It was hard not to notice Robin Wright at the Critics Choice awards, striding out onto the stage with her still impossibly youthful legs, and announcing that 2011 was the Year of the Woman.  She referenced Bridesmaids and Dragon Tattoos, probably because she couldn’t say housemaids.   Either way, Bridesmaids, The Help and The Girl with Dragon Tattoo have reinvented what defines a hit and what defines an “Oscar movie.”  All three have been underestimated for one reason or another and yet have managed to stay relevant, even if the majority of the other films are more traditional male-driven narratives.  But the year of the woman?  Could it really be?

Look a little closer and you see a lot of strong female characters — Chloe Moretz in Hugo is a writer and drives much of the action.  Shailene Woodley is the best and most forceful thing about the Descendants and in Midnight in Paris it is the women who show Owen Wilson the way. One pulls him in, one pushes him out.  And then there’s Gertrude Stein (who punched him in the mouth).  Finally, The Artist is about two different careers and in the end the one who emerges from the ashes, saves the protagonist from ruin is a woman.   Of course, in this year’s awards race, Bernice Bejo is stuffed into the supporting category (where she belongs, damnit!) but in fact, she really is a co-lead with Jean Dujardin.

Even still, in many ways, this is the most boring Oscar year since Slumdog Millionaire made David Carr so bored and disgusted he quit covering the Oscars for good.  But in other ways, though, there are thrilling upsets sprouting up around the moldy edges.  A black and white silent movie for Best Picture?  Even though Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross rightfully won the Oscar last year for their score, it’s another thrilling notion that they might be in the Oscar race again, especially for their wildly subversive, superb score for the Dragon Tattoo.  Though the Oscar nominations have not yet been laid down, but should Reznor/Ross earn a second nomination in two years someone is going to look back and think, holy shit, Trent fucking Reznor.

The Best Actress race has Margaret Thatcher, Marilyn Monroe – a mother of a mass murderer, a woman subverting herself to become a man, and it’s hard to not notice those Bridesmaids, and The Help – maids who are becoming writers.  I watched The Help with my 13 year-old who wants to “write a novel” this year after seeing it.  My own inner beast has been overtaken by Lisbeth Salander on her motorcycle, with her taser gun, her laptop and her wide angle fiber optic lens.

Indeed, the Academy is made up of old fogies stuck in their ways.  But if the Oscar nominations mirror what we’re seeing in the guilds?  Perhaps our boredom and frustration springs from our inability to look.  There is something happening here, yes.

What is at stake? Oh, a whole lot of nothing.  At the end of the day, The Oscars are nothing more than a high validation of the sentiments of 6,000 or so.  For some of us, they are our mirror. If this group rewards a film that must mean it really did “deserve” to win.  When it was Brokeback Mountain up against Crash it felt like something bigger was at stake: a chance to make history, a moment to move the needle of progress ever-so-slightly.

Back before the Oscar race was covered 24/7, Hollywood had a greater notion of the political importance of the Oscar race.  If it just comes down to individual tastes why should it matter at all?   But Marlon Brando, Kim Basinger and Michael Moore, to name a few, have acknowledged the power of the Oscars to shift perception.  Hollywood listens to money.  Deeply held traditions mostly make money.  To shake those up you have to start somewhere.  I don’t think I could even cover the Oscar race at all if I didn’t think that they were somehow involved in the balance of power in Hollywood.  If things can shift there, maybe they can shift in bigger ways.

But the Oscars and politics have never been something people respond well to.  Inevitably, anyone who gives a damn is told to sit down and shut up.  It’s just entertainment, right?  It’s just a way to separate us from our $10.  Except that it isn’t, really.  We’re a culture that looks to movies to reflect who we are.  But when I look at movies I don’t see who we are so much as who we should want to be.  And when films are used as guidelines for our own identities?  That is when it becomes a problem for upstarts like me not seeing enough diversity in mainstream Hollywood.

84 years is a long time to have nothing important happen. It was too long coming for Kathryn Bigelow to win the Oscar and it was too long coming for Lee Daniels to be the first black director nominated for a DGA.  We have a black president and yet the only mainstream Hollywood film that could get made was one about Mississippi in the Civil Rights era — a moment in our history that Oscar voters are still grappling with.  The needle moves slowly within the Academy but it eventually moves.  The Help and Bridesmaids made so much money that they can’t be ignored.

But even if the political shifts aren’t your thing, you can’t deny how frustrating it’s been to have comedies and genre movies shut out for so long.  In a better world both Attack the Block and Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be seriously considered for Best Picture, whether they were “Oscar movies” or not.  It is the height of irony that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been thrust into the Oscar race despite David Fincher, Scott Rudin and Sony doing everything they could to ensure it wouldn’t be after last year’s colossal goat fuck. But the truth is, should the Oscar race be lucky enough to have a David Fincher film nominated once again (the jury is still out on that), it will be because he makes movies that are leagues beyond what other directors are doing in film.  Fincher, Payne, Scorsese and Hazanavicius have, this year, turned in immeasurably brilliant work.  It is one of the big bummers that the work of these directors must be filtered through the opinions of the plethora of film writers out there, most of whom are a little too comfortable thinking alike.  They glom on to a narrative and soon that narrative becomes the reality.  Well, it isn’t the reality.  We must be willing to strip away the comfort of like minds.

