Friday, February 22, 2013

Oscar Breakdown and Handicapping: Best Picture

We finally get to the final and most important category. All conventional knowledge would have stated that after the nominations were announced Argo would not be in the running since it lacks the Best Director nomination. Now that it has gobbled up every award in its way, it seems like a shoo-in winner. But then there is the Weinstein push for Silver Linings Playbook. This could get interesting. Check out my final breakdown article of the season…

9. Django Unchained
Notable awards: none
Notable nominations: BFCA, Golden Globes (Drama), PGA
Case for the Oscar: It has a very nice box office. The fact that two straight Tarantino movies have made it into the Best Picture lineup may mean that the Academy is really beginning to accept his style of filmmaking. Until they truly takes him seriously as a director as opposed to just a screenwriter, then his films are going to continue to appeal to that niche market and not really have a shot at winning this award.
Oscar Doppelganger: 1996 Best Picture: Jerry Maguire. The movie was nominated despite missing out on the Best Director nomination. Seeing how his career had gone, the Academy never really took him seriously as a director, only as one of the more likable screenwriters of his time. The movie was somewhat of a box office phenomenon and the director’s highest grossing film, but nobody ever really thought it could win Best Picture.
Odds of winning: 250/1
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Notable awards: none
Notable nominations: BFCA, Spirit Awards, PGA
Case for the Oscar: The movie is getting all of the indie enthusiast votes. The major awards love proves that it has a great following, but it is just not a normal Oscar movie. If there had been five nominees, this would have been the strangest Best Director nominee without BP since Blue Velvet. The movie is one that inspires fondness as opposed to amazement, which hurts its chances at winning any awards (or gathering a significant audience, for that matter). The movie is destined to be an also-ran, but its nominations have already defied the odds.
Oscar Doppelganger: 2010 Best Picture: Winter’s Bone. The movie was the indie hit of the year that defied the odds and got invited to the ceremony in several categories. Its chances of winning were never really all that realistic, but being mentioned among the best of the year showed how much the Academy members appreciated its achievement with such a small budget.
Odds of winning: 150/1
7. Amour
Notable awards: Cannes, Los Angeles Critics, National Society of Film Critics
Notable nominations: none
Case for the Oscar: It is the most critically acclaimed movie of the year. There hasn’t been a foreign film in the Best Picture lineup since 2000, so this type of recognition is extremely rare. Everyone who has seen it has marveled over its emotional impact, so if it somehow got enough members to see it, then it actually could finish in the top few films. Winning is not going to happen, but Haneke has certainly put his name at the top of the list of most accessible foreign filmmakers with this superb little film.
Oscar Doppelganger: 1973 Best Picture: Cries and Whispers. The film had deep and depressing themes. The director was probably the most beloved foreign director of his time, and this was his most popular film with the awards circuits. The film was up against more popular Hollywood studio releases, so it never really had a shot at winning, but it certainly shook up the race, becoming one of only 9 foreign language films ever nominated for Best Picture.
Odds of winning: 100/1
6. Zero Dark Thirty
Notable awards: Boston Critics, Chicago Critics, National Board of Review, New York Critics
Notable nominations: BAFTA, Golden Globes (Drama), PGA
Case for the Oscar: For me, this is the best movie of the year. Its controversy is completely off-base, but that will be enough for the members to shy away from voting for the film. They are all about avoiding controversy. The director-writer combo just won all the major awards a few years ago, so that could either help the cause or prevent them from showering them with more awards this soon. Its Best Director snub is ridiculous, but that is pretty telling as to its chances in this category, since the film is clearly a directing spectacle.
Oscar Doppelganger: 1991 Best Picture: JFK. There was controversy the moment the film was announced. The Academy was probably not ready for the film, but they knew it was great and that the technical aspects were spectacular. The Best Picture nomination seemed like a formality for the Oscar-winning filmmakers, but its chances of actually taking Best Picture were very slim.
Odds of winning: 70/1
5. Les Miserables
Notable awards: Golden Globes (Comedy/Musical)
Notable nominations: BAFTA, BFCA, PGA, SAG
Case for the Oscar: The movie was the most Oscar-friendly on paper, but the film underwhelmed everyone but the most devoted Les Mis fans. The Academy snubbed it for Best Director, which showed that the film is not as popular as it could or should have been. It had a very nice box office, however, so if the Academy wants to give the award to a fluff winner, then this would likely be it. There has not been a musical to win this in a decade, so that may help its chances. They cannot resist them sometimes.
