Well, the Academy has spoken, and there were some interesting choices and exclusions.
First, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” got 5 nominations, but only one in the “big 5” – the Best Actress nomination was a bit of a surprise considering the Picture, Director, Screenplay and other acting categories were overlooked…
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” will have a lot of people upset – considering the films that were overlooked…but as I said below, it is the kind of movie that played well to the Academy voters, and if it had a few big fans, that is what it takes to get nominated when there is a weighted system.
And 9 films got nods – including “The Tree Of Life”, which didn’t seem to have enough passion, but clearly enough gave it high marks to get it nominated…
For the first time since Pixar began releasing animated films, they were NOT nominated. “Cars 2” was always considered a creative disappointment…but surprising that “Tin Tin” was overlooked in animation
The Academy expanded the list of nominees from 5 to 10 for Best Picture two years ago, but this year they once again revised the rules. They created a weighted system of voting – kind of like a curve – that means we can have anywhere between 5-10 nominees, based on a “weighted” vote. So, if a few people vote you the #1 film of the year, that means more to your chances than a lot of people voting you #5. Complicated? Sure is, but just know that because of this, most experts believe we can expect 7-8 best picture nominees this year – and we got 9…here were my guesses and what actually happened.
“The Descendents” – for much of the fall, this WAS the early favorite. It’s directed by Alexander Payne, who made “Election”, “About Schmidt” and “Sideways”. Add George Clooney, who will be nominated this year for Best Actor, and you have the type of “Oscar-cred-beloved Actor-terrific reviews” perfect storm that has worked in the past for “Kramer Vs. Kramer” and “Ordinary People.” However, as more films emerged over the holidays, the heat is somewhat off of this film, which is now trending a bit like “Up In The Air,” last year’s early favorite in all the same categories that faded as the votes were being tabulated. A nomination for Best Picture is guaranteed, the question is whether it can fight off the “little movie that could”, which is:
“The Artist” – you know, that black-and-white silent musical from France – just what Oscar ordered. Well, “The Artist” is sneaking up on everyone at exactly the right time – buzz builds in the industry, then explodes when the general public hears there is a magical gem of a film playing down the street. That has happened with “The Artist”, especially after the critics all weighed in, the Golden Globes names it “Best Musical/Comedy”, and the Producers Guild just awarded it Best Picture as well. It also has The Weinstein Company behind it….they took “The Kings Speech” to Oscar glory last year, and are experts at running oscar campaigns.
Has there been a little bit of backlash? Kim Novak took out a scathing ad two weeks ago in Variety accusing the movie’s Director of “raping” her because he used a bit of music in the movie from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”, which Novak starred in Then, just last week, a story appeared that audiences in Liverpool angrily demanded their money back when they discovered the film was silent…as you can see, Oscar campaigning is just like politics!
Still, all signs are now pointing to unstoppable momentum for “The Artist”…however, since there is no runaway frontrunner, and final ballots aren’t due until after the nominations are announced, the voting could get closer if these stories continue to pop up…
“War Horse” – Harvey Weinstein beat Steven Spielberg in 1998 when “Shakespeare In Love” shocked “Saving Private Ryan” for Best Picture. Steven Spielberg would now like to return the favor, and he has the film to could do it. He has made another film that the heartland will LOVE – and that passion usually carries over to the older Academy voter – this has it all: pedigree, heart, emotion, depth and a serious message, all presented by a filmmaker the Academy loves. And he has a horse. Seriously, a heartbreaking tale involving a heroic animal? Oscar will eat it up – at least in terms of nominations…
HOWEVER: if there is any movie that is losing lustre day by day, it is “War Horse.” If any movie fails to show us on the list, this could be the one…well, it turns out there was room on the list for this picture…
“Hugo” – America’s master filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, makes a love letter to movie making. An oscar nomination is a given, but will the “3d movie for kids” rap hurt it with older voters? Scorsese is beloved, the underlying theme of the movie is film preservation, and it is a technical marvel. But it’s 3D.
