barely seen any of the actual best picture contenders. As we all know from the legions of special interest groups who criticize hot-button movies without actually having seen them, it's apparently entirely justifiable to blather on about anything without having any firsthand information, so who am I to judge? My plan is to hang on to some of these early prediction sheets and revive them next February, when we can all see for ourselves whether anyone had a decent accuracy rate.

As for Vulture's best picture picks, they're going with "Bright Star," which they describe as Jane Campion's "poetry-tuberculosis drama"; the Sundance acclaimed coming-of-age tale "An Education"; Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker"; Clint Eastwood's Nelson Mandela biopic "Invictus"; Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones"; the glitzy Rob Marshall musical "Nine"; the Oprah-endorsed "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"; the adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel "The Road"; Pixar's "Up"; and the Jason Reitman-directed "Up in the Air."

My advice is not to take any of this stuff too seriously, although if you really want to drive yourself crazy, you could read the Envelope's Tom O'Neil's breathless critique of the Vulture's picks, even though O'Neil admits that he hasn't seen 95% of the movies either. Or you could worry about something more pressing, like whether the Earth will be hit by a massive asteroid in 2029.

Photo: The Oscar statuette. Credit: Albert Watson / AMPAS.

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Why not? It is Sept 1st. Eight months have passed in 2009. Why should all of the 'best' pictures only land at the end of the year? The Oscars should evolve beyond a PR campaign for films released late into the year. [Remember how dissappointing "Revolutionary Road" was once you saw it?]
The industry could counter program their spring and summer markets beyond teenagers. The 'best' films can and should be released year round. Maybe on the 30,000 screens around the country, a few can have some diversity in film taste.
Compare the counter programming of cable TV and the success of "MadMen" "The Closer" and even "American Idol" started as a replacement series July thru Sept 2002.
So, why not discuss what has been the best so far?
So far, my best list would include: Up, The Hangover, Julie and Julia [uneven, but enjoyable], The Hurt Locker, and Star Trek [remember that one?].


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