At long last, Oscar Sunday has arrived.
And if you want to drive yourself crazy while waiting for the 86th Academy Awards to begin, consider this: There are strong, sensible, convincing reasons why all three of the main Best Picture contenders – “Gravity,” “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle” – are going to lose.
“Gravity,” for instance, didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for writing. Only one film in the last 47 years, “Titanic,” has won Best Picture without a writing nod. So “Gravity” can’t really win.
But if “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron wins the Best Director award, as virtually everyone thinks he will, “12 Years a Slave” can’t really win Best Picture. When there’s a picture/director split, the more commercial film virtually always wins picture.
But “American Hustle” has only won one of the major Hollywood guild honors, the Screen Actors Guild’s ensemble-cast award. That means it can’t really win Best Picture, either – because of the nine SAG-ensemble champs that have gone on to win the top Oscar, none have done so without winning at least one other guild award.
On Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre, though, barring an earthshaking upset by “Philomena” or “Dallas Buyers Club” or something else, one of the three films that can’t win will walk away with the final Oscar of the night.
And the reasons why the movie can’t win will suddenly seem silly compared to the reasons why it did.
“Gravity” will prove to be so dazzling, “Slave” so powerful or “Hustle” so entertaining that it’ll beat the odds and be the last film standing in the tightest race since “Gladiator,” “Traffic” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” went into the final award in 2001 with four Oscar wins each.
That year, “Gladiator” won. This year … who knows?
Well, at the moment two guys know. They’re Rick Rosas and Brian Cullinan from PricewaterhouseCoopers, and they’ve known the Best Picture winner since Wednesday or Thursday. But they haven’t told anybody, and at least one of them (Rosas) has probably been reading some Oscar pundits’ predictions and snickering.
(I’m just hoping he didn’t snicker when he read TheWrap’s predictions.)
As a fascinating, confusing, drawn-out, exhausting Oscar season comes to a close six months after “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” premiered in Venice and Telluride, there will no doubt be surprises. Maybe even shocks.
And then, on Monday morning there will be second-guessing and Monday-morning quarterbacking. Cries of “What’s wrong with Academy voters?” no matter who wins. Complaints that it was the worst Oscars show ever even if it wasn’t.
The voters’ choices, and the show itself, will never please everybody; heck, I’m pretty sure neither of them will completely please me. My favorite movie of the year hasn’t won Best Picture in more than a decade, and it’s not going to win this year because it’s not nominated. (You were robbed, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”)
And the only really good Oscar show I’ve seen in recent memory was the one produced by Bill Condon and Laurence Mark and hosted by Hugh Jackman in 2009, which set a standard that nobody’s come close to reaching since.
So I won’t set my expectations too high, and neither should anybody else. All I want is for a very good film to win (which I’m almost certain will happen), and for the show to somehow do justice to a strong and varied year for movies.
I want a show that manages to convey the range and depth of the last 12 months in cinema. That doesn’t get so wrapped up in honoring a great movie from 1939 that it forgets to honor a bunch of great ones from 2013. That gives us a few moments for the Oscar highlight reel.
And after six months of wondering whether it was going to be “12 Years a Slave” or “Gravity,” and then a couple of months of wondering whether “American Hustle” could crash the party as well, I want answers.
What was that tagline that Fox Searchlight used in the final stages of the “Slave” campaign?
Oh yeah: “It’s time.”
Well, it is time. Time to get this party started and open those damn envelopes.