“Three years after a horrific financial crisis, not a single financial executive has gone to jail and that is wrong,” says Charles Ferguson as he accepts the Oscar for Inside Job. The front-runner won over upstart Exit Through the Gift Shop, depriving Oscar watchers of seeing who would accept the award for Banksy. This is a case of gravitas winning out over a more whimsical film about art. Gift Shop likely benefited from the Brit street artist’s graffiti postings in the weeks before the Oscars, which were well-covered by the media, but probably was hurt by Banksy’s interview proxy, the wacky subject of his movie, Mr. Brainwash. If anything the movie that was moving up on the outside was Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, another movie about art.
The short films often make or break Oscar pools. While I called Australia’s animated The Lost Thing, my favorite of the shorts, I did not predict NYU grad film God of Love, which won best live-action short. This is one of those cases where I should have listened to what people told me they liked, instead of my own taste. Franco calls out NYU–one of several colleges he has attended. With the doc short Strangers No More, a lovely film about an Isreali school taking care of refugees, I thought it might win, but instead went for The Warriors of Quingang, about a Chinese village fighting against chemical polluters. It was a toss-up. Strangers No More, the glossier, more well-produced and emotionally moving film, took the day.