Oscar Contenders

'The Artist,' 'Descendants' and 'War Horse': Oscar's Best Picture Race is Close, but the Films Don't Blow Me Away

Wish I had a horse in this race

2012 Oscar PredictionsI've watched The Artist twice. I liked it the first time and maybe even liked it a little more the second time, but neither instance blew me away.

I've watched War Horse twice and as anyone that has read my review already knows, I wasn't impressed.

I've only seen The Descendants once and I will watch it again, maybe even tonight, and while I liked it the first time I saw it, I can't say it's a film I actually have any real desire to return to.

These three films appear to be the lead contenders for Oscar's Best Picture race if you were to begin handicapping. Personally, I think The Help is rising in the ranks as well, but I would never go so far as to call it a front-runner (even though I currently have it ranked over War Horse) as its performance at the Screen Actors Guild Awards will do more to determine where it stands than anything else.

However, whether it's three films or four, none of them are likely to make my personal top ten list. And of the four I really only think The Artist will be remembered and talked about for years to come, and in large part due to the fact it's a black-and-white silent film, a fact I believe plays a much larger role in the appreciation it has received than its actual quality.

So what gives? Am I the only one that looks elsewhere when considering the best films of 2011 and finds other choices to fill my list? Are these four films the movies that come to your mind first when compiling the "best" of the year?

I'm still sorting through what will become my top ten films of 2011, and The Descendants may in fact end up on that list after I watch it a second time. But I find it quite amazing that at this moment, when I look at the four films likely competing for this year's Best Picture I don't really have a single one I can root for and only one I would even care to root against.

Here, again, are my current predictions for Best Picture nominations and yes, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close remains despite its current 55% "Top Critics" rating at RottenTomatoes. Will it become the worst reviewed film to ever be nominated for Best Picture or will the tide begin to turn once the rest of the country's critics begin weighing in? It's tough to say, but I'm not counting it out yet, though it most certainly is down.

  1. The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne)
  2. The Artist (dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
  3. The Help (dir. Tate Taylor)
  4. War Horse (dir. Steven Spielberg)
  5. Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller)
  6. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (dir. Stephen Daldry)
  7. Hugo (dir. Martin Scorsese)
  8. Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen)

You can see my full list of Best Picture predictions right here, and outside of what you see above at this moment I think The Tree of Life is the only other film seriously competing for a nomination and I don't see the field being larger than eight and if it worms back down to nine that is where Extremely Loud may most likely falter.

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  • SeanJ8

    It's too bad Drive won't receive the Oscar love it deserves. Such a damn good movie.

    • Colin

      Ehh, watchable? Yes. A good movie? It had the potential to be, but it ultimatley it wasn't. There was great stuff going on in that flick. Albert Brooks' wonderful character-actor choices. He was brilliant cause by the end of that movie I didn't hate Bernie as much as I would've in the hands of a lesser actor. The sound work and cinematography were handled with a seasoned skill and competence that other areas of the film lacked.

      Overall, I like the film quite a bit, and I think it's accomplished in many respects, but I didn't find it to be award worthy. If anything, more than being a homage Walter Hill and Michael Mann, (the names most critics associated the scandanavian directed feature with) It felt like something David Lynch would've done at the peak of his career during the late 80's and the early 90's. Surreal and unabashedley adult. Soemthing I admire it for. However, there is something about the underwritten screenplay and the performance of Gosling that holds me back from being a full-on devout fan of the film.

      • LumberJACKEDx9x

        Gosling was great in every respect. He's playing a complicated character. He is an amalgamation of every action star he's observed and some of those quirks and mannerisms make up much of his exterior personality. He exhibits harsh silence when a situation calls for outward jubilance. A collective cool in the face of true danger, almost oblivious to any of the consequences and when he asks Carey Mulligan to go for a drive, he simply takes her for a drive, though we, as an audience, believed he was insinuating more. Like many other of Windinf Refn's characters, he is truly unpredictable, and that is what makes him fascinating to watch.

        • Colin

          Not exactly. It felt more like lazy underrstated choices that made hisw character feel more uneven than complicated. All of this coming from an otherwise solid actor. And he managed to fall into the trap muffling and mumbling dialogue after lenghty unecessary and self-indulgent pauses. The mannerisms and "silence" felt more like impersonations of action-heroes from past era. From the first moment he lays eyes on Irene, it was clear he had no intention of harming. Unrepdeictable he is not. This was ultimatley one of Gosling's lesser performances.

  • dudeabides

    agreed. Drive, Tree of Life, Shame, We Need To Talk About Kevin were the only films that 'blew me away' this year. but other than Tree, none will make the cut

  • JK

    You've got to give ELAIC up. And you really think The Tree of Life won't get 5% of #1 votes?

  • http://www.stickskills.com Hamza Zain

    Drive and Tree of Life were easily my two favourite movies. Shame deserves to be up there as well.

