The State of the Race: A Good Best Picture is Hard to Find

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“I once received a letter from an old lady in California who informed me that when the tired reader comes home at night, he wishes to read something that will lift up his heart. And it seems her heart had not been lifted up by anything of mine she had read. I think that if her heart had been in the right place, it would have been lifted up.” – Flannery O’Connor

Emotion, as many an Oscar pundit will tell you, is the key to finding your Best Picture winner. The question is, what moves you? Are you someone who needs a director to tell you how to feel with a rising score and a sympathetic sad sack who makes good? Or are you moved by a film that challenges the way you think? Or perhaps shifts your perceptions ever so slightly? What you respond to defines who you are, but it doesn’t necessarily make a film great.

When we talk about “Best Picture” we are talking about the movie most people can agree upon is best. We already know that doesn’t necessarily mean great. We know that doesn’t mean it stands the test of time either. The winning film is a snapshot of a moment in time. We can only hope that it is deserving of such an honor.

It’s a great movie and all but does it make you FEEL anything? This is the key question we Oscar bloggers rumble about at parties. “If grown men cry that movie will win,” my friend Hunter told me on Facebook. “It reminded me of the History Channel, something my husband likes,” my friend Susan told me on Facebook. “I kept waiting to feel something but I never felt anything,” another friend said. And on it goes. Emotion varies so greatly from person to person that it’s nearly impossible to pick a winner based on something so ephemeral, our passion.

According to The Wrap’s Steve Pond, passion is what gets a film nominated, but not what gets a film the win. Divisive films don’t win Best Picture. The more polarizing the film, no matter if it’s brilliant or not, the less of a chance it has to pull off a victory in a consensus vote. Of course, all of that could be trashed in an instant if this is the year a polarizing film won.

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This year, that polarizing film is Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables. The long awaited screen version of the beloved musical is dividing critics and viewers squarely down the middle. You’d be hard pressed to get a consensus vote on this one for the win. It is love it/hate it. So much so that Tom Hooper was not nominated for a Golden Globe for director – and if there’s one group that should have been inclined toward that nomination, it’s the HFPA. They are, after all, the only major voting group that honors the musical. To be a strong contender, that nomination needed to be there.

Nine musicals have won the Best Picture Oscar:

The Broadway Melody (1929)
Going My Way (1944)
An American in Paris (1951)
Gigi (1958)
West Side Story (1961)
My Fair Lady (1964)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Oliver! (1968)
Chicago (2002)

Since the HFPA have been giving out director prizes, let’s start with Going my Way, which won there. Each of these films had a Golden Globe nomination for director. Whenever it didn’t, that signaled a potentially weak Oscar contender.

On the other hand, as its been pointed out before, precedents are true until they aren’t. The Les Mis fan base will not let this one be true so perhaps 2012 will be that year it is finally overturned. After all, we are dealing with a different set of circumstances this year – from the date change to the more than five nominees for Best Picture. In some respects, we might have to scrap precedent and start anew. Kris Tapley and Dave Karger are really the two most prominent Oscar bloggers right now predicting it to win. If that prediction holds to the bitter end (if Hooper doesn’t get a director nod it will not) then they get to collect the accolades.

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Polarization also applies to Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, which lacks the all-important SAG ensemble nomination. Even if it’s true that the voters didn’t get the screeners in time, they did enough to nominate Jessica Chastain. So far, it doesn’t seem to matter what the reason is, the SAG ensemble nomination hasn’t failed in going on 15 years. Will that precedent be overturned this year to give that film the win?

It has its passionate advocates in the critics. Movie City News’ David Poland and Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells are two of its biggest champions. Poland, because he loves the film, and Wells because he’s hoping it might be one of two possibilities that will block Lincoln.

Then there’s the controversy with the film’s depiction of torture. Many are wondering whether or not that will hurt the film come Oscar time. Usually, if Oscar voters love a movie enough, if it MOVES them enough, the controversy will be meaningless. In this case, most people watching Zero Dark Thirty will do as critics did coming out of it, barely notice and wonder what all of the fuss was about. It’s possible that it could hurt the movie simply by making the audience not like Maya (Jessica Chastain) enough; that her character, who has been trained to believe that “enhanced interrogation techniques” work, is a distasteful person, especially being that she’s a woman and women are supposed to be, you know, saintly. Or slutty. Preferably saintly and slutty.

I am envisioning protests happening outside the Kodak for the film’s depiction of torture and if it goes that far, if the Academy will be accused of awarding a film that legitimizes torture, well, that’s something different. Noise will have to be made, more noise than is being made right now.

To my mind, Zero Dark Thirty isn’t a film made by filmmakers who advocate torture; it is a film made about people who believe torture works, who use it to acquire the name that eventually leads them to Osama Bin Laden.

Still, Zero Dark Thirty was already a long shot because of two key points. 1) Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal won in 2009. That is too soon, probably, although not impossible. 2) the SAG ensemble nod means the actors have their hearts in unison elsewhere. Those two forces are, to me, bigger obstacles for the win than the torture controversy. In fact, the talk might perhaps make the film bigger at the box office, as Kris Tapley told me, therefore a bigger threat to win.

Silver Linings Playbook 2

And then we come to Silver Linings Playbook, which has suddenly become a long shot pick because David O. Russell, like Tom Hooper, did not earn a Best Director nod at the Globes. Quentin Tarantino showed up there instead. Since Silver Linings Playbook was put in the musical/comedy category alongside Les Miserables, both of them suddenly become long shots because no film from that category has ever won Best Picture without the Best Director nod at the Globes except one, Driving Miss Daisy (and how long are we going to keep trotting that one out?)

Still, Silver Linings Playbook has two things going for it that the above do not. 1) The Weinstein Co. They are heading into potentially their third straight Best Picture win. Somehow I doubt they are going to let David O. Russell’s director nod slip through their fingers. I know they are competing against themselves with Tarantino, but I will be astounded if David O. Russell does not get a DGA and an Oscar nod for directing. A win is still a long shot, but it is a movie everybody likes and it will be Les Mis’ main competition at both the Globes and the SAGs. 2) that SAG ensemble nod is key. Everywhere I go I hear people saying they loved Silver Linings Playbook, probably more than any other film this year. Box office tells us otherwise, however, as it’s only barely cracked $20 mil up against Lincoln’s astonishing $120 mil and counting. But I can’t ignore what I hear people saying from all different walks of life. It is the ONLY movie I hear people talking about, incidentally.

Django Unchained is a film I think could do some damage in the awards race, although that too now has its share of controversy. Tarantino decided to tell his story without thinking about the potential ramifications. Such should be the freedom of artists everywhere. Spike Lee should be free to make that kind of movie if he wants to. However, now that it’s been called “offensive” by some members of the African American community might that means it dies at the box office? To me, it is Tarantino’s most entertaining film and that isn’t only my own buried resentment for my white ancestors. The torture porn helps me feel some sweet relief. I also think it’s just funny and I happened to enjoy Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. I have found that I just like Tarantino’s movies. But for our purposes here, it’s still tough to say whether it will make it into the race. I suspect that it will, given that there aren’t five Best Picture nominees. The real question is whether that fifth slot for director (fourth and fifth if you think Ang Lee is vulnerable) will be taken by Tarantino or David O. Russell or Tom Hooper.

“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” — Flannery O’Connor

Beasts of the Southern Wild might end up being too grotesque for voters, too ugly, not pretty, not idealistic, too much of a world that seems to embrace their poverty. That has made it a target for accusations of being a right wing fantasy. But the truth is, like many of these films we’re discussing, sooner or later you have to let go of political correctness and let the light back in. We can’t expect our films to remain artful and daring if they must adhere to being “right” for their times. Surely this has always been a concern with films – but in the case of Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film that is pure poetry, that reaction seems extreme.

middle of nowhere 2

Conversely, Middle of Nowhere, Ava DuVernay’s elegant, exquisite think piece on the journey of a modern African American woman does do everything “right” and yet, because it has no controversy attached to it, it seems to be talked about less. Middle of Nowhere, incidentally, won Best Director in Sundance and yet, it’s not gotten anywhere near the attention or acclaim of Beasts of the Southern Wild, even though DuVernay is potentially going to be the first black female writer/director to get any sort of Oscar attention. We can’t reward films like Middle of Nowhere and we can’t reward films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, so where does that leave us? It isn’t the artist’s job to right the wrongs of society. It isn’t the member of society’s obligation to take its moral cues from art. We are free thinking individuals with very large brains. Here’s to hoping we can keep art free from our own agendas.