I am coming to terms with my own unwillingness to be open to the possibility of Bridesmaids as a serious contender. It reminds me of that scene in Shawshank Redemption when Red is working as bagging clerk at the grocery store and he asks permission to go to the bathroom.  Or the scene where the hitter in Moneyball doesn’t realize he’s hit a home run.  We are hindered only by our own inability to imagine the impossible becoming possible.  So to say that we were all underestimating Bridesmaids is kind of wrong thinking.  But I’m also too prideful to admit that I underestimated Bridesmaids.  I want to think that I didn’t underestimate it so much as I underestimated the Academy’s willingness to vote for it.   So what is happening here? Frustration at stereotypes, frustration at the same old dish being served up for dinner, frustration at the awards race being so stuck in its ways?

Bridesmaids is dangerously close to a Best Picture nomination.  In fact, it really looks like a definite possibility. If I was a betting person I’d have lost this bet as I assumed that the content in the film couldn’t earn it a nomination, especially when you consider the great many comedies that weren’t nominated over the past decades.  I even fought on Twitter about how impossible it seemed.   The three films that have been the most surprising to me this year in ways I never saw coming have been The Good: Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the not so good: War Horse failing to hit the major guilds.  I would have reversed these two scenarios.   Those are two very different things.  Once you’ve been covering the race as long as I have you learn, year after year, to lower you expectations.  Every once in a great while, though, they surprise you.

But indeed, given the amount of support for the raunchy women in Bridesmaids by the actors, and the industry at large — as in, it’s time to give women props and time to reward a film that made $160 mil — you have to start really thinking that Best Picture is going to look something like this:

The Artist (PGA/SAG/DGA/ACE) + New York Film Critics
The Descendants (PGA/SAG/DGA/WGA/ACE) + LA Film Critics, Southeastern Film Critics
Midnight in Paris (PGA/SAG/DGA/WGA/ACE)
Hugo (PGA/DGA/WGA/ACE) + National Board of Review
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (PGA/DGA/WGA/ACE)
Bridesmaids  (PGA/SAG/WGA/ACE)
Moneyball (PGA/WGA/ACE)
The Help (PGA/SAG/WGA)
War Horse (PGA/ACE)

The Artist may very well take the year.   And that will say that another international production will have won Best Picture.  At a time when mainstream studios must put out fanboy crap, sequels and terribly written effects films to profit, the dramas coming out of American film are being, once again, overlooked for a film made by people who live in communities where art can overcome commerce, where ideas still flourish.

Do this long enough and you will find that something inside of you dies.  It doesn’t die quickly or dramatically, but slowly and over time.  Every so often, something of beauty will flutter past the window and in that moment, as you breath quickly in and get high off of the unpredictability of it all, you know that the same predictability of awards voting is what killed that thing about movies you loved so much — the disappearing into them.  Studios are afraid to invest in potential failures and so they play it safe.  Playing it safe means we get what we’re expecting and nothing more.   Voters don’t think about moving the needle, fortifying our foundation to ensure future generations have access to great films.  They just look at the movies and check off the ones they like best.

And so we are here again, at the end of the year, trying to make sense of this silly game of choosing which work of art of performance is the “best.”  The game is the game.  Even if we reach for something higher, sooner or later the air goes out of the room and we’re back to what we we’re most comfortable with.  We’re back to the majority vote.  We’re back to the idea that there has to be only one kind of Oscar movie.

Why do we care? Why do we want more? Why can’t we walk away?  Because we’re all hoping that this year the needle moves.    And just maybe it will.


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  • brandz

    Margaret Thatcher is a woman and Streep’s magnificent performance will surely win her Best Lead Actress Oscar.

  • med

    Streep will most likely lose SAG to Davis since they have never given a SAG BA award twice to the same actress (Streep won for Doubt). But, if Streep can edge out Tilda at BAFTA, she’s a shoo-in for the Oscar.

  • Kevin KIawitter

    Lee Daniels wasn’t the first black man to be nominated for Best Director. That was John Singleton for “Boyz n the Hood” in 1991.

  • Daveylow

    Sasha, Lee Daniels was not the first black director nominated for an Oscar. John Singleton was.

    And Ang Lee was the first director of color ever to win the Oscar.

  • Lee Daniels was not the first black director to be nominated for the Oscar. That was John Singleton.

  • Nobody’s gonna mention John Singleton? ! …


  • Christopher H

    How groundbreaking! The best actress category is full of women!

  • I actually am really not invested this year. I don’t have a movie that I’m in love with so I’m not getting disappointed. HUGO is my favorite and I love WARRIOR but it’s not like other years. It’s not that I’ve learned my lesson or anything. I just didn’t connect this year. I know that these people pick weird things and there’s really no rhyme or reason to it. Last year with ten nominees I liked most of the films to varying degrees with INCEPTION being the one I fell for. But it was never in danger of winning. Of the two main contenders, TKS and TSN, I thought TSN was slightly better but neither of them were my thing. So when TKS won, I wasn’t outraged. I was slightly surprised but it didn’t really matter to me either way.

