Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Picture

The Best Picture Academy Award is really what explains film as a collaborative effort. The Best Picture is what the Academy has found to be the best combination of every aspect that film has, whether thematically or structurally. The producers of the winner take home the Oscar, because, well, they footed the bill. They were also the decision-makers. We know its more of a gray area than that, but the classic Academy likes to think like classic movie-making. It doesn’t stop the Best Picture winners from being some of the greatest pieces of work in the artform.

One film this Sunday will be written in along with films like It Happened One Night, On The Waterfront, The Godfather parts 1 & 2, and No Country For Old Men. That’s a list of 83 movies that will be or already are considered essentials when it comes to film history. We don’t look down on the nominees who didn’t win. What are they called? Oh, yeah. Losers. But, seriously, they are all films of value in some form or another, films that were still able to make their mark on some part of this history.

But it’s that big boy. That one who gets its name yelled out at the end of the night, who hears the orchestra play their music for the climax of the show, that’s the one that’ll make headlines come Monday morning. Which one is it gonna be? The odds seem better for some, but here’s the breakdown on all nine Best Picture nominees, and my predicted winner in red

The Artist

Why It Was Nominated:

Forget why was it nominated. Why was this even made? A black and white, silent film in 2011? That’s crazy. But, you know what, Michel Hazanavicius had a dream, and he got his film made. The Weinstein Company saw a hit at Cannes, and they picked it up for US release. That was a series of risky moves all the way, and they all paid off tremendously. That kind of risk-taking should be rewarded.

Why It Might Win:

But that isn’t stopping The Artist from being a moving story that reflects the very nature in which it is presented. Jean Dujardin’s performance is one for the ages. And it’s got a cute dog? Who doesn’t love a cute dog? Financial success, critical lauding, audience approval. All the result of one man’s dream to realize a love letter he had for the art form. That spoke to the movie-watching world. That spoke to the Academy.

Why It Might Not Win:

It might not win because of that other little love letter to cinema that came out last year. There’s a great story with The Artist, but Hazanavicius is a newbie, and that other film has Scorsese. That’s a monster of a deciding factor if ever there was one. The Artist could very well walk home with the gold Sunday night. It’s the more pleasant of the two films, the one more likely to be applauded with the more casual movie-goer. But…Scorsese. That’s a tough one.

The Descendants

Why It Was Nominated:

Alexander Payne is no stranger to the Academy, and vice versa. After winning for screenwriting with 2004′s Sideways – Payne was nominated for directing – the Academy was very interested in what he had up next. The Descendants is that next film. It tells a moving story and Payne adds to the emotion with his direction. Throw George Clooney into the mix, and you’ve got a nice pot of “I’m gonna win a bunch of Oscars” stew. The Academy bit.

Why It Might Win:

Payne might be owed in the eyes of some voters. Sideways was considered by more than a few to be a superior film to 2004′s Million Dollar Baby. But politics aside, The Descendants shows Payne as a matured storyteller. He’s becoming one of the greats, and 2012 could be his year to be welcomed into the fold.

Why It Might Not Win:

But then again. The Descendants had a lot of steam until it became evident who the real front-runners are. That’s when things started to slow on the Alexander Payne/Oscar winner talk. Human drama might not be in this year, and Alexander Payne’s time might have to come at a later date. Sorry, George.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Why It Was Nominated:

11 years after Billy Elliott, director Stephen Daldry returns to the Oscars with a film about another lost boy. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close didn’t exactly touch the right chords with critics, but something resonated with the Academy. Its mostly made up of people carrying SAG cards, and the power of having Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow, and the impressive newcomer Thomas Horn couldn’t be denied.

Why It Might Win: 

The power of that cast would really have had to hit the Academy. Hard. Many were surprised to even see Extremely Loud get a nomination. The Academy could all be playing a hoax on us and give the award to it just to see the reaction. That would take a lot of planning, though, so…

Why It Might Not Win:

There isn’t anything about Extremely Loud that makes one think it will be one of the all-time classics 50 years from now. Not even the mark in time of 9/11 will make it a film people will remember. Some found Thomas Horn impressive. Others found him obnoxious. Most found him obnoxious.

The Help

Why It Was Nominated:

The Help is the one surprise success story everyone loves to hear. The great, female cast mixed with an unforgettable story proved fit for audiences. The Help ended up with over $200 million worldwide, the largest gross for any of the nominees. Critics largely approved, as well. Surprise success stories need a happy ending. What better place for that than the Oscars?

Why It Might Win:

It might be a night for Hollywood endings, and giving The Help the Best Picture award would certainly be a fine end to the story. It’s a film that found its fan-base quickly, and it’s sure to live on for years to come. Having a couple of important statues won’t look so bad around it, either.

Why It Might Not Win: 

The Academy doesn’t generally award those surprise hits. The Junos and Preciouses of the Best Picture field have generally been thankful to be nominated and gone home happy. Empty handed but happy. 2012 won’t be the year they change their minds.

Hugo

Why It Was Nominated:

Because Scorsese told it to be nominated. Seriously, though, this isn’t the Scorsese we know. This isn’t the guy who likes to kill Joe Pesci in his films. This isn’t the guy who locked Leonardo DiCaprio in a mental institution. But, it is. Like his gangster films, like his throwback to old, sanitarium, horror movies, Hugo is a love letter to those who inspired the film maker. It’s a film that goes back to the days when the art and its magic couldn’t be done at a computer. It’s one of the modern masters of today’s film world giving us his most personal film yet. There was no way it wasn’t getting nominated.

