Categories One-by-One: Best Picture

barrybrooks8
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Postby barrybrooks8 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:12 pm

Great point, FilmFan.
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Eric
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Postby Eric » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:10 pm

Big Magilla wrote:2006 - The Departed was the best of the nominees, but Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men were better.

2007 - I preferred There Will Be Blood to No Country for Old Men.

My point being quality "outed," such as it were, other years since 2004. There isn't just one quality movie in any given year, even those yeas in which the BP slate includes only include one (if that) quality movie.

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Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:58 pm

To second a point that Tee made, despite all the grumbling that has been made about this Best Picture lineup, it is actually a solid slate of 10 films. Had someone told you a year ago that there would be 10 nominees, would you complain if it looked like this:

- The highest grossing film of all time that is a well-received "summer film" epic
- A popular Hollywood drama with little critical support
- A foreign science-fiction action film that wowed critics
- A small British independent film from September that has made a stronger than expected presence
- An critically praised war film that managed to hold on despite collapsing at the box office
- The new Quentin Tarantino film
- The first nominated film by an African-American director which happens to be last years Sundance smash
- The new Coen Brothers film
- The new Pixar film
- A mature, popular Hollywood comedy-drama aimed at adults

This without any of the Oscar fare...only two of these films were December releases!

That would look like a very intriguing line-up and one most people wouldn't complain about, I imagine.
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Postby Damien » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:40 pm

Eric wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:Box office, schmox office. Quality will out for the first time since 2004.

Yeah, what stinky, worthless movies No Country for Old Men and The Departed are.

Yes and no.
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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:18 pm

2006 - The Departed was the best of the nominees, but Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men were better.

2007 - I preferred There Will Be Blood to No Country for Old Men.
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Postby Eric » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:52 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Box office, schmox office. Quality will out for the first time since 2004.

Yeah, what stinky, worthless movies No Country for Old Men and The Departed are.

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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:52 pm

Box office, schmox office. Quality will out for the first time since 2004.

The Hurt Locker should win most of the categories it's nominated in. I wouldn't even be shocked by a Best Actor win for Jeremy Renner though it's doubtful anyone can overtake the sentimental favorite at this point.
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Postby dws1982 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:53 pm

Mister Tee wrote: Nor can you move the popularity bar lower simply because it's a demanding drama: No Country for Old Men managed $80 million; even There Will Be Blood did $40 million. For a film as loudly praised as Hurt Locker to end up under $15 million is a sign a good number of people simply didn't respond to it, which makes me dubious of its Oscar chances despite the undeniable Guild endorsement.

Not to beat a dead horse, but lets have a little perspective here: Those were year-end releases, positioned by their studios as prime Oscar contenders. The Hurt Locker was a mid year release, not considered any kind of hot Oscar prospect. If it had been released as a prime Oscar contender in the fall, I think it would have made a lot more. And I'll reiterate: You keep saying that people didn't want to see it/didn't respond to it, but in much of the country, if it played at all it was at one theater for one week with minimal advertising. Yes, it still could've done better. No argument there. But I think you've been way too quick to dismiss the fact that it was, quite simply, mishandled by its distributor, and way too quick to declare that audiences just didn't respond to it.

And I'm not sure what you mean about how the DVD "quickly plateaued"...it's been one of the top ten most sold and rented DVDs every week since it came out.




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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:24 pm

This isn't a category that often gets a thread of its own, but it's worth discussing.

The nominees, should anyone need reminding:

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

First of all: a muted two cheers for the field. This is not to suggest I'm wowed by the slate, or that I consider 2009 anything but a second consecutive mediocre year for film. But consider this: last year, two of the five -- The Reader and Frost/Nixon -- were aimed-at-Oscar projects about which audiences couldn't have given a damn. Despite its far larger gross, a goodly number saw Benjamin Button in the same light; its front-loaded $100 million positioned it more as a marketing success than a popular favorite. And, though most of us viewed Milk as far superior to these others, it, too, fell into the prestige/minor-league earning ghetto. The only film that got on the list because audiences had true enthusiasm for it was eventual winner Slumdog Millionaire.

