Best Picture

Here it is: the Big Kahuna of the Oscar season. Bestowed upon the producers, the Best Picture award is easily the most memorable category of the Big Six. It often coincides with a Best Director win, but with almost twice the nominations than Best Director and some high-profile snubs, there’s always a chance for an upset.

Best Picture is also one of the most divisive categories out there. To target a specific talent or role, it’s easy to zero in on one element of a film. A medicore film can have fantastic, Oscar-worthy cinematography. A film that has no shot at comprehensive awards can offer a scene-stealing performance for a Best Supporting Actor or Actress win. But Best Picture? That’s as comprehensive as it gets.

Since the nominations have been made and all the complaints about why certain movies weren’t on the list (like the awards-forgotten Moonrise Kingdom) have been logged, it’s now time to focus on the nine films that made the cut.

While the statuette is handed to the producer of the film, it’s an honor that everyone involved in the production can enjoy. Such a picture will either become a minor all-but-forgotten footnote in Oscar history (like The Last Emperor or last year’s The Artist), or it will become a well-known winner of cinematic legend (like The Godfather or Titanic). It will also serve as great marketing copy for any future DVD or Blu-ray release from now until the end of time.

Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red

dashes

Amour

pic_amour

Why It Was Nominated

Each Oscar season shows some dark horse candidates. Along with Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour is this year’s. It was a darling of independent cinema and a focus of the festival circuit. It also shows the gravitas and popularity of sometimes rogue Austrian director Michael Haneke, and it’s far more accessible than his original/remake one-two punch of Funny Games. The voting members of the Academy also get some credibility for nominating a foreign film this year.

Why It Might Win

The members of the Academy are known for many things, and being old is one of them. Amour shows the rough patches at the end of a very loving relationship. It’s not a neat film, and as subdued as it is, it shows the complicated, ugly side of love. Not only will most of these ancient Academy voters be facing end-of-life challenges like this, it’s also a touching film.

Why It Might Not Win

Let’s face it: foreign films only do well in the Foreign Film category of the Oscars. There, Amour is a lock, but for the general Best Picture category, it’s got an uphill battle. The film is 2 1/2 hours long with subtitles, which tends to cut down the likelihood of viewing from voting members, even if it is a critical darling. Additionally, while it won the Palme d’Or and has been nominated all over the place, most of the wins have been for Foreign Language Film or in smaller organizations.

dashes

Argo

pic_argo

Why It Was Nominated

Why? Because it’s a great freaking movie. Argo is a perfect storm in award-film movie-making. It’s immensely popular. It’s got a young, hot director who has proved twice before that he has the chops for the job. It made bank at the box office. Most of all, though, it strokes Hollywood’s ego by showing how historically significant movies can be. (Remember how The Artist gobbled up awards last year for the very same thing?) Argo plays as an international thriller at times and as an overt comedy at others. It’s relevant to what’s going on today, sometimes painfully so in light of the recent Benghazi attack. And it has a happy ending. What more could the Academy want?

Why It Might Win

All the indicators are pointing to an Argo win, and it’s got momentum on its side. While Lincoln was the clear frontrunner a month ago, Argo has broken ahead of the pack. The strongest indicator for an Oscar win for this film is the numerous major awards it has won over the past few weeks, including the Golden Globe, the Critics Choice Award and most recently the Producer’s Guild. Plus, all the betting sites are giving it the best odds by a mile going into Oscar week.

Why It Might Not Win

With Lincoln as its biggest competition, Argo has one thorn in its paw: the lack of a Best Director nomination for Affleck. Some might say this is because he’s just too young and not respected by the Academy, but history still shows that it’s less likely to split the Best Picture / Best Director win.

dashes

Beasts of the Southern Wild

pic_beasts

Why It Was Nominated

It’s a breakout picture for the filmmakers, and it also gave us one of the most impressive performances by Quvenzhané Wallis. It’s an enigma of filmmaking, which gives the movie its allure. Beautifully shot and performed with innovation, it’s a discussion-generating film. Even those who don’t like it (evidenced by the sometimes caustic detracting reviews out there) can nod and understand why it captured the attention of others.

Why It Might Win

This is even more of a dark horse than Amour, with the independent and unknown filmmakers trump the foreign language presentation. It’s also got Fox Searchlight’s respect behind it, which is still worth something after Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar a couple years ago.

