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A very in depth look at the Best Picture category

  • Feb 26, 2011
It is time. If there was a year to have 10 best picture nominations it is definitely this year. Unfortunately they started this trend last year when there were not 10 great movies. But all that has changed and now after having seen all of these movies it is time to whittle them down to see what is the best picture of the year.

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

It is tough for small independent movies to get noticed in a world full of blockbusters, its even harder when the movies debuted early in the year. Which is why the nominations of "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are Alright" is so impressive. Both movies were smash hits at Sundance last year and that kind of kudos never usually carry over. For Kids the acclaim has not stopped, winning some major awards from the foreign press. But for small films like this they need to pack a lot of punch for them to overcome huge budgets and a much larger pool of talent to work from. Bone moves far too slow for anyone to not fidget around, and while an honest look at a bigger problem without self examination it probably didn't blow you away. And comedies, well as we all know comedies are very rarely deemed artistic enough to be certified with the highest awards. Kids won't walk away with any major awards because of such fierce competition from more dramatic categories, and until a comedy comes out with a lot more to say, one will probably never win in best picture. There is no need for the Oscars to split the genres like the Golden Globes does as that would water down what it means to be best picture, it’s just something we will have to deal with.

The same genre discrimination happens with animation. Are you telling me that "Lion King" wasn't a better movie than "Quiz Show"? Or that Wall-E didn't have important critiques of society just because it was done by robots. Any movie that can go 45 minutes without dialogue and still tell a beautiful story has done amazing things. But alas only three animated movies have ever been nominated for best picture and if the category hadn't been expanded I doubt "Up" or "Toy Story 3" would be in the running. Last year was a weak year for movies and they were trying to correct an injustice from the previous years. "Toy Story 3" is without questions one of the best movies of the year but with so many other quality live action films I doubt they would have received the recognition they deserve. The movie had everything; there was action, comedy, drama and heart. There were moments in the movie where I was afraid for the well being of the toys I have gotten to know so well. Anyone who tells me there wasn't any water leaking from your face you are either a liar or soulless, both options kind of suck. Pixar has changed the game and now require children's movies to appeal to an older generation as well. It also forced the Academy to increase the number of movies they nominate.

Nolan also had a hand in that when audiences and critics agreed that "The Dark Knight" also got the snub treatment. Nolan has done amazing things with a camera and I would implore everyone to see all of the movies he has done as there is not a dud among them. This meteoric rise to prominence is what has alienated some of the voters. It is without doubt one of the most original movies of the year, but without any nominations in acting or directing it shrinks any legitimate chances of winning, even though I could see this movie getting a fair share of the votes. It should clean up in most of the technical awards but that will be it.

Had the category not been extended I am not sure that "True Grit" or "127 Hours" would be receiving this honor. These two movies, more so than the independents that I mentioned earlier, are probably closer to the edge of the bubble. They were both really good movies, but I don't know if I would classify either of them as great. Danny Boyle and the Coen Brother's both recently won and for better works I doubt that the Academy will look to reward them again so soon.

Now here are 4 of the 5 that would be on the list had the Oscars chosen to keep it short. "Black Swan” is a beautiful art house movie that was transformed into a blockbuster using special effects. Critically, this may be the actual best movie of the year. It could go round for round with any of the four movies that are left, but I am not voting, and neither are the critics. This is an old man's game and it was a weird movie. And if you are not into the psychological frenzy that comes with turning into a big black duck than I doubt this is a movie for you. Plus the weight of it all is entirely on Natalie Portman to assure this movie does well, she has a solid cast around her but the acting block, which is the largest group of voting members in the academy, didn't deem any of their performances worthy enough to also be nominated. 

All the acting kudos went to “The Fighter,” and justifiably so. The cast is fantastic and coming from Boston I can say they captured the essence of the town. NotBoston proper per say as that is full of rich people and college kids now, but the suburbs of Boston, which is actually where the movie takes place. While usually not as telling as the Director's Guild, the Screen Actor's Guild's best ensemble award and Best Picture have been in sync about 50% of the time. It also helped to predict major upsets in the past. Many thought that "The Fighter" would win for best ensemble, which is not surprising as three of the supporting players are also nominated for Oscars and two are heavy favorites. I would argue that the cast for "The Fighter" is the best this year, but the voters chose "The King's Speech" perhaps confusing the honor for what they perceive as the best movie of the year. Speech does have a solid cast but it isn't nearly as deep or as powerful as the one from Lowell.

With only two movies left, these remain the popular movies to win the night’s biggest award, the heavy favorite being "The King's Speech." After winning the SAG for best ensemble many thought that David Fincher would win the DGA award but it was not meant to be as the director's involved chose Tom Hooper as their recipient. The Producer's Guild also rewarded Speech which made it a Triple Crown winner. This has happened only six other times and of those six times five of those movies won the best picture award. The only time it didn't happen was when "Apollo 13" lost to "Braveheart." But 'The Social Network" also has some major awards as well winning the Golden Globes and Critics' Awards big prizes. The Facebook Movie had all of the early momentum but that has since vanished to the other side of the pond.

This is a classic match up between the youth and the older vote. And that is how many of the battle lines may be drawn with an assist from the Brits supporting a movie about the crown. Historical dramas with an uplifting message have always done well in this category, but in the past decade there has been more of a sway towards grittier movies with appeal from the critics. The past three winners "Hurt Locker," "Slumdog Millionaire," and "No Country for Old Men" have not been typical Oscar winners. They have even been nominating towards a younger and hipster crowd, with nominations like "Juno" and "District 9." But did it go too young with a movie about college kids being smarter than you alienating voters.

This also sets up a rematch and possible vengeance for producer Scott Rudin. Harvey Weinstein has always been one to go after Oscars and in 1999 he pulled off one of the biggest Oscar upsets when "Shakespeare in Love" beat "Saving Private Ryan." Now there is little doubt over which is the actual better movie (if any of you say Shakespeare send me your address so I can slap the taste right out of your mouth) but campaigning helped and won him the award. Now it is Rudin who is knocking on the door of the man who won all three of the guild’s awards. It would not be anywhere near the same kind of upset but it would still be impressive.

Any fan of this writer knows who my support is behind. "The King's Speech," while a very well done movie, just tried following a winning formula. Academy members love historical dramas and love to humanize monarchs. A successful formula to follow, but it was a wholly unoriginal story and idea. The performance of Colin Firth is sublime as His Royal Highness; he submerged himself in the role and helped to make a historically unimportant role seem regal again. The praise it received from the guilds and an Oscar for best acting should be enough. "The Social Network" is without a doubt the best picture of the year, it is current, it is fresh, and god damn it, its American. It had all of the best parts to it. The writing and directing will no doubt win but Jesse Eisenberg is also nominated and at one point there was talk that all three supporting actors could get nominated, and maybe they all deserved it. Tell me it wasn't impressive that one man played both Winklevoss twins. All of the interactions between each character were amazing. Not only that but Trent Reznor did a fantastic job with the score. It was the best produced movie of the year with all of the parts contributing to a masterpiece. A direct correlation between this movie and "Citizen Kane," arguably the greatest movie of all time, is impressive as well. Even if this movie were to lose in the end it would still go down as the more important film of our time and much more telling of our era.

What do you think? Do I have it wrong? Will you even be watching? I personally can't wait. And to those of you who made it to the end of this extremely long article and my others thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the show.

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February 27, 2011
Excellent breakdown
February 26, 2011
I cannot argue with your logic about the nominees; you have indeed carefully thought everything out. I agree, I was so happy to see "The Kids are Alright" and "Winter's Bone" score nominations. They were a nice touch.
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