Spree picks the Best Picture Oscar
Best Picture: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
I imagine there will be much talk here of the merits of each nominated film, what their chances are, etc. I'm going to cut through that. I predict Silver Linings Playbook wins Best Picture, and I say that with confidence.
Does it deserve to? Well ... Who knows? It's my favorite among the nominated films, but the question of what "deserves" it is rather absurd. Let us not forget Crash once won Best Picture—there is no deserve.
I truly believe SLP is the most enjoyable and crowd-pleasing of this crop. It plays well at home. It isn't overly weighty. It's well-acted, and sharply written. It's this year's Shakespeare in Love.
In fact, I'm not even sure Lincoln is the obvious pick. I think that, friends, is Argo.
We've got ourselves a race!
Did you ever notice how the movie that wins Best Picture is seldom a movie you go back to? Not always—there are plenty of hardcore Hobbit fans that will watch The Return of the King again and again. But has anyone ever gone back and watched Million Dollar Baby a second time? It seems to me that this probably has something to do with the sorts of movies that tend to win the Big Prize: downers. The last comedy to win Best Picture was Shakespeare in Love, in 1998. The last funny comedy to win was
The English Patient Annie Hall in 1977. Lots of years comedies aren’t even nominated. For me what this means is that the decision to expand the category from five to ten made good sense, even if it hasn’t meant more love for funny movies.
What this highly scientific survey tells us is that most of the time Serious and Important trumps pretty much everything else. There is an exception though, as I think we will see this year. First, the rundown:
Argo. This is a movie that I’m sure to return to. Excellent performances, exciting story. The reason it was nominated is because it makes filmmakers action heroes. Hollywood has no shame, of course, but compared to some of the others on this list it seems a bit small. Small can win, but it helps if the small film is an intimate film. Million Dollar Baby had that quality. Argo doesn’t. Silver Linings Playbook sort of does, but it is a comedy.
Amour on the other hand, is intimate. On the other hand, do you think the Academy is going to give its top prize to a foreign movie two years in a row? I don’t.
I suspect that nobody who saw Beasts of the Southern Wild was unmoved by it. Did anyone think it was the best movie they saw all year? Not me, and I really liked it. Life of Pi is too cerebral.
Django Unchained is too edgy, I think. Likewise Zero Dark Thirty. The Hurt Locker won because it was a repudiation of the Bush Administration (and because it was amazingly great, of course). ZD30 is tougher: it makes the (American) audience engage in an act of self-evaluation that is uncomfortable. That’s why it is an amazing movie, but that’s also why it will lose. Actually, I think both ZD30 and Django have this quality. I applaud anything that calls American Exceptionalism into question, and I think that a lot of critics do as well. That instinctive cynicism is why a lot of the people who think or write (or both) about movies think that Lincoln will win here. Lincoln is, in many ways, the opposite of Django and ZD30—a movie about how America is able to overcome its flaws, a movie that affirms the US. That’s why I liked it. Even so, I’m not so sure that our liberal self-doubt, as embodied by Zero Dark Thirty, has been sufficiently overcome to allow us to embrace Lincoln as the better angel it wants us to believe in.
What does that leave? Why, Les Misérables, of course! A star-filled musical based on a long-running Broadway hit based on a literary classic. Technically accomplished, a movie with a complicated production backstory—it has everything that The Academy loves. Remember when I said that Serious and Important trumps everything? The exception is musicals. The connection to legitimate theater is classy. So is being based on a book that people were assigned in high school. And you know what? When musicals are nominated, they have done pretty well historically. Even the recent outliers—Moulin Rouge! (meh) and Beauty and the Beast (cartoons don’t win)—prove my point. It is tough to beat a musical. So mark Les Miz in your office pool.
I think both of you could have it nailed. Really, I do. A feel-good comedy and a musical would be nobrainers for the Academy, especially based on historical facts.
To me, the only one of this bunch I didn't assign an 8/10 to in my review was Beasts of the Southern Wild. Zeitlin's gorgeous debut earned a 9. But even it wasn't in my Top Five of the year, so my tastes obviously matter very little.
Where Les Miz is concerned, I agree with the musical push to a point, but I'm not sure the incredibly draining/depressing tone helps it. This isn't a Chicago. The artifice of its creation is unparalleled and it definitely stirs the emotions, but I almost believe it only got nominated because of the musical card and a win is nowhere in sight.
Chris' choice of SLP holds a little more weight in my mind because it isn't an "Important" work. Well, maybe it is as far as putting mental illness on the big screen, I don't know. But there is something about a comedy winning that appeals to me. I'd love it, audiences would love it, and critics would hate it since so many hated the film.
Amour wins Best Foreign, the fact it's even in Best Picture is a crime to another film. If you're going to have a separate category like Foreign (or Animation) for that matter, there shouldn't be any double-dipping. If you're singling them out in the first place, than segregate them completely.
Bill is totally right about Pi being too cerebral and in that vein Beasts is way too small. ZD30 seems unliked by the Academy.
So that leaves Lincoln, Argo, and Django. To me these are the three. Lincoln has clout and numbers, Argo has audience appeal and Hollywood legend, and Django has Tarantino. Do I want any of them to win? No. My heart gives it to Beasts or SLP.
Unfortunately, my head says Lincoln, my yearning for the underdog says Argo, and my gut says Django. I don't get the crazy love for Django and never will understand how it made so many critics' Top Tens, but there it is. Actors seem to LOVE it, it was directed beautifully and yet garnered no nod for Quentin himself, and the Weinsteins—if Shakespeare in Love says anything—have pull.