Anyone who reads Cinematical regularly knows that Oscar and I went through an amicable divorce a long while back. The Academy hasn't picked the best film of the year as the Oscar winner in at least ten years, in my opinion, nor are they above handing the big prize to a film that's not only unworthy, but legitimately bad. Crash? A Beautiful Mind? I'm not going to throw Chicago into that category, but it certainly didn't even deserve to be on the top ten list of any respectable critic, let alone walk away with the Best Picture statuette. Chalk up another major blunder this year. No matter which film walks away with Oscar -- whether it's Babel, The Departed, The Queen, Letters From Iwo Jima, or Little Miss Sunshine -- a really splendid work of art, Marie Antoinette, will go unrewarded. Normally, this is the part of the piece where I would launch into how all the critics were wrong and I was right, but the odd thing about the oversight of Marie is that the major critics seemingly agree with me.
Released back in October, before the calculated late-December releases begin muscling their way into the voters' memories, Marie was greeted by an ebullient four-star review by Roger Ebert. The Los Angeles Times' Carina Chocano seconded, calling the film "startlingly original," which it is. The Times A.O. Scott remarked -- "What to do for pleasure? Go see this movie, for starters." The Washington Post, Salon.com, The Hollywood Reporter, The Philadelphia Enquirer, Entertainment Weekly, and smaller outlets like Slant.com all heaped praise on the film, and declared it to be among the best of the year. Add in the pedigree of the director -- an important young filmmaker and prior Oscar winner, Sofia Coppola -- and it seems like the film would have been swept along by the tide until finally walking away the big winner tonight. Instead, the film will have only one opportunity to win an Oscar, in the throwaway category of Best Achievement in Costume Design. Yes, the costume work is good, but let's not kid ourselves -- it's a booby prize for a serious film, if it's won at all.