Today is the Friday before the Oscars and the last day of my predictions posts. It’s Best Picture prediction time!
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Note: I liked or loved every single Best Picture nominee this year. The number of excellent movies in this category blows my mind. Last year, the only Best Picture nominee I really enjoyed was the winner, The Artist, and I still forgot about it a few days after I saw it. This year, I’m thinking about half of these films months after I saw them. My least favorite nominated film in 2012 is better than my favorite nominated film in 2011. I’m actually grateful for 2012′s crop of films. Go, 2012!
Should Win: Beasts of the Southern Wild. Or Lincoln. Or Life of Pi. Or Zero Dark Thirty. Seriously, I cannot choose! With films like this, that are so different from each other in terms of story, scope, tone, dialogue, how on earth does one pick a BEST? How can one compare Beasts to Lincoln when the films aren’t remotely alike? HOW?!
Anyway, I think those four films are the most deserving of the Best Picture award. I also am obliged to say that I loved Les Miserables even though it’s very flawed and inconsistent, I thought Silver Linings Playbook was excellent and moving, Amour was very European and very difficult to watch (in a good way), and while I cannot say Django Unchained was objectively the best film of year, it is my personal favorite film of the year, and the first one I will buy on DVD and watch seven hundred more times.
Will Win: Argo. Let’s talk about Argo, as it is the clear frontrunner for Best Picture, while also my least favorite of the Best Picture nominees. (Not the WORST, mind you – Argo is definitely a much better-crafted film than Les Miserables, for example, even though I enjoyed Les Miserables more. BEST and FAVORITE are not the same thing.)
I could hear the fanboy (and perhaps fangirl) outrage brewing the minute I typed that above paragraph, but I don’t care. I think Argo is a very good film, and had it come out in 2011, it would have easily squashed the other Best Picture nominees and taken away every well-deserved prize. But this is 2012, where the competition is much stiffer, and I don’t think it holds up compared to the other Best Picture nominees.
Before I explain why, I will write about all the things I liked about Argo: The pacing. The suspense. The storming of the embassy at the beginning of the movie. The comedic dialogue. The supporting cast, from their acting performances to how much they looked like the real-life people they were portraying. The way the movie just looks and feels like the 70s. (I assume – I was born in the 80s.) The only real flaws of the film are Affleck’s “acting” (though kudos to his directorial work) and the extended chase onto the tarmac at the airport with the jeeps chasing a plane taking off, like, come on now.
In short, Argo is a very good movie, but I did not think it was a great movie. In my opinion, a great dramatic movie has to either challenge the audience on an intellectual level, or be really affecting on an emotional level, and the best dramatic films are ones that do both. (Rules are different for comedies, obviously, since comedies have a different purpose.)
The other Best Picture nominees were either intellectually challenging or emotionally affecting, and sometimes both. Django Unchained smacked us in the face with the brutality of slavery, had us root for Django to find the woman he loves, and made us squirm with guilt and discomfort at Stephen, one of the most disturbing characters I’ve seen. Les Miserables, technically a weaker film than Argo, still made us feel for Jean Valjean and Fantine. Beasts has unforgettable characters in Hushpuppy and Wink and a fascinating, disturbing yet moving father-daughter relationship. Silver Linings Playbook has two damaged people finding love, and bonding over the different medication combinations they’re on (lol). Lincoln made a great historical figure emotionally accessible. Amour showed us the challenges of looking after sick, damaged loved ones in a world where a happy ending is impossible. Life of Pi gave us a very intimate human story against a visual feast of a backdrop, and has unforgettable messages about the power of storytelling.
Zero Dark Thirty is the film most similar to Argo in that it’s more plot-driven than character-driven, and both films are about the CIA. Zero Dark Thirty is suspenseful and constantly makes the viewer question our nation’s role in the war on terror, from the use of torture to the empty victory in killing bin Laden.
Argo doesn’t really have any of that. It doesn’t whitewash the US’s role in making Iran hate us, but it doesn’t make us think about why we started messing with that country in the first place. It doesn’t have any characters that affect us emotionally – we feel bad because they’re hostages, but we don’t really get to know any of them. It’s a very good thriller, it’s funny, it’s entertaining, and the period work is great, but ten years from now, I doubt that many people will look back at that film and think, “Wow, remember that Tony Mendez character? Remember how emotional it was?”
Confidence Level in Making This Prediction: 75%. The film doesn’t have a Best Director nomination, and only three movies in Oscar history have won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. I do wonder if Argo might be this year’s Apollo 13, which won every single precursor award, but didn’t get a Director nod and the Oscar went to Braveheart.
However, there is a LOT of industry outrage over Affleck’s snub as though he’s the Second Coming of Kubrick. Had Affleck been nominated for Director, I would have predicted a Lincoln/Affleck Picture/Director split. But since he wasn’t nominated, I’m predicting an Argo/Spielberg Picture/Director split.
Besides, the plot of Argo is about how Hollywood helped save the lives of American citizens being held hostage, and Hollywood LOVES to remind itself and everyone else about how very important Hollywood is.
Possible Upset: Lincoln, one a frontrunner, could still win this, and Silver Linings Playbook has a decent chance, too (because Harvey Weinstein KNOWS PEOPLE).
For Your Consideration: Once more, with feeling - The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Also Moonrise Kingdom.