    So this year, it’s even worse. I mean there are a lot of “nice” movies. I probably like them all as much as I liked those two. So this race really doesn’t matter to me. I think THE HELP isn’t that far above TV movie material, but that’s the same thing I thought about TKS. So if it were to beat HUGO, I’d probably have a “what else is new?” attitude about it. The only movie that could get a strong reaction out of me if it were to win is BRIDESMAIDS. I did see it and it was worse than I thought. Bad in the way that it’s nothing special. It has nothing to say and worst of all it’s not funny. I like comedy a great deal. I think Kristen Wiig has been great on SNL and I have expected great things from her. I’ve actually said out loud that I think she could be Lucille Ball great some day. But BRIDESMAIDS made me think I’m gonna have to wait a while for that.

  • Andrew

    it’s a shame that Ramsay and her Kevin haven’t got more love.

    Its baffling that every year we have films like descendants and artist that hit every award list even though they are “smaller” films whilst others like kevin, Margaret, shame that miss out time after time

  • I’d say that this is far from the most boring Oscar race since Slumdog Millionaire. Even with The Artist emerging as a frontrunner, it’s only emerging now, and it’s still facing heat from several other films. Most of the major categories remain highly unresolved, even those in which there was a symmetry between the BFCA and HFPA.

    And I can’t see anything wrong with a foreign film winning. Sasha, what’s so wrong with a non-American film winning the Oscar? The Oscars are open to international films, and so they should be. It’s not ‘Best American Picture’. I know that after last year, when a British film beat out a bunch of American films, you’re not keen on another foreign film winning, but think of how many American films have won in the past, then think of how many French films have won. Renoir, Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Bresson, Chabrol. I’d far rather see a French film, a black and white silent French film too, win the Best Picture Oscar than a marginally better American film win.

  • Andrew

    Antoniette I’m with u. I feel very blah about the major contenders this year. I thought the descendants was solid but not groundbreaking

  • g

    Can’t wait for the 24th! Dying to see how many bp nominees we get!

  • Hans

    At the very least, this is the first time in a while that we are seeing some variety in the acting races. Both 2009 AND 2010 saw CC/GG/SAG match 100% (Waltz/Mo’nique/Bullock/Bridges, then Bale/Leo/Portman/Firth). Already we have heat in Best Actress (Streep? Davis? Williams for a spoiler?) and I have a feeling that Best Actor is going to go be determined by whether it’s The Artist or The Descendants that gets a good handle on momentum. Spencer seems on her way to her gold, to which I say, huzzah, but I do wish there was a way she could split that between herself, Chastain, and Bryce Dallas Howard. Plummer also seems pretty sewn up as well, no one is going to take away his career Oscar (then again…Peter O’Toole anyone?…)

  • Daveylow

    In principle I don’t see anything wrong with a foreign film winning best picture. But The Artist certainly isn’t Cries and Whispers, Z, Crouching Tiger or The Emigrants, the foreign films that have been nominated in the past for best picture and lost.

  • steve50

    “I’d far rather see a French film, a black and white silent French film too, win the Best Picture Oscar than a marginally better American film win.”

    Yup – I’m there, too. The Artist is #7 on my top ten, so if 1 thru 6 don’t make the list, I’m jumping on The Artist bandwagon. Hugo (#5), Moneyball(#4) and Dragon/Tattoo(#6) are looking good, but I also think it would be amazing for a silent film to win. A film from France has never won best pic because as soon as they talk, they get dumped into the foreign language bin, which is almost as disgraceful as supporting actor (wink).

  • Ryan B

    “It was hard not to notice Robin Wright at the Critics Choice awards, striding out onto the stage with her still impossibly youthful legs”

    And then she said something about the year of the woman, but whatever.

  • iggy

    I think Bridesmaids isn’t really the movie that could actually happen, but rather the movie that some people want it to happen so badly, that they forget it’s not great. I enjoyed it (I’m no hater). I think it had some funny moments, and some other terrible (unfunny) ones, but for some the idea of having it in the discussion seems to be more attractive than the movie itself. Regardless of its quality or how cool one may think it would be to have it as one of the BP nominees, what I can’t understand is why McCarthy supporters aren’t as vocal for Wiig or Byrne.

  • Daveylow

    The British film Weekend won best film of the year from the Dorian Awards:

  • John G

    I don’t think a movie by a Frenchman leading the race reflects badly on American film. The movie is an ode to Hollywood. And don’t forget that most Hollywood junk, sequels and the effects films, are made specifically for international audiences. Plus, the winner at the most prominent French film event, Cannes, was an American film.

  • A.J

    I wasn’t invested this year until I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that quickly went away when I finally got around to seeing Midnight in Paris. Three times. In a row.