This year, there were a few films of the Reader-Frost/Nixon ilk -- Nine, Lovely Bones, Invictus -- and they couldn't even crack a list of ten. As for the films that turned up instead, particularly the core five, each evoked genuine passion from at least some quarters. Precious was hailed at Sundance, and managed a very solid gross considering its dreary story and largely unknown cast. Inglourious Basterds triumphed over indifference at Cannes to become a genuine popular hit. Up in the Air excited critics and, in money terms, flew by every Clooney effort save the Oceans movies. Avatar can hardly be said to have come from nowhere, or be a huge favorite here, but its otherworldly gross and substantial critical praise reflect a film embraced as something special by millions. The Hurt Locker is the only commercial under-achiever of this group, but it offsets that with a level of critical unanimity rarely seen. You can like the individual films or not, but I think you'd have to say this slate is representative of 2009's output in a way last year's didn't even approach.

That said, what's going to be the end result in the category? The Hurt Locker's run through PGA, DGA, WGA, the ACE and BAFTA has indeed been impressive, and is leading many Oscar bloggers to declare the race over. Maintaining skepticism has, in fact, become the more difficult position to defend. But a few things continue to nag at me -- the Brokeback precedent; the failure at SAG; the limited-competition field at WGA. But, when you get to the heart of it, the big problem that remains is the oft-referenced low gross. I haven't done full research, but my guess is, should it take best picture, The Hurt Locker would be, relative to its time, the lowest-grossing film ever to do so. Those of us pointing this out are caricatured as mercenaries at some Oscar blogs -- as if we're saying "We agree it's the best film, but we checked the cash flow and decided not to vote for it". But that's not it at all. What we're saying is, even in an environment when undiluted garbage can top 300 million, and when wonderful films go shockingly unseen, there is still some correlation between a film's eanings and how much people like it. The Hurt Locker had a decent release and a good "let's take a look" start, but flamed out at a shockingly low level. It then had an initial decent run in DVD, but quickly plateaued; you can't say it utterly reversed its fate in home viewing, a la The Shawshank Redemption. Nor can you move the popularity bar lower simply because it's a demanding drama: No Country for Old Men managed $80 million; even There Will Be Blood did $40 million. For a film as loudly praised as Hurt Locker to end up under $15 million is a sign a good number of people simply didn't respond to it, which makes me dubious of its Oscar chances despite the undeniable Guild endorsement.

Then, of course, the question becomes: if not The Hurt Locker, what? Which I believe has been the film's ace in the hole for two months now -- the fact that all its potential rivals have equal or greater drawbacks. Avatar, for all its popularity, can't get past the triviality factor -- that it's at heart a mindless action movie (a factor that did in Star Wars three decades back). Up in the Air feels like a good compromise candidate, but there's a coolness to the audience reaction despite the gross. Or maybe it's just "comedies -- even serio-comedies -- aren't best picture material". And Inglourious Basterds -- which has surprised even a supporter like me with its awards stamina -- just feels too wacky a choice for an organization generally more susceptible to corn than to angry irony.

But one of those films MIGHT win, and the big reason, apart from the commercial one, is the weighted ballot. The Hurt Locker may well be the leader in first place votes, but a film doing comparatively better in second-third-fourth place listings could survive to topple it in the end. I'm sure people are aware that Harvey Weinstein is making the rounds telling everyone Inglourious fits that bill and is going to pull the upset. My initial response was, yeah, Harvey's told us that about every one of his nominees except Chocolat. But then I looked at my own ballot, and realized that, once my initial selection, A Serious Man, was elimiinated, Up in the Air would become my vote -- and that if, after seven or so rounds, THAT should be eliminated, they'd pass right over An Education (which would surely be long gone) and I would become a vote for the Basterds. Hurt Locker would be right behind, but that matters not -- if it got down to a Hurt Locker/Basterds runoff, I'd be counted for Tarantino. I wonder how many there are like me. (Of course, you can make a case for Up in the Air, Avatar, even Precious under this scenario -- though my gut tells me Avatar will be the most-disadvantaged by last place votes)

The Hurt Locker, by virtue of its certain best director victory, will always be one of the possible end-result winners. And its the the only film that can feel like a sure winner going into the opening of the final envelope -- if it's already won directing/screenplay/editing and at least one sound award (cinematography would be gravy). But a split field -- Basterds winning screenplay, Avatar dominating sound and maybe taking cinematography -- will leave things very much….okay, can't resist : up in the air.

Where will my final vote go? I'm genuinely undecided, but may in the end revert to the historic Bet the DGA, while all the while anticipating another result.




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