Good evening, gentlemen.
Now that the blackout at the SuperBowl is officially over (thanks for nothing, Bobby Jindal!), I can refocus some of my attention back on the rest of the world. Today, I will take time to tell you all how to handle the upcoming pop-culture event known as “The 85th Academy Awards.” That’s right, y’all, Oscar night is coming February 24th, and you must needs be prepared.
If you, like me, spent the end of last year locked away deep in a subterranean Mayan apocalypse zombie-proof bunker, you haven’t seen many of the key films nominated for tiny gilded men this year. It’s okay. I can help you fake it well enough to survive any social interaction on the subject. With my help, you’ll be able to attend an Oscar night party with the film-buffiest of cineastes and fake it like a true Casual Gentleman.
Hit the jump for more of my patented brand of wit and wisdom.
First things first: What you need to know.
There are a few things you need to know in order to hold a conversation on the subject of the Oscars. One of the best weapons to have in your arsenal for surviving Oscar conversations is to know how the nominees are chosen. Oscar nominees are voted on by people in “the industry”, who select their picks on a ballot. The Academy then votes on who wins. All members of the 5,500-member Academy vote on Best Picture, but only peers vote on the other awards (directors vote on Best Director, actors vote on Best Actor, costume designers vote on Best Costume design, you get the idea).
Before these ballots go out, though, there is a period of time for campaigning. In the same way that Jack Abramoff used box seats and trips to Scotland to influence Tom DeLay (R-TX) to vote against closing Mariana Islands sweatshops that force their employees to have abortions, filmmakers and studios take out full-page ads in newspapers, invite Academy members to elaborate lunches, hold private luxury screenings with Q&As and meet-and-greet sessions with nominees in the hopes of securing the desired votes. So, when someone corners you and starts talking about who your favorite nominees are and you can’t think of what to say, a good way to go is to talk about how “the nomination system really needs to get fixed! It’s all political now. It’s so difficult for a small film to get any traction!” Then quickly excuse yourself before they can mention “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. Yes, unfortunately, this year, the overt politicking in Hollywood allowed a small film to slip through the cracks and get nominated. So, if you can’t slip away before your assailant mentions this fact, don’t be ashamed to call it the “exception that proves the rule,” and duck out to the bathroom.
Step two: Knowing about the nominees
One of the most useful pieces of advice I can give you is to know at least a thing or two about each of the films nominated for Best Picture. If you have one piece of information about each film, you’re golden, because every conversation can be turned back to it. For Best Picture, the choices, and what’s worth knowing about each, are:
Amour, aka “The French One”: Won’t win Best Picture, because it will win Best Foreign Language Picture. It’s about an elderly couple dealing with the wife (Best Actress nominee Emmanuelle Riva) getting paralyzed.
- You can say: It was beautiful, but it won’t win Best Picture because the Academy are too ethnocentric.
Argo, aka “The Political One Where Ben Affleck Has a Beard”: DareDevil goes to Iran to save hostages by posing as a film production. Based on a true beard.
- You can say: Matt Murdock was snubbed for Best Director.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, aka “The Weird One”: A young girl named Hushpuppy (Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis) faces a flood. And maybe some magic creatures are there?
- You can say: It was interesting but you don’t think its mainstream enough to win.
Django Unchained, aka “The Bloody One”: Quentin Tarantino (also nominated for Best Original Screenplay) shows us his version of pre-Civil War America, which features “Steamin'” Willie Beamen (star of “Stealth”) as an ex-slave turned bounty hunter on a revenge-fueled rampage to rescue his wife in a world populated by walking bags of blood that explode majestically at the slightest provocation.
- You can say: Mace L Windu should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but was snubbed, because they don’t take Tarantino films seriously.
Les Misérables, aka “The ‘I Can’t Believe Russel Crowe is Singing’ One: They did not lipsynch. Catwoman (nominated for Best Supporting Actress) cut her hair. Gladiator isn’t an amazing singer. Wolverine is. It’s long, and drags at parts.
- You can say: You skipped this one, because you’ve seen the play.
Life of Pi, aka “The Man versus Nature One”: A pretty standard ‘boy and his ravenous tiger’ story. The Indian son of Kevin James’s character from ‘Zookeeper’ escapes a shipwreck with a Bengal tiger. They share a boat. And learn about life, probably.
- You can say: You have a hard time taking Ang Lee seriously since “Hulk”.
Lincoln, aka “The Political One Where Daniel Day Lewis Has a Beard”: President Daniel Plainview (nominated for Best Actor) is trying to pass the 18th Amendment. The film is about 40 minutes too long, and incredibly Spielburgy, but pretty good overall. Looper shows up for a while, just to hang out.
- You can say: You didn’t like how they handled his assassination, and you hope Bill the Butcher has enough mantle space for his Oscar.
Silver Linings Playbook, aka “The Nominated in Every Category One”: Hangover (nominated for Best Actor) gets out of a mental institution where he made friends with Ruby Rhod (nominated for being Super Green), and must adapt to being back in the real world. But then, Katniss Everdeen (nominated for Best Actress) shows up and she and Limitless must compete in a dance contest (nominated for Best Dance Contest) in order for Faceman’s dad, Vito Corleone (nominated for Best Supporting Actor), to win a bunch of American dollars (nominated for Best Currency).
- You can say: The book was better, and Jennifer Lawrence’s character should have been played by someone older.
Zero Dark Thirty, aka “The Political One Where the Bad Guy Has a Beard”: TortureFest 2013 festival winner, it’s the story of the hunt for Mr. September himself, Osama bin Laden. Best Actress nominee, Jessica Chastain leads a team of badass mofos to waterboard their way across the world in pursuit of the most ruthless terrorist mastermind in the world.
- You can say: This was apparently shot in real time, because it seems like it takes ten years to watch. The last half-hour was kick-ass.
Know just a bit about the nominees, and you’ll look like a movie genius!
Step three: When in doubt, take a strong position early.
As soon as a category is announced, proclaim your allegiance early. Even if you didn’t see any of the movies, just pick a nominee based off their name, their picture, or the music they play when they show the thing they did. Make a pick, have a drink, enjoy the party.
That’s it, gents. Following these simple tips at your Oscar night party will ensure that you come out the other side still looking like the casual gentleman you were when you arrived.
In closing, here’s a video of Chris Tucker in Silver Linings Playbook!
Until next time, gents!