  • SallyinChicago

    You forgot to mention Columbiana with Zoe Saldana, an action flick.

  • SallyinChicago

    Oh, and Paula Patton in M4.

  • Jose

    Robin Wright was amazing this year in The Conspirator. But as usual nobody cared 🙁

  • Michael Lewis

    Sasha, you just put in words what I’ve been feeling about the movies for 2011. In general they were good, but not groundbreaking or earth-shattering. But I do see exciting trends represented by Bridesmaids, The Help, The Artist, and possibly The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Like you, I am burned out by sequels, prequels, and predictability. The top Oscar nominees in 2010, except for The King’s Speech, showed cutting-edge tendencies, like Inception, The Social Network, The Kids are Alright and Winter’s Bone. But I guess for now, we’ll have to celebrate the few cutting-edge movies getting possible Oscar nominations, if not the final award. Baby steps, Sasha, baby steps.

  • Jeremie

    Sasha, you just put in words what I’ve been feeling about the movies for 2011. In general they were good, but not groundbreaking or earth-shattering.

    You should insert “represented at the Oscars” after “movies”. 2011 has been a great year, as any other before. But as usual the Oscars is probably not the right place to find them. Drive, Melancholia, Kill List, A Separation, Wuthering Heights, Take Shelter, Tree of Life, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy etc are all likely to be remembered and discussed for years to come. These are all great, groundbreaking amazing films. The fact that they won’t be represented at the Oscar doesn’t mean they should ignored.

  • Aubrey

    Would appreciate the political campaign, post-Globes.

    Where money is put in the race.

    At this stage it’s the narrowing down–in each category, the 2 big contenders.

    If your candidate isn’t in the big 2, best put your money elsewhere to win.

    The next stage now is the Guilds. Oscar nominations are already closed.

  • Sasha Stone

    Lee Daniels was not the first black director to be nominated for the Oscar. That was John Singleton.

    I meant the DGA, sorry.

  • DBibby

    If a movie with the premise and form of The Artist can be a commercial and critical success in the US today, this is something to celebrate. This surely must increase the likelihood of innovative and out-of-the-box films getting the green light from Hollywood studios in the future.

  • drake

    i actually think its been a down year for female performances… i’m not going to deny the significance of “bridesmaids” or some of the characters (like that of dragon tattoo) but i mean look who we are talking about for best actress? viola davis? meryl streep? michelle williams? all fine female actors who give good performances but they are in pretty weak films… those 3 films are rated 54, 62, and 65 on metacritic respectively… i’ll save my “year of the women” declaration for a year when strong female performances play a larger part in the year’s best movies

  • In other news…

    The Georgia Film Critics Association has announced its nominations

  • Matthew D.

    The Oscars are almost never a benchmark for great films released during any given year. This year has given us Tree of Life, Drive, Shame, Meek’s Cutoff, and Melancholia – all of which will be looked back upon with infinitely more esteem than whatever film wins “Best Picture” at the increasingly less important Academy Awards.

  • BrianB

    I do not get the Bridesmaids love at all. The great James Berardinelli says it best: “Bridesmaids is bipolar filmmaking at its most disconcerting, with changes in tone so abrupt that they can cause whiplash. In part because of this and in part because the writing is often lazy and self-indulgent, the movie rarely works. The setup is ripe for a black comedy but the movie never fully embraces the darkness and the level of humor is on par with the limp skits for which Wiig is responsible on Saturday Night Live.”

  • R

    I cant believe how gross it was how everyone was thanking [deleted] weinstein, that guy isnt a film producer, he hacks everything up with the purpose to win awards.

  • Luis Burguete

    The day that Oscar nominations look likes this lineup, something changed in America…


  • @R: Harvey Weinstein, based on the considerable material I’ve read on him, strikes me as an unpleasant, arrogant individual. But he is very involved in the promotion of his films, many of which are lower-budgeted passion projects from actors and filmmakers. It’s perfectly reasonable that his money and marketing efforts would be appreciated by winners, and he deserves a good deal of credit for the work he’s done this year and in the past.

  • drake

    @matthew d and luis

    i completely agree! i’d add “take shelter” to those lists

  • tonyr

    Don’t like the idea of a film about Hollywood winning Best Picture. Now more than ever, voters should be concerned with what’s going on outside of their little bubble. The Artist exists in that bubble, and while it’s certainly well-made and charming and cute and all those wonderful things, it’s simply not a film that will be remembered for years to come. If it is, it’ll only be because it was SILENT, BLACK AND WHITE, and FRENCH. There are three kinds of films that become classics.

    1. Big hits that are also great movies (The Godfather, The Exorcist, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings, etc)

    2. Films that push the present boundaries of cinema in one way or another (Psycho, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Avatar, etc)

    2. Zeitgeist “topic” films, those that represent or comment on the important issues of their time (Apocalypse Now, Do the Right Thing, Brokeback Mountain, The Social Network)

    It’s not realistic, as Sasha always points out, but I wish the Academy would recognize this and each year pick a film that represents one of these. But as we know, they often just pick what they enjoyed the most at that time.