  • Jimmy Diamies

    Drive and 50/50 are my 2 favorite films of the year but I havent seen a few. Can anyone tell me how or when I can see Shame? I'm in Michigan

    • Travis

      Finally, a fellow Michigander on this site! Currently, only one cinema in the entire state is playing it-the Landmark in Royal Oak. I have no idea how far away from it you are, but it's too far a drive for me. If it comes to one of Ann Arbor's theaters (which I suspect it might) I may go, but otherwise I'll wait for the DVD release in most likely April.

      • Jimmy Diamies

        Thanks... not the answer I was looking for but I suspected that nonetheless. Royal Oak is too far for me as well as I'm in Grand Rapids.

  • Gib

    Brad, isn't it a shame that a fresh and yes CHALLENGING film (oh yeah, and critically beloved) like YOUNG ADULT doesn't make the Best Pic lineup and Theron and Oswalt have to battle it out for a spot in their respective categories?

    • LumberJACKEDx9x

      Agreed on "Young Adult." It's an unapologetically dark comedy that mirrors our vacuous tabloid culture in a real and frightening way. Mavis is oblivious and apathetic and leaves a wake of emotional carnage wherever she travels. The romantic moment she and Oswalt share is heartbreaking and really made the film for me. As usually, the Academy is jumping at the bait, even when it continues to pander to pretentious types like them.

  • Susan

    I feel like this is a regular thing. None of 2008's front-runners did much for me, The Departed was the only one I was really passionate about in 2006's bunch and so on and so on. The Oscar voters just don't vote for divisive films to win Best Picture. The last time I can remember them picking something truly outside of their wheelhouse was Silence of the Lambs, with No Country for Old Men getting the respect from the Academy due to the Coens' long career.

  • Leo

    I completely agree. While it is fun that it is harder now to predict the winner, it's less exciting because there is not much to root for. Pitch these films to those nominated last year and I think only one or two of this year's would make the cut.

    I'm rather excited for next year's Oscars though. We'll be seeing The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, The Dark Knight Rises, Gravity, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, World War Z. At least these are what seems like to be competing given their release dates and that we still haven't talk of potential and relatively unknown dark horses.

    As for now, same list as yours but I'll remove Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Just seven nominees.

    • LumberJACKEDx9x

      Don't forget Anna Karenina (if it get's released next year). Joe Wright and period piece. Lock.

    • http://www.stickskills.com Hamza Zain

      I have a feeling The Dark Knight Rises may continue a trend of omissions of Nolan by the Academy.

    • Irf

      I don't think WORLD WAR Z is going for Oscar glory. It'll be the I AM LEGEND of next Christmas.

  • Travis

    I have officially cut ELAIC from my predictions (with a heavy heart-I do enjoy Stephen Daldry's work). This leaves me with 7 (the same 7 as Brad), although I think Drive might be a dark horse considering it seems to be getting a decent amount of 1st place votes at the current time. I think the difficult prediction at this time is Cinematography. There are 6 possible choices-Tree of Life, The Artist, and then a four way race for the final 3 spots between Drive, War Horse, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Hugo. I'm choosing Hugo, but I'm having a difficult time with the other 3. And as for Best Actress, I agree with Brad's first four, but I don't think Glenn Close will get it. I want to put Charlize Theron, but I'm going out on a limb and picking Rooney Mara, who I also want.

  • Evengan

    I can assure you that Hugo and Midnight in Paris have more chances than being nominated than Extremely Loud.

  • MKing

    Why won't 50/50 make the list?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Drew-Anderson/594822018 Drew Anderson

    All I can say is thank god we don't have to nominate 10 films this year. Not to discredit any of the films that will be nominated, but with far slimmer pickings than last year it's just sooo relieving to know we don't have to force in a fucking Blind Side pick.

  • RC

    There were a lot of great and innovative films this year but they don't make the top 8 predicted nominees. The Artist and The Descendants are definitely my top and I felt Midnight In Paris was a fresh film. I loved The Beginners, Shame, Young Adult, 50/50, Ides of March. I am wondering what the criteria is for what "blows you away"

  • Calvin

    The thing is, the year they started introducing 5+ Best Picture nominees was actually a rather weak year; in what other awards season would you have Blind Side and A Serious Man (which was a great film, but not something the Academy usually likes); hence, all the wariness over such a large number of nominees. I believe that, however, if any year, this is one time when 10 nomination spaces is very much waranted; I mean, just look at all the contenders we have.

    But yeah, I digress

  • Jamaica

    I knew Brad wouldn't drop ELAIC of it's best picture prediction. The film was awful. It's one of those "Lets make you cry and hope the academy awards us the oscar" type of films. Why brad, despite the film being ignored in the awards race and being critically bash, still hasn't taken it off it's prediction, puzzles me.

