My take on…2012 Best Picture nominees
I’ve written before about how I think 2012 may have been the best movie year since 1939, and the nine nominees for Best Picture Oscars demonstrate that.
That’s not to say that other movies couldn’t have been nominated, and won’t be better remembered than some that were.
However, having completed my dance card today (seeing Life of Pi, the last one on the list), I thought I’d compare the nine.
I can’t help but approach this a bit from the perspective of which one will win, although I haven’t put out my own predictions yet.
Since I’m going to be doing some compare and contrast here, there may be spoilers…but I’m pretty careful about that.
Let me start with the least likely winners:
Amour produced a well-deserved Best Actress nomination for Emmanuelle Riva, but it really was the “feel bad movie of the year”. It was unrelentlessly sad. There aren’t a lot of movies that I see where, despite it being well done, I walk out wishing I hadn’t seen it. That doesn’t mean it is unrealistic, but it certainly lowered my spirits. Still, there are some people who like that…and it is also nominated for Foreign Language, which might split what vote there is of that. I’d be surprised to see this win.
Life of Pi simply won’t get past the challenge of being in 3D. I enjoyed the movie, but it was hard to really engage with it. There was, by the way, some beautiful cinematography…this has been an amazing year for that (I really thought Roger Deakins’ work in Skyfall was extraordinary). I suspect there have been some technical breakthroughs in cinematography that have allowed the artists in that field to more exactly portray their visions, and to do so in more circumstances. More actors vote than any other single group, and while I thought Irrfan Khan was great, and Shravanthi Sainath a nuanced stand-out, actors may see this more as a special effects movie.
Django Unchained…I just can’t see this happening. I think Quentin Tarantino has made some great movies, and I think Samuel L. Jackson deserved a nomination for this, but it just doesn’t seem like Best Picture material. I wasn’t offended by it, but I also wasn’t particularly inspired. As a movie, it felt quite disjointed and episodic. There were scenes that didn’t seem to belong in the same movie with other scenes, and I don’t think it holds together. The movie will be remembered, and be seen ten years from now, but I don’t think the Academy will bestow its top honor on it.
Moving into the center of the pack…
Les Misérables is a great feat of moviemaking by a recently honored director…but it is a musical with uneven reviews. I don’t see how Anne Hathaway doesn’t get Supporting Actress (knock wood…I don’t want to jinx it), and it could take home some other awards (hair and makeup, for one…although Lincoln is a competitor there), but I think the competition is too steep this year.
Beasts of the Southern Wild was a fascinating, heartfelt movie. My guess is that it is too small and quirky for the Academy to have it join the pantheon of Best Picture winners. Some voters may feel that the Directing and Actress nominations are award enough (and it was nominated for adapted screenplay, but again, you have to beat Lincoln), and look for more things in the future from those involved.
Zero Dark Thirty will be challenged by the controversy around it. Not because they don’t want to reward the politics of the movie (and it’s been argued against from more than one political point), but that the existence of the controversy may be elevating its profile. I thought it was a good movie, but may have held back on drama to be true to life. It’s a rare artistic vision that isn’t restricted by other concerns, but I felt that too much here. There were some good performances, certainly, and a consistent look and feel, but I felt the script held back on emotional depth.
Silver Linings Playbook is one on which I’m torn on level…should it be in this middle group, or is it a frontrunner? I think it will be seen as an acting movie, more than anything else. For me, although I thought Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant, it was somewhat uneven and even…cutesy, perhaps. That gave it an immediacy, and a roughness appropriate to real life, but that may hurt the perception of it as a “capital M” Motion Picture.
The top two…
Argo was one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. It was masterfully directed…even though Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated here. The acting was strong (I thought John Goodman deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and perhaps win, this year). It’s a historic movie, which is a plus…and has made a lot of money, which isn’t, typically. It won a Critics’ Choice, a Golden Globe (for Best Motion Picture-Drama), and a Screen Actors’ Guild award for cast. The one predictor* most people know in about the Oscars is that the Best Picture will also have Best Director nominated, although that doesn’t always happen. This would deserve to win…but does Affleck’s absence from the nominees hold people back from voting for it?
Lincoln is…well, what more do you want from a movie? 😉 It’s got social consciousness, history, scope, and an iconic acting performance at the heart of it. It has made, and is still making, a lot of money. It feels right for it to win Best Picture, but I wouldn’t count out Argo.
Those are some of my thoughts. I’ll make predictions in all of the categories later. I”m interested to hear what you think: feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
*For my humorous take on Oscar predictors, see
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.