Million Dollar Baby
: Million Dollar Baby
Should Win: See below…
Best Picture is such a strange idea. I say we go back to the system employed by AMPAS for Oscar's first year - give one award to the year's most popular, zeitgeist-defining picture (back in 1929, it was Wings), and another to the film that represents the greatest artistic achievement (in that case, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise).
But this year's slate of Best Picture nominees are already too far gone to benefit from such a tweak of red tape. It's not that they're bad films - it's just that, one way or the other, nobody seems to really care about them.
I've already outlined what I admire about The Aviator - gorgeous aesthetic design, fascinating and intricate performances. I think it's the Best Produced Picture of the lot, hands down. But am I clamouring to see it again? Not so much. It's actual cultural impact has been - and, in the future, will be - negligible. I imagine that Finding Neverland, in the grand tradition of Miramax award season pablum like The Cider House Rules and Chocolat, will after tomorrow just completely disapear. And what sort of social function does a film like Million Dollar Baby have? I'm not trying to obliquely suggest that it has none, but I'm curious as to what kind of cultural impact it has already had, beyond riling certain conservatives to re-uptake their cyclical anti-Hollywood-ism.
It seems clear that Sideways and Ray - though both very unlikely to win this award tonight - have already hugely affected the popular culture at large. Jamie Foxx's performance is a phenomenon - his in-character duet with Alicia Keys at the Grammys took the Baudrillardian simulacra to whole new dimensions. Meanwhile, Sideways is a conventional (if graceful) low-brow buddy comedy masquerading as a date flick for the NPR set - and yet it's had this revolutionary pull on the business of wine making and practice of wine drinking. I can't order a glass of wine in this town without some aging frat-boy expressing his "hope" that it's "not fuckin' merlot." THAT is cultural impact…
So: what's the best film of the year? I don't know - none of these. But The Aviator does most of what I expect a Best Picture winner to do. So I'll be cheering for Marty Scorsese and the gang, whilst quietly sulking in the face of the current system.