Best Picture: The Plot Thickens

brent johnson brings up some interesting points about how the best picture category isn’t just a two-horse race …

Something to think about:

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Peter Travers notes that the Academy Awards not only increased their Best Picture nominees to 10 but also changed their voting system. Instead of picking one top film for Best Picture, voters rank all the films from 1-10. What does that mean? For all the talk about a Hurt Locker/Avatar showdown, those flicks might split the vote and allow another film to gather up enough third- and fourth-place votes to win. And, as Travers points out, that makes Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds a possible spoiler.

Walking Tall: Inglorious could steal the Oscar

Which is okay by me.

In my mind, The Hurt Locker is a fine, well-directed film with a plethora of thrilling, visual moments. But it lacks a story and was so boring in the beginning, I actually fell asleep twice while watching it on DVD. And Avatar was visually stunning and even touching the first time I saw it. But the second time, it lost a bit of its luster — too much bombast and blast and not enough substance. Plus, I hate the 3-D. Too hard to watch.

To me, neither are the year’s best picture. To me, Up In The Air deserve that spot. It sports three of the year’s best performances and the year’s best script. It’s timely. And it’s like a Help!-era Beatles song: nothing experimental but incredibly well-made.

Still, Up In The Air has clearly lost its early momentum with the Academy. And it does seem more likely that if any film could steal Best Picture, Basterds is it. To me, it’s the second-finest film of 2009. It’s got easily the year’s best performance in Christoph Waltz’s Col. Landa — maybe the greatest supporting acting performance of all time. It’s got the best original screenplay (Up In The Air‘s was adapted). It’s Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction. It’s more fun — and more creative — than Avatar (which says a lot, since it’s a film about Nazis). And while it lacks the guttural punch of Hurt Locker, it’s got a catchier story.

So I say: Bring on the spoiler. This Oscar year was shaping up to be too predictable anyway.