Playing both sides

Times Hollywood columnist Patrick Goldstein got off some good observations about the waning quality, originality and relevance of Oscar race analyzing and gossip.

The award announcements make a nice one-day headline, but the reality is that while a chorus of negative reviews can hurt a small film, if a film has a big studio campaign behind it (2001's "A Beautiful Mind" being a good example), it can survive a lot of critical brickbats. Critic awards have little correlation to Oscar victories. You have to go back to 1993 to find a film ("Schindler's List") that was awarded best picture by both the academy and the LA Film Critics Assn.

There is also a growing tension between critics -- who take film seriously as art and are increasingly scornful of the vituperative blog culture -- and Oscar pundits, who with their wacky statistical analysis come off more like breathless racetrack tipsters than film admirers. The root of all this evil, of course, is that everyone writes entirely too much about the Oscars (my newspaper included). With all those special issues and Oscar blogs to fill, the occasional astute observations are drowned out by the 24/7 blather.

He continues, though, with one of the most unintentionally (I think) funny lines of the week:

That said, it's time for my annual early betting line on the top best picture candidates.

Yes, he goes on to give the Oscars odds — and a bit of analysis — on several movies.

Noted: On his blog, former Times opinion editor Matt Welch rips recent columns by ex-colleagues Tim Rutten and David Lazarus. I'm still stunned that the latter's unsophisticated take on Southern California congestion even ran in the Times. I've liked Lazarus' consumer columns, including tomorrow's skewer of Hawaiian Airlines.

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