If you actually think the Oscar race started right now, then you have missed much. If you believed that the battle for the Oscars began in late October, you should sit down and go follow the Emmys. If you thought…okay, I’ll ease up on the arrogance and cocky mentality, though I only start such behavior because it’s been a while. It feels good to come back. I love writing and I love films so blogging should be something else that I love right? Well, not necessarily, especially when there was a large black hole present, or what we call the months of August-October for movies. Downright darkness and nothingness. Why pay for a ticket when I can watch pre-season football? Why sit in a theater when I can read about Comparative Politics and the importance of nation-states? Why go look at a giant screen when I can watch The Newsroom on my iPad (though watching Will McAvoy rip apart the Republican Party is truly entertaining)? In any sense, I won’t complain anymore. The industry is the industry, and I shall accept whatever is passed my way, including the occasion fart of a movie.
But if you are an avid Oscar follower as I am, you’ll know that this is the time where things get really heated. I mean good ol’ fooling around and tense foreplay. This is where the action truly begins, and we got tastes of potential Best Pictures nominees and strong contenders fighting for that 8 inch gold (holding back…). Though many may believe I’ve boycotted films forever, this is not the case considering I’ve seen The Master and Looper in the past few weeks. Though I’m behind with Argo, End of Watch and such other fine films, I haven’t separated myself from the Oscar race just because I haven’t seen many Oscar movies. The Oscars is less about the film itself and more about the politics of it. Is it a feel good movie? Is it going to appeal to the Academy? Are there any homosexuals in it? These are all really important aspects to consider because that’s how the Oscar race is won. Not overall greatness or achievement. But appeal. Emotion. The great and fluffy word, FEELING. That is what the Oscars is all about. How do I feel after I watched this movie? The Academy has this annoying tendency to award their big awards to films that make them feel rewarded, joyful, tearful and mainly, fulfilled. When a film comes along with depression, intellect and artful frustration, the reaction is not, “well let me think about it and discuss it,”. No, it’s more like, “Really? WTF?!” Okay, I don’t know what the actual response is, but look at the numbers.
Best Picture (Past 17 Years)
2012 – The Artist
2011 – The King’s Speech
2010 – The Hurt Locker*
2009 – Slumdog Millionaire
2008 – No Country For Old Men*
2007 – The Departed*
2006 – Crash
2005 – Million Dollar Baby
2004 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2003 – Chicago
2002 – A Beautiful Mind
2001 – Gladiator
2000 – American Beauty*
1999 – Shakespeare in Love
1998 – Titanic
1997 – The English Patient
1996 – Forrest Gump
It’s very possible I may have lost a couple of readers through this list. But I want to point out some clear but disturbing patterns the Academy presents during Oscar night. Except for four films, each of those films have some strong positive and overcoming emotions attached to the final product. Either it’s the epic, the individual overcoming some sort of struggle, an undying love story or a musical (you can argue Titanic was all four). In almost each of those years, there was a critical darling that was almost the complete opposite in terms of emotional reaction and response. Pulp Fiction, Fargo, L.A. Confidential, Saving Private Ryan (BLASPHEMY!!!), The Sixth Sense, Traffic/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Brokeback Mountain and of course…The Social Network (I don’t want to talk about it…). These are films that don’t necessarily give you the warmth feeling inside. You don’t feel grand when John Travolta shoots a black guy in the face? Wait, you’re saying the accused drug dealer being acquitted of all his charges doesn’t want you to go cuddle with your loved one? Hold on, so secretly gay cowboys don’t make you all warm and fuzzy? I’m not criticizing any of these films that I listed that did not win Best Picture. In fact, these are some of my favorite films of all time. But the Academy has a personality trait (and it’s not douchiness), and they try their best to stick with that specific trait. They love their feelings. Yes, the Academy is like an oversensitive, super jealous girlfriend who seems to always want to hear you say, “I love you”.
Now the Oscars have broken away from those tendencies before a la the starred films. Especially those years between 2007-2010 ignoring Slumdog, we actually believed we saw a change in the Academy. The turning of the tide. The old to the new. Picking films not necessarily based off of emotion, but based off of quality and art. No Country?! The Departed?! THE HURT LOCKER?! Please let me know if you ever thought a film about a soldier addicted to war during the Iraqi campaign sounded like warm and fuzzies. As we, the crybabies of the Oscar race, thought we were seeing a change forever, then came the Social Network-The King’s Speech debacle. Everything led us to believe that this race was over. That the Social Network would sweep across the board and we would rightfully place the David Fincher classic up there on its highly placed pedestal. But then the Academy came in and squandered those dreams. The Social Network is not relevant, not important and not emotional enough to reward it with its highest honor. No and especially considering half of the Academy were personally friends with King George VI, the race was over once they found their respectable replacement. And then we look back and notice that The Hurt Locker, The Departed and No Country For Old Men weren’t rewarded for their quality and excellence in art, but mainly because…
A. We can’t award a bunch of fake aliens and CGI people
B. We screwed over Martin too many times… our bad
C. It was less depressing than There Will Be Blood and I don’t promote teenage pregnancy
When I write those reasons above, those are legitimate reasons. Think of who the Academy consists of. Over 6,000 members with majority being white males above their 50’s. You think a 50 year-old white guy is going to vote for Mark Zuckerberg? Think again.
Now why is this all relevant? Ahh, now you are becoming an Oscar enthusiast. This is all important because you now know how to pick the contenders from the pretenders. Sure, you would obviously think rewarding the most successful franchise in film history (Harry Potter) would make sense for a Best Picture nod…nope. Well of course the first comic book film to ever breed an artful and financially successful super hero movie would get nominated, right? Slap across the face. No, you need to know ahead of time who these people are and what films they’re going to be look for. Sure, we get those occasional wild cards (especially considering they’ve taken away the five film nomination structure), but in the end, the real contenders are those that the Academy will always stick out for, no matter how unsuccessful or negatively criticized (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close…I’m talking about you).
So by now, you’re wondering, wait, I swear this article was about the Oscar Race. And it is. But I want to give you some sort of preparation before you go into this process because if you don’t know what to expect and you have certain attachments, I’ll just let you know now, be ready to have your heart broken.
Best Picture Race (as of 10/23/12)
Am I the only person who misses the Ben Affleck of Gigli? It personally hurts when we lose certain punch lines, but how amazing has it been seeing Affleck’s career do a complete 180? Usually bad actors don’t turn into good directors. It just never happens. But Ben Affleck is quite the exhilarating figure (just look at Daredevil). For any writer-director to successfully produce one good movie should be wildly celebrated. But three in a row? That’s unprecedented. We’re talking about Tarantino and Nolan status (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and INCEPTION…not TDKR). Though I haven’t seen this film yet, from what I’ve heard from critics, bloggers and filmgoers alike, it’s got everything from humor, action, suspense and great acting. This is a combination that is a for sure player during Oscar season. If there’s one for sure thing you can bet on during the Oscars is the Director-Picture combo, and right now, Ben Affleck and Argo have earned the top spot.
2. Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell is loved by the Academy. Jennifer Lawerence has already been nominated? And then you include Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver and you have the prototypical Oscar bait film. Strong cast, strong director and crazy people. Yes, crazy people will always turn heads at the Academy. As we’ve learned from the darkened Robert Downey Jr., mentally-ill is a sure fire hit at the Oscars. Don’t believe me? Ask Sean Penn, Charlize Theron, Dustin Hoffman and Russell Crowe. Watching one actor transform into an individual unimaginable is something of an achievement. But two? And who else is hotter than Jennifer Lawrence right now? It’s a performance-based film that will guarantee a Best Picture nomination. Will it win? Probably not. But hey, nominations are good.
If there’s one individual you never bet against during the Oscars is Steven Spielberg. Unless he decides to do ridiculous films like the War of the Worlds, then he’s almost a guarantee nominee. If this list ranked films by highest potential of nominations then Lincoln would be number one. Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor and Actress, Editing, Costume, Art Design, Sound, Sound Editing… It will be the most nominated film of 2012. But does that make it a contender? No. Look at The Aviator and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It’s a film that many individuals have not seen, especially some key individuals with Oscar history credentials, but early responses have been mixed…just like War Horse. But still, War Horse received a Best Picture nomination. Do I think Lincoln will be better than War Horse? I do, but not by much. I think the film is going to rely too much on Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as our nation’s 16th President, and eventually, fall flat. Identity is key, and I’m not sure exactly what Lincoln is trying to be. Whatever the case, it still deserves the number three spot.
4. Life of Pi
Early reviews are raving about Ang Lee’s new majestic piece based on the novel. Coming of age story that revolves around a completely different culture and add in a relationship with an animal, what else does it have to do? Time and The Hollywood Reporter gave it scores of 100 on metacritic and so far is averaging an 88. Those numbers you cannot ignore. It has a long road to overcome and if it wants to be taken seriously, it needs to pick up some steam in the next coming weeks as Lincoln, Silver Linings and Argo are all heading upwards. But you can safely mark this film as a Best Picture nominee.
5. The Master
Paul Thomas Anderson is a genius. Plain and simple. But sometimes genius doesn’t equate to Oscar nominations. PTA films have always pushed the boundaries and pushed Academy members. Only until There Will Be Blood has PTA been rewarded for his art. The Master will most likely be another film that he will be rewarded, but only through nominations. The film will unlikely win any award except maybe acting and screenplay (if it does that you can call that a successful night). This film is purely driven on the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. These two light up the screen, and though members might be turned off by it’s weirdness or religious themes, you cannot deny the shear perfectness of the chemistry and artwork these two actors display on screen.
Other Possible Contenders and Strong Pretenders
Les Miserables – Contender
This is the one film that can steal everyone’s thunder. With a late release (Christmas), once the first raves hit, it can blow through the competition with its strong combination of musical, epic, time period and cast. Don’t forget an award-winning director in Tom Hooper. No one has seen it and to put it in the top five would be silly, but I will put this as a possible contender only because it has the makings of a potential winner. We must wait and see.
Zero Dark Thirty – Pretender
For some reason, I have a feeling this isn’t going to pan out like The Hurt Locker did for Kathyrn Bigelow. Nonetheless, you can’t ignore it. I honestly feel that the Academy is sick and tired of Iraq films, but if this is strong and qualified, you could potentially see a BP nomination… but I’m not buying it.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Contender
It’s all about if the Academy will go out of their way to watch this film. DVD screeners will play a key role in the fate of this small indie hit, and my gut feeling tells me it will sneak in. No way will it be rewarded, but it has the makings of a BP nomination. Small budget, came out of nowhere, first time actors and director. Though it most likely not win one single award, it will be an honor for all those involved just to be invited.
Flight – Pretender
Critically successful, but not enough steam to be taken seriously. There are too many films right now congested in this tight race, and I think Flight is coming in at a bad time. It’s barely been given any recognition or attention considering major players are coming out now. It may be a great performance from Denzel Washington, and that’s where the Oscars reward the film, through a Best Actor nomination. But it won’t get anything more than that, and though it’s getting rave reviews, the rave is specifically focused on Washington, not the overall film. Good luck next time.
Moonrise Kingdom – Contender
By far Wes Anderson’s best film, he will be rewarded just for that sake. His films always come with is personality, and his personality doesn’t necessarily correlate with the Academy, but he put a lot of heart and soul into this film by centering it around children. There’s a certain charm to this movie and it’s such a work of art that you cannot ignore it. It’s small, but it’s not too small for the Academy to ignore. Most likely many have already seen it and have placed a reminder to vote for it come January. Anderson should expect his little film to come out with some nominations including Best Picture.
The Hobbit & Django Unchained – Unknown
No reviews, no footage, no prediction yet. Two highly famous and acclaimed directors with excitement building for both films, it wouldn’t surprise me if they received plenty of nominations including Picture. But right now it’s a crowded race and I don’t know if there’s enough room to sneak in. If anything, The Hobbit has the best chance of the two, but you know how the Academy feels about fantasy films… oh wait.
Looper & The Dark Knight Rises – I WISH I WISH I WISH…Heart broken
I loved Looper. It’s right now my favorite film of 2012. And though many of you know my utter disappointment for The Dark Knight Rises, I still think the series was a huge achievement, and honestly, the way the Academy treats Christopher Nolan, I would want him to receive a Director nomination if he directed Wild Things 2 (Fact check: There’s already Wild Things 2 & 3…). If the Oscars found some way to nominate the film, I wouldn’t look at it as their overall feelings of the film, but the Academy paying their debts. The franchise will go down as one of the greatest, and it deserves some recognition (so did Harry Potter though). Looper was so good but came out of nowhere that it has almost no shot for a Best Picture nomination. You can’t do that with the Oscars. You can’t come out of nowhere and be that good and get nominated (unless it’s about black people… then you can. The Blind Side). I’m crossing my fingers for a Screenplay nomination.
The list will constantly be changing and it’s important to keep up with the updates. But remember folks, keep in mind the Academy norms. They don’t care about what you and your friends think. And in the end, who does? The Oscars is an opinion, not truth. Whoever wins doesn’t dictate the best film, rather the favorite film of 6,000 individuals. At the end of the day, it has the same value as an MTV Movie Award: it’s just some fake gold statue.