We're now bound -- head locked and arms tied -- in the stockades of the movie awards season. Don't try to get out. If you want to defecate, you'll have to do so in your pants as you yap and squabble with other film-lovers who are stuck in their own personal stockades. Why do we derive pleasure from this season? It's a stinking mess. (If you're not convinced, read these insider anecdotes from this morning's voting session of the New York Film Critics Circle. They're both precious and ridiculous.)
I dunno, but I love it and I hate it, and I love to hate it, and I hate to love it. And so on. So allow me to register some complaints, now that awards have been issued by both the New York and Los Angeles critics groups (as well as by the National Board of Review, the N.Y. web critics and the Boston and Washington critics):
1. Helen Mirren is 6 for 6 (as is Forest Whitaker, who perhaps actually deserves the sweep). Mirren's a wonderful human being, and her performance in The Queen is marginally interesting by virtue of her talent (it's like watching Rembrandt doodle), but this uniformity is silly. It may also backfire, since Oscar voting won't close til mid-February. Plenty of time to lose momentum. If I were in a critics group, I would use my power for good and start some buzz for an underdog (Sook-Yin Lee for Shortbus, anyone? John Diehl for Land of Plenty?).
2. The Queen itself is cleaning up. Two supporting actor awards for Michael Sheen as Tony Blair? Seriously? Three screenplay awards for Peter Morgan? Might I remind you that The Queen's screenplay looked like this. I am baffled. This is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American public since global warming.
3. Hooray for variety: Boston singles out Mark Wahlberg for The Departed. L.A. goes for Luminita Gheorghiu for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. New York touts Jackie Earl Haley for Little Children.
4. The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics wisely went United 93 for best picture (as did New York) but caved to convention in every other category. They even named the joyless and flaccid Thank You for Smoking as best screenplay. I guarantee the only reason they picked this was to give a little love to a film that took place in the District. Grow a pair, folks.
Soon I will begin my own For Your Consideration series, which debuted last year to middling acclaim and succeeded in winning a nomination for zero of my underdogs (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Joan Allen & Jeff Daniels).