Why It Might Win:

Lucky for Hugo‘s chances of winning Best Picture, Scorsese’s passion was film itself. 2011 was a year Hollywood admired itself. More so than usual. The admiration for the art-form has made Scorsese’s film and The Artist the two front-runners and for good reason. Both are passionate films about the very thing Oscar night is celebrating. Scorsese and everything he represents is a big factor.

Why It Might Not Win:

He did get his “honorary” award already, though. The Departed could have been the beginning of Scorsese’s run for Oscar gold. It could also have been a gentle pat on the back. The Artist seems the more generally beloved of the two, and who does the Academy serve if not the public? Sarcasm aside, it looks more glamorous for Best Picture to go to the artful drama and not the goofy kid’s movie.

Midnight In Paris

Why It Was Nominated:

Woody Allen is an up-and-down director for critics and audiences. Midnight in Paris was a big up. Critics found the film to be Allen’s funniest in years, a return to his early career. The Academy has always admired Allen. They just wait for him to give them a reason to nominate him. Midnight in Paris was a very good reason.

Why It Might Win:

The stamps Allen puts on the film industry, particularly the Academy Awards, is not finished. Allen’s films have been taking home gold for 34 years. As prolific as he is, his legacy is anything but finished. Midnight in Paris taking home Best Picture would be remarkable moment for it.

Why It Might Not Win:

Those 34 years have given a lot to Allen. Midnight in Paris is a film deserving of praise. Whether it’s deserving of being called the best of the year is another matter entirely. It’s that film that always goes on people’s “best of” lists but never hits #1. There just isn’t enough there to warrant the highest honor.

Moneyball

Why It Was Nominated:

The story told in getting Moneyball made is almost as interesting as the story Moneyball tells. Bennett Miller, previously nominated for directing Capote, took the reigns from Steven Soderbergh and made a dynamic but witty film about the inner workings of Major League Baseball. Having a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin doesn’t hurt matters one bit. So many aspects about Moneyball work so well the Academy couldn’t deny a Best Picture nod.

Why It Might Win:

Brad Pitt is another factor hard at work for Moneyball. Pitt served as one of the producers on the film. Moneyball could do for him what Michael Clayton did for Clooney. Michael Clayton didn’t win Best Picture, but Moneyball‘s strength begins with its incredible screenplay. If Sorkin and Steven Zaillian win an Oscar, we might see Moneyball shock the world. If Pitt’s name gets called up for Best Lead Performance, it’s a sure thing.

Why It Might Not Win:

It’s about baseball. No movie about baseball, no matter how good it is, ever wins Best Picture. The Academy hates sports.

The Tree Of Life

Why It Was Nominated:

When Terence Malick makes a movie, he does it because he has something to say. When he makes a movie, he makes sure it’s precisely how he wants it. The power of this personal story combined with the exquisite detail put into the direction made it one of the most beloved films of 2011. It was #1 on many critics’ “best of” lists for a very good reason. Some considered it a religious experience. Some of those people are on the Academy.

Why It Might Win:

It depends on how many people The Tree of Life spoke to. It’s a film that tells a message. Not many hear that message, but those who do are moved by its power. It’s all about sheer numbers at that point. The Tree of Life is a title that would sit comfortably among the past Best Picture winners. If Malick is ever going to walk home with a winner, it’s here. That could give some Academy members the reasoning to vote for it.

Why It Might Not Win:

The Tree of Life was a very divisive movie, though. It appears on “worst of” lists. Not as many as “best of”, but it happened. The Tree of Life was the earliest of the nominees to get the Oscar buzz about it. That didn’t do the film any favors, and the steam let out long ago. It was probably around the time the dinosaur showed up. A last minute resurgence isn’t going to happen.

War Horse

Why It Was Nominated:

Did somebody say Spielberg? Did somebody say war? And there’s a talking animal? Hell, yeah, it’ll get nominated for Best Picture. Oh, the horse doesn’t talk? Eh, they already had Babe, anyway. Spielberg. War. Give it a nod.

Why It Might Win:

Sentimentality is what gets the Academy really going. They might not have noticed how thick it was being laid on with War Horse. Maybe they did notice and just didn’t care. Spielberg didn’t direct Saving Private Ryan to a Best Picture Oscar, and the outcry that next day could be heard around the world. War Horse winning is merely a factor of politics. Does Spielberg deserve a return Oscar after losing 13 years ago?

Why It Might Not Win:

No. No, he doesn’t. Not with War Horse he doesn’t. We’ll see about Lincoln.

What Will Win: The Artist and Hugo are the serious front-runners in this race, and it all boils down to how is Hollywood going to reward Hollywood for loving Hollywood? War Horse, The Tree of Life, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close are all too divisive to take home the gold. Hugo could be just divisive enough to sway votes to the newcomer, Hazanavicius. Most of the choices this year have been safe. Even decisions on the Academy Awards’ production have felt safe, like their collective minds are back in 1999. That was the year Harvey Weinstein took home the gold for Shakespeare in Love. There’s no reason they should switch things up at the last minute by getting risky with their Best Picture statue. The Artist is the safe choice, and it’ll be the film that makes headlines Monday morning. Congratulations, Harvey. Make sure your tux looks nice.

What Should Win: Well, Drive should win, but that’s another argument for another article. Out of these nine films, the best of them, the one that will be looked at and studied for years to come is Hugo. It’s Martin Scorsese’s gift to the artists who made him what he is today, the best film maker of the modern era. Passionate love letters can easily turn into ambitious failure, but Scorsese’s craft holds true with this film. For nearly 70 years, he’s been learning the craft. For more than 50 years, he’s been honing his craft. He’s a master who diligently studied the masters before him, and he keeps surprising us to this day with his 27th feature film. That’s the greatest magic trick yet.

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