A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the 78th Annual Academy Awards
. Hollywood got serious -- really, really serious. It's not just that the five films nominated for best picture are a uniformly somber lot -- though to be sure there is barely a rueful chuckle among them. It's also that the inevitable hoopla surrounding any Oscar race was kept carefully curtailed. After years in which the Academy wagged its finger about excess campaigning, the contenders in this year's showdowns almost appeared to have borrowed a page from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, all vowing to place "principles before personalities." As a consequence, there wasn't a nasty brouhaha over dirty campaigning like the one that surrounded A Beautiful Mind
in 2002. And there was no dramatic standoff between the specialty film labels and their parent companies like the one that occurred during the great screener war leading up to the 2004 awards -- this year, the first screener, Sony Pictures Classics' Junebug
, was issued in September and nobody blinked. Instead, this year's focus remained quite firmly on the films itself.