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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

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    By kyle | March 8, 2010

    They widen the field of Best Picture nominees in hopes that some movies people will have actually seen will get nominated. Then they give all the Oscars to a movie that grossed $12.7 million. A lot of people watching tonight are thinking, “I won’t be watching this again.” A group that thinks “Precious” is a better script than “An Education,” Sandra Bullock is a better actress than Meryl Streep or Carey Mulligan and “The Hurt Locker” is a better movie than “Inglourious Basterds” doesn’t have much taste. At some point, people are bound to think, “Who cares what the Academy says?” That point has arrived.

    Topics: Movies, Oscars | 22 Comments »

    22 Responses to “Ugh”

    1. Christian Toto Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 9:56 am

      Just because a film makes a pittance doesn’t mean it’s not the Best Picture of a given year. And while the Bullock vs. Mulligan argument is sound – and disappointing – I still feel the Oscars doing a better job representing ‘the best’ in its field than, say, the Grammys.

      But enough interpretive dance already!

    2. Kyle Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 10:46 am

      Agreed…but Hurt Locker made a pittance because it just wasn’t actually that great. It’s not like it didn’t get loads of attention.

    3. JimmyC Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 11:04 am

      I agree that Inglorious Basterds was the best of the nominees, but hey, at least they didn’t give it to Dances With Smurfs.

      Considering that it was only a few years ago that they were giving out Oscars to unwatchable tripe like Crash, this is a step up for the Academy.

    4. Robert P. Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 11:05 am

      A-Men, sir. A-Men.

      I can’t believe I live in a world where Sandra Bullock has an Academy Award for Best Actress.

      And while I didn’t expect Basterds to pull off the upset, my jaw hit the floor when Tarantino lost Original Screenplay.

    5. KS Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 11:10 am

      “At some point, people are bound to think, “Who cares what the Academy says?” That point has arrived.”

      It arrived for me several years ago. Shouldn’t they plan to do a two-hour show so that they end up with a three-hour show? Aside from liberal outbursts, the length is what I hate the most.

    6. yankeefan Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 11:30 am

      Since when have the Oscars been about the Best anything? Art Carney in “Harry & Tonto” beating out Hoffman (“Lenny”) and Pacino (“Godfather 2”)? “Rocky” (which I did love) beating out “Network” and “All the Presidents Men”? “Gladiator”? And so forth. The Oscars are about a host of considerations and unstated though obvious criteria, but I am not relating anything you cineastes don’t already know.

      Loved “Hurt Locker.” Really glad it won Was the best of the nominees that I saw, though I haven’t yet seen “Basterds.” (Maybe I will feel differently when I do.)

      >>>At some point, people are bound to think, “Who cares what the Academy says?” That point has arrived.

      That point could arguably have arrived decades ago.

    7. Patrick Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 11:51 am

      Some of us thought Inglorious Basterds was more of a campy joke than anything brilliant, so losing was ok with me. Streep was fine as Julia, but I don’t know that playing an actual person, which is partly about recreating certain mannerisms, is necessarily Oscar worthy. It seemed like an off year for Best Picture nominees to me, there didn’t seem to be the usual array of nominees. I think when the Academy gets a chance to make a statement without pushing the bounds of credibility, they like to do that sort of thing, so I’m sure the chance to award a woman a Best Director award came into play in some small way.

    8. KS Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

      Sandra Bullock and Carey Mulligan also played actual women, though they played women who aren’t famous like Julia Child, and I’m sure that many liberties were taken.

      James Cameron basically predicted that his ex might win because she’s a girl.

    9. CJ Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      Sorry to be offensive, but, man, what insulting, sulky commentary. The Hurt Locker had a 94 on metacritic. Surely all the critics weren’t praising it so highly merely because Bigelow (she’s 57 years old, by the way) is a “girl,” as Mr. Smith puts it. It’s one thing not to like to film, it’s another to belittle anyone who did like it, many of whom clearly are respected members of their profession. One would hope they’d treat Mr. Smith with more respect than he treats them.