Life of Pi is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Aside from Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi is the other movie I hear people talking about. When I say “people” I don’t mean Academy members. I mean just regular folks. Life of Pi appears to have hit the right note with older males. Its reviews are decent, not great, it has no controversy attached it and it does nothing but make you feel good, unless you hated the movie of course. It also has a Globe nod for Director. But since the Globes and Oscar never match up 100%, the odds are one of those five will be selected out. So either Ang Lee or Quentin Tarantino will likely be left off Oscar’s five. But again, it’s worth remembering that this is an odd year, with ballots being pushed back. That alone might account for a 5/5 match-up with Globes and Oscar, which would put Best Director at:

Spielberg
Bigelow
Affleck
Lee
Tarantino

Or not. Or David O. Russell or Tom Hooper push through.

ARGO

Argo, like Silver Linings Playbook, is the real snake in the grass. If voters are going to turn off of Zero Dark Thirty, they’ll likely turn to Argo instead because it has no controversy attached to it – there was one, briefly, but it disappeared after Argo stopped feeling like a threat. But it is a threat because it has few haters and many lovers. Like Zero Dark Thirty it has very few negative reviews. It has also hit every necessary marker along the way – it made $100 million, it has a Globe nod for director AND a SAG ensemble nod. It is a film that will appeal broadly across the widest group. It is also flying under the radar and was only briefly the frontrunner back during Telluride, which means, it’s not a target for continual attacks as Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln have been. It is funny, suspenseful, moving and exactly the kind of movie Oscar voters love. Argo might start winning the larger consensus votes, like the Producers Guild and if it wins just one of those? All bets are off.

What appears to be missing right now for Argo is passion. Passion that comes with hatred will lose the Best Picture prize, but passion along with few haters is often what brings the win. Does it make you smile with your heart? Do you want to tell your friends to see it? Do you talk about how much you loved it? I don’t hear that so much with Argo — though there was a time when I did. All that matters is when voters see it and how well they remember it. Argo is about an invisible American hero who finally gets his due. That guy is Tony Mendez, CIA op who concocted the plan to rescue hostages in Iran (partnered with the Canadian government). That he is finally able to take credit for that is probably the most moving thing about Argo. Also, President Carter finally getting his due matters. Carter was lambasted for being too wimpy to rescue hostages, which cost him the election.

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And that brings us finally to Lincoln. It’s hard for me to talk objectively about my favorite film of the year. I can talk about it as an Oscar pundit and tell you that it’s not only hit every marker but surpassed them all. It has broken records at the Critics Choice, Spielberg’s own record at the Golden Globes and the SAGs and is up to $120 million at the box office. It is currently the highest grossing film of the major Oscar contenders. That’s nothing to sneeze at and anyone who doesn’t consider Lincoln a major threat simply isn’t correctly reading the race. However, their dismissal of it actually helps it fly under radar and appear as the underdog when it is, in fact, anything but.

I can talk about how Spielberg is worthy of that third Oscar, to join that elite group of directors in Academy history who have won more than two. After thirty years of making films in Hollywood, from successes to failures, box office triumphs to box office failures, art films to blockbusters but never resting on his laurels and always trying something new to, for once, put his faith in his actors and his screenwriter has amounted to something quite special indeed. That it is inspiring people who never go to the movies to make the trek out to the multiplex is also quite an achievement. Did it set the world of critics on fire? Not really, although it’s hitting all of the top ten lists and has among the best reviews of the year. But Lincoln has something no other film this year has: the profound echo of history changing the way we think about our government now and our treatment of slaves then, and our mostly failed mission to ensuring equality and freedom for all. Yes, it sounds lofty and pretentious but Spielberg’s talky, dusty film is anything but. Yes, it’s hard for me to talk about Lincoln without gushing. I try, lord knows.

In the end, there are films that move us all, in different ways. The Oscar vote will tell us what moved the industry most. On January 3rd ballots will be turned in, and the DGA and WGA and ADG will all announce. The picture will either confirm what we know or destroy it. We’ll simply pick up the pieces and start again.

But let’s remember that art, like life, is messy business. We’re lucky to live in a country that allows us the freedom to express ourselves without worrying about repercussions.

“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.” –Flannery O’Connor

 

Best Picture – The Frontrunners

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Lincoln

Metacritic rating: 86
Box office: off the charts, $120 million and counting

Wins
AFI – Top Ten Movies of the Year
Boston – Actor, Screenplay, Supporting Actress
New York Film Critics – Actor, Screenplay, Supporting Actress
National Board of Review - Top Ten Movies of the Year

Nominations
Critics Choice – 13 Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Score, Costumes, Art Direction, Cinematography, Makeup, Ensemble
Golden Globes – 7 Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Score
Screen Actors Guild – 4 Ensemble, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress

Argo

Metacritic rating: 86
Box office: $106 million and counting

Wins
AFI Movie of the Year
Los Angeles Film Critics – Screenplay
National Board of Review Top Ten Films

Nominations
Golden Globes 5 Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Score
Screen Actors Guild 2 Ensemble, Supporting Actor

Zero Dark Thirty

Metacritic rating: 95 
Box office: Great per theater average so far

Wins
AFI – Top Ten Movies of the Year
Boston – Film, Director, Editing
Los Angeles Film Critics – Editing
National Board of Review – Film, Director, Actress
New York Film Critics – Film, Director, Cinematography

Nominations
Critics Choice – 5 Picture, Director, Actress, Screenplay, Editing
Golden Globes – 4 Picture, Director, Actress, Screenplay
Screen Actors Guild – 1 Best Actress

Silver Linings Playbook

Metacritic rating: 81
Box office: $21 million in 745 theaters

Wins
AFI Top Ten Films
Toronto Audience Award
National Board of Review  3 – Top Ten Films, Actress, Screenplay
Los Angeles Film Critics: Best Actress

Nominations
Critics Choice: 10 Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress, Actor in a Comedy, Actor, Best Comedy, Supporting Actor, Ensemble, Actress in a Comedy.
Golden Globes: 4 Picture, Screenplay, Actor, Actress
Screen Actors Guild: 4 Ensemble, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor

Life of Pi

Metacritic Rating: 79
Box office: $78 million and counting

Wins
AFI Top Ten Film of the Year

Nominations
Critics Choice: 9  Picture, Director, Screenplay, Best Young Actor, Cinematography, Art Direction, Score, Editing, Visual EffectsGolden Globes: 3 Picture, Director, Score

Les Miserables

Metacritic rating: 64
Box office: broke opening day record for a musical, starts at $18 mil

Wins
AFI Top Ten Film of the Year
National Board of Review – 2 Ensemble, Top Ten Films of the Year

Nominations
Critics Choice: 11 Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume, Art Direction, Cinematography,  Editing, Makeup, Song, Acting Ensemble
Golden Globes: 5 Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Song

Django Unchained

Metacritic Rating: 80
Box office: great opening day haul

Wins
AFI Top Ten Films of the Year
National Board of Review – 2 Supporting Actor, Top Ten Films

Nominations
Critics Choice – 2 Picture, Screenplay
Golden Globes – 5 Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor (2)

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Metacritic rating: 86
Box office: $11 million

Wins
AFI Movie of the Year
Cannes Film Fest - FIPRESCI Prize, Golden Camera, Prix Regards Jeune, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention
Deauville Film Fest – Best Film
Los Angeles Film Fest – Best Score, Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review – 5 Best Breakthrough Performer, Best Directorial Debut, Breakthrough Performance – Female, Top Films
Sundance – Grand Jury Prize, Cinematography

Nominations
Critics Choice – 3 Picture, Actress, Best Young Actor/Actress

Contenders that also made AFI”s Top Ten of the Year

Moonrise Kingdom
The Dark Knight Rises

Contenders that also made the National Board of Reviews Top Ten of the Year

Looper
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Promised Land

Contenders that also made the Critics Choice Top Ten:

Moonrise Kingdom
The Master

Films that really need some top level support to make it in:

The Dark Knight Rises
The Master
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Middle of Nowhere
Moonrise Kingdom
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Looper
Flight

Nominees for the 2012 Women in Film Journalism Awards

Next Story »

Best Moments in Film in 2012

106 Comments

  1. Josh
    December 28, 2012

    Great piece as usual, Sasha.

