Erin recently posted a well-written piece about the highs and lows of Oscar buzz. She concludes that it's all a big waste of time because the movies end up speaking for themselves. As Morgan Freeman once said, I agree with the second part.
Predicting the Oscars is something I've been obsessed with for years. You see, it helps with my insecurities. Hey, if I predict these movies correctly, people will think I'm neat! It doesn't need to work; I just need to continually be deluded. Ignorance is bliss and all that jazz. It's like therapy -- and my trips to The Envelope or The Gurus of Gold are my 45-minute sessions. And for 45 minutes, I just stare at my computer screen like a dog whose toy rolled under the couch. Waiting ... waiting ... Frost/Nixon leading the pack! But here comes Benjamin Button! Let me refresh the page and see if their ranks change! Oh! Milk making a comeback! Holla!
So where does all this Oscar buzz come from? Is it the Freemasons? The Stone Cutters? The Studios? Critics? Yes to all. But also people with entirely too much time on their hands. Here's looking at me, kids.
For the good part of the year, there's been a lot of late night phone calls with my friends and family discussing the election. Now that that's over, it's time to discuss at great length, and with a great vacuum of pointlessness, the Oscar race. Oscar buzz has hit the net at a furious pace the last few years. It's the last American gold rush. Some movies are talked about because they were well received in screenings. Others get what I like to call "imaginary buzz." You will see articles talking about their "buzz," without any sources -- not even unnamed sources. It's the sort of word-of-mouth that comes from a land of rushing rivers made of chocolate, lollypop trees below skies of cotton candy, laced with acid. There's Best Picture buzz for Iron Man. Yes, Oscar buzz can be cute too.
Some writers campaign for films as if they were getting paid to do it (hey, wait a minute ... ). Such and such movie needs to be nominated or it is an affront to humanity. You have to wonder if these movie studios are scratching their heads and thinking, "Hold on ... that's two bloggers for Beverly Hills Chihuahua now. Doris, get me marketing on the phone and make it snappy!"
I do know one thing: Oscar buzz, legit or not, may be a wild beast, but it is definitely man-made. Like global warming and McGriddles. Studio heads and entertainment journos work with incidental cohesion. They're kind of like the BCS. Before the season starts, nobody really knows how good some of these college football teams are going to be. A few games into the schedule we find out they stink or are at least over-hyped. But it's the way of the world. Buzz starts from pedigree and reputation -- genes. Some schools have what I call "good genes." Movies have good genes too. Spielberg, Ron Howard, Eastwood, DiCaprio, Winslet, Penn ... good genes.
Now once I've sifted through the good gene movies and the good buzz movies there are other factors to consider, like sentimentality. Clint Eastwood, for example, announced that Gran Torino is his last role in front of the camera. This is how you spell True Grit in 2008. Clint is making it VERY CLEAR: Give me the Oscar now, or you may regret it for the rest of your doomed, scum-filled lives. Is the Academy feeling sentimental? Is it Kate Winslet's turn? Are Mickey Rourke's chances hurt by him being Mickey Rourke? The nominations are months away, but it's like our beloved 24-hour news channels. 98 percent of it is useless, but we have to feed that air time. And my soul.