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The Lens: Oscar's looming dark night

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 18, 2009 - The Academy Awards are just a few days away (I'll make my predictions later this week), which means we'll soon be rid of the speculative nonsense that inevitably blossoms in the media - for another year, at least. Just to set the record straight:

1. For those who feel outraged that a favorite film didn't get nominated for anything more substantial than "Best Use of a Really Loud Noise," (in other words, because they didn't nominate "The Dark Knight" for best picture!!) please take note: The nomination of films/ actors/ foley artists a, b, c, d and e in a particular category does not mean that the Academy voters "snubbed" anyone in the list from f through z.

I can't speak for the typical Academy member but I'm still pretty sure that they didn't chortle "Ha! Take that, Leonardo DeCaprio!" while filling out a Leo-free ballot. I'm sure that many members out there voted for DeCaprio or Eastwood's performances ... maybe even for "The Dark Knight" as best picture. There just happened to be more who voted for other things, no matter how inexplicable the choices. Which brings us to our next complaint.

2. For those who insist that the Academy is becoming elitist because the nominations don't reflect box office returns (in other words, because they didn't nominate "The Dark Knight" for best picture!!), take a look at history. This has often been the case. Academy voters chose "Million Dollar Baby" over "Shrek 2," "The Departed" over "Pirates of the Caribbean 3," even Minnelli's "Gigi" over the muscle-bound exploits of Steve Reeves in "Hercules"!

As jaded as they are, the Academy hasn't entirely surrendered to the prevailing notion that Box Office $$$ = quality, and that's probably for the better. By this line of reasoning, the five nominees for best picture would be "The Dark Knight," "Iron Man," "Indiana Jones and the Whatever the rest of the title is," "Hancock" and "Wall-E." Which brings us to the corollary that ...

3. The elitist, non-"Dark Knight"-nominating Academy, by ignoring popular taste, snubbing a really temperamental super hero and insisting on interrupting the TV broadcast with all of those boring awards, is dooming itself to a low TV audience. This may very well be true, but again is unlikely to be weighing on the mind of the typical Academy voters when they grab a pencil to fill out their ballots.

To summarize:

When filling out a ballot, the Academy member should follow the following checklist:

a) Did the film you're voting for gross more than $200 million? If yes, go to b.

b) Is the film popular enough to distract viewers from "The Amazing Race?" If yes, go to c.

c) Is it "The Dark Knight?"

But that's enough grumbling for now. In the meantime, you can get a head start on second-guessing the tuxedoed Batman-haters by checking out the nominees for short subject. They're all available for download at iTunes , but you can also find four of the five animated shorts online:

"This Way Up": Imagine Laurel and Hardy's "The Music Box" only with a coffin.

"Oktapodi": Love and adventure among the tentacled set, in the shortest of the nominees

"Presto": If you saw "Wall-E," you've already seen Pixar's "Looney Tunes"-like story of the age-old conflict between a magician and a rabbit.

And my personal favorite, "Lavatory Lovestory": A sweet tale of romance in a Russian washroom.

The Lens is the blog of Cinema St. Louis, hosted by the Beacon.