I see you, George Clooney A colleague of mine took issue with my early estimations of how the Best Picture line-up was settling in. My list looked like this: 1) 12 Years a Slave 2) Gravity 3) Captain Phillips 4) Nebraska 5) The Butler 6) Inside Llewyn Davis 7) Dallas Buyers Club 8) Labor Day 9) Fruitvale Station 10) All is Lost* It was a rough sketch of the race, as I saw it, heading into the next phase. The New York Film Fest, AFI Fest and the Oscar race as we now know it to be: a clusterfuck, a mad scramble, a battle of voices naming the year’s best. After the fest scene comes to a close then we have the New York Film critics prematurely naming the year’s best to get a jump on the National Board of Review, traditionally “first.” Then the rest of the critics awards from here to Dallas Fort Worth. They kind of align themselves around one film. It is mostly perception and buzz and if you were to fly over it you’d see someone throwing a bread crumb at a group of pigeons who then flock to it. Last year’s wave of consensus went for Zero Dark Thirty almost exclusively, until the controversy hit. They then all freaked and flocked around Argo. After that, Affleck was snubbed the same moment it won the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice. It was a done deal after that. Is Argo an “Oscar movie”? Not really. Was Zero Dark Thirty? Not really. The year before the Artist took everything, up to and including Best Picture. Would you think of The Artist as an “Oscar movie”? Not really. You see, there isn’t really such a thing as an “Oscar movie” anymore. Sure, there used to be. The 1980s and 1990s are representative of what kind of voting pattern the Reagan/Bush/yuppie era thrust upon the Academy. They really did reward “Oscar movies.” Except when they didn’t — like Silence of the Lambs. The race isn’t even the race until all of the movies have been seen, even if we’ve been conditioned to write off everything that opens and is seen in December. This year could be the year all of that changes. Could be. Might not be. The winner might be the film no one saw coming. The one that flies under the radar and is underestimated by almost everyone — that was Argo last year. Do we have The Artist or The King’s Speech this year? It’s too soon to know. I bring this up because Jeff Wells gave me feedback on my list and among that feedback he was going to write off The Monuments Men because, in his mind, it wasn’t an “Oscar movie.” Hm, let’s do the math, shall we? Nazis? Check. Period film? Check. George Clooney? Check. Sounds like an Oscar movie to me. But even if it weren’t? That still doesn’t mean voters won’t go for it. And okay, sure, there is too much focus on nostalgic, period dramas within the voting of the whole industry, not just the Oscars. There isn’t enough expansion towards “genre movies.” They completely miss the boat on horror, sci-fi and comedy. Within those parameters, though, the definition of what an “Oscar movie” is reminds me of what the screenwriting teacher at UCLA, Richard Walter, used to famously say: there are only two genres: good movies and bad movies. Remember, District 9 was nominated for Best Picture. So was Inception. So was Dr. Strangelove. The Oscar movie is defined only by those who put said limitations on it. Bloggers and sheepherders who round down to how dumb they think Oscar voters are. Not that anyone can blame them for that. Oscar voters, and industry voters, are just as suspect to the same behavior traits as critics are. They tend to vote for who is popular and like to be on the side that’s winning. But even still, there are two kinds of Oscar movies: good movies and bad movies. My colleague’s contention that The Monuments Men isn’t an “Oscar movie” very well might prove true. But for that to be the case it would have to be a BAD movie. Or else a slapstick comedy. I have a feeling it won’t be either. *I did have Blue Jasmine at number 10 but then switched to All is Lost for that slot. The truth is, it’s simply too early to know but I’m simply going on buzz at this particular moment in time.