Why It Might Not Win

Beasts of the Southern Wild has the longest odds of any film on this list, and there are a lot of reasons for this. The Academy is often reluctant to give awards to movies by unproved directors. On the rare occasion that it does, the film usually has a noisy cheerleader (read: Harvey Weinstein) behind it. Beasts of the Southern Wild has neither of these. While the film has won quite a few awards, most of the Best Picture wins come from smaller organizations, with many of the wins focusing on Quvenzhané Wallis’ performance or other notable breakthrough impression.

dashes

Django Unchained

pic_django

Why It Was Nominated

Ever since he made a splash with Pulp Fiction in the 90s, Quentin Tarantino has been a good candidate for at least a few Oscar nominations (when he manages to actually make a film, that is). His last movie, Inglourious Basterds, was beloved by audiences and the Academy. This movie was primed for Oscar not just for Tarartino’s involvement, but also because of its Christmas Day release date and box office power. It also touches on Hollywood’s ego by paying homage to filmmaking, though in a less noticeable way than Argo. A nomination for Django Unchained allows the Academy voters to acknowledge appreciation of genre flicks from spaghetti westerns and blaxsploitation, which would have never had a shot at even getting nominated in their original heyday.

Why It Might Win

Aside from Django Unchained being a quality flick, it’s got a lot of credibility behind it. Christoph Waltz plays a version of his Oscar-winning character from Inglourious Basterds. It stars former Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx. It’s a kick-ass western, and it has a strong anti-slavery message to it, all of those boding well for Academy voters.

Why It Might Not Win

But… there’s that little problem with the language, specifically the n-word. And the violence. And the clunky middle that splits the film into two separate ones. Violence in film doesn’t negate a film’s chances from winning, nor does being a genre picture. After all, neither of those things stopped The Silence of the Lambs or Unforgiven from winning. However, too much of a good thing can soften a film’s chances. Some speculate the violence and unsavory content crushed the chances of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from last year’s race, and the cartoonish nature of the violence in Django Unchained is tough to overcome.

dashes

Les Misérables

pic_lesmis

Why It Was Nominated

It’s a musical (that isn’t Rock of Ages). It’s based on one of the most revered Broadway productions in recent history. It had a big Christmas Day launch. It was directed by the guy who won the Oscar two years ago. Also (and possibly more important than many would like to admit), Universal had a huge swag push with the film, sending out everything from coffee table books to iPods. That’s a lot of noise to help remind Academy members to nominate the film.

Why It Might Win

As long as your musical doesn’t star Tom Cruise or John Travolta, it has a good shot at getting some awards. Les Misérables is also helped by the fact that it’s not a modern jukebox musical but rather a beloved traditional production. It also has the feeling of a historical epic, which traditionally has done well with Academy voters. Fans of musicals like this movie, and the Academy does as well.

Why It Might Not Win

All other things being equal, this was not the strongest musical adaptation we’ve seen come out of Hollywood. Tom Hooper may be an Oscar-winning director, but he’s not really known as an Oscar-winning director. Unlike Steven Spielberg, whose name lends credibility and notoriety to any film, Hooper is secondary to the name of Les Misérables and the performances therein. Aside from being a musical, the other elements (e.g., historical epic, Oscar-nominated performances, etc.) are shared with other films in the running. Finally, when you strip away the acting and production awards, this movie has far, far more nominations than wins.

dashes

Life of Pi

pic_pi

Why It Was Nominated

Upon its release, Life of Pi seemed like the kind of film that was destined to be nominated for awards. It looks beautiful. It is well acted. It features human struggle and the triumph of the spirit. It has the backing of an award-winning director. The film itself stands out from many of the other nominees (specifically Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, Les Misérables, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Argo) in that it pops visually. It’s hard to forget.

Why It Might Win

The biggest advantage Life of Pi has is how it stands out from the rest of the pack, giving it some recognition and notoriety. If anything, it’s different than all the other nominees. And it has a tiger in it. Who doesn’t love tigers?