      Hurt Locker never made it past 525 theaters, but I understand it’s doing well on DVD. In a poll of 1500 people on HotAir, I notice it came in first as the choice for best picture, edging out Up and The Blind Side. Smith’s film, Inglourious Basterds, came in a distant fourth. This is among predominantly conservatives.

      In any event, if Smith thinks best picture should be doled out according to what film made the most money, that would be Avatar, then Up, then The Blind Side. Basterds wouldn’t be in the running that way either.

      I don’t understand the fascination with Basterds myself. It’s sporadically amusing and Waltz gave a great performance, but the film has nothing interesting to see about life. Tarantino films never do. He’s like a talented teenager with no mature moral vision whatsoever and no cultural exposure besides movies. My nephew loves him, but probably will move on to better things someday. I prefer the mature meditation on the character in the Hurt Locker to Quentin’s sporadically clever exercise in moral nihilism.

    10. purveyor Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

      Great choices all around from where I sat. I also like the banter er jokes between Martin and BAldwin as they went from one category to the next. Bullock deserved her OSCAR as did Bridges. Hurt Locker like Avatar was just OK. I was expecting the fun to watch Inglourious Basterds to take screenplay and best picture but when it missed screenplay I knew its fate was sealed as best pic.

    11. CJ Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Oh, yes: I wanted to add that Mr. Smith is very inconsistent here. He berates AMPAS for not choosing a popular film for best picture, but then complains about Sandra Bullock’s selection as best actress over Carey Mulligan. Bullock’s film made 250 million (another one she starred in this year made 160 million). Bullock was the popular choice, the won the public wanted to win! Carey, who was great, I agree, starred in a film that made less money than The Hurt Locker! According to Mr. Smith’s best picture standards, Carey Mulligan certainly should not have been the winner. “No one” saw her film.

      So Mr. Smith’s populism argument is inconsistent indeed. And why is someone with H. L. Mecken prominently pictured on his site making a populism argument anyway? It’s a rather cheap device.

      I liked The Hurt Locker, $$$ or no. And given that the alternative was Avatar, the most popular film ever, by the way. I’m doubly happy The Hurt Locker won.

    12. morgan Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      The real problem with the Oscars is three fold. First,it’s nothing more than a glorified senior prom as to who is wearing what, where they bought it, how much they paid for it and who is sitting next to the current flavor of the month,a la Hollywood. Then engraft on that,the fact that the motion picture industry is the only industry in the world that has the balls to give itself an award year after year and hype it up as if it was the Second Coming of the Almighty. And as if that isn’t boring enough, then we get ‘treated’ to an endless parade of Hollyweird Airheads the likes of ‘stupid’ Suzy Sarandon and ‘tedious’ Timmy Robbins pontificating about some moon bat,left wing, Marxist political crusade that they think we should all get involved in because they’re so intellectual and profound, because they are actors and artists…. and we should listen to them, because we’re too stupid to know otherwise. Most of them are so damn dumb,they barely got out of high school. No wonder they became actors. It’s the only job where you don’t need any brain function to work. All you have to do is pretend to be somebody else. And if anyone wants proof of their cerebral deficiency just watch Celebrity Jeopardy the next time it’s on ! What a bunch of abject moron’s ! No wonder America doesn’t want to watch this horse s— any more.

    13. Pete Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

      11. CJ, thank you for pointing out my first thought. Sandra Bullock won because she aggressively campaigned for the award once it became clear that the Best Actress field was the weakest in years (and knowing that Streep was way too classy to run around Hollywood begging for votes). If the award keeps Bullock from ever making another All About Steve, all the better.

      Avatar’s loss is actually easy to understand if one looks objectively. It had a horrific script which the WGA rightfully snubbed. The mo-cap technology that could turn people into human cartoons appears to have turned off the actor’s branch, as evidenced by its omission in the SAG awards as well as acting nods in the BAFTA’s. Finally Cameron’s Charlie Rose interview, where he appeared to be giving the voters permission to throw Bigelow Best Director as a consolation prize as long as Avatar won BP, probably came off as condescending and reinforced Cameron’s not exactly sterling rep in town. With the preferential voting, such obstacles were killer when having so little room for error.

