Academy Awards 2012: Best Picture Analysis

daniel cohen looks at this year’s Best Picture noms …

It’s Oscar time! You know what that means? We get to talk about some of the best movies of the year! Yay, alright! That means I get to re-visit stuff like Drive, Warrior, X-Men: First Class, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Harry Potter … oh wait, those movies aren’t nominated. More than any other year, the glitzy summer blockbusters outshined the more Oscar friendly fare. Is anybody really pumped about the films nominated this year? Can you really look me straight in the eye and tell me War Horse is a better film than Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes … ridiculous.

But I’m not going to dwell on what films the Academy didn’t select, because we do that every year, so let’s not beat a dead horse. It is Oscar season — time to focus on the movies that were actually selected, and rate them relative to each other. We’ll be breaking this down into three categories: Doesn’t Deserve To Be Here, Kind Of Deserves To Be Here, and Deserves To Be Here. So get the DVR ready to record five hours, prep for the bad Billy Crystal jokes, and vote on Best Dressed at E! Online … it’s Oscar time, baby!

DOESN’T DESERVE TO BE HERE

The Tree Of Life

This one is easy: It’s not actually a movie. Yeah, for me to qualify something as a movie, it has to have some kind of cohesive story that progresses. I think this film has some pretty images, but that’s about it. The Tree Of Life should be playing in Art Museum lobbies, not movie theaters. Granted, it gets a little more organized in the middle when it begins to form an actual plot, but even then, it’s just some kid walking around pouting for 90 minutes. Yeah, I don’t like this film, and have nothing else to say. If it wins Best Picture, I will write an article every week until next year’s Oscar Ceremony complaining about why it won.

Hugo

If you follow me on this site frequently, you know how overrated I think this film is. When I first saw Hugo, I didn’t like it. But after I saw The Artist, I really hated it. Both films are essentially trying to do the same thing: Make you appreciate the old days of filmmaking. Hugo just tells you about it, but The Artist actually shows you why we should appreciate silent pictures. I could careless about silent movies, but after watching The Artist, it got me interested. But other than that, Hugo is muddled with flat characters, it cares more about its scenery then actual content, and the side plot with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is completely useless. I think the reason Drive and Warrior were ignored at the Oscars was because they needed the box office boost to garner more attention, and unfortunately, they didn’t get it. Hugo also failed at the box office, but because it’s Martin Scorsese, it got into the awards discussion. Look, I love Scorsese as much as the next guy, but he doesn’t deserve it for this movie. It’s maddening to me that he could win an Oscar for Hugo, but Raging Bull, The Aviator, Casino, and Goodfellas … not so much. Let that sink in …

War Horse

While I probably like this movie more than The Tree Of Life, I’m more accepting of that film getting nominated than this one. The reason why War Horse is the most undeserving of all the nominees is because it was made solely to get Oscars. This is so paint-by-numbers award pandering, I’m convinced Spielberg went into a studio, pushed a big button that said ‘Oscar Movie,’ and out came War Horse. War Horse is proof that some of these Academy members make up their minds on a movie before actually seeing it.

KIND OF DESERVES TO BE HERE

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

What’s weird about this one is that it has a 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. How did it garner a Best Picture nomination? This film has many elements that make it deserving of its nomination: gut-wrenching moments, top-notch acting, and a story that is easy to get emotionally invested in. I think it suffers a little bit of War Horse syndrome, though, in that it’s pandering to awards. While it’s not an Oscar film, it does have Oscar elements. But at the end of the day, I’m indifferent to its nomination either way.

Moneyball

 

This is a weird one for me, because I don’t like a lot of this movie for personal reasons. The ‘Moneyball’ system in Major League Base is not nearly as successful as they make it out to be in this film. And the drama of a team breaking a regular-season wins record just isn’t dramatic. I think Brad Pitt is awesome, and is absolutely deserving of his nomination, but that’s all this film really has going for it. Jonah Hill’s performance is so overrated. Wow, he’s really quiet and meek … whatever. I like the parallel of using flashbacks to tell Billy Beane’s story as a failed ballplayer, but at the end of the day, the subject matter just doesn’t make for a compelling film. Maybe David Fincher could have done it better.

The Help

The acting is through the roof, and getting emotionally invested in its premise is a lock, but at almost 150 minutes, it’s just too long. The film meanders, meanders, and meanders. It takes forever to build up the big moments. And while the payoff for these moments is justified, there are just too many subplots muddling up what really matters in this story. And while Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain are all deserving winners, the best performance wasn’t even nominated. How was Bryce Dallas Howard (Hilly Holbrook) not even in contention!? That to me was the performance of the movie.

DESERVES TO BE HERE

The Descendants

A solid, all-around dark family drama … perfect Oscar fare. I can’t find many weaknesses with The Descendants, although that Sid guy (Nick Krause) was a little much. He almost made it a goofy comedy at times. Other than annoying Sid, it’s a strong effort. I wish I could say this is a great film, but it relies too much on George Clooney and Shailene Woodley, who plays his daughter. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for an Oscar Best Picture winner, you need more compelling supporting characters.

Midnight In Paris

Speaking of movies with compelling supporting characters, there’s a plethora in Woody Allen’s superb Midnight In Paris. It’s rare when I walk into a movie knowing nothing about it, and I can’t think of a better film to go in with no prior knowledge than this one. It’s a mere solid comedy in the first 15 minutes, but when the mystical literary DeLorean comes to take Owen Wilson away, the film elevates itself to near greatness. Rachael McAdams, Alison Pill, Tom Hiddleston, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, they all bring their A-game. And special props to Owen Wilson, who plays an extremely likable protagonist. I think the gimmick runs a little thin towards the end, but let’s face it: This film charmed the shit out of all of us.

The Artist

 

Not since The Departed won in 2006 did I think a Best Picture winner has deserved the top prize, but this year’s winner will. The Artist is a lock, and I couldn’t be happier. Is it my favorite film of the year? No, but it’s a worthy choice. This film could have easily copped out with its gimmick, but the idea of making this a silent movie is used so brilliantly as a story device, I can’t help but love it. I really hope this movie gets the Oscar Best Picture bump, and more people go see it. In the age we live in, for this movie to have such an impact on people really says something. The direction by Michel Hazanavicius is flawless, and you can’t say enough good things about the performances of Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin, who deserves the Best Actor award over Clooney and Pitt. After all, he gave the second-best silent performance of the year, the first being Ryan Gosling in Drive. I knew I could get one more Drive reference in by the end of this article … success!

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

1 COMMENT

  1. I agree with almost everything in this article, except I thought – personally – that “Drive” was a pile of crap. Sorry, I know you guys really liked this movie, but I just couldn’t do it. Anyway, well-thought out piece. 🙂