We go on vacation for a few measly days, and look what happens: James Cameron's ecstatically reviewed, box-office-conquering Avatar is suddenly, improbably, the front-runner in this year's Best Picture race. Far be it from us to tell the HMFIC what he can and can't do, but we still don't see the King of the World reigning on another Oscar night. After the jump, we count down the five biggest reasons why Avatar can't win the Academy's top award (or at least the five reasons we'll be surprised when Cameron swaggers up to the Oscar podium, spikes his award, and tells his haters to suck it in Na'vi).
1. The Special Effects.
When it was released in 1997, Titanic, too, had CGI impressive enough to distract from Cameron's tin-eared dialogue — but the film's clear focus was its sweeping, tragic, human-based love story (not that this helped Cameron get a nomination for his screenplay, of course). Avatar's script is serviceable, we guess, but have you heard a single person raving about anything but the movie's special effects? We have not.
2. The Academy: still snobby.
While it may be true that only whiny snobs are still complaining about Avatar's extravisual shortcomings, it's worth noting that the Academy's current membership is comprised primarily of whiny snobs. Remember last year, when they snubbed The Dark Knight in favor of The Reader? Or the year before that, in which the cumulative gross of the five Best Picture nominees was approximately half of what it costs to see Avatar in IMAX? Not since 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King have popcorn-allergic Oscar voters rewarded anything crowd-pleasing and blockbusting in the top category.
Another thing Academy members are snobby about is sharing recirculated movie-theater air with mouth-breathing non-Oscar-voting plebeians. Studios interested in winning awards generally have to furnish agoraphobic, non-theater-visiting voters with DVD copies of their movies — standard-definition, 2-D DVDs obviously incapable of showcasing the three-dimensional, IMAX-def glory that is Avatar.
4. Oscar still hates science fiction.
Like comedy, animation, and movies featuring brown people, science fiction has historically been ignored by the Academy Awards. No space-based movie has ever won Best Picture, and none have been nominated since E.T. in 1982 (it lost to Gandhi, which featured not a single alien).
One argument for Avatar's Best Picture chances is that 3-D movies (and higher ticket prices) are the film industry's current best hope for longevity, and that the Academy might cast a vote for its own survival. Fat chance, we say: The organization's biggest contingent, by far, is actors, the very same people replaced by blue pixels on James Cameron's computer-generated, thespian-free Pandora. Sure, one could correctly argue that Avatar features the motion-captured performances of real human beings, but just try explaining that to technophobic ballot-wielding elderlies like Mickey Rooney and Dame Judi Dench.