Taking inspiration from the Oscar-nominated Moneyball, here’s a look at this evening’s 84th Annual Academy Awards, taking into account various statistical evidence.
Well, yeah. There isn’t much below to dispute that. i.e. this was written after a large Indian takeaway.
1. Prosthetics Increase Prospects.
Nicole Kidman won Best Actress with a thinned nose for The Hours back in 2003. Charlize Theron wore prosthetic teeth (in addition to gaining 30 pounds) to transform herself into the conventionally unattractive Aileen Wuornos of Monster, and won a Best Actress award in the process. Brat Pitt earned a nomination for Best Actor when he aged himself in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
And to dazzle you with an otherwise meaningless statistic, Eddie Murphy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2007 for his role in Dreamgirls (to eventually be beaten by Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine). The very next year, Norbit, starring Murphy as its lead, was nominated for Best Makeup. And back in 1996, The Nutty Professor actually won the award. Its lead… Eddie Murphy. Come on. This is the Internet… someone should run with this.
This is all a roundabout way of saying “prosthetics means prizes”. These people are so good at acting that they can actually change their physical appearance using their craft. This year has Meryl Streep nominated for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady – the disappointing non-sequel to Marvel’s superhero film, Iron Man (Charles Lawley© for the joke).
2. Why So Serious?
Dramas are far more favoured by the Academy because they’re, you know, more serious and stuff, whereas the comedy genre is mostly ignored for the Best Film parts, presumably because it isn’t, you know, as serious and stuff.
One could argue this is a concious agenda. The Academy Awards, by their very nature, are ridiculous as they are sublime, and any chip into its big, glitzy façade could crumble it into a large hall of people being pathetically smug and self-congratulating.
It’s why Sacha Baron Cohen isn’t allowed to come dressed as his character from the upcoming The Dictator. It’s why the award presenters’ jokes come across forced, as if at gunpoint. Everything must be safe, because if it isn’t, and The Inbetweeners makes a last minute dash for Best Picture, the fragile Oscars would need years to find the path back into its own rectal passage.
Over the years, 60 films that can be classed as comedies have garnered Best Picture nominations, yet only nine have ever won, the most recent being 1999’s Shakespeare in Love. Comedies are often the filler in the Best Picture category, ones used to satisfy the genre quota and throw us all off the scent. The Golden Globes avoids this by having separate Best Picture categories for both Drama and Comedy/Musical.
3. Make it Looooooooooong.
The Best Picture film is most likely to be both long and a drama, to maximise everyone’s perception of how the Academy regards seriousness and stuff, which is bad for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (at a bottom pleasing 94 minutes, this year’s shortest), and Alexander Payne’s The Descendants.
Again, it’s a decision that favours drama. Comedy, on the contrary, works better when shorter – a rule that even Judd Apatow has failed to disprove time (Knocked Up) and time (Funny People) and time (Bridesmaids) again.
Only five of the past 30 winners have had a running time less than two hours. That places the more drama leaning Moneyball (133 minutes), The Help (146 minutes) and Tree of Life (running length: since the Dawn of Time) at the top of the favourites.
The average length of a Best Picture is two hours and 27 minutes. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, nominated this year, clocks in at just one minute below that.
4. Keep it Real.
The last decade has seen 12 Leading Actor or Actress winners play real people…
1. Colin F-f-f-firth as King George VI
2. Sandra Bullock as that patronising, sexy-Christian lady
3. Sean Penn as Harvey Milk
4. Marion Cotillard as Ediath Piaf
5. Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II (the Academy loves Royals. They probably see a lot of themselves in them)
6. Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin
7. Reese Witherspoon as June Carter
8. The PSH for Truman Capote
9. Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles
10. The aforementioned Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos
11. Adrian Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman (also the youngest ever Best Actor winner at 29)
12. The also aforementioned Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf.
And that’s only from the last decade. That makes 60% of all winners. Brad Pitt in Moneyball, Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady are those with statistics on their side this evening.
5. Make a Racket.
Only one silent film has ever won the Best Picture Oscar – Wings (1927) – and that was at the inaugural Academy Awards ceremony. Both other films up for the award that year were The Racket and Seventh Heaven, also both silent films.
The very next year, only one silent film amongst five, The Patriot, was nominated. This was the last silent film to receive a Best Picture nomination, until this year. Sound had by then all but extinguished this primitive, yet profoundly expressive, medium.
Which doesn’t look promising for Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist – the black and white, silent film that is up for ten awards this year. It doesn’t boast any obvious prosthetics, nor do its actors play real people. It only runs for 100 minutes, and, as that running length feels more like 60, it is most definitely a comedy.
It isn’t 3D. It isn’t in Panovision, CinemaScope or Aroma-Rama. It’s about a guy and a girl, and a dog. It’s a film about those glory days of silent cinema, and the coming of sound that ended it. So, essentially, it’s about the film industry itself.
And there’s nothing the film industry loves more.