I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT awards are like Rorschach tests: It’s a clue to someone’s personality whether they root for “Juno” or “There Will Be Blood.”But now I’ve begun to think the entire awards season is its own Rorschach. Last week, I wrote a draft for today’s column, saying I feel a weird vibe this season. People seem to be just going through the motions. A colleague told me, “I’m not sure I agree with your premise.” He said the fervor of the season is as high as usual, but the style is different, because the major studios (not their specialty divisions) are in the driver’s seat this year. I asked an awards strategist, who couldn’t come up with any significant differences this year. Another said, “It’s all different. In this economy, nobody knows what’s appropriate.” One person said the films aren’t very interesting, another said it’s a great year. Clearly, awards season means different things to different people. In creating last week’s draft, I had thought I was one of those ultra-sensitive writers who have a knack for tapping into the zeitgeist. Now I’m wondering if I’m one of those ultra-pompous writers who assume the entire world thinks the same way he does. FOR ME, it’s hard to get consumed by awards with so many other things to obsess over. Like the economy. There are daily headlines about layoffs, cutbacks, bailouts and closures. In the recent jolly holiday season, even crass commercialism was tinged with melancholy, due to a huge number of going-out-of-business sales. But it’s more than that. Frankly, I’m tired. The WGA strike threw me out of my comfort zone (if anyone in the 21st century ever really has a comfort zone). Then there was the draining presidential election, and now endless speculation about a SAG strike. I’m exhausted by technologies that occupy my time and fill my little head with information I can’t possibly use. Do I need to be reachable 24/7? No, but I am. Do I need to know the name of Sarah Palin’s daughter’s boyfriend? No, but I do. The Gaza strip, Illinois Gov. Blagojevich, Mumbai, melamine. Everything worries me. I was watching PBS, then switched to Fox Movie Channel — one featured Tavis Smiley and the other channel, at the exact same moment, had Tava Smiley. They’re not related. I was oddly unsettled by this. In Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” a nurse (Bibi Andersson) is hired to look after a woman (Liv Ullmann) who has suddenly stopped speaking. The film never explains Ullmann’s crisis. There’s just one shot of her standing alone in a room, clutching her head, as the TV silently airs footage of the Vietnam war. That’s me : Standing in a room, clutching my head, while the TV airs those Smiley faces. BUT THAT WAS the old me in 2008. (Good riddance to that year!) Now that we’re all back from the holidays, refreshed and eager for the new year — we are eager, aren’t we? — I can bask in the Rorschach revelry of the season. And this is a good week to get into the swing of things: Producers Guild nominations on Monday, WGA noms Wednesday, DGA noms and the Critics Choice Awards on Thursday, and then Sunday’s Golden Globes. And Oscar ballots are due Jan. 12. I had an epiphany over New Year’s, making me appreciate the season:
- It’s good for the economy. Some of you may feel guilty about dressing up, hiring a car and walking the red carpet. But, hey, that “glamour” keeps the economy moving. Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., estimates that the Oscars is worth $130 million to the area’s bottom line each year.
- This is an interesting year. While the best-picture race features the usual array of classy dramas, there are also some fascinating additions: A film that’s one-third in Hindi, an animated pic (whose first 16 minutes are wordless) and a sequel to a comic-book franchise (the sixth in the series!).Other races also have noteworthy twists.
- The 2008 contenders deserve as much hoopla as folks any other year — they shouldn’t be penalized because they happened to do spectacular work in a year stuffed with life-changing events.