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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Thanks, Academy! What the 2011 Oscar Nominees say about us

By Alexandra Petri

Forget the State of the Union. The films nominated for Best Picture for the 83rd Academy Awards say more about who we are and how we're doing than President Obama ever will. And we don't have to stand up and clap in the middle of them to show that we agree.

There's a reason Netflix is so effective: It learns about you based on what you watch. Based on my interest in Twilight and Bratz: The Movie, Netflix recommended that I go read a book instead. Based on my interest in MTV's Skins, Netflix recommended that I register before moving into your neighborhood.

So what did our 2011 Best Picture nominees this year say about us? If these DVDs fell out of our opaque plastic bags, how would the other people in the subway judge us?

Black Swan. This film is a dream come true for the small but non-negligible segment of the population who has been waiting to watch Natalie Portman make out with Mila Kunis onscreen while pretending to be a deranged swan. Because we respect Natalie Portman, everyone wanted to make certain this happened under artistic circumstances, so reviews of this movie were required to mention the word "auteur" at least five times, and the film itself was urged to advertise heavily on the New York Times website, thereby making it legitimate for us to ask our aunts to buy us tickets to it. "It's about ballet!" we insisted. "And the artist's journey!" Suddenly, these are things we care about!

The Fighter. There's something in the contract for the Academy that says you have to nominate boxing movies. I know they're about triumphing over adversity, but there are ways to triumph over adversity without hitting people in the head, or Gandhi would never have gotten as far as he did.

Inception. This movie accurately depicts the gritty reality of life on the folding Parisian dream-streets. I never thought this movie captured the essence of dreams all that well, but it captured the experience of accidentally consuming trace amounts of LSD beautifully.

The Kids Are All Right. America wants to make sure you know we don't only like two-lady-relationship movies if they include Natalie Portman! And the title is so reassuring! Movie titles these days are either completely generic (The Dilemma, which sounds like the store-brand version of pretty much any movie) or sort of menacing ("Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2"), so this is a refreshing departure, a throwback to things like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Life Is Beautiful" and "State: Fair."

The King's Speech. We're oddly nostalgic for the 1930s. The clothes were bad, the hats were worse, the elevators required you to open and close the doors yourself, and Hitler was rising in the east, but, dang it, you could give a whole speech and nobody would try to live-tweet it or yell "You lie!" in the middle.

127 Hours. America has always secretly wanted to nominate a movie from the SAW franchise for Best Picture, and this is this is the closest we will ever get.

The Social Network. This is the "zeitgeist movie," right? Kids? Right? That's how everybody "interacts" these days, with the "Internets" and the "finals clubs" and the "mild Asperger's"?

Toy Story 3. We have a heart. This movie's ending was fantastic if you are watching from the perspective of an anthropomorphic toy, but mildly disturbing when you think about what it says about Andy's social/emotional development. But the kids are all right! We established that earlier.

True Grit. We will nominate anything the Coen Brothers do because we are still ashamed that Fargo lost Best Picture. Also, it contains cowboys and Jeff Bridges. Both of these are American institutions. Nationally speaking, Jeff is one of the best-maintained bridges we have, given the difficulties with the transportation budget lately. Also, the movie is a remake of a film from 1969, when we as a nation girded our loins, invested heavily in science and technology, and cultivated a new spirit of enterprise so that we could successfully fake a moon landing. President Obama just informed us that this is our generation's Sputnik moment. So we should probably get on that.

Winter's Bone. All this says is that least one person in the continental United States has seen this film. Probably.

By Alexandra Petri  | January 26, 2011; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Petri, Top Lists  | Tags:  America, Oscars, movies  
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