The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a lot of rules for the Oscars. For example, a film isn’t eligible if it was shown on TV before it appeared in theaters. Also, a film cannot be nominated as a feature if it is less than 40 minutes long. Also, no film can be considered for an Academy Award if it contains Martin Lawrence.
Okay, that last one is more of an unwritten rule. There are a lot of other unwritten rules too, elements that seem to ensure an Oscar nomination for films that have them. So we thought we’d take a look at these rules, see who’s following them, and thereby try to predict this year’s Oscar winners.
RULE #1: MAKE YOUR PRETTY STARS LOOK UGLY.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of this so far in 2007, with one exception: Eddie Murphy’s giant fat suit in “Norbit.” Could this be Eddie’s year???
RULE #2: MENTAL PROBLEMS ARE AWESOME.
The surest way for an actor to get nominated for an Oscar is to play someone who’s crazy or, um, mentally challenged. (We don’t use the “R” word around here. But you know which one we mean.) Some memorable examples: Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” Geoffrey Rush in “Shine,” and Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs.”
It doesn’t seem to work as easily for women, which is why I’m rooting for Helen Mirren in “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” She plays Nicolas Cage’s mother. I’m not sure if the character is crazy, but Helen Mirren is obviously insane for appearing in the stupid sequel to begin with. So I hope the Academy rewards her before dementia really sets in and she can’t work anymore.
RULE #3: BE LONG AND, IF POSSIBLE, BORING.
If you want the Academy to even think about voting for your movie, you’d better make sure it runs at least two and a half hours. Sometimes, as with “Lord of the Rings” or “Gladiator,” these movies are a lot of fun. But it’s preferable that they be not just long, but also boring. This is known as the “English Patient Rule.”
The front-runner in this category is “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” which gets bonus points for also having a really long title. Just be glad they didn’t go with the working title, which was “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Although the Term ‘Coward’ Is Debatable Because There Were a Lot of Factors at Play, and It’s Not Like Jesse James Was Exactly a Saint, Either.”
RULE #4: ADDRESS IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES.
For that reason, I’m hoping “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” gets a nod. Who else but Adam Sandler could make meathead frat boys actually think about the issue of gay marriage?
RULE #5: NO LAUGHING!
Funny movies do not win Oscars. Occasionally someone gets an acting nomination for a comedic role (like Johnny Depp for “Pirates of the Caribbean” or Liam Neeson for “Schindler’s List”), but they never win.
I’m still pulling for “Norbit.” If there was a less funny movie this year, I didn’t see it.