The Oscar Nominees That Should Have Been

As we mentioned previously, the Academy Awards are this weekend. 2010 marks the first time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has upped the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. This is presumably to drum up interest in what has become a bloated and insufferable production, though it's hard to believe the added movies won't swell the running time past the usual 3.5 hour mark.

Doubling the number of nominees was also designed to remove some of the controversy around the Academy's picks. Trouble is, when you've got the same yahoos involved in the nomination process, you're not going to end up with a paradigm shift in the organization's thinking, you're just going to end up with the double the number of dumb picks.

Could I do better? Hell yes, and here's my list of five current nominees and their more worth replacements:

5. Nominee: The Blind Side
Better Nominee: 35 Shots of Rum

How about instead of another variation of "white person helps black person" (with the unspoken "because we know they can't help themselves" thrown in) we just show an actual black family? One that acts like human beings and not a walking series of one-liners, in a film that realistically portrays their life without the need for a happy ending? Wouldn't that be crazy?

4. Nominee: Up in the Air
Better Nominee: Star Trek

Now, I did enjoy Up in the Air, but the whole thing felt insubstantial, hardly deserving of the gravitas of a Best Picture award. So why half-ass it? Star Trek was the most enjoyable popcorn movie of the year, and nary a word about downsizing.

3. Nominee: An Education
Better Nominee: In the Loop

Carey Mulligan's excellent -- and deservedly nominated -- performance notwithstanding, An Education was little more than a better-produced-than-most coming of age story, with extra emphasis on the statutory rape. In the Loop, on the other hand, was refreshingly caustic and intelligent...welcome change from the usual Oscar fare.

2. Nominee: A Serious Man
Better Nominee: Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Nothing against the Coen brothers, but A Serious Man isn't going to be remembered in the same league as Fargo or Miller's Crossing. And since there's no rule (that I'm aware of) against documentaries winning, why not Anvil, an uplifting and poignant film that -- unlike most 2009 docs -- didn't try to guilt us or scare the shit out of us?

1. Nominee: Avatar
Better Nominee: Moon

James Cameron's magnum opus was a safe pick, considering the staggering amount of publicity and surprisingly positive critical reception. But while visually groundbreaking, the plot is a pastiche of over a dozen other films.

And then there's Moon, a smart, introspective science fiction film that doesn't need 3-D or massive battle set pieces to be effective. Yes, it's also reminiscent of other movies (2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running chief among them), but escapes those comparisons and ends up a thoughtful commentary on the future of technology and what it really means to be alive.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar