Oscar Moment: Final 2012 Predictions, Part 5 (Best Picture)

9 01 2013

ONE DAY MORE to revolution (I mean, Oscar nominations).  Now it’s time to lock in my Best Picture predictions.  It was an extremely tough year to forecast.  So without further ado, here are the films I think will be called out by Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone early tomorrow morning.

See my predictions for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

See my predictions for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

See my predictions for Best Actor and Best Actress.

 See my predictions for Best Director.

Best Picture

  1. Lincoln
  2. Les Misérables
  3. Argo
  4. Zero Dark Thirty
  5. Silver Linings Playbook
  6. Life of Pi
  7. Django Unchained
  8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  9. The Master
  10. Moonrise Kingdom

Silver LiningsThe top five of “Lincoln,” “Les Misérables,” “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” are locked in.  There has been pretty consistent and unilateral support for these all season long (although some critics have savaged a certain musical I love).

I’d say given the critical beat-down of “Les Misérables” and the Senatorial inquisition into “Zero Dark Thirty,” Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” has risen back to the top of the pack.  “Argo” has also benefitted from being the least controversial, most agreeable movie in the bunch.  Find me someone that hated “Argo,” and I’ll find you a flying pig.

But who knows how the passion will play out?  Two years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me “The Social Network” was going to lose.  There is still time for a “Les Misérables” and “Silver Linings Playbook” surge.  If one takes a lot of Golden Globes and then the SAG Ensemble prize, it could pose a serious threat.

Argo FYC

Then again, there’s also time for “Lincoln” or “Argo” to build a consensus with wins from either the BFCA, HFPA, or SAG.  Wins from PGA and DGA in 2012 may be the biggest shaper of the odds; “Zero Dark Thirty” needs at least one of these guild trophies to prove it’s more than just a critical darling.  Hopefully it all gets split up for a fun year!

But beyond the guaranteed five, we are looking at a highly unpredictable field that could include any number of nominees.  I mean, literally, there could be no more nominees – or there could be five more thanks to the Academy’s new sliding scale.  Some are more likely to score nods than others, but there are a few longshots looking to make a few people gasp on nomination morning.  The system also rewards passion because a film needs 5% of the first-place votes to be nominated.  Hence, it pays off to be loved, not liked.

ZDT

Despite what I keep sensing as a lack of passion for “Life of Pi,” I think it will ultimately wind up with a Best Picture nomination.  I thought the flame had been extinguished for “War Horse” and “Moneyball” last year, but apparently 5% of the Academy voters thought they were the best movies of 2011.  So if they can do it, so can Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.”  All three movies were feted by BFCA and HFPA, so I’d say it’s a good bet – especially with Lee’s DGA nod.  (It’s also effects and craft heavy, so those smaller but no less important portions of the Academy may buoy it to a nomination.)

Life of Pi

Ditto “Django Unchained,” which I had initially written off for a Best Picture nomination.  Nothing felt right at first.  When it only received Critics Choice nods for Best Picture and Best Screenplay, something felt fishy.  Then when it was totally snubbed at the SAG Awards, I thought it was dead.  (Most shrug this off as due to the fact that it wasn’t widely screened for their nominating committee.)

Yet even when the Golden Globes rescued it with 5 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director, I still didn’t buy into “Django Unchained” striking it big with the Academy.  Every year, the Globes give an absurd amount of nominations to a movie that shows up in only a minor way at the Oscars.  In 2011, it was “The Ides of March.”  (In the past, examples have been “Revolutionary Road” and “American Gangster.”)

But now, with “Django Unchained” being quite the box office hit and the discussion topic of choice at the hypothetical critical water-cooler, I think it’s probably going to be a nominee.  Surely more than 5% of the Academy voted for “Inglourious Basterds” for Best Picture in 2009.  I expect that same contingent to come out and vote #1 for “Django Unchained” since most (but not I) consider it to be superior.

Skyfall

So … where do we go beyond these seven nominees?

Do they go for more bang and blockbuster with “Skyfall?”  Crowd-pleasing comedy with “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?”  Indie comedy with “Moonrise Kingdom?”  Indie drama with “Beasts of the Southern Wild?”  Foreign drama with “Amour?”  Polarizing drama with “The Master?”  I’d say these six films are the most likely to grab any of the three remaining spots in the Best Picture category.

“Skyfall” provides perhaps the most interesting case.  Had you told me a few months ago I’d be writing about it as a Best Picture contender, I wouldn’t have believed it.  Yet here we are, and the film has grossed over $1 billion globally, racking up series-best praise in the process.  The Academy recently announced, too, that they were planning a James Bond tribute at the ceremony.  Might that be indicative of Oscar love to come?

At first, I warmed up to it being nominated for some technical nods.  Then, I started to wonder if Dench and Bardem weren’t real threats for Oscar nominations thanks to notes from BFCA and SAG.

Now with “Skyfall” making the PGA top 10 list, I’m left to wonder whether it wouldn’t be a smart prediction to land a Best Picture nomination.  The PGA did get the ball rolling for “District 9” in 2009, but they gave us false hope on “Star Trek.”  Whichever mold “Skyfall” is cut from is anyone’s guess.  If it makes the cut for Best Picture, it could easily have a whopping ten nominations!  Although if it doesn’t get the big one, it could become one of the most nominated movies ever to not be nominated for Best Picture.

MoonriseThe PGA also showed some love for “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” two summer successes that many thought might have some hidden pockets of support.  But will they choose both, one, or neither?

“Moonrise Kingdom” has been the more visible of the two throughout the season, kicking off the precursor season with a Best Picture win at the Gotham Awards.  It then dominated the Indie Spirits nominations, where it could triumph over “Silver Linings Playbook” the night before the Oscars.  Topped off with a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture (musical/comedy), the case looks good.  But I wonder if there are enough people who think it is the best movie of 2012, not one of the best.

Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” on the other hand, seems to drive more passionate support.  But will it be enough for a Best Picture nomination?  The critics groups did not speak up loudly enough for it (only 2 wins and they were for long-shot Best Supporting Actor candidate Dwight Henry).  It was blanked at the Golden Globes where young Quvenzhané Wallis should have at least gotten a novelty nomination.

Amour

Part of the trouble with predicting “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is its ineligibility with the SAG.  We have no idea whether the actors love this movie, and they are one of the most crucial voting blocs.  It’s hard to tell where the support for the movie exists, if it even does.  I’m hoping that the PGA nod is telling of invisible passion for the movie.  “Moonrise Kingdom” is assured a Best Original Screenplay nomination, and I think that may be its limit.

Some have floated “Amour” as a possible nominee based on how well its done with the critics groups.  Indeed, I like the idea of a foreign film making the cut because that’s the kind of movie the expanded field is supposed to allow.  But I don’t think this will be that first movie (of the new Best Picture era, that is) – it’s too austere and cold.

Perhaps it pops up in various other major categories like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” did last year, but that too faltered because people admire it more than they love it.  And if Haneke can’t win Best Foreign Language Film for the critically praised “The White Ribbon,” I don’t think he’s going to cut it in competition with some real heavyweights.

I’m surprised people think there’s more of a chance for “Amour” to be a Best Picture nominee than “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”  What part of the equation doesn’t SCREAM Oscars?  The old cast of prior Oscar nominees and winners plays right into Academy demographics.  It played extremely well with audiences over the summer and managed to stick around in people’s minds.  It got two Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture (musical/comedy) as well as two SAG nods including the coveted Best Ensemble.  If any movie is poised to pull a shocker like “The Blind Side,” this could be it.

But I’m putting my chips on there being nine films in contention, and that final nominee is “The Master.”  I know it is by no means a smart pick.  Other than the Critics Choice nod for Best Picture, it’s been pretty silent for the season.  It has little guild support.  The critics remain fairly divided.  But I think that this film could galvanize the Academy, and the people that like it will love it and vote #1.  The voters who appreciate it probably know it’s in peril.

So mark it down, I’m going out on a limb for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” hoping I’ve just predicted this season’s “The Tree of Life.”  If not, it just goes in the pile of other failed Best Picture predictions including “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Town,” “Crazy Heart,” and “Invictus.”  But no guts, no glory, right?

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Oscars 2011: Why it should be “Midnight in Paris”

25 02 2012

When I first saw Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” back in June 2011, I knew it would be one of my favorite movies of the year. Sure enough, it was, charting at #3 on my Best of 2011 list. But I had my fingers crossed all year that it would have what it takes to make the Academy’s list for Best Picture.

I got a little worried over the summer when the rule change in Best Picture to allow for a fluid field of five to ten nominees put extra stock in first place votes. I feared that everyone liked the movie but not enough people loved it. Allen has plenty of respect in the Academy – I mean, he’s only been nominated 23 times – and everyone loves it when an old pal returns to form.

But once awards season got rolling, all my doubts were put to rest. It had a relatively easy cruise to a Best Picture nomination after picking up just about every precursor mention necessary to stay firmly planted in the conversation. It was nominated for the top prize at the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes as well as picking up a mention as one of the year’s ten best from the American Film Institute. It did exceptionally well on the guild circuit, notching mentions from the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild, and the Writers Guild (where it picked up a much deserved win!). I don’t think anyone would deny that in a traditional year of five Best Picture nominees, “Midnight in Paris” would easily have been included.

With the ceremony just days away, everyone knows it’s “The Artist” for Best Picture – just like it has been since the season got kicked off, arguably since Cannes back in May 2011.  Thankfully, a concept I like to call Oscar Socialism will kick in and give “Midnight in Paris” a win. My bet is that it comes for Best Original Screenplay since the writers love Woody Allen and its stiffest competition comes from a film with very little scripted dialogue. He hasn’t won here since 1986 with “Hannah and Her Sisters,” Allen’s highest grossing movie until “Midnight in Paris” surpassed it.

But let’s zoom back for a little bit and examine the movie irrespective of awards season politics. That’s what Woody Allen would want. Why else would he not attend any ceremonies to pick up his well-deserved trophies?

“Midnight in Paris” opens to the music of Sidney Bechet with a three-minute prologue featuring nothing but exterior shots of Paris. And if you aren’t resolved to visit by the time the opening credits roll, I don’t know what will ever make you want to go to Paris. Allen says the sequence is designed “to put people in the mood of Paris.”

The movie itself addresses the theme of nostalgia, and its warning to resist its deceiving allure resonates strongly and truthfully in a Best Picture race that includes “The Artist,” “Hugo,” and “War Horse,” all cinematic paeans to bygone times and styles. Early on in the film, a character states that “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.” Throughout the film, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) must confront the validity of this assertion as he experiences the joys and the struggles of living in a different era, the 1920s Lost Generation of expatriate artists in Paris.

In a December piece in The Los Angeles Times, Allen reflects on why his latest film seems to have struck such a cord: “”People don’t want to be where they are at the moment. All of us at the moment are in a bad time, because reality is a tough place to be in. Gaugin thinks if he lived in Tahiti, or I think if I moved to Martha’s Vineyard or Paris, would I be happier? That is the constant fantasy, but you’re the person with problems, and they get transferred to the new locale. You can’t shake it.”

For me, movies like “Midnight in Paris” are the perfect companion to deal with the painful present. It’s a movie that doesn’t ignore the problems of the modern age but doesn’t dwell on them as insurmountable. That’s why it’s in the race – and that’s why I believe it deserves to win.





Random Factoid #231

16 03 2010

The first time I had ever seen the Best Picture-winning movie on the day of the ceremony was in 2004. I had seen “Million Dollar Baby” a week or so before the show. A trend didn’t catch on until 2007; since that year, I have seen the winning movie by the Oscars ceremony.





Random Factoid #190

3 02 2010

Yesterday afternoon, I had an exciting revelation.

For the first time in my life, I had seen every single Best Picture nominee on the day that the nominations were announced!  I can now speak without reservations about personal taste on the category!





Random Factoid #189

2 02 2010

The history of Marshall hearing about the Oscar nominations, part 1:

In the year 2009…
I watched from my kitchen in utter shock as “The Dark Knight” failed to net nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Director, and, most importantly, Picture. I drove to school completely stunned and pissed, and I read the rest of the nominations there.

In the year 2008…
Crap. I can’t remember. Mainly because I had practically no stake in the awards. I had only seen “No Country for Old Men” and “Michael Clayton,” which I was sure would miss.

In the year 2007…
I had an orthodontist appointment in the morning, and I fretted that I wouldn’t be able to hear them live. I found them on Fox News’ XM Radio station and was infuriated when “Dreamgirls” didn’t get a Best Picture nomination. (And I realize this will probably open the floodgates for plenty of “Dreamgirls” hate comments. Bring it on. I’d be happy to receive your comment.)

I remember stories for several more years, but you’re going to have to wait…until NEXT YEAR to hear them.  Check back for the exciting sequel in 2011!

UPDATED 1/25/2011: Read part 2 HERE!





Random Factoid #70

6 10 2009

I can name every Best Picture winner back to 1970 by memory on a good day.  The most common winners I drop are “The Last Emperor,” “Platoon,” and “The Sting.”

In middle school, a speaker asked my assembly if anyone knew the last five movies to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Of course I was the only one to raise my hand.





FEATURE: Define “Best Picture”

14 09 2009

For those of you not familiar with the movie industry, several high-profile film festivals (Toronto, Telluride, Venice) have occurred over the past week, inciting much talk about the upcoming onslaught of movies that will be highly considered for Academy Awards.  For those who read the factoids, it is hardly a secret that this season also brings a rush of euphoria for me.  I will keep you posted with trailers and buzz, and I will also soon be posting early predictions for nominees.  But as kind of a warm-up for what is to come, I wanted to give my answer to the question an age-old question: how do you define “Best Picture”?  What you will read below is an English paper that I wrote last year for a compare and contrast essay, mainly what critics think and what audiences think about the best movie of the year.

One Sunday in February or March every year, all the focus of popular culture turns to the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California, for the Academy Awards.  The glitz and glamour dominates the red carpet, yet the two most important people glide down the red carpet almost inconspicuously. Cameras do not flash in their face; people do not ogle at their outfits or speculate about whether or not they will end up in the tabloids; Ryan Seacrest from E! might interview them just for kicks.  Although just accountants, these two people hold a briefcase filled with twenty-four envelopes that will change the lives of many people.  Millions of moviegoers across the world watch the ceremony to find out the names inside the envelopes, but they stay tuned in to hear the presenter call out a movie, not a name.  They want to see what over 5,810 people working in the movie industry voted as the Best Picture.  However, for many moviegoers across America, their opinions do not match the Academy’s. Many of them have never heard of some of the nominated movies; some of the movies might not have played in their town.  With each passing year, a divide between what the general public perceives as Best Picture and what the Academy chooses as its Best Picture has grown wider and wider.

The Academy gave two awards for motion pictures at the first ceremony: one for “Outstanding Picture” and “Unique and Artistic Picture.”  At the next awards ceremony, they merged the two awards into “Best Picture,” claiming that the two categories were similar enough that they only merited one award.  And still to this day, the Academy Award for Best Picture represents the ultimate prize for any movie.  But are the members of the Academy voting for a movie that is outstanding or one that is unique and artistic?  Any movie can be outstanding, yet few merit the term “unique and artistic.”  It appears that they choose to award the outstanding because such an adjective is so opinionated that it can easily be swayed by many factors.

Recently, the process of selecting a Best Picture in recent years has become less subjective and more political.  The most well known case occurred in 2005 when “Crash” won Best Picture over “Brokeback Mountain,” the latter of which had won almost every award possible.  Because the movie focused on the lives of two closeted homosexual men, most people attributed its loss to homophobia.

The voters are often hand out Best Picture to a director that they like.  Handing out Best Picture along with Best Director has become all but standard practice: 59 of the 81 Best Picture winners also won Best Director. Many people assume that 2006’s Best Picture winner, “The Departed,” won only because they felt obliged to give an award to Martin Scorsese, then the perennial Oscar bridesmaid.

The Oscar voters also like to play it safe, rarely awarding controversial or provocative films.  In 1993, they awarded Best Picture to “Schindler’s List,” a film about the Holocaust.  Although many acclaimed movies were produced about the subject in the 50 years since the horrific genocide, “Schindler’s List” marked the first nomination for Best Picture for a film about the Holocaust.  The Academy generally receives movies set in the past more favorably than movies set in the present or future.  In 2008, “Slumdog Millionaire” was the only movie set in the present day.

The voters are notorious for selecting similar types of movies, which have become known as “Oscar Bait.”  To qualify as “Oscar Bait,” a movie needs an acclaimed director, a respected cast, and a subject matter that appeals to the Academy.  The Holocaust, elaborate period pieces, and biographies have become recent favorites.

It is difficult to gauge what the general public perceives as the Best Picture of the year.  Are box office grosses telling of the Best Picture?  Clearly not, otherwise Best Picture winners from this decade would include such classics as “Spider-Man 3,” “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Usually the highest grossing movie of the year involves an adaptation of a comic book or another popular book series; often times sequels top the list.   These movies are made to pack audiences into the multiplexes.  The People’s Choice Awards cannot truthfully depict the public’s perception because they pick the same kind of movies that dominate the box office.

Perhaps the most accurate indicator of the moviegoer’s Best Picture is the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) poll.   On this website, hundreds of thousands of moviegoers rate movies on a scale of one to ten stars.  IMDb uses a weighted average to get a rating of the movie, and they maintain a chart of the 250 best-rated movies.  The ratings give a fairly accurate representation of how the public feels about a movie; however, the system has a few flaws.  When a movie initially hits theaters, people flood the site and rate the movie very highly.  After some time, people revisit their ratings and lower them, and the average drops.   Readers often give movies with controversial subject matter one star to drop their average.  “Milk,” a 2008 Best Picture nominee about the first openly homosexual man to hold public office in the United States, was in the IMDb’s 250 highest rated films before it received the nomination.  But once the nomination highlighted the theme of the movie, homophobic voters rushed to IMDb to rate it one star.  Now, “Milk” has received 1,146 ratings of one star; unforgettable films like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Fool’s Gold” have less one star ratings.  With no completely legitimate means of discovering what movie audiences across America think is the Best Picture, maybe the Academy voters discount the opinion of the average moviegoer in general.

So why can’t the mainstream moviegoer and the Academy voter find harmony in a pick for Best Picture?  Perhaps the Academy has forgotten what Best Picture really means.  David Carr of The New York Times said, “It should be the kind of movie that is so good that it brings both civilians and the critical vanguard together.”  Ideally, a mixture of box office success and critical praise would result in a Best Picture win (or at the very least a nomination).  But if the Academy believed in such a formula, “The Dark Knight,” the film with the highest critical praise and box office gross, would have won Best Picture in 2008.  And while that year’s Best Picture winner, “Slumdog Millionaire,” was a box office sensation, the film relied on the awards season to fuel its box office.  According to Boxofficemojo.com, over 65% of its gross was accumulated after it received the nomination for Best Picture.

The average moviegoers of America have a way to show the Academy how they feel about the Best Picture choices.  Ratings of the Academy Awards telecast have shown how pleased America is with the likely winner.  When “Titanic,” the highest grossing movie in history, won Best Picture in 1997, over 57 million people watched the show.  The highest ratings that the show has received came from when the Best Picture winners were box office successes, such as “The Lord of the Rings.”  But when the Best Picture went to low-budgeted, little seen independent films like “Crash” and “No Country for Old Men,” the ratings fell to all-time lows.

Every individual looks for something different in a Best Picture.  Some are looking for a movie with cultural resonance.   Some are looking for the movie that can make them laugh until they cry.  Some are looking for a movie that makes a unique, artistic statement.  Some are looking for a movie with most exhilarating car chase.  Although the process of choosing a Best Picture winner is subjective, maybe a day will come when a movie will find us that can satisfy all that we are looking for, both for Academy voters and normal moviegoers alike.

What do you think?  Is it possible to have a movie that can unite the critical vanguard and the audience at the megaplex?  How do you define Best Picture?  How many questions do I have to pose before you comment?!?

Until the next reel,
Marshall