The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Oy vey! Showbiz pundits are already hyping Oscar season

June 13, 2011 |  3:05 pm

Leonardo_decaprio Go ahead and gag with a spoon. It's not even officially summer yet, but the Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday has already weighed in with a dreary thumbsucker about the early front-runners for 2012 Oscar stardom. I'm with the unnamed Oscar consultant who groaned: "I've been trying not to think about it." If there were such a thing as Oscar porn, this would be it, as Kilday runs though all of the serious and not-so-serious contenders months before anyone has seen a frame of footage (unless you actually believe that Terence Malick's "Tree of Life" is really a "must-see" film with stodgy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters).

The worst thing about these kind of stories isn't that they feel like naked hustles for early advertising, but that they come chock-full of so much obligatory conventional wisdom. When you start prognosticating about movies before you've seen most of them, you end up touting the most obvious films, not the pleasant surprises or left-field hits.

So Kilday ends up promoting Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" as a legitimate best picture contender even though academy voters have shown virtually no interest in the previous entries in the "Potter" series. He also gives a plug to J.J. Abrams' "Super 8," saying it's positioned itself as the "populist" entry on the best picture ballot because it was designed as a tribute to Steven Spielberg hits "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and "Jaws," which both earned best picture nominations.

Kilday also touts Leonardo DiCaprio, arguing that "every year, a consensus develops that at least one performer or filmmaker is 'due,' " with DiCaprio benefiting this year from his role as J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar." And for sizzle factor, Kilday also hypes the rivalry between Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein, who both have supposed contenders in the race, even though Kilday acknowledges that Weinstein hasn't actually dated any of his prestige releases yet.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. Wherever you look, crystal ball gazing is in fashion. In politics, the cable news networks have been full of breathless punditry about the presidential race oh-so-many months before the New Hampshire primary voters arrive at their polling places. In sports, the pro basketball writers were already placing bets on who'd make it to the 2012 NBA finals before LeBron James had even left the loser's locker room after this weekend's decisive championship game. 

The bad news for the movie business is that this sort of nonstop forecasting is exactly what has wiped out any of the anticipation we might have for the Oscar race. Having to imagine an academy season that never ends is exactly the kind of buzz kill that makes you want to tune out the Oscars on a regular basis.

--Patrick Goldstein         

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio playing Frank Wheeler in the film "Revolutionary Road."

Credit: Francois Duhamel/Dreamworks