  • Let’s be honest, this is a year where an unusually high number of the year’s consensus best films aren’t going to make it – The Tree of Life, A Separation, Shame, Tinker Tailor, Melancholia, Drive, etc.

    I don’t expect the Oscars to be a perfect reflection of current critical taste, but usually they do a better job. The Artist is good but it’s this year’s Shakespeare in Love. I can’t deny The Descendants has its passionate believers (I’m not among them). Hugo has a lot of enthusiasts. The rest of the likely field is just meh.

  • JJ

    Women are half the population. Why is anyone surprised when a girl-power movie rules? And women also have a lot of authority within the film industry. So, women need to make more movies that are female-centric. And women need to get their asses to the theaters.

    Amy Pascal used to specialize in making solid female-skewing earners (whether you cared for them critically or not – I’m thinking Stepmom, Mona Lisa Smile) Recently, she made Julie and Julia. Those movies all pretty much outgrossed Moneyball. They may not be as critically cool but people liked them for the most part.

  • Manuel

    I dont like the idea of movies getting attention BECAUSE of massive commerical or inside/ promotional or powerful influences like Harvey Weinstein.

    I hope, for god sakes, a scenario like the one in the 90s where several of Weinsteins movies won multi of Oscars and nominations.

    Its about the performance, not the politics

  • Eric

    Sasha, I think this article is beautifully written. It has put into words what I have been feeling for the past three years with the Oscars- eveything has become so dull and boring. i watched the Oscar telecast with my family last year, and even they, who do not follow the awards race, saw all the winners coming from a mile away.
    What happened to the days of major upsets? Adrien Brody winning Best Actor for “The Pianist” in 2002. “Crash” winning for Best Picture in 2005 (albeit undeserved- “Good Night, and Good Luck” was far superior to “Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain”.) Alan Arkin winning Best Supporting Actor for “Little Miss Sunshine” in 2006. Tilda Swinton taking the Best Supporting Actress prize for “Michael Clayton” in ’07. These were welcome upsets that added life to the race. Since 2008’s telecast, the suspense is gone. Everyone knew “Slumdog” was going to take it all that year. 2009 was probably even worse. The acting awards were all sewn up two months prior to the show, and “The Hurt Locker” seemed like a done deal since the Critic’s Choice.
    Last year, Colin Firth had the Best Actor prize locked up ever since he lost the same award the year prior to Jeff Bridges. Portman, Leo, and Bale were locks from the get-go. (Although I will say that Portman winning over Annette Benning was shameful.)
    If the Accademy would like to improve their ratings them improve your voting. Stop rubber-stamping every winner that comes your way via the critics and guilds. Think for yourselves. Open your minds to other possibilities with film.

  • Manuel

    I hope, for god sakes, a scenario like the one in the 90s where several of Weinsteins movies won multi of Oscars and nominations, will never happen again

  • Saul

    I am just not invested in the race this year. No movie has truly stood out for me. My favorite category (Best Actress) is boring as fuck in spite of Meryl and Viola.

  • JJ

    Here are fantasy/possible awards that would restore my faith in whatever:

    Fassbender for Best Actor
    Mulligan for Best Supporting Actress
    Mara for Best Actress
    Pitt for Supporting (for Tree of Life)
    And best picture to a past nominee that was better than this year’s trough – something like Boogie Nights or Into the Wild or LA Confidential or The Social Network. Lol.

    Hey, it’s my fantasy!

  • m1

    I’m shocked at the backlash Bridesmaids has been getting for the past few weeks now. I thought it was terrific. Every single character and conversation was very well-written and didn’t feel overly artificial while being funny at the same time. Every performance, from Kristen Wiig to Rose Byrne to Melissa McCarthy, was great and deserving of that SAG ensemble nod. These characters felt like real people that I loved spending two hours with. It did feel a little SNL-ish, but it was able to go past that. The only weak link was that tacked-on Jon Hamm subplot that didn’t really go anywhere. I would not put it on a shelf with the likes of Lost in Translation, Sideways, The Kids Are All Right, or even Knocked Up, but it is very well made, I think.

  • Aaron B

    No hope at all that the new rules will result in some different choices making it? It’d be awesome to see The Tree of Life, Drive, A Separation or Shame make it.

  • m1

    @tonyr: So period films can’t become classics? That’s just stupid.

  • Robert A.

    I disagree with tonyr that in order for a film to become a classic, it has to either be a big hit that’s also a great movie, or it has to push the boundaries of cinema in some way, or it has to be a Zeitgeist “topic” movie. The problem I have with that statement is it seems to reduce classics into too simple and easy categorization.

    For example, “Singin’ in the Rain” routinely makes Best of All Time lists, often in the Top 30. Yet it wasn’t a hit back in 1952. (In fact, I think it kind of fizzled at the box-office). It certainly isn’t a Zeitgeist “topic” movie, and I’m not sure you would say it pushed the boundaries of cinema in the way you describe that term. So does that mean “Singin’ in the Rain” can’t be considered a classic? Hell no. It’s still a kick-ass musical worthy of its classic status.

