Pooper at the party | Bleader

Pooper at the party

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Shot up in bed yesterday morning with a single anxious thought running through my head: "Is this Oscar-night Sunday or what?"

My one and only, who remembers these things better than I do ("O look, there's Penelope Cruz lifting her feet so Ellen DeGeneres can vac the front-row carpet," etc), assured me in her own estimable 5 AM way that yes, it was indeed that unavoidable day (or night) . . . which means that by then I'll need a couple new inches of snow, so I can haul out the shovel, clear the town-house walks, slip on the ice and tear a rotator cuff, call 911 and get airlifted to the nearest emergency-room facility, as more or less did happen (except for the 911 transport) a Sunday or two ago. Just another Oscar-avoidance evening in the making . . .

Not that I hate Oscar so much, because actually I don't—I simply don't pay that much attention. And it's not an attitudinal or put-on thing—at least not mainly—since not once in my life have I ever watched the whole damn telecast straight through. Besides which, we just gave away our minimally operable 30-year-old Motorola—sometimes the antenna worked, on some of the channels anyway—so it's not even the NCAA Final Four for me this year.

But already you've probably scanned our online selection of Reader Oscar picks, to which I've contributed my own harebrained assortment of shipwreck candidates. A society of choosers is what we are, with everyone obliged to make at least a dozen or so whether he/she's inclined to or not—Hillary or Barack? Jif or Skippy? Toyota or Suzuki? M&M's or Mary Janes?—as part of the whole freedom package, what our "Western values" are all about, the kinds of things Al Qaeda and the Taliban allegedly want to kill us for.

Except: I couldn't have told you what was on the awards list without an official trot sheet spelling it all out in big, bold categories, like judicial retention ballots in general election years. Best picture—well, there's Reygadas's Silent Light, my own enthusiastic nominee for '07, with everything else an afterthought . . . except it didn't make any of the eligibles, right? Or best director—always P.T. Anderson, whatever he's been up to . . . which is pretty much how I decide on judges too: another one who's Irish—automatically out! And who are these other guys anyway? Yeah, the Coens, especially if crosscutting close-ups are your thing: what contemporary prefab "best direction" apparently comes down to these days. And don't even get me started on the Butterfly guy . . .

Also the screenplays (original or adapted) . . . also the, ahem, "performances" . . . also the cinematography (which seems more about calendar art and House Beautiful spreads than anything cinematographic—another one saved in the editing room!)—stuff you can't, or wouldn't even want to, single out if the movie's coming together the way it should. And "costumes"—the most radical being the ones that didn't exist in Ten Canoes (another ineligible: wrong country, wrong year), no bonnets or frippery, just the literal, unadorned, down-to-earth truth! But the year's deal breaker has to be "best supporting actor"—button-down dullards all, dependably skilled at what they do, also dependably forgettable: another month and we'll wonder what all the teapot fussing was for. Which is why, in that one lonely category, I initially opted for Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson from Southland Tales, just to be mean and ornery, but also as a provocation: enough of these judicious, measuring-rod approaches, the inconsequence of incremental "perfection." Like grading term papers . . . except it's supposed to be about "aaarrrrttt."

But now it's Paul Dano as my new, inspired supporting-actor "choice" (see comments thread here): better a raw, hysterically confused, freaked-out amateur than all that anally retentive baggage, somebody you can feel the conflicting energies coursing through (because they actually are!), remember indelibly for years—positively, negatively, whatever the alternative is fine.

So: Academy Awards with passion—who'd even dream of such a thing?

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