Oscar Doppelganger: 2001 Best Picture: Moulin Rouge!. The film was a visual and artistic spectacle, but the experience of watching it was quite frenetic and somewhat of a mess. The film certainly had its fans, but its style turned off enough voters to not have a chance at winning Best Picture.
Odds of winning: 60/1
4. Life of Pi
Notable awards: none
Notable nominations: BAFTA, BFCA, Golden Globes (Drama), PGA
Case for the Oscar: The movie feels the most like an Oscar winner. The material and visual style would certainly take the Oscar back to when these types of epic ambition films won the awards, but it faces the issue of not having any stars in the film. That hasn’t been an issue with Slumdog Millionaire and The Artist, but Life of Pi just didn’t have the widespread love or devoted fans of many of the other contenders. If the Academy wants to play it safe, then this will likely be the winner, which would be the first 3D release Best Picture winner.
Oscar Doppelganger: 2003 Best Picture: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The movie was not the most popular film with the Academy members, but it was an easy choice to give the film several technical nominations and a Best Picture mention. The movie was a visual spectacle and a wondrous experience, but the other contenders were more popular with the public and had more clear Oscar ambitions.
Odds of winning: 50/1
3. Lincoln
Notable awards: none
Notable nominations: BAFTA, BFCA, Golden Globes (Drama), PGA, SAG
Case for the Oscar: When the movie was announced, it would have seemed as if this were the one to beat. It turned out to be extremely talky and perhaps a bit too sophisticated for the Academy. If it were a biopic, then this would have been a much more popular film awards-wise. Its nominations were predictable, but winning would be quite an achievement for a film based so much on dialogue. Those types of films don’t win Best Picture, but most of them are not directed by Spielberg or starring Daniel Day-Lewis.
Oscar Doppelganger: 1994 Best Picture: Quiz Show. (This is mainly because I didn’t want to use Good Night, and Good Luck again…) The dialogue-heavy and important film was a clear Oscar contender from the moment it was announced, but it became more and more clear that it was not the type of film that could actually win big at the Oscars. The film’s director had won before, which made it even clearer that it would be singled out as one of the year’s best. It was Oscar gold on paper, but its style caused it to come up just short.
Odds of winning: 20/1
2. Silver Linings Playbook
Notable awards: Satellite Awards
Notable nominations: BFCA, Golden Globes (Comedy/Musical), Spirit Awards, PGA, SAG
Case for the Oscar: The Weinstein Company are pushing it hard, putting everyone involved in the film on every talk show in the country. It is still making money at the box office, so it is fresh in the minds of the voters. It has the feel-good sob story about the David O. Russell’s son. If he wins, then this will take Best Picture. The mental illness subject matter is the stuff that Oscar loves. This smells like an upset, but Argo just has so much momentum. It will be a close call.
Oscar Doppelganger: 2010 Best Picture: The King’s Speech. The film vastly overachieved at the box office. Weinstein pushed it so hard that it eventually became a serious threat to the obvious frontrunner. It was a very safe choice for the Academy members, who did not want to award a film that was outside of their normal recipient style. It rode the wave of audience popularity all the way to the ceremony. When the film took Best Director, the race was basically over.
Odds of winning: 8/1
1. Argo
Notable awards: BAFTA, BFCA, Golden Globes (Drama), PGA, SAG
Notable nominations: none
Case for the Oscar: It has taken every important award this season. George Clooney is the main producer, so that brings another element to its frontrunner status. The movie is a very Hollywood/LA movie, just like Crash was when it won over the Academy late in the game. It is also a very American movie, which the Academy may need after 3 of the last 4 years giving this award to films like Slumdog, The Artist, and The King’s Speech. Everyone feels bad for Ben Affleck, so this award is the one way that they can award his extraordinary work on the film. Unless the Weinstein money impacts the voting, then this will be our winner.
Oscar Doppelganger: 1981 Best Picture: Chariots of Fire. There really is no film that can be compared to what Argo has gone through. With Chariots of Fire, there were other Oscar contenders on paper that underachieved throughout the awards season. This movie was never going to win Best Director, but its status as the Best Picture frontrunner over blockbuster films was pretty clear. It wasn’t the most popular film with audiences, but it was a solid and easy choice for the Academy, one that may not be one of their better choices, but one that was a breath of fresh air during a time when most of the other Best Picture winners were all very forgettable and typical.
Odds of winning: 1/10

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