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Pundits Align Around Certain Films as Season Speeds Towards End

Over at InContention, Kris Tapley — who had been predicting Argo — went for Les Mis in a big way last night, writing:

And the Best Picture landscape will be shaken up one more time this season. Is this the one to take it all the way, two years after Hooper did precisely that? I’m thinking it might just be, but I’ll get into my own thoughts on it in due time.

Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells has finally dropped his advocacy for Silver Linings Playbook in a grand lament, though remains solidly what he calls “ABL” — Anything But Lincoln:

The Universal release is going to win Best Picture apparently, and hats off to Tom Hooper and the gang if it does. If it’s over, it’s over. I can live with this, and perhaps I’ll celebrate it. The proof is in the pudding.

Dave Karger, for his part, remains, what he calls, “bullish” on Silver Linings. Karger took heat from Jeff Wells the past two seasons for being called “safe Dave” and always going for the Big Weinstein Co. movie. He’s heading for a threepeat of that this year as he remains the last man standing on Silver Linings at the moment.

I suspect some will align behind Les Miserables because they feel Lincoln can’t win.  They may think it’s too dry, too talky, too cerebral, not feelgoody enough. Les Mis might be that movie that puts smiles on the Oscar voters faces and renews their faith in humanity, a la The Artist, a la The King’s Speech.  A pundit who shall remain anonymous said about Les Mis, “It wouldn’t be what I voted for on my ballot but I could see it winning.”

In terms of Lincoln vs. Les Mis it is really about the actors. Both are giant ensembles. Lincoln has more vets, more character actors and generally a more well known ensemble, which makes it a force to be reckoned with on that count. Les Mis is more of your typical actor’s wet dream. They all love Les Mis, many have acted in Les Mis at one time or another, and it represents “the theater” in many ways.  Actors divide themselves into two groups (I know because I trained to be an actor many moons ago) — serious stage actors and musical theater actors. Lincoln represents the former and Les Mis the latter, which makes it a really intense competition between the two.

Lincoln has a couple of more things going for it at the outset – it has the best script of the year, by Tony Kushner, and is directed by a beloved Hollywood icon who hasn’t won since 1998. By contrast, Hooper won two years ago. That means the movie has to be really really really really all that and a bag of chips to overcome Hooper. Some will likely predict a split, as happened with Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan versus Shakespeare in Love. And that would not be an outlandish prediction.

Moreover, Argo and Lincoln are so far the only two that have passed the critics + box office test and both have passed with flying colors. You don’t necessarily have to have both but it helps in a tightly competitive year. Les Miserables didn’t compete on the festival circuit so it won’t enter the race with the same running start as The King’s Speech, which had won two audience awards by the time it rounded the first curve of Oscar season. It passed both the critics and the box office test with flying colors. The Artist’s buzz started in Cannes and no other film was big enough to beat it. Its box office didn’t matter but it helped that it was a low budget production to begin with. The voters often like low budget/high return best and they hate high budget/low return most. Hugo might have beaten it were it not for its loss at the box office. Les Mis will make bank. But we have to wait for the critics to hear what they think of it. That’s my take anyway.

Either way, it’s an exciting year for Oscar’s Best Picture with many many great films in the running. Passion will likely be Les Miserable’s best poison. If it has that it can easily go all the way.