    Notorious. Double Indemnity. All About Eve. Bringing Up Baby (another flop at the box office). Just a few more examples that don’t seem to fit into tonyr’s definition of a “classic.” I guess my point is that what will become a classic and what won’t can not always be defined. Movies that we devalue now and think have no chance at classic status may be considered classics decades from now, and movies we’re convinced today will become classics may look tired and worn on the screen in 30-40 years. We simply can’t lump classics into three easy categories.

  • brendon

    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reifies common/trite/sexist narratives that women’s strength comes from their ability to express traits associated with masculinity.

    By comparison, The Help and Bridesmaids are pretty progressive narratives, at least w/r/t gender. Bridesmaids’ understanding of female relationships is nuanced and intelligent, and its treatment of race – wherein Maya Rudolph being black isn’t even mentioned – is positively utopian.

  • Matt R

    Can we talk BAFTA tomorrow people? Here are my picks for the Best Pictures

    Best Film
    1.The Artist
    2.The Descendants
    3.War Horse
    4.The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
    5.The Help

    Best British Film
    1. Tyrannosaur
    2. Tinker,Tailor Soldier, Spy
    3. My Week With Marilyn
    4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2
    5. The Guard

  • Scott (the other one)

    Agree with Matthew D. Those are the films that will actually be remembered in 20 or 40 years. Of the more mainstream and conventional films of the year, I still maintain that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the best, a masterfully controlled and exquisitely rendered depiction of the seedy, drab world of cold war spycraft where it ceased to be clear who was on the right side. I utterly fail to understand the love for The Descendants and The Artist — nice films that have nothing very special about them. Hugo was visually impressive, but it bored me, as films aimed at children usually do. I absolutely refuse to pay money to see shlock like War Horse.

  • R

    Brendon, i agree, but this isnt exactly a place for actual thought. It is more about picking your fan choice, for surface reasons and banging its drum to the end, it is more of a sports site.

  • SallyinChicago

    “I am just not invested in the race this year. No movie has truly stood out for me. My favorite category (Best Actress) is boring as fuck in spite of Meryl and Viola.”
    Me too, and I don’t think the Oscars will get a big audience domestically. The American public if you read boxofficemojo hasn’t seen half the movies in contest.

  • tonyr

    @M1…of course they can. Saving Private Ryan is one.

    @RobertA…”pushing the boundaries of cinema” can happen in both big and small ways. Annie Hall would be an example of the latter.

    I should’ve added that those three loose definitions really only apply to films made after a certain point in time. Obviously films from those bygone eras like Notorious and Singin’ in the Rain became famous for other reasons (Gene Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Gene Wilder, Home Video Revolution), in addition to being great films for their time. Movie stars and big name directors used to be able to propel great films into pop culture discussions. Not so much these days.

  • Alexandra

    ColOmbiana…it´s really not that hard…

  • m1

    Saving Private Ryan would fall more under the “big hits that are also great movies” category. What about The King’s Speech? It got VERY HIGH critical raves (even higher than Saving Private Ryan) and doesn’t really fall into any of those categories. It is a movie that is inspiring and expertly produced, and it barely falls into the “big hits” category. I think that it will be considered a classic in the years to come, and it isn’t a perfect fit in any of those categories. So I don’t think your logic for a movie becoming a classic is entirely correct.

  • Nichola

    it will definitely be interesting to see where these movies go in the nominations. Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are SO different from each other and neither are typical Oscar bait but it’s awesome to see them both keep coming up and compete with stuff like War Horse for a spot. I really hope Bridesmaids goes somewhere though. Especially for Melissa McCarthy. We need more of her, she has so much to offer.

  • Jeff

    Stop saying goat fuck!

  • HahaLives

    If this was truly “year of the WOMEN!” then Kelly Reichardt’s brilliant MEEK’S CUTOFF would be getting nominations all over the place.

  • OCO300

    @Sasha Stone Would’ve been cool to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

  • @OCO300 yeah I mean what’s wrong with it? I mean hard to believe HP’s last movie was robbed out of the Best Picture race.

  • I mean it’s popular not only in America but around the world

  • Matthew D.

    HahaLives says:
    January 16, 2012 at 7:35 pm
    If this was truly “year of the WOMEN!” then Kelly Reichardt’s brilliant MEEK’S CUTOFF would be getting nominations all over the place.


    That movie is absolutely engrossing and memorable, yet people are going on and on about… Bridesmaids. I really wish people would just stop and think about this for a minute. Is 2011 going to be remembered as the year in which Bridesmaids gets a BP nomination and Tree of Life goes unrecognized by the Academy? Is that seriously something that people want to happen? Let the madness continue, I guess.

  • James

    What’s wrong with HP8? It’s just 1/2 of a movie. It could not stand on its own, and unfortunately we can’t yank off it’s first half from 2010 and stick it into this 2011 installment. It’s a fantastic fitting end to 12 years of HP movies, but going up against FULL movies in the top categories, it has very little chance.

