Remember when Bill Murray used to do his Oscar picks on SNL's Weekend Update? (Sorry, I came up empty on You Tube. There's a small picture here but you'll have to use your imagination for the rest.) He usually talked about how he hadn't seen most of the nominees and then picked his winners based on dumb things like how big someone's breasts were.
I haven't seen any of the Best Picture nominees. But I'm going to talk about them anyway. Let's start with the "winner".
Slumdog Millionaire - I just can't get excited about this. I can take or leave Danny Boyle. Even his best movies (like, say, "Trainspotting" or "Shallow Grave") left me entertained but not inspired. I've seen or read nothing that makes me think I'll feel any differently after watching this. But I'll watch it anyway. That's what Netflix is for.
Milk - This is the only one of these five that I have any more than a passing interest in. And it's not much more, trust me. I generally hate biopics. The academy adores them, though. Hence, mediocrities like "Ray" and "Walk the Line" tend to mop up around this time of year. I have the highest hopes for this one, but that's not saying much.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - This is the kind of quirky concept that ordinarily peaks my curiosity just a tad. But I'm not a big David Fincher fan. (Okay, "Zodiac" was pretty good, but that's about it.) And I may be the only person in the world who is not gaga over Cate Blanchett. (Go ahead. Say it.) I think I may be a bit quirked out now at this point, anyway. After "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" I think we need to retire the whole idea.
The Reader - I read that there was a scene on Ricky Gervais' "Extras" in which Kate Winslet mentioned that she'd need to do a holocaust drama to get that elusive statuette. Ha! Satire is always eclipsed by the truth eventually. Just watch "Network" now. It was way over the top in 1976. Now reality (TV) has gone way past it. The concept of this movie bugs me. We're supposed to feel something for someone who committed atrocities because, what, she learns to read? After getting poked by a minor? Reading is supposed to wash all this away? How about getting down on your knees and (hey, wait for the rest, already) begging for forgiveness for what you did? And, for the record, I feel the same way about Kate Winslet as I do about Cate Blanchett. (Go ahead. Say it.)
Frost/Nixon - Can I tell you how much I hate Ron Howard? He seems like a swell guy and it looks like his heart is always in the right place. He just doesn't have any discernible talent as a director. He epitomizes the term "Hollywood hack". And yet, he is continually lauded by the academy and its drooling sycophants. "The Da Vinci Code" was a crappy movie based on a crappy book that itself was begging to be made into a crappy-but-fun movie. Instead we got crappy and not fun. At least it didn't get nominated for anything. "A Beautiful Mind", on the other hand? Why, God, why? Excuse me, but I thought it sucked. Howard has absolutely no trust in his audience to "get" anything. He needs to spell everything out and, in doing so, he drains the life out of it. I love Frank Langella though. So I'll watch it for him.
What this boils down to is five films made by five directors with whom I have spotty relationships, at best. (I didn't talk about Gus Van Sant or Stephen Daldry, but Van Sant is closer to Boyle for me while Daldry is closer to Howard.) Last year, we had two of my favorite directing entities, Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers, represented by some of their best work, as well as two other films that I thought were terrific, "Michael Clayton" and "Juno". This year? Poop.
I suppose I shouldn't say that without actually seeing the movies. But if Bill Murray can get away with it, so can I. Tell me I'm wrong, please.