Oscar nominations send Hollywood a new set of messages
By BARRY KOLTNOW
The Orange County Register
I'm not sure if our old friend Oscar has a middle name, but I know it's not Subtle.
There is nothing subtle about the Academy Awards. Not in the clever and sophisticated studio campaigns to sway voters, not in the precision predawn ceremony held to announce the nominations, and certainly not in the annual glamour gluttony they call the Academy Awards telecast.
No, the Oscars were never about subtlety.
That is why I was so surprised, and a bit amused, by the subtle messages sent last week by the 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It takes a bit of decoding, but the messages are clear in the Oscar nominations.
The first message was sent to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
This is the organization that is responsible for the Golden Globes. There are about 90 voting members of this group, which comprises journalists who are based in Los Angeles but write for foreign publications.
Although this group has been ridiculed in the past by people questioning its journalistic credentials, it has become a powerhouse in Hollywood largely because of a lucrative NBC contract that has turned the Golden Globes into a must-attend event.
Most members of the academy don't like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association but see it as a necessary evil. What bothers them is the increasing power of the group, and they really hate it when the HFPA boasts that the Golden Globes are an indicator of how the academy members are going to vote.
The implication is that the academy members are idiots whose votes can be easily influenced by what happens at the Golden Globes. Regardless of whether that is true, academy members don't like the implication.
Therefore, the academy sent the HFPA a clear message -- Richard Gere's head on a platter.
Gere won the Golden Globe for his performance in the musical "Chicago." He didn't even get nominated for an Oscar. Every other major cast member of the movie got a nomination.
If you don't believe that was intentional, then your middle name is Naive.
The 13 nominations received by "Chicago" were also a message. It was a brief message to the powers-that-be in Hollywood. The message: We like movie musicals because they make us feel good.
Sometimes, a message can be sent without intending to send one.
This year it was one confirming a long-held belief that movies released in the last couple of months of the year get the extra Oscar attention.
This is not a good message. It doesn't make the academy members look very smart. It makes them look like they have very short attention spans. It questions their memories. Worse, it sends a message loud and clear to the studios that they should save all their best product until the last minute, leaving movie theaters short on high-quality movies the rest of the year.
How was this message sent? None of the best picture nominees this year was released before Dec. 18.
Peter Jackson was sent a message, too. He was the only filmmaker with a best picture nomination ("The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers") who was snubbed in the best director category.
The academy is saying that his movie was great but that he had nothing to do with it.
Maybe the academy members are trying to tell Jackson that he relied on too many computer-generated effects. Or perhaps they feel that, as a producer, Jackson will get an Oscar if his movie wins for best picture.
That's not going to happen. The last message the academy ever wants to send is that movies aimed at young males should be rewarded beyond the box office.
In fact, the opposite message was sent to the studios through most of the nominations, which saluted adult-themed movies and mature actors and actresses.
The Roman Polanski best director nomination was an interesting message.
Were academy members saying they forgive the exiled director? I know they're not condoning what he did (he fled the United States after being convicted of statutory rape). They must be trying to show how compassionate they are. Or, for you conspiracy buffs, it could be an elaborate sting operation instigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office to lure Polanski to this country.
The best actor nomination for Adrien Brody sent a message of encouragement to young actors and actresses working in Hollywood. The message was that toiling anonymously in independent films can lead to fame and riches, even if you don't think you want it, which we all know you do.
Finally, the best actress nominations for Salma Hayak and Nicole Kidman sent an unmistakable message: "Beautiful women who aren't afraid to make themselves look ugly get nominated."
Get the message?