Up is in this year.
The sort of dark tales that have won Oscars in year’s past — think “The Hurt Locker” and “No Country for Old Men” — don’t seem to have much of a chance this year. Audiences and critics alike seem to be drifting toward hope and laughter and away from cynicism and dismay.
It’s a truism that tough times bring on lighter, more upbeat fare, and financially these remain awfully tough times. The Oscars reacted last year with an overwhelming win for the rousing “The King’s Speech” instead of the more sour “The Social Network.”
This year the difference has been even more stark. “Shame,” “J. Edgar,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” all had their faults, but at one time they were considered awards contenders. True, David Fincher received a Directors Guild nomination this week for “Tattoo,” but that seems more like holdover respect for “Social Network.” It’s doubtful any of these movies — or “Take Shelter” or “Marcy Martha May Marlene” or “Rampart” or “The Ides of March” or a host of other dark-edged films, will get many (or any) nominations.
Instead eyes have turned to “The Artist,” “The Help,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Hugo,” even “Bridesmaids,” all hopeful, positive films. Even “The Descendants” is about as fun as a movie about a dying, cheating mother can be.
Anything can happen, of course. But it’s probably not a complete coincidence that one of America’s bloodiest directors, Martin Scorsese, delivered a children’s story (“Hugo”) this year; or that one of its most scathing voices, Woody Allen, came through with a celebration of living in our time (“Midnight in Paris”). These were the films we needed. And they are likely the type of films that will be honored.