    Best pic looks like this to me at this moment:

    1-Lincoln
    2-ZDT
    3-Argo
    4-Django (it’s got a lot of buzz while the others following are at this time kind of quiet. Actually any of my #’s 4-7 could be any sort of lineup they are so close I think)
    5-Les Mis
    6-Silver Linings
    7-Life of Pi
    8-Beasts

  2. December 28, 2012

    Sasha, I’m curious regarding your faith in Middle of Nowhere’s chances. Are you mentioning it so often out of respect for the film, in the hope that doing so might help keep it in the conversation, thus resulting in potential nominations? Or do you have some reason to believe that it could be nominated, like precedent or word on the ground?

  3. Robert A.
    December 28, 2012

    Sasha, I love that you began and ended this article with quotes from Flannery O’Connor. The quote opening your article has always been one of my favorites of hers.

    I’m one of the people who expects Lincoln will probably be this year’s BP winner. In many ways, Lincoln IS the “feel good” movie of the bunch, although not feel-good in the normal way we think of a “feel good” movie. But I think many audience members leave the theater feeling uplifted and ennobled, which makes them feel…good. And the film isn’t really controversial, so that’s another plus it has going with it for AMPAS voters.

  4. PJ
    December 28, 2012

    When we talk about “Best Picture” we are talking about the movie most people can agree upon is best. We already know that doesn’t necessarily mean great. We know that doesn’t mean it stands the test of time either. The winning film is a snapshot of a moment in time. We can only hope that it is deserving of such an honor.

    Reading the tea leaves, I only see 2 films fitting that definition: Argo and Silver Linings Playbook.

  5. December 28, 2012

    Terrific post. Well, despite all the great points you make all the way through the telling statistical round-up, I guess what you say here near the start will always be the great equalizer:

    “Emotion, as many an Oscar pundit will tell you, is the key to finding your Best Picture winner. The question is, what moves you?”

    Of my own favorite films of 2012 – LES MISERABLES, THE TURIN HORSE, THE LIFE OF PI, WAR WITCH, ZERO DARK THIRTY, OSLO AUGUST 31ST, LINCOLN and AMOUR (the order must be determined) each connected with me resoundingly on an emotional level. The same could be said of THE DEEP BLUE SEA, THE IMPOSSIBLE, ARGO, HOLY MOTORS, DJANGO UNCHAINED, THE KID WITH A BIKE, BERNIE, MOONRISE KINGDOM and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, several of which will also make my own Top 10 list.

    I did not emotionally connect with THE MASTER, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK nor BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, and as a result neither will be chosen for my own list.

    While each of these films are fueled by visceral style and intellectuality, it seems in the end, one must be moved in some way.

    The reasoning here is sound. You have resisted the out of control fandom and taken a look at fact and precedent, and the various telling pre-cursors.

    LINCOLN is the clear favorite here. I can’t see ZERO or ARGO beating in among the historical/political contingent, which in this case is a majority of the voters.

    LES MISERABLES’S chances? There is ONLY ONE. Hooper must surprise by nabbing a Best Director nomination. Should that happen, then re-evaluation is in order, though again I can’t see LINCOLN losing it’s front-runner status.

  6. Daniel Z.
    December 28, 2012

    Flannery O’Connor’s second quote offers an apt chance to make an observation and ask a question. ‘The Master’ clearly requires the viewer to “undergo the effort needed to understand it.” It’s unlikely to receive the Best Picture award, but will it be recognized at least as a nominee? And if not, then perhaps why?

  7. julian the emperor
    December 28, 2012

    Great Flannery O’Connor quotes, Sasha! Thanks.

  8. KP
    December 28, 2012

    I think it’s unfair to compare Silver Linings box office with Lincolns, considering that Silver Linings hasn’t gone wider than 740 theaters, and that was just on Christmas!

  9. Bball_Jake
    December 28, 2012

    Lincoln or Les Mis are the only ones i can see winning. I saw Lincoln last night, and even though i thought it could of been a little more epic, and a little less claustrophobic, its still one of the best films of the year. It should win the BP oscar!

  10. Robert A.
    December 28, 2012

    “I did not emotionally connect with THE MASTER, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK nor BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, and as a result neither will be chosen for my own list.”

    Yike! Beasts of the Southern Wild was one of the movies this year that I had the strongest emotional connection to. But then I also had a strange emotional connection to The Master. I guess it’s because I’m one of the few who was watching the movie, at least in part, as a repressed, frustrated love story between Hoffman and Phoenix. I’m also in the minority of people who didn’t have much of an emotional connection to Lincoln. *shrugs*

    I agree with you that the movies people love tend to be movies that move them in some way. I think I agree. But being moved by a film does not always require “emotional connection” in the traditional definition, does it? For example, sometimes I can be strongly moved just by the way a film is made. The style of the movie becomes the substance, if that makes any sense. Once Upon a Time in the West nearly reduces me to tears every time, just by the beauty of its aesthetics. It’s such grand, operatic film-making that it turns me into mush! Whereas certain other films that people tend to traditionally think of as heartfelt and emotionally connecting leave me cold.

    Does one emotionally connect to Hitchcock movies? To Kubrick? They are often viewed as “cold” directors. Yet their canons are great, surely, by any definition. I think I’m trying to make an argument that even a movie that is too strange or alienating to allow audiences clear emotional connection can still be great movies. Some movies I love because they appeal to my mind, some movies I love because they appeal to my spirit/sense of awe, some to my aesthetic sense, some to my heart. There are other ways to connect to great works of art other than emotion.

  11. Robert A.
    December 28, 2012

    Sasha, I’m just now noticing the title of this article! Perfect!

  12. Sallyin Chicago
    December 28, 2012

    Do not. Repeat do not. Rule out Beasts of the Southern Wild. Look at the past few movies that have won, what do they have in common: 1) indie, small budgets; 2) heartwarming; 3) unknown actors.

    It could happen.

  13. steandric
    December 28, 2012

    Hard to find but easy to buzz one out.

  14. steve50
    December 28, 2012

    Good post – and I think you’ve named the BP nominees this year.

  15. Jerry Grant
    December 28, 2012

    There are very good reasons to argue for BP wins for Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables, and Zero Dark Thirty. I myself am in limbo-land when it comes to the ultimate prediction, except that I would loosely put Lincoln and ZDT as tied for #1, Les Mis at #3, and Argo at #4.

    There are not very good reasons to rule any four of them out, in my opinion at least. Arguments from “precedent” aren’t very effective, as Sasha aptly points out. “LOTR: The Return of the King,” “Crash,” “No Country for Old Men,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Artist”; there have been plenty of precedent-breakers this decade. So I’m not particularly bothered by arguments like, “Tom Hooper was missing from the Golden Globes”, or “ZDT didn’t get a SAG ensemble nomination,” especially in such a strong year for directors and ensembles. Maybe in a certain way “Lincoln” and “Argo” are safer bets regarding precedent, but the strength of Les Mis and ZDT on movie-watchers is still in its early stages. Everyone is talking about Les Mis. Thank you Facebook. (Django, too!) And I expect talk about ZDT will start shifting momentum (away from the political controversy) once people start getting a chance to see it.