  • @James well at least won a few “public” awards for Best Movie.

  • It is FINALLY an open and exciting race.

    – The Artist is the frontrunner…right ?
    – If Scorsese is a strong bd-contender, even Hugo could win…right ?
    – The Help is so strong, could it pull off a bd-less ‘Miss Daisy’ bp-win?
    – Is the Academy really that much in love with Midnight in Paris ?
    – Could the quiet little The Descendants become the big winner ?
    – Could the PGA/DGA duo want to kiss and make up with Fincher this year ?

    There are so many viable possibilities, it is just remarkably refreshing after all those clean-sweep-years…even last year that was supposed to be ‘filled with surprises’ only had one : The Social Network won everything in the first half of the season, then The King’s Speech won everything in the second half…ONE surprise and that was it.

  • James

    After last night’s amusing speech and then the prancing with the dog, could Jean Dujardin pull of a surprise win ala Roberto Begnini at the Oscars?

  • Mel

    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reifies common/trite/sexist narratives that women’s strength comes from their ability to express traits associated with masculinity.

    No, it’s sexist/common/trite to see strength as masculinity. Lisbeth is a genderfuck as well as a mindfuck. There is nothing common, trite or sexist about her character/story….as hard as some men (and women) try to box her into a category. She forces you to redefine woman and masculinity and femininity for that matter. As unreal as she seems, she’s more real than most women on the screen these days…she embodies the contradiction that is real and rejects conformity which in fact unreal, but we’ve been brainwashed to believe in.

  • A.J

    Dragon Tattoo had a late surge, lets not forget that. So late that BFCA and HFPA ignored it (mostly) but has been sweeping the guild nominations as it should. I also feel that Midnight in Paris will reemerge in the coming weeks. All eyes should be on the SAG. If The Artist wins it’s over (like Slumdog) but if something else wins, regardless of PGA and DGA, then we have a race and it should be exciting.

    Also: Let’s not forget Precious’s shocking screenplay win over Up in the Air.

  • Benny Z

    I have an interesting question for everyone…

    So if this were a year of 10 nominees (which I kind of wish it was) assuming the 9 mentioned above (Artist, Descendants, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Moneyball, Hugo, and Bridesmaids) would’ve been nominated, what would have been in the 10th slot?

    My heart says Tree of Life, but truth be told it hasn’t gotten much support. Would it have been Ides of March? Drive? A Separation? J Edgar?

  • Robert A.

    “It is FINALLY an open and exciting race.

    1)- The Artist is the frontrunner…right ?
    2)- If Scorsese is a strong bd-contender, even Hugo could win…right ?
    3)- The Help is so strong, could it pull off a bd-less ‘Miss Daisy’ bp-win?
    4)- Is the Academy really that much in love with Midnight in Paris ?
    5)- Could the quiet little The Descendants become the big winner ?
    6)- Could the PGA/DGA duo want to kiss and make up with Fincher this year?”

    1) Yup.
    2) Maybe, but this seems less likely if there are no acting nominations for Hugo. Movies with no acting nominations just in general seem to have a harder time making it all the way to the gold. Not impossible, obviously, but it makes the case for Hugo a little more shaky.
    3) Nah! Personally I question whether The Help is really that strong. Plus, Driving Miss Daisy had the most nominations back in 1989, even without a director nod, so unless The Help manages to get more nominations than The Artist or Hugo (all but impossible), I’m not sure the cases are really that comparable. Plus, no editing nod=unlikely BP win.
    4) Actually, Midnight is one of the “unknown” quantities to me. It’s a harder case on which to get a clear read. But since acting nods look doubtful, Midnight could conceivably only get 3-4 nominations, right? This nomination tally seems awfully small to make a run to the end with (although I guess The Departed won on only five nominations). Also, no editing nod=unlikely BP win. (Although Woody has broken the editing rule once before with Annie Hall, so…)
    5) The Descendants just doesn’t feel like the winner to me, although obviously I could be mistaken. Again, I’ll be watching how it does in the editing category.
    6) TGWTDT seems doubtful for a win, in my estimation. I don’t think guilt over not awarding TSN last year is enough to give the movie actual wins with PGA and DGA. They’ll have to really love the movie for that to happen, methinks. But admittedly, I haven’t seen TGWTDT yet, and this is a movie that is also hard for me to get a clear read.

    In short, the only movie that seems likely to hit all the bases is The Artist. Acting nods, director, screenplay, several critical tech categories including editing. Potential to be the nomination leader. That’s why it seems like it may be hard to beat.

    Hard, not impossible.

  • Riley

    I was really underwhelmed with Bridesmaids. Most of the funny parts were shown in the trailer. Looking at that poster, at the top of the page, I really noticed that Melissa McCarthy’s pic is really photoshopped. She is what she is…was it necessary to change her appearance?