    • Travis

      Same reason I only removed Girl With the Dragon Tattoo recently. We really liked them and want them to win, they just couldn't get off the ground (and never stood a chance) with the Academy

  • Grissom

    In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close's case, it's only the New York critics getting offended. That just messes my mind up, because why are they attacking the film, but not the book it's based on? Why is the film getting heat?

    There was an article i read and i nearly died of laughter when they pompously stated Bridesmaids WILL be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. I didn't like, others did, but we can all agree this film isn't Oscar material.

    So, for me it is (i'll go for 10, just to keep myself in sync)
    1.The Descendents
    2.The Artist
    3.War Horse
    4.Moneyball
    5.The Help
    6.Hugo
    7.Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    8.Midnight in Paris (dh)
    9.Drive(dh)
    10.The Tree of Life(dh)

    *dh = dark horse

  • Carlos_87

    Wowzers seems very few critics share Brad's sentiment about "Extremely Loud". 49% on rotten tomatoes, 43 on metacritic i really thought this was a sure fire hit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Roggio/1487010008 Alex Roggio

    In no particular order, my favorite films of 2011 are:

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    Midnight in Paris
    The Adjustment Bureau
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
    50/50
    Moneyball
    Shame
    Margin Call
    Th Ides of March
    The Skin I live in

  • Winchester

    As surprising as it sounds, I'm actually with Colin on the topic of 'Drive' although I didn't even find it as enjoyable as he still managed to.

    Anyway, I guess I too don't really have anything that I could truly point to from what I've seen this year and really get behind as a Best Picture winner. But I don't really worry about that too much most of the time since I don't even agree with the actual winner most years.

    There are good films, but not a lot has really clicked with me this year in a way that I could turn and say 'I want THAT film to win'.

  • Ian

    I'm actually pretty confident that The Descendants is my #1 at this point. I still have to see The Artist, A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Carnage (and maybe one or two others from earlier in the year that I missed like Beginners) so I'm still a little ways away from having a complete top ten. But The Descendants is a film I feel like I can definitely pull for. My second tier is Midnight in Paris, Drive, and The Help in some order, though I still need to watch the latter two again. As far as my Best Picture predictions, here they are:

    1. The Artist
    2. The Descendants
    3. The Help
    4. War Horse
    5. Moneyball
    6. Hugo
    7. Midnight in Paris
    8. The Tree of Life (I still need to watch this again as well and that could significantly shake up my top tier as I really feel like it's a film that needs to be seen multiple times)

    • Ian

      I guess I should clarify and say that these rankings are in order of likelihood of receiving a nomination. Once the nominations are announced, I'll start ranking in terms of likelihood of winning...though right now it basically looks like a tossup between The Artist and The Descendants, with nothing else having any real chance. And we won't really start to know until the guilds start voting.

  • goavs

    This is a weak year for films in my pov

  • Geri

    I agree Brad, it's a pretty lackluster crop of movies vying for the Oscar. We screened ECAIL last night and while we thought it was good, it was in no way great. Same for "The Artist", "The Descendants", "War Horse", "50/50" and "Young Adult". As for "Tree of Life", it seems to polarize people. However, I do think enough folks adored it that it will likely get a nomination, but there's no way it will win. "Hugo" is far and away the best film I've seen this year and also have some love for "The Help". Have not seen "Midnight in Paris" (will probably screen tonight). With such a lackluster group of films vying for the nomination I wouldn't be surprised to see some unexpected ones make the cut. There's a lot of love out there for "Bridesmaids", so who knows?

  • Ryan H

    I really have to throw in some serious praise for The Descendants. I feel like the movie is a masterpiece, or a near masterpiece, and the best film of 2011 or most any year, along with Drive. I recently saw it a 2nd time and picked apart a lot the elements during my subsequent viewing- near perfect acting, excellent writing, assured direction, a great soundtrack, beautiful camera work, a sublime sense of pace, etc. But all of this doesn't matter compared to how much the movie draws you in. The characters feel 100% real and the story is an excellent one worth telling that speaks of something true and important about the human experience. This film is "true". It is human. It is art. It is beautiful. At least I thought so.

    Many people seem to have this as an Oscar frontrunner, but few seem to be going head over heels for it. Well, allow me to start jumping. I feel like the films of Scorsese, the Coens, Nolan, Tarantino, etc have a stylish, exciting, almost "sexy" feel to them that make them "cool". The Descendants, while practically perfect, does not fall into this camp. Neither is it a large scale, rousing epic like LOTR or Gladiator. Neither is it a romantic sweetheart of a drama like Slumdog or SIL or English Patient. Neither is it an uplifting drama about friendship like The Kings Speech. It's primarily about loss, and people don't seem to LOVE movies about loss. It's not sexy. But if we can embrace films about genocide (Schindlers List, The Pianist, Hotel Rwanda) then I think we can embrace the death of a family member.

    This movie is funny, its tragic, its dramatic, and its unique. It's also very genuine. I hope it wins Best Picture.