  16. Linc4Jess
    December 28, 2012

    LET FACE IT FOLKS. People come out of “Lincoln” feel better than they do coming out of “Les Miserables”. People are actually coming out of Lincoln with tears in their eyes. Bot so with “Les Mis”. As a matter of fact the people were more tearful, cheerful tears I might add, coming out of “Django” than coming out of “Les Miserables”. I laughed my butt off to the point I had to pull out my hankie to clear my eyes. LOL.

  17. Danemychal
    December 28, 2012

    The only movies with any shot in hell at winning BP are Lincoln, ZDT, Argo, Les Mis, SLP and possibly Django unchained. A couple others will sneak in and snipe votes from the others. Lets assume SLP and Django cancel each other out as Harvey’s traditional support is divided (even moreso if The Master also sneaks in a la Tree of Life). Lets say ZDT and Les Mis can’t draw universal support on the basis of divisiveness, controversy and their common trait of having directors who have both been honored with BP winners in the past 3 years. That leaves us with Lincoln and Argo, two films that have hit all the markers and don’t have any major strikes against them. Those are my 1 and 2.

  18. Bryce Forestieri
    December 28, 2012

    When are Sasha and Ryan revealing their top 10′s… or top 30(Ryan?)

    I wanna see everyone’s too. This has to happen way before academy ballots are turned in. Let the carnage begin already!!

  19. Danemychal
    December 28, 2012

    I think if Les Mis had come out last year, it could have won. Last year the Adademy clearly had a boner for France (The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris). Les Mis would have been right at home amongst those. This year is just too crowded with stories that wouldn’t be great without being told on FILM. If you put the same actors from Les Mis onstage and shot the production, you’d still ball your eyes out and love the performances and the songs. None of the things people are saying they love about Les Mis are filmic in nature. And Best Motion Picture is the name of the game.

  20. Jerry Grant
    December 28, 2012

    Incidentally, there are two movies this year for which I have seen multiple Facebook statuses from regular folk that look something like this: “Holy shit. This is one of the best movies I have seen in a long long time. It should win Best Picture. Go see this movie.” Those two movies are “Lincoln” and “Les Miz.”

    Examples:
    Lincoln is, by far, one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. My crush on this great man has been ultimately reaffirmed #abeisababe.

    Lincoln was fucking rad. I know it was good because I was legit on the edge of my seat during the 13th amendment voting to see if it passed in the House or not, even though we all (hopefully) learned that shit in elementary school. Beast movie I’ve seen in some time.

    Les Miserables, y u make me so depressed? Seriously, amazing. Oscars for Anne & Hugh for sure.

    Les Mis = best picture + best screenplay + best actor (Jackman) + best supporting actress (Hathaway).

    I MADE IT ALL THE WAY TO THE FINALE BEFORE CRYING BECAUSE I AM A MAN BUT I STILL HAVE FEELINGS DAMMIT #lesmis

  21. December 28, 2012

    “LET FACE IT FOLKS. People come out of “Lincoln” feel better than they do coming out of “Les Miserables”. People are actually coming out of Lincoln with tears in their eyes. Bot so with “Les Mis”. As a matter of fact the people were more tearful, cheerful tears I might add, coming out of “Django” than coming out of “Les Miserables”. I laughed my butt off to the point I had to pull out my hankie to clear my eyes. LOL.”

    Nah, to each his or her own. I know about 20 people who walked out of LES MIZ feeling better than they did when they walked out of LINCOLN. A good number of those felt LINCOLN was a “bore.” The ‘tears in the yes’ quotient seems to be a LES MIZ given.

    Don’t get me wrong…………I love LINCOLN. But it’s a matter of individual perception, not an assumed overlap to others.

  22. Linc4Jess
    December 28, 2012

    My top ten. I haven’t seen ZDT but I am thinking I will like it as much as I liked Argo so I am putting it on the third slot.

    1. Lincoln
    2. Argo
    3. ZDT
    4. The Dark Knight Rises
    5. Django Unchained
    6. Les Miserables
    7. Life Of Pi
    8. Moonrise Kingdom
    9. Bernie
    10. Skyfall

  23. December 28, 2012

    Good piece of speculation there on ZDT. It’s odds on you will like it, and it deserves high placement without a doubt.

  24. December 28, 2012

    I’m still tardy so I can’t speak about the whole race. However, now that I’ve seen DJANGO UNCHAINED, I’m even more confident in its chances. The only person I heard was offended was Spike Lee so I don’t know who the others you were talking about were. Michael Eric Dyson was doing “the Ed Show” last night and had another guy I don’t know on and they both kinda liked it. They talked about the controversy and Dyson basically said that Lee should see it before saying anything. They also spoke about how they’re both fans of rappers who tend to say bad things about women and here you have Django whose whole story is about risking everything to save the woman he loves. So there’s that.

    I think I will have seen BEASTS and LES MIS by the end of next week. I got KILLER JOE out of the redbox just now. So I’m getting there. :)

    If I had a ballot, today, this is what I’d put:

    1) THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
    2) CLOUD ATLAS
    3) LOOPER
    4) DJANGO UNCHAINED
    5) THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

  25. Duke
    December 28, 2012

    I have a feeling Django Unchained will surprise everybody and become a very viable best picture and director. It is the film of the moment, it has been getting a lot of good/great reviews. In terms of Oscar, this is the moment to shine, since this is the week people are voting.

    If only it has been eligible for SAG we would be more aware of the love this film would get from the acting community.

  26. Jason Travis
    December 28, 2012

    Lincoln is going to win Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones) and Screenplay. It’s just too important and strong to be overlooked for fluff like Les Mis, which is doing nothing new- we’ve seen it all before, and done better. In fact how many versions of Les Mis have there been? Too many. 1998′s version with Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman was better- nobody talks about that. But Spielberg has given us something truly original. And sorry, Anne Hathaway is barely in the movie and that doesn’t warrant her to win- I think people just want her to win because of who she is- similar to Sandra Bullock. Sally Field should be winning, not her.

    Django Unchained was my other favorite film and it’s a shame Leonardo DiCaprio is FIGHTING to get nodded- he should win the damn thing, it’s his best performance since Aviator.

    Just my two cents- but Lincoln is winning folks.

  27. Mattoc
    December 28, 2012

    I saw The Hobbit a couple of days ago. Apart from a few Clash of the Titans sfx (80s version) the film was very good and kinda great in some moments.
    Maybe people are fatigued with middle earth?

  28. December 28, 2012

    Personal preferences… in the end, it determinates all.
    For me, are THE MASTER, ARGO, LIFE OF PI and THE PERKS OF BEINH A WALLFLOWER.
    And i really believe IF The Master and Anderson get noms for Picture and Director, it can in fact change this game.
    But, If this won’t happen the two contenders are ARGO and LINCOLN.
    No one more.
    Happy or not, I must face the truth. And I recomend the same to everyone.

  29. Henry Z
    December 28, 2012

    Good piece, Sasha.

    I still think Argo is the frontrunner because it has the least negativity – mostly lovers praising it. Lincoln is the huge threat, but I’ve been hearing that it’s well “boring”. I know that sounds immature – but there are reviewers and simply regular people who don’t find it the best film of the year or wouldn’t want a second viewing.

    It’s a terrific film, don’t get me wrong – but do voters really, really love it?

  30. December 28, 2012

    Bebo, FTW!!! lol Yeah I think THE HOBBIT is totally getting shafted this awards season.

  31. Mattoc
    December 28, 2012

    Hathaway is in the film for a fair amount of time…maybe 20 minutes of screen time. And for the most part she’s not supporting anyone. She’s leading it. If Janet Leigh could sing in the shower I guess that would be a good comparison.

  32. December 28, 2012

    Bubo not Bebo. *sigh*

  33. Mattoc
    December 28, 2012

    bubo? Not quite that bad Frank, but pretty bad.