Still, for the purpose of honoring the best of the year, the Academy will show the love to Marty, and it turns out “Hugo” was the most nominated film of all….
“Midnight In Paris” – Woody Allen’s biggest hit ever, and a return to Oscar glory after a very checkered 20 years. Remember that Woody Allen won Best Picture for “Annie Hall” in 1977, and has countless nominations for Director and Screenplay since.
Also, the wind has been behind the back of this film lately. As the other likely nominees are considered, voters are apparently returning to the easy-going charm of this movie. A bit of an over-reaction in my opinion. Being a fan of Woody Allen, this is a somewhat slight film that isn’t very funny – and why did he need to turn Rachel McAdams into such an unpleasant person? Very off putting, and the ending is so, so, SO slight.
That said, I am clearly in the minority here, and Sony Classics has done a terrific job of keeping this movie in the minds of voters. This could be a shocking upset come Oscar night.
“The Help” – speaking of upsets…look out for “The Help”, which has emerged as this year’s “The Blind Side” – no, not a sports movie, but an emotionally-fulfilling film that speaks to a greater good. It is a movie of its time, resonating on the subject of race relations at the exact time that the country is struggling once again with the issue – thanks to the underlying racism that permeates the Republican primary campaign. This is the kind of film that surprises people when it gets nominated, but then they smile and thank the Academy for nominating a movie they loved. You can also expect multiple acting nominations as well – and since the acting branch has the most voting members in the Academy, that also helps the film get votes.
“Moneyball” – this year’s true “Blind Side”, an inspirational sports story that has very admired and pretty well liked. Not the type of film, in a year like this, that can win Best Picture, but now seems more likely to be nominated. And Brad Pitt will be a serious contender for Best Actor, along with a likely nomination for Jonah Hill, all of which helps the momentum for a Best Picture nomination.
“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” – this was considered a long shot….until it began to get nominations from virtually every single technical guild: the Directors Guild, Writers Guild, plus editing and cinematography…this is a very interesting trend – IF enough members really liked the movie, they could propel it into the larger pool of nominated pictures…
Well, it got the technical nominations but was shut out for Best Picture.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” – Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock take on 9/11 – it came out of the gate very late, and has absolutely NO buzz from critics…but it has Hanks and Bullock, it has the kind of story, told by the right people, that gets nominated, and reviews have been the kind that drive academy voters to the polls…unlikely, but you never know…
and now we know…this Best Picture nomination was the biggest surprise of the morning…
“J. Edgar” – the flip side, an Oscar nominee UNTIL people saw it. Just not resonating. Clint Eastwood has won best picture twice, but this has the feel of one that tried to hard and too seriously to be an award-worthy picture…and it won’t be. They are pouring a ton of money into the campaign, but nobody liked it very much, and that will end the campaign on nomination morning.
“The Tree Of Life” – Terence Malick makes another art house masterpiece. One of the single best reviewed movies of the year. Does that mean a BP nomination? 50/50 at this point, but no matter how many critic groups praise it, they don’t vote for the Oscar. Malick got an oscar nomination for “The Thin Red Line”, but this just isn’t generating Oscar buzz, instead it’s already generating stories about how it will be overlooked, stories that are meant to call the taste of the Academy into question, but usually just alienate the voters…which is never a good sign…
And they weren’t turned off at all….the nomination was another sign of how well respected Terence Malick is…
“Bridesmaids” – OK, the BIG UNKNOWN: will the Academy embrace the comedy that proved, once again, that women are overlooked for their comedic ability, and are, in fact, hilarious? Will a comedy get nominated? If “Midnight In Paris” gets a nomination, which it will, could that comedy squeeze out this one? Oscar is tough on comedies, but Universal has done a terrific job getting this movie noticed. And The Screen Actors Guild nominated the movie for “best ensemble” – which is how SAG chooses their best picture nominees.
So they got the screenplay nomination and the Best Supporting Actress nomination, but no Best Picture….
Here are the 9 films nominated this year for Best Picture:
Midnight In Paris
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Tree Of Life
Let the final race for Oscar glory begin!