Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Lost in prediction

I’m seriously questioning if I should even be doing this web site. For one thing, I don’t know why anyone should spend his or her valuable time reading what I write when so often I lie. For instance, last week I wrote that I would continue my musings on former child actors “next time.” Well, this is “next time” and I am not continuing my child actors discussion. If all goes well, I will do that next week. Of course, I could use a politician-esque kind of loophole and contend that by “next time” I meant in a fortnight, not in a week. Anyone buy that? I didn’t think so. My only consolation is that no one was probably waiting very anxiously for more comments on this topic anyway.

Another reason I’m questioning whether I should be writing about movies at all is the fact that it is now officially time to make my annual Academy Award predictions, and it is inescapable to me and to anyone else who is paying attention that I have seen only one or maybe two movies in each of the major categories. A normal person might reasonably wonder, how can anyone could attempt to predict the outcome of a competition between movies when he hasn’t seen all or even most of the movies in question? Well, the answer is: the fewer movies I see, the easier it actually is to make predictions. There isn’t nearly as much baggage getting in the way when you don’t have to sort through all the details of each and every movie. Basically, my technique for making Oscar predictions is to go into a trance (Scotch whiskey helps) and begin channeling the dead souls of film buffs who have gone before or, in some cases, may still be technically alive. This quasi-mystical approach is the secret of my stunning record of 50-percent-and-lower correct prediction results.

I’ll let my predictions speak for themselves, except to say that in trying to pick actual winners I play a losing game of trying to second-guess and psychoanalyze the Hollywood movie community that votes on these awards. There is buzz that The Lord of the Rings trilogy will finally get its due with the final film being honored with the Best Picture statuette. I would dearly love to see this happen, but I’m afraid I would jinx things if I actually went on record predicting this will really happen (as opposed to insisting it deserves to happen), so I am making my official prediction in that category for yet another Russell Crowe vehicle. We’ll find out how it turns out on Leap Day.

It is tempting to look at earlier film awards as indications as to what will happen with the Oscars. I resist this approach, although I do enjoy watching the Golden Globes every year. What we have to bear in mind is that the reason that the Oscars are the awards that everyone really cares about is because they are voted on by people who actually make movies. The Golden Globes, for example, are voted on by journalists. If the insights and opinions of journalists mattered as much or more than those of real people, John Kerry would already be working for the Howard Dean campaign. Having said that, of course, several of my Oscar predictions coincide with Golden Globe winners, but then I’m technically a journalist too, aren’t I?

One thing about the Golden Globes broadcast that is better than the Academy Awards is the speeches. The Oscar acceptance speeches have been so constrained in recent years by time and pressure to avoid controversy that they’ve become (even more) boring. The Golden Globes crowd, on the other hand, encourages provocative remarks by lubricating the nominees with liquor while they are sitting in the audience waiting to hear their names called or not called. An example of a good speech was that of Ricky Gervais, whose BBC series The Office won for best comedy or musical TV series. He used his speech to explain helpfully, presumably more for the Americans watching than for the foreign journalists, that he was from England, which was the country that “ran the world before you did.”

The best speech of all, however, was definitely Bill Murray’s. How long have we been waiting for a cast member from Saturday Night Live to win a major acting award so that we could get a speech like this? This was worth all the crummy Chevy Chase movies over the last twenty years. Heck, could we ever have foreseen that anyone associated with SNL would someday grow into this caliber of actor? And who would have thought it would be Murray of all people? This is particularly ironic, since his best bit on the late-night comedy show was playing the jaded movie critic/commentator (apparently based on his own mother), who would make snide comments on Hollywood personalities, as well as non-sequitor Oscar predictions, like saying that the Academy would honor Paul Newman because of the quality of his pasta sauce.

There is definitely something right with the universe that this man actually got to make his own real-life acceptance speech in front of an audience like this. In a perfect deadpan delivery, Murray delivered a spot-on parody of an acceptance speech (for his role in Lost in Translation), advising the audience that they could “relax” because he had recently fired his agents, his physical trainer had just died, and there were so many people at the studio clamoring to take credit for the unexpected success of the film that “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

Now, let’s see if Peter Jackson can do even better than that on Oscar night. Oops! I didn’t say that!

-S.L., 29 January 2004

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