  34. drake
    December 28, 2012

    i really think “the master” is going to get a slot. “the master” and “zero dark” are clearly the top 2 films on the critics top 10 lists and although i know the academy aren’t the critics- i think they will have plenty of first place voices. just a hunch.

  35. Jason Travis
    December 28, 2012

    The Master? Seriously? It’s so dark and depressing. There’s not an ounce of humor in it. Why do you think the academy is just going to nominate only dramatic and depressing pieces? There is going to be variety in their list somewhere.

  36. Tony
    December 28, 2012

    What will doom “Les Miserables” is the fact that Hugh Jackman’s singing was below the quality that had been expected.

    Btw, tons of men cried at “Field of Dreams,” and it didn’t win.

  37. December 28, 2012

    In fact how many versions of Les Mis have there been? Too many. 1998′s version with Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman was better- nobody talks about that.

    Well to be honest why should anyone talk about that, when we have Raymond Bernard’s incomparable 1934 French version that runs 280 minutes, and a fine 1935 Hollywood version with Frederick March and Charles Laughton.

    And when you lament all the various versions of the novel, how many have ben musicals, and how many have been based on the wildly populat stage show? The answer of course is NONE, and it eliminates the argument that “it had been done better.” As far as “fluff” to each his own of course. I don’t see it that way at all.

  38. December 28, 2012

    “What will doom “Les Miserables” is the fact that Hugh Jackman’s singing was below the quality that had been expected.”

    Really? Jackman is winning universal praise for his performance. If it does lose it will be for other reasons besides Jackman and Hathaway, most of which have been covered on this post.

  39. December 28, 2012

    Here is Joe Reid’s Best Director prediction/analysis posted December 21. He writes for Film.com. Interesting. He dismisses the Globe snub for Hooper:

    BEST DIRECTOR

    Predicted Nominees: Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”); Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”); Ben Affleck (“Argo”); Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”); Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”)

    Other Contenders: Michael Haneke (“Amour”); David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”); Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”); Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”); Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”); Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom”)

    Not to dork out or anything, but what an exciting field of contenders this year! Not sure how many spots are up for grabs, though. Speilberg, Bigelow, and Affleck are pretty well guaranteed their spots, and I would be very surprised if Ang Lee didn’t get recognized for what he did with “Life of Pi.” Which I guess leaves that fifth slot. Hooper got “snubbed” by the Golden Globes, but that doesn’t really tell me much beyond the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press’s preference for celebrity extends to directors as well, so obviously they’d go with Tarantino. If Hooper gets left out by the Director’s Guild, we can talk. The common wisdom is that in this new era of as many as ten Best Picture nominees, there’s no longer any place for a “Lone Director” nomination. I don’t necessarily think that’s true, and I think Michael Haneke is just the man to test that theory.

  40. Sasha Stone
    December 28, 2012

    I thought Jackman’s singing was one of the best things about Les Mis. He was pretty incredible, even I have to admit.

  41. The Japanese Viewer
    December 28, 2012

    Thank you for something enjoyable and thought-provoking, Sasha.

    For some reason, the first thing that came to mind while reading this article is how some films and movies have moved me. And I love being moved by them.

    I remember being moved by the ending of the Oscar-winning film Crash, as well as the nominated non-winner original soundtrack that accompanied it at that moment. And I still enjoyed the film/movie from time to time whenever it popped up on HBO even though the feelings of being moved so are not exactly the same any more. (I was not much surprised that the Oscar went to Crash for Best Picture. And I am not saying I don’t like Brokeback Mountain.)

    And somehow, Clint Eastwood’s celebrated directorial effort The Bridges over Madison County’s Act IV also comes to mind [SPOILERS ALERT] where [it’s been a long time so correct me if I’m wrong] Streep’s character the Italian war bride Francesca, riding in a pulled-over car with her husband, had to make a life-changing decision in the wake of a chance encounter, known only to her, with Eastwood’s character a man with whom she’s had a brief affair, knowing had she gotten off the car her life could have been happier (but. . . .).

    The list goes on.

  42. tony r
    December 28, 2012

    I’m not quite sure how people come out of Les Miz crying. Does watching characters cry on screen over and over make people in the audience cry? Because I felt no emotional connection whatsoever besides Hathaway’s character/performance.

  43. The Dude
    December 28, 2012

    For me, it looks like it’s Argo:

    1- The director is an actor (like Redford, Gibson, Beatty, etc) and is primarily a director of actors (though he somehow never gets a great performance out of himself).

    2- He doesn’t have an Oscar win (for directing), specially a recent one.

    3- A vote for Argo in BP is a vote for George Clooney, and the Academy loves it’s Clooney.

    4- It’s a “relevant” movie that isn’t offensive to anyone other than the Ayatollahs.

    5- Great ensemble cast, full of people that pretty much everyone has worked with and no one has ever said a bad word about them- who doesn’t love Arkin, Goodman or The One Who Knocks?

    6- While portrays an honest view of USA’s role in the events that led to the Islamic Revolution (great for anyone that hates the USA!USA!USA! view of too many movies), it’s ultimately a feel good movie, with a clear victory in the end.

    7- It made a good deal of money.

  44. rufussondheim
    December 28, 2012

    Sasha writes, “But Lincoln has something no other film this year has: the profound echo of history changing the way we think about our government now and our treatment of slaves then, and our mostly failed mission to ensuring equality and freedom for all.”

    I have several thoughts coming from this that I hope you can address, Sasha.

    1) What aspect of Spielberg’s Lincoln caused you to change the way you think about how we treated slaves? Was there anything specific in the movie that made you do this, or was it a mostly “general” feeling.

    2) What aspect of the film caused you to change the way you think about our mostly failed mission to ensure quality and freedom of all?

    While it’s not applicable to the first point above, I think Les Miserables does a far better job of causing us to think about our society and our government ensuring quality and freedom of all. I think it has its pulse on income inequality and the lack of fairness that leads into that income inequality and also what comes from it.

    Additionally, I think Les Miz tackles our notions of the role God takes in our success. It’s basically the God takes care of those who take care of themselves. Javert says several times that Hard Work will be rewarded by God. Of course the implication here is that one is downtrodden solely due to a proper work ethic and that one’s being at the bottom of the totel pole is God’s design.

    I firmly believe that Les Miz, on an intellectual level, is far more relevant to our time. When I think about Lincoln, to me it seems like a time capsule that’s been just discovered. “Oh how beautiful” is the initial reaction to nearly everyone who sees it, but then it gets placed on a shelf, put in a box, forgotten as we move about our lives.

    To adapt Flannery O’Connor’s quotes above, Lincoln is only eye-opening to those people whose eyes are not already open while Les Miserables is not for everyone, only for those willing to undergo the effort to understand it.

  45. Terometer
    December 28, 2012

    It’s so pointless to discuss oscar race now with all those dated numbers. In the following weeks, record breaking box-office pictures are so going to change the entire race.

  46. steve50
    December 28, 2012

    Sounds to me like a good best pic is pretty easy to find, but impossible to agree on.

    I’ve said it before here, but it’s worth repeating – this Oscar race is remarkably similar to 1971 given the quallity and variety of films in the lead. You had the period biopic (Nicholas and Alexandra), the divisive (Clockwork Orange), the lyrical (Last Picture Show), a beloved musical (Fiddler on the Roof), and a crowd-pleasing thriller (French Connection).

    When the clawing and grabbing and hyperbole all ended, it was the crowdpleaser that came out on top. This year, by the time all the (extremely enthusiastic) camps finish each other off, the last film standing could well be Argo, the most conventional, albeit excitingly well-made, of the bunch.

  47. Mattoc
    December 28, 2012

    ^ Let’s hope A Clockwork Orange slot goes to Holy Motors!

  48. drake
    December 28, 2012

    @ jason

    yes seriously. i’m not saying “the master” is going to win- but i think it will get nominated because of the amount of 1st place votes it will get. its neck and neck with “zero dark thirty” as the most critically praised movie of the year and first place votes matter for the noms. what are you judging it on? humor? why humor? seems like a dumb thing to just pick at random- and even that- i actually thought “the master” had some humor in it. “do you linger at bus stations for pleasure?” i’m not even that big a fan of “the master”- i actually have “moonrise” as my top film of the year so far- i was just making a point about how the voting will go and how the 1st place votes will affect a film as highly praised (#2 of the year) as “the master”

  49. Jason Travis
    December 28, 2012

    @drake- that’s true. I can see where you’re coming from.