      Was surprised Tarantino lost the screenplay award, but his films still have not really matured in the 15 years he’s been on the scene. He has the skills of a master chef, but insists on making sliders.

    14. KS Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

      CJ, Kyle Smith comments as “Kyle.” I made the comment about Bigelow being a girl, based on the BigHollywood headline about the interview in which James Cameron talked about the possibility of his ex winning the Oscar.

      For the record, I’m a girl attorney.

    15. Patrick Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 8:22 pm

      KS, that’s what I meant – that Child is quite a well known figure, having had a tv show with a 10 year run, while the other two are virtually unknown. Even Dan Akroyd did a credible imitation of Child in the SNL bit they inserted in the movie.

    16. Kyle Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      I generally defend the Academy. They seem to take it as their duty to give the top prize to a really good picture, one that connects with people, regardless of whether it’s a) super-popular like “Avatar” or b) solely a critics’ picture like “The Hurt Locker.” But I don’t know how they defend giving awards to middlebrow crap like “Precious” and “The Blind Side.”

    17. Nyarlathotep Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

      I stopped paying attention to the Academy Awards in 1995, when “Forrest Gump” was chosen as Best Picture over “Pulp Fiction.”

      Having said this, I must also say that Tarantino’s been on a downward slide since “Kill Bill.” I’ve seen all of his movies — yes, hope continues to torment and mock me — but nothing he’s done since “Jackie Brown” has been even vaguely interesting. I have no idea why, after a movie that had complex human emotions, he’d suddenly mature backwards and opt for mindless kung-fu flicks. Ehhh … think I’ll go watch “Dirty Dozen,” what “Basterds” should’ve been but couldn’t hope to have equaled.

    18. Mike Says:
      March 8th, 2010 at 11:56 pm

      Or, the biggest problem with the Academy Awards is that the majority of the Academy members (voters) are talented, smart, yet stupid people incapable, for whatever reason, of intellectual honesty.

      Just a thought.

    19. ern Says:
      March 9th, 2010 at 8:27 am

      The Academy has long had other criteria for Best Picture than actual quality. The Hurt Locker was a mediocre film at best. The Academy always has political considerations as its top priority (not just politics-politics, but movie-industry-politics). The Hurt Locker was an attempt by them to prove they had something serious to say about the Iraq War (which, they really don’t) and to give the award to a woman. And to stick it to James Cameron, who everyone in Hollywood hates. It was a small obstacle that the movie that allowed them to do those things was a movie that bored me to tears and didn’t interest anyone enough to go see it. It spoke to Hollywood elites, and no one else. That’s why it won.

    20. Cris Says:
      March 9th, 2010 at 10:49 am

      The reason ‘Inglorius Basterds’ didn’t win is beacuse practically no members of the academy are teen aged boys.

    21. John Says:
      March 9th, 2010 at 7:18 pm

      Academy has a method to it’s madness. Star Wars and ET were both commercial block busters but ignored at Oscar time. Hurt Locker and Precious both had real stories and gritty realism.
      Current Hollywood is addicted to CGI, video game plots and/or remakes. Movies are now franchises or platforms for merchandising, games and sequels.
      Precious 2, Hurt Locker 3 anyone ?
      Some academy members still celebrate the story.

    22. blackhawk12151 Says:
      March 9th, 2010 at 8:24 pm


      Don’t confuse theme with story. The Hurt Locker, which I enjoyed, didn’t have a story. It had a theme, one that the filmakers were very proud of. So proud, in fact, that they told us what it was before the first scene just in case we didn’t get it. “War is a Drug.” But it didn’t have a story. Just because you place well-directed, even riveting scenes, back to back until they add up to over two hours doesn’t mean there was a story.

      The Academy was honoring a lot of stuff with The Hurt Locker, but story wasn’t one of them.