I said in my last post that I’d comment after the awards were over. I’ll make a few comments just as a movie fan and then tie it back to a larger question about reading. First of all, this may have been the most fun ceremony I’ve seen in a while. It felt peppy the whole way through (thanks in large part to the effortlessly charming Anne Hathaway—best hosting performance in a long time, in my opinion), and I felt like most of the jokes landed (major props to Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, who I thought were very funny and had great comic timing/chemistry — if they’re sold on these host duets, which I think usually fall flat, I’d pick the two of them to host the awards in a future year). Secondly, the fact that no one movie blew away the competition suited the year, I think—lots of strong competitors, and no clear champion (though The King’s Speech claims the biggest prize, deservingly, and will get the most press tomorrow morning). Thirdly, I was right in guessing that certain films I loved would go unrecognized—I think it’s most disappointing that True Grit received no awards, since the film was excellent in really all the ways a film can be, and it’s a shame to see it edged out by different films in so many categories. But I’m assured by wise friends that in their opinion these are all deserving wins, and maybe they’re right. I will say that, in every case where I saw the winning performance, I think a good call (if not the best call) was made, and I was really pleasantly surprised that my favorite animated short, “The Lost Thing” (by Shaun Tan, whose graphic novel The Arrival is beautiful and a must-read, in my opinion), won its award, which I had not remotely guessed (I thought either Pixar or the all-star cast of “The Gruffalo” would win).
My larger question about reading: the Academy does something the Pulitzer board doesn’t do. It breaks down movies into elements, and recognizes that some are good in some areas and not in others. Some of us care a lot about visual effects and not a lot about scores, some can be won over by a single great acting performance and others will care more about the wit of the writing. Sure, there’s the “Best Picture” award at the end of the night—the “real winner”, if you will. But I wonder if there’s something to be said for having sub-Pulitzers? Best setting? Best character? What would you think of that idea? And if you think we should have some, what awards should there be? I’ve suggested two, but you might want more, or different, options. If we come up with some ideas, I may try to hold an award like that here on the blog—solicit nominees for “best character of the 1920s and 1930s” or something like it, and see what we get. I would be amused, anyway, and opening it up to all the novels of a decade or two would let a lot of you chime in on books that Pulitzer neglected (perhaps wrongly). I’m curious to see what you put forward, and welcome all ideas.