    I will say that if Amy Adams gets nominated, Joaquin Phoenix better be nominated too. A lot are writing him off, but I think he’ll get in despite the SAG snub.

  50. December 28, 2012

    After reading all comments here, I almost can see a little light shinning at February… and it construct the word ARGO…

  51. December 28, 2012

    I think Les Miserables does a far better job of causing us to think about our society and our government ensuring quality and freedom of all. I think it has its pulse on income inequality and the lack of fairness that leads into that income inequality and also what comes from it.

    Hmm… I think THE DARK KNIGHT RISES did that pretty well.

  52. December 28, 2012

    Drake, we have the same mind.
    Academy always chose a movie to be Academy’ s own personal choice.
    For me, it’s The Master, btw a very deserving choice.
    And I predict 9 or 10 noms: BP, Anderson (director and Original Screenplay, and the frontrunner in OS), Phoenix (yes, all you write I say he’ll beat DDL), Hoffman, Adams, Cinematography, score… and maybe Art Direction and/or costumes.
    It’ s all I want. But I really believe it can happen. I really think it will.

  53. rufussondheim
    December 28, 2012

    Nice comparison Antoinette, but I could never imagine that talentless hack of an actress that played that Catwoman character singing I Dreamed a Dream!

  54. Mike
    December 28, 2012

    I easily had the strongest emotional to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

    rufussondheim, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Anne is a terrific actress. And she’s my favorite thing about Les Miserables. She deserves to win Best Supporting Actress for the “I Dreamed A Dream” scene alone. She was absolutely fantastic. The movie was merely good though. I highly enjoyed a portion of it, but that last hour was kind of painful and not nearly as interesting. It became pretty tiresome.

  55. PJ
    December 28, 2012

    Oprah loved Django Unchained. Oprah >>>>> Spike Lee. Goodbye “controversy!”

  56. Mattoc
    December 28, 2012

    Your move, Rufus. Tongue out of cheek.

  57. Ted
    December 28, 2012

    Sasha, you just have really great taste and new earlier on that LINCOLN was the perfect recipe for Oscar, and it has turned out to be time after time after time. Anyone who thinks LINCOLN isn’t the frontrunner isn’t paying attention to the game.

  58. Ted
    December 28, 2012

    ^ sorry for that lame typo. *knew

  59. Question Mark
    December 28, 2012

    I feel the same way about Lincoln as I did about Artist and King’s Speech, so if Lincoln indeed wins, it’ll go in the bin as a “solid” Best Picture winner, but not one I’m overly passionate about.

    Am I nuts, or are there six or seven films from 2012 that would’ve cleaned house at last year’s Oscars had they been released in 2011?

  60. Linc4jess
    December 28, 2012

    ” She deserves to win Best Supporting Actress for the “I Dreamed A Dream” scene alone. She was absolutely fantastic.”

    Are you saying if Susan Boyle would have sung the song in the film much like she did on the British Got Talent show or whatever she would deserves an OSCAR also.

    Just saying…

  61. Mattoc
    December 28, 2012

    ^ if he was saying that he probably would have said he wished Susan Boyle has played the part. So probably not.

  62. Glenn UK
    December 29, 2012

    Sasha, Les Miz may be dividing critics, but it is not dividing audiences. Les Miz has an A rating by exiting audiences. You cannot simply go off comments on your site – not with all these Fanboys!

  63. brian
    December 29, 2012

    I had a strong emotional connection with SLP, and yes, it’s my favorite film of the year ….

    I’ve seen The Hobbit twice now (2nd time in HFR/Imax and have to say it’s pretty darn good film, even better the second time around. The actor who plays Bilbo is just fantastic. Very nice first film in the trilogy.

    So far, my top 5 movies are:

    1) SLP
    2) Argo
    3) Django Unchained
    4) The Hobbit
    5) Looper

    Still want to see ZDT …

    Not planning on seeing Lincoln, Life on Pi, Les Miserable (no interest)

  64. December 29, 2012

    SuBo as Fantine!

    SuBo as Catwoman!

  65. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    I think Susan Boyle would have made a better Bain.

  66. Glass
    December 29, 2012

    It should be said that SLP has only been in limited release until Christmas Day. Pretty impressive haul so far, for a film that has only been in 300-400 theaters. I seriously think the Weinstein machine is going to activate on this one… the film has CRAZY best picture potential and it has so much more room to grow with the public.

    It hasn’t come and gone from 2,000+ theaters already, like some other big contenders.

  67. Scott (the other one)
    December 29, 2012

    I don’t think Argo will win because I do not think it is “about” anything, and Oscar voters like to vote for a movie that has a theme that resonates with them. Argo is an extremely well made thriller, but it really does not have any over-arching “theme” that will, IMO, induce voters to mark their ballot for it.

    And Silver Linings Playbook is this year’s Juno, Up in the Air or The Descendants — the human comedy drama that revolves around good acting and a fine script. These films win one of the Screenplay awards, and sometimes an acting award (although sometimes no acting awards), but they rarely seem to come through with the Best Picture win.

    Lincoln was far from my favourite film of the year, but it is undoubtedly very well done, it is about big themes, it is very well acted, and it is a huge success. And a lot of people love it and most people who don’t love it like it — no one really hates it. I don’t think any other film has all these factors in its favour.

  68. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    SLP contains so many things I despise in a movie. In my opinion, it’s so bad, that if someone say they think it’s the best film of the year, I have to doubt whether I can trust any recommendation they make. The ending is so manufactured and insincere it boggles my mind that the filmmakers ended it that way. Almost every aspect of the last thirty minutes was intolerable.

    (There, I can be rude just like the detractors of Les Miz)

  69. brendon
    December 29, 2012

    The notion that Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film made by white northerners imposing received notions of the post-Katrina experience through the filter of “mythology” and “fantasy,” is a Southern product of the sort Flannery O’Connor was talking about is, in fact, quite grotesque.

  70. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    For the record, I think Argo’s themes are huge compared to Lincoln’s.

    But I won’t bother articulating Argo’s themes until someone can intelligently mention Lincoln’s themes that are so mind-shatteringly grand.

    To me, Lincoln is a nice little piece, almost like a snow globe of one’s own house. Argo is extremely critical of American Imperialism and the costs of it on our prestige in other nations and how Americans remain blindly ignorant of those costs. It dissects how we view the citizens of the countries we manipulate as villains when they are just trying to determine their own future.

  71. steve50
    December 29, 2012

    “Argo is extremely critical of American Imperialism and the costs of it on our prestige in other nations and how Americans remain blindly ignorant of those costs. ”

    Yup – fully agree – and it does so in a way that entertains. It has all the elements, was a hit, and very little controversy (if you don’t count that tempest in a teapot when it was released).

  72. brendon
    December 29, 2012

    rufus – Don’t like SLP? It’s okay — seeing that you like Goon Squad told me enough to know you have bad taste.

  73. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    I have some issues with Argo, but I would rank it above Lincoln.

    Lincoln, if it won, would be on a level with Crash, a film I liked but thought shied away from the big issues in favor of a more palatable audience friendly demeanor.

  74. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    What’s wrong with Welcome to the Goon Squad? Did it not have that easily digestible plot you need in order to understand a book? Did it not have that one heroic protagonist you can root for throughout the book? Did it not have that simplified prose that allows you to breeze through the book at a high rate while you take your morning shit?

    Do you not like to be challenged by your reading material, brendon? That would make sense, brendon, if you liked Silver Linings Playbook, because that would show you don’t like to be challenged by the films you watch either.

    With that said, I should update my Gravatar photo, but I don’t know what book to highlight next.