Why It Might Not Win

While Life of Pi has chewed up some wins this award season, most of these have been on the technical side, either cinematography or visual effects. As a comprehensive film, it hasn’t received the love that other movies have. Sorry, Richard Parker.

dashes

Lincoln

pic_lincoln

Why It Was Nominated

Going into award season, Lincoln seemed at the heart of a perfect storm. It’s a historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg, which was the recipe for two Oscars in the 1990s. It also leads the pack with the most nominations, which often is an indicator that it will win Best Picture. For every nomination and vote that War Horse got last year, Lincoln matched it this year with more decisiveness. Where War Horse seemed to be a legacy nomination for Spielberg, Lincoln was a resounding cheer.

Why It Might Win

If you had asked me a month ago, I would have given Lincoln the unquestionable lead in the Oscar race. It’s a fantastic film with historical significance. It handles the issue of slavery with more relevance than Django Unchained did. It also put politics in a relatable context in the middle of a bitter election year. Spielberg is due another Oscar, and the Academy wants to give another Best Picture to him as well, considering what happened when Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare in Love the last time this was in the cards. (Yeah, I’m ignoring the War Horse contingency from last year here, but as much as I liked that movie, it was never gonna win an Oscar.)

Finally, while many adults remember the Iranian hostage crisis portrayed in Argo, many of the older Academy voters remember when Lincoln was trying to push through the Thirteenth Amendment. (Sorry… couldn’t resist the obligatory old age joke for Oscar voters.)

Why It Might Not Win

The only thing that will stop Lincoln from winning is the momentum of Argo, and in spite of no director nom for Ben Affleck, that’s a very likely outcome.

dashes

Silver Linings Playbook

pic_silverlinings

Why It Was Nominated

Each year, the Weinsteins get behind one movie and make a huge push for award season. Two years ago, it was The King’s Speech, and the following year it was The Artist. Both times, they demanded these films win Oscars, and they did. This year, Harvey for the most part ignored his other Oscar contenders Django Unchained and The Master to put a spotlight on Silver Linings Playbook. A somewhat botched limited release schedule was salvaged with plenty of other award nominations and accolades, and this led the way to the film getting an impressive number of Oscar nods.

Why It Might Win

Throughout its release, Silver Linings Playbook has been the little movie that could. It almost disappeared from limited release, but it held on and is now bringing in some serious box office money now that it’s a serious contender. It also has the honor of being the only film on the docket to have nominations in all of the Big Six categories. People like this movie, and it’s got a lot of support.

Why It Might Not Win

For all the love and attention being thrown upon Silver Linings Playbook, it hasn’t quite become a real star. It’s one of the most nominated films, but it’s not the most winning of them. Like a bridesmaid, Silver Linings Playbook will get to walk down the aisle, but not all the way to the front. It’s giving a good run, but it’ll end up winning the silver medal in this Oscar race. (Spoiler alert: There is no silver medal in the Oscar race.)

dashes

Zero Dark Thirty

pic_zerodark

Why It Was Nominated

Kathryn Bigelow is coming off her Oscar win for The Hurt Locker, and Zero Dark Thirty has many of the same elements. It’s an international war-related drama, and the film features much of the same realistic delivery and approach that her previous movie had. It’s relevant to today’s world and tells a compelling story framed around one person’s struggle to get her job done against the odds. There was great anticipation leading up to this movie, and Sony released it with plenty of confidence. As a follow-up to The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty struck many of the same notes but managed to differentiate itself as its own film.

Why It Might Win

The pedigree for success is there for the film (which at the very least puts it on a level playing field with many of its competitors). The anticipation, hype, and eventual box office build up this film for a possible win. It also doesn’t hurt that star Jessica Chastain recently made news by starring in the two highest box office hits one week, and while she’s not necessarily the frontrunner for Best Actress, she’s a very close second.

Why It Might Not Win

Here’s one film that may have had too much hype, which was insane before it was released and cooled down a bit (but not all the way, of course) once it hit theaters. Add to this the controversial depictions of torture in the film, and you might simply have too many Academy voters nervous to support it.

dashes

Read more about The Oscars


ARTICLE TAGS
Like this article? Join thousands of your fellow movie lovers who subscribe to The Weekly Edition from Film School Rejects. Our best articles, every week, right in your inbox!
  %
%  
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!
Twitter button
Facebook button
Google+ button
RSS feed



Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3