When looking for Best Picture, you’re usually looking for a five key factors:
1) it’s a likable, celebratory film filled with lots of (sometimes popular) actors (Chicago, Argo)
2) it’s historically too important to ignore (Schindler’s List, The Hurt Locker)
3) it’s rewarding an overdue director who is motivated to win, film is likable enough. (The Departed, No Country)
4) The heart wants what it wants (The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire).
5) It really is THAT good (The Godfather).
Let’s face it, we may never see a Godfather type win again. The Godfather seems better now when we remember it back. When it was up for Best Picture it was doing battle with Cabaret it only won three Oscars, in fact. Most of the time, the Oscar race is driven by buzz — not Miss Right necessarily, but rather, Miss Right Now. The Godfather was Miss Right Now then, and it’s Miss Right in 2013. But you can’t really know at the time whether a film is great or just a passing fancy. The way filmmaking and Hollywood changes impacts how we view our past. Movies like The Godfather aren’t made much anymore and when they are there are simply too many voices there to oppose them. Movies have to come without baggage now, without major “flaws,” and have to run a fierce gauntlet between September and December, flying under radar, avoiding bullets. Think of them as the cast of Lone Survivor.
I was in line at the Whole Foods the other day and people were talking about movies. The cashier was saying how he gets screeners so now he’s seeing everything. The grocery bagger asked him what is the best movie he’s seen, what is the one everyone should see — said “Captain Phillips.” I then asked him what film he thought would win Best Picture and he smirked and said, “August: Osage County.” You see, to him that looks like an Oscars movie. If he only knew. I told them both 12 Years a Slave would win. But I don’t know if that’s true or not. Wouldn’t that be wild if the impossible became possible?
If you’re paying attention to the buzz of late you’ll know that one major cloud of it is swirling around David O. Russell’s American Hustle. You can’t really buy that kind of buzz, manufacture it or force it. It is either there or it isn’t and this film, for whatever reason, has it. It is competing with two films that captured the early buzz — 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. Both have their own strengths heading into the race but if Best Picture is determined by actors the Hustle ensemble could prove the deciding factor in a tight race.