  75. brendon
    December 29, 2012

    u mad

  76. Unlikely hood
    December 29, 2012

    Spielberg has been making movies for 40 years, not 30. This is the third time I’ve seen this error on a mainpage post in the last month. Don’t see how it helps him – it’s a better case for Oscar #3 if it’s 40. Let’s not make this error a 4th time!

  77. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    no, brendon, not mad at all. I’m used to intellectually inferior people not liking what I like. But if you give me the opportunity to promote a book I love, I will definitely choose to do so!

  78. Unlikely hood
    December 29, 2012

    I notice “the Impossible” isn’t in the long-shot area. I disagree.

  79. brendon
    December 29, 2012

    In all seriousness, Goon Squad is just a completely uninvolving read. I like plenty of quality contemporary literature, but Goon Squad felt too clever-clever by half.

    And I’m usually the one approaching things from the dickish, collegiate “You people are too intellectually inferior” POV so I’ll be clear. SLP is “formulaic” as shit but emotionally impactful, with really intelligent use of camera, great performances, and some really strongly written and directed dramatic scenes.

    Tom Hooper is a fucking hack idiot who neglects engaging with the dramatic necessities of his scenes in favor of figuring out “the weirdest” or “most interesting” place to put the camera, in the most high-school-sophomore sense of interesting.

  80. Bryce Forestieri
    December 29, 2012

    Django MIGHT have barely beat Les Miz for #2 in their first weekend. Revisions might say otherwise, but still interesting!

    http://www.deadline.com/2012/12/friday-box-office-the-hobbit-1-django-neck-and-neck-with-les-miserables/

  81. Bryce Forestieri
    December 29, 2012

    “no, brendon, not mad at all. I’m used to intellectually inferior people not liking what I like”

    Is this a joke? You must be a sad friendless fuck.

  82. rufussondheim
    December 29, 2012

    I’ll agree that Hooper has some camera-placement issues, but the revisions that were made from stage to screen for Les Miz were utterly inspired. I have no idea if those ideas were his or not. But since he has the final say (presumably) I have to give him some of that credit and I think those revisions overcome the sometimes awkward direction.

    There’s more to a movie than camera placement.

    brendon, I’ll agree that some contemporary literate tries too hard to be innovative. But Good Squad is not that book. (I’d put Don Winslow’s Savages – a book that was discussed elsewhere – in that group)

    Sometimes Good Squad goes too far (I could have done without the power point presentations, for example) but I think it’s successful far more often than it fails. And when it succeeds, it succeeds with flying colors (for example, I can’t recall the characters’ names but the one story where the guy drowns and how it affects the two other characters years later is just outright topnotch stuff). I’ve only read it once, so I can’t argue for it too vociferously but, damn it, I loved it when I first read it.

  83. KT
    December 29, 2012

    DO NOT rule out Zero Dark Thirty to win Best Picture yet. Not getting the SAG ensemble nomination is a combination of two factors: 1) As was stated, it was not watched by the voting body in time, like Django. 2) The cast has no movie stars!! This cannot be overstated…there are some brilliant performances in the film, yes, but by name recognition only Jessica Chastain could get in (and quite possibly voted in without people seeing the performance). This surely hampered ZDT’s chances here vs. Best Exotic which took its place, and I don’t think this means ANYTHING in terms of its Best Picture win potential. If Sony and the controversy/awards buzz can get every Academy voter to see the film, it has a strong chance to win, as it will be the best-directed film of the nominees. Yes, controversy sometimes makes a movie too divisive to take the top award. But other times, like Sasha and Kris Tapley suggest, more attention will be drawn to the movie and more people will see it, especially if it is the film OF THE MOMENT. Think The Deer Hunter, clearly one of the strongest Best Picture winners, which propelled huge controversy for deviating from historical context, particularly in its powerful Russian roulette scene in the Vietcong camp. More recently, Silence of the Lambs was accused of homophobia and was protested at the Oscar ceremony. Do not rule out a film because it incites conversation.

    It is TOO EARLY to determine Zero Dark Thirty’s fate in the Oscar race. Sure, RIGHT NOW it seems that the pro-torture op-eds will make it difficult for ZDT to win a consensus vote. BUT in January and February as Academy members vote, much can change, the undercurrents can change, especially when we see ZDT’s total nomination haul (could be as many as 10 depending on the love…if it hits every tech, including cinematography, score, and least likely production design—though they built the freaking compound!!) which will come just before the film is wide-released. Then, as box office results begin to trickle in following nomination buzz, we will not only see the daily returns but also learn the public opinion as people who want to see it and have wanted to see it for months FINALLY SEE THE MOVIE and defend it’s artistic merit. REMEMBER this is a film of the moment, of where our country is NOW…more so than Argo and Lincoln, which work more on an allegorical level, as American history stories that resonate today rather than a story of America today.

    Word of mouth so far is fantastic. You can see evidence of this is the huge numbers coming from the five theaters showing ZDT right now. Taking the majority of the critics’ awards for Best Picture and being at the center of pro-torture/distorting history controversies put the film in the conversation early. It also afforded Sony the opportunity to open the movie wide LATER than they expected (January 11), as voting is taking place. ***REMEMBER voting occurs over an extended period this year–which may give ZDT exactly what it needs to surge at exactly the right moment as films like Lincoln and Argo suffer fatigue. ALSO people in Hollywood do not take lightly being told what to do from Washington, i.e. the letter to Sony by certain politicians to ALTER THE FILM (major NO-NO from an artistic viewpoint) and the statement by the acting CIA director. It is very clear that the people speaking out have their own agendas, to preserve an image of U.S. policy that may run counter to what action we actually took, which is depicted and suggested in the movie. Don’t underestimate Hollywood…people WILL come out, defend and vote for this film as they did for The Deer Hunter and those other “outlier” Best Picture wins Sasha suggests are hard to predict—especially if ZDT becomes the FILM OF THE MOMENT over the next two months. Let’s wait and see what happens, but don’t count this movie out.

  84. Patrick
    December 29, 2012

    There’s more to a movie than camera placement.

    But any movie with poor camera placement is undeserving of the kind of love that Les Mis is getting, IMHO. (But I also think the film is undeserving of the hate)

    The camera is so fundamental for translating any source material to film, because it acknowledges that the story/world must now be shown from a single 2D projection. I, like others here, believe that the camera placement has issues almost throughout the entirety of the film. And I, like others here, believe that the exceptional love for the film is almost entirely attributed to the beautiful music from the source material.

    Despite all of this, I still think the film is good, but it wouldn’t crack my top 10 this year.

  85. danemychal
    December 29, 2012

    rufus, Lincoln is more of a time capsule which happens to deal with issues that make it easy to draw certain parallels to today’s issues. It doesn’t appear to have been constructed to be a “message film” for today but can certainly be applied that way if we think about our current issues (by “our”, I mean American issues because this film is really for and about America but should be able to be enjoyed by enlightened world audiences).

    It seems to me that it was meant to convey to a modern audience the message that Lincoln was charged with conveying to his audiences — messages like those shown in the second inauguration speech depicted at the end of the film. But it isn’t overly preachy — for every scene in which he states “We begin with equality”, there is a scene like the one in which Lincoln is exposed to a common Missouri couple and their ignorance with regard to human rights and equality. He does not try to preach to that couple, which seems to be an authentic depiction of what would have happened. If the film became overly preachy and chock full of emotional moments, everyone would have probably derided it as being too “Spielbergian”. Yes, they would have accused him of being himself. I think there are enough of those moments to keep general audiences satisfied to the point that has allowed it to become a commercial success while the script and landmark acting performances have helped to make it a hit with the critics.

    Saying a Lincoln win would be like the Crash win is just ignorant and spite coming from a Les Mis diehard. I could just as easily say that everything in Les Mis has been done several times before with the same story and all but one of the same songs and dismiss it as already been done too many times. But I won’t do that because I liked Les Mis. It just isn’t extraordinary enough for an honor like BP. And yes, I know the history of BP only goes to an extraordinary film about 50% of the time (many would argue even less), but the times that it does are often sweeter. I can’t wait for ZDT to come out; we all might find ourselves rooting for that one instead…if the critics are indeed right!