  • daveinprogress

    In answer to the rhetorical question in the heading of this thread – just another year, methinks, and a sentimental one at that. It feels, even at this point, looking at how Woody Allen, Christopher Plummer, Martin Scorsese and The Artist and The Help have been cleaning up – a mixture of critics prizes and soon to be guilds, sentiment seems a strong component. After The King’s Speech just a year ago, although edgier and more contemporary fare will get nominated – but the misty among the Academy, will love The Artist and The Help and Hugo and Midnight in Paris (which i enjoyed, but don’t get all the love that is being sent its way). I loved Beginners, so will be thrilled to see Christopher Plummer at 82 get an Oscar, but i’m sure there are other worthy contenders, but it is too wonderful an opportunity, not to reward him with an Oscar (finally). War Horse will probably get a heap of nods too. Hugo may unearth some love for Sir Ben kInglsey, and the women from The Help will fill 3 spots. The Descendants? Several nods, but like Up in the Air, Sideways and Juno – contemporary comedy/dramas rarely win the big prize – so even now, i am predicting an Artist or Hugo victory.

  • Watermelons

    “fanboy crap, sequels and terribly written effects films to profit”

    The Avengers: in theaters everywhere Summer 2012

  • Jake G.!

    Just saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!!! Best film of the year by far! Bring on the Best Picture nomination:)

  • @Jake G.!: God damn right, brother. Let’s hope it falls into the elusive “classic” category by the time we’re all old and grey.

  • James

    Sasha and others feel that the DGA, some guilds, and many Academy members are guilt-ridden over their endorsement of TKS last year. What evidence points to this? Articles, interviews, testimonials, anything? And don’t refer to the accolades Dragon Tattoo is getting as evidence, they’re not even circumstantial. It’s not an Oscar movie but it’s terrific, and it’s not the first time a film of it’s kind has been heralded by the guilds and probably by the Academy. It’s got some bad reviews, yes, but so do many of the frontrunners. It’s like The Departed, dark, violent and a remake of a recent foreign hit.

  • Zooey

    @ med, stop the whole ‘no actress has won two SAG Awards’. STREEP IS STREEP! A LEGEND! She will probably win the SAG Award. Daniel Day-Lewis has two lead SAG Awards – first time he lost the Oscar, second time he won. And Renee Zellweger has two SAG’s, even though one in supporting (but they were back-to-back). So stop the whole she can’t win a second. And what’s more important, she deserves to win a second. And I believe she will!!

  • Jane Fulsome

    Holy crap, Sasha, I can’t believe you totally failed to mention the women directors and screenwriters working. Never mind that the recent sit-down of directors was all male, with Steve McQueen railing against the lack of parts for African Americans/people of color (and I bet he meant black men, not black men and women); how about the fact that women, 50% of the fucking population, isn’t represented for huge screeds of the time on film – and when they are, they are all too often sex objects/dressed provocatively/in peril to be saved by the men? Where were the women directors at that sit down? How about YOU, Sasha, mentioning Kathryn Bigelow once in the article and apart from that, nada. What, no Lynne Ramsay? No Abi Morgan (she wrote The Iron Lady and co-wrote Shame, ffs)? Why is it that wehen we talk about women in film we almost always talk about actors only?

  • Rex

    Lee Daniels was not the first black director to be nominated for the Oscar. That was John Singleton.

    Sasha, you said DGA in your article…so you were RIGHT
    Singleton missed a DGA nomination despite getting an Oscar nod in 1992

  • Edwin Drood

    Comments that we currently have a “wide-open race” strike me as little more than attempts at spin and providing a laundry list of “evidence” in “support” of such an obviously false claim a huge reach.

    Having won the majority of regional critics’ awards, nominations from every single US guild award* and now leading the field with 12 BAFTA nods it’s obvious that we have a single clear frontrunner – “The Artist”. That CAN change but by every measure we have it is a plain fact at the moment…

  • Edwin Drood

    Forgot to cite “The Artist”‘s preeminence with BFCA and HFPA…

    Last year proved that frontrunners CAN be stopped but there’s no denying that at this moment in time “The Artist” is the clear frontrunner…

  • Jorrey

    You harp too much with PC tripe, Sasha. Artists shouldn’t win based on their gender or ethnicity. There exists this undercurrent in your articles that I find quite disturbing sometimes. Just because women and minorities don’t win all the awards, doesn’t necessarily mean their exists an intentional bias within the Academy. That may have been decades ago, but it is hard for me to believe that these “old, white males” as you put it still hold archaic notions. Honestly, I think you have a problem with men in general.

  • EricWang

    “Shailene Woodley is the best and most forceful thing about the Descendants and in Midnight in Paris it is the women who show Owen Wilson the way.”

    Sasha, you are so right about this. They were exactly my thoughts after watching these 2 films. For some reason, this year I am particularly drawn to women’s performances, in supporting roles to be specific.

    Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Octavia Spencer (The Help), or even Marion Cotillard (Midnight in Paris) deserve to be nominated.

  • Michelle

    Nothing against Shailene Woodley….but, huh? This is a strong forceful female character? Wow, when did angst and hormonal teen get so popular, and the performance was just fine, but not brilliant or particularly memorable after the first scene in the pool.

    Has the world gone mad or just mediocre?

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