    PS – Literally while I was typing this, I got in the mail a gem: an official Dreamworks authenticated and numbered “Lincoln” movie poster from the premiere at the NY Film Fest. Hand-signed by Spielberg, DDL, TLJ, Field, Strathairn, Spader, JGL, Haley, Hawkes, Nelson, David Oyelowo and Dane DeHaan. It’s a beauty!

  86. Glass
    December 29, 2012

    Agreed, Patrick. Close-ups with wide-angle lenses remind me of POV porn.

  87. December 29, 2012

    “no, brendon, not mad at all. I’m used to intellectually inferior people not liking what I like”

    Funny, a guy writes 200 hundred paragraphs each time he comments here, detests popular masters like Spielberg, throws dust in our eyes by trying to appear intellectual and then… Comes up with this. All that effort down the drain in a simple, short sentence that tells more than whole paragraphs of faux knowledge.

  88. mecid
    December 29, 2012

    Rufus first includes Lincoln in top 10. Then something happens and Lincoln goes to last spots. Then Rufus sees Les Mis and gives it 3rd spot and says it is battling for 1st spot(we almost know he will give it number 1) and then says Lincoln’s 120 million (now 131 million) isn’t impressive and it was expected. And then he says if Lincoln wins it will be like Crash’s win.
    Sorry, Rufus but I don’t thin you and Jeff Wells have any dfference coming to Spielberg. He says it is Spielberg’s best since Schindle’s List but it can’t win because SLP must. You just switch SLP with Les Mis.

  89. mecid
    December 29, 2012

    edit: think

  90. Tony
    December 29, 2012

    Sasha,
    Don’t get me wrong, everything else about Hugh’s performance was very good, but some notes when singing (in full voice, when something like a sob wasn’t involved) weren’t quite right.
    OTOH, Anne Hathaway deserves to *win* BSA.

    P.S. Loved Samantha Barks. She struck me as a singing version of Emma Stone or Mila Kunis. I think she could have a big career ahead.

  91. SeattleMoviegoer
    December 29, 2012

    one thing that has to be considered in regards to THE MASTER is it’s lack of success. it’s only grossed about $18 million worldwide as of now. that pitiful money-wise. and yes, HURT LOCKER was in that territory, but it had amazing acclaim and awards momentum behind it. MASTER just doesn’t have that. and money, i’m afraid, means something at the Oscars. people have to see the movie.

  92. Tony
    December 29, 2012

    In addition to middling box office, “The Master,” just in terms of the film itself, suffers from a mediocre screenplay (except for a some individual scenes).

    Unrelated: The time has come to put “Middle of Nowhere” to rest. (Full disclosure: It’s the only potential contender in the big categories that I haven’t seen besides ZDT, which I’ll get to on 01/11.) Its box office makes “The Hurt Locker” look like the LOTR trilogy.

  93. Linc4jess
    December 29, 2012

    Well, “Lincoln” is still running on all cylinders as by this weekend it will top 133M. “Django” on Friday jumped to number two over “Les Mis” and is on the heels of “The Hobbit” for number one. Both “Django” and “Les Mis” seem like they will easily surpass the 100m plus and counting benchmark. It will be interesting to see if they break the 130m most box office analysts were predicting as tops for these two pics.

  94. Linc4jess
    December 29, 2012

    BTW, from where I sat, the best musicals that have won OSCARS as best picture are “My Fair Lady” and “The Sound of Music”. “Chicago” was OK and “West Side Story” winning ten Oscars…well…

  95. December 29, 2012

    So it occurred to me half way through THE MISERABLES that the cast of DJANGO UNCHAINED included much better singers. I wish QT would do a musical. He clearly recognizes talent better than almost anyone and he’s always made incredible choices with pre-existing music for his soundtracks. I think I did see him say he didn’t want to do one. I hope I misremembered that. But I do also think I remembered Leonardo DiCaprio saying he’d like to try. I’ve never heard him sing to my recollection. But anyhow, I’d love to see a sing-off between the casts of DJANGO and LES MIS.

    What will doom “Les Miserables” is the fact that Hugh Jackman’s singing was below the quality that had been expected.

    This is what made me so angry. I always thought Hugh Jackman wasn’t the singer everyone made out. I thought he had a trained voice and that he tried really hard but the voice that comes with his body just wasn’t that pleasant. But he’s such a nice and lovely man that you want him to do well. At least I did so, I learned to ignore it. When they cast this movie, I was put out because I was certain they didn’t even entertain the idea of another actor because over the years he’s become the default go-to guy for Broadway type singing amongst known stars. Mainly this has happened, imo, because he wants it and because he’s well liked, talent be damned. But again, you get used to things and you let it slide.

    So I sat in the theater and listened to LES MISERABLES this morning. Bracing myself I intended to give it a fair shake. In two minutes, I was squirming. Okay, maybe it’s just a few bad notes, I thought. It never stopped. He sounded like someone threw an accordion down the longest staircase ever. I couldn’t use the “but he’s such a nice person” defense any longer. It was like I was having an allergic reaction. And then well it only got worse with the other performances. Anne was fine. Give her her Oscar. But in the end I ended up thinking Crowe wasn’t nearly as bad as Jackman. From all the stuff I’ve read from people I was expecting to be blown away by Eddie Redmayne. WTF? He was okay/average. He does that kind of Kermit D. Frog singing where they try to sing up high in the back of their throat. You know, like if Eddie Vedder was a ponce. An ultra trained voice that is oh so unremarkable. There was only one glimmer of hope, this Aaron Tveit who I’d never heard of before. Now he’s got a voice! We’ll need to remember him. Apart from that having Samantha Barks and Colm Wilkinson just reminded you further of what might have been. This was a tragedy of epic proportions.

  96. Unlikely hood
    December 29, 2012

    The next time Sasha does a state of the race, we will have had both the fiscal cliff and the sesquicentennial of the emancipation proclamation. Expect these to factor into why Lincoln and it’s principals are even more favored.

  97. Yvette
    December 29, 2012

    Gustavo said:
    “Funny, a guy writes 200 hundred paragraphs each time he comments here, detests popular masters like Spielberg, throws dust in our eyes by trying to appear intellectual and then… Comes up with this. All that effort down the drain in a simple, short sentence that tells more than whole paragraphs of faux knowledge…”

    …and suddenly, it all makes sense doesn’t it? lol….

  98. Lisa Blanco
    December 30, 2012

    Why did you write about all these movies and talk about the controversies surrounding them and reasons why they may not be nominated or win except for “Lincoln?” Lincoln has it’s controversies and reasons why it may not win, but yet you didn’t mention them. REAL journalists wouldn’t let their personal preferences cloud their writing. I guess this is going to be yet another year where we have to read articles only praising Sasha’s favorites and not giving the full story.

  99. Lisa Blanco
    December 30, 2012

    One BIG error in Lincoln are all the real FACTS that the writer just omitted because he wanted a nice clean film. We just see Lincoln champion freeing the slaves with no mention of his original support to NOT free them. Check your history books people and you will see that Lincoln is a nice little gift wrapped present with a lot of Facts/History missing from it.

  100. Sammy
    December 30, 2012

    Phoenix will probably be nominated by the Academy despite having no SAG nod. Bradley Cooper will be out I think. Lincoln will probably win BP but can lose BD to Affleck or Bigelow.

  101. Yvette
    December 30, 2012

    Lisa Blanco,
    If only history were as simple as that.
    Lincoln’s feelings about slavery evolved over time….
    you can point to all kinds of things out of historical context all you want, but the 13th amendment was passed. That is a fact.

  102. Yvette
    December 30, 2012

    Oh and Lisa,
    Check you history books girl…
    all of them, not just the ones with a revisionist agenda.

  103. December 30, 2013

    Diaper Coupons – Frugal Living Tips For Folks

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