Well, it happened again. Nominations day has come and gone and again I was blindsided by some truly shocking inclusions and snubs. Ben Affleck shut out of the directors field? Bigelow, too? Life of Pi AND Flight score screenplay noms? The Avengers only manages one measly nod despite critical praise and a box office bonanza, while its more awards-hungry brother The Dark Knight Rises is completely shut out. No love for Matthew McConaughey?!?
Obviously, different inclusions and exclusions bothered different people, but obviously Beasts of the Southern Wild proved me wrong (though I had it just missing out) and Amour rode a late wave of critical and old fogey Academy member adoration to steal a slot away from The Master.
Of course, both of those Best Picture nominees also scored nods for their directors, so perhaps their road to the top is smoother than others. Let’s dig in and find out who has the best odds for Best Picture now that the Academy has shown their first hand.
9) Beasts of the Southern Wild
Congratulations! You made it! Now enjoy yourself and sit down—no one’s getting up to go to the podium on Oscar night.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is obviously the indie darling of the Oscars, and why I honestly can’t tell you why. While some found the film charming and sweet, I was bored by the unrelatable fairy tale. I can tell you it won’t be taking home the hardware.
Despite snagging nominations in major categories, it only nabbed four total. Lincoln leads with 12. That’s a pretty insurmountable difference, especially when Daniel Day-Lewis assures his film at least one golden trophy.
I can’t say I’m glad to see that Beasts made it to the party, but at least everyone can rest assured they’ll be leaving empty handed.
8) Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino has done it again. Thanks to a staggering total at the domestic box office, considerable buzz built on controversy, and solid reviews, Django Unchained scored the director his second straight Best Picture nomination (even though the man himself was left off the directors’ list).
Django‘s huge stacks of cash are its greatest asset right now. It’s hobbled out of the gate by Quentin’s exclusion from the Best Directors race, and let’s face it—the AARP certified Academy awarding its top prize to a movie about former slaves seeking brutal revenge on their white oppressors would be more shocking than anything in the movie.
So its best hope is to continue its remarkable run at the multiplexes and hope that momentum can change some minds.
Oh, Ben. Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben. What happened?
Your film was a Best Picture front-runner in November, and you were a legitimate threat to steal Spielberg’s third Best Director trophy. Now, Argo is on life support and you’re out of the race before February.
One of two things happened. Either the Academy is still a bit skeptical about handing a trophy over to a man who once played a blind superhero with horns, or Argo peaked way too early.
I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.
“Wait. Both movies with surprise Best Picture and Director nods are outside the top five ? Are you nuts? Amour has five nominations and a ton of critical support! Plus, it’s about the primary Academy member demographic—old people!”
True, and Michael Haneke’s depressing ode to geriatrics has the best chance of being the flick everyone thinks should win.
But it won’t. Why? No foreign language film has ever won Best Picture. Ever. Not once. Only nine have even been nominated, a statistic that will continue to grow now that there can be more than five films put up each year.
Still, I don’t expect them to win. Just like animated films, foreign language movies have their own category, making it easier for voters to honor them there and a different film as Best Picture.
5) Les Miserables
Oof. Les Miserables easily had the worst day of any film getting a decent number of nominations. No directing nod. No editing nod. No sound editing. No screenplay.
Les Mis wanted to be the awards behemoth Lincoln is turning out to be. Voters, however, seem to be siding with filmgoers who were a little turned off by the constant close-ups, length, and Russell Crowe.
Obviously, there’s still some love out there for the musical. It’s got eight nominations, including Picture, Actor, and Actress. It’s making incredible amounts of money, as well, and should thus get a strong campaign thanks to its limitless funds.
I’d say it’s still got a shot, but I’d put it at 25:1.
4) Zero Dark Thirty
So I may have been a little high on this on the last list, but I’m sticking with it. I’m not blind, though. Kathryn Bigelow’s exclusion is as appalling as it is detrimental to the film’s overall odds. With it, Zero Dark Thirty would be in a power position. Without it, they’re in need of a late boost.
I still think that boost is coming. The dramatized hunt for Osama Bin Laden has been playing extremely well in limited release, and should continue its impressive run in the weak months of January and February.
If it does make money—and I’m talking about Django money—I think it could win it all. Actress, Screenplay, Editing, and Picture are big categories to be nominated in, and some voters may push hard for wins in anger over Bigelow’s snub.
The critical support is there. The audience needs to show up in equal measure.
3) Life of Pi
Everyone seems to be split on Ang Lee’s “impossible” adaptation. Some thought it had lost momentum before the nominations while others were touting it as a legitimate contender for many of the major categories.
Nominations day proved the latter group right. Snagging the second most nods including widely debated spots for Editing and Screenplay, Life of Pi proved itself a threat.
So, what’s keeping it from a higher ranking? Well, there’s a few things. The biggest challenge facing the til is its lack of support from the Academy’s largest branch—the actors. No acting nominations usually spells doom for technically proficient films. Most recently, the box office giant that was Avatar succumbed to the considerably smaller, but more actor friendly The Hurt Locker.
I can’t see Life of Pi bucking that trend, especially with questions surrounding its status already. If every techy bows to its will, maybe it has a shot as an upset. Otherwise, don’t be surprised to see this one settling for recognition outside the Best Picture category.
2) Silver Linings Playbook
This is the only film I believe has a realistic shot at upsetting Lincoln right now. Things could and most likely will change a bit in the next month, but David O. Russell’s quirky, heartfelt dramedy is the only film out there that can provide a compelling contrast to Steven Spielberg’s gloomy, long-winded opus.
Russell got a much needed Best Director nod in a category surprisingly rife with competition. Just as importantly, there’s a SLP actor in each of the four acting categories. Only two have a realistic shot at winning—Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro—but the cast’s wide appeal will help garner votes for the film.
SLP will need to win a few other categories—namely editing, which I think is a long shot—to be seen as having a shot at the title on Oscar night. More likely, it will settle for an evening similar to Russell’s last round with the Academy (The Fighter) and end up with just a few trophies.
The Weinsteins will need to work their magic again, much like they did in 1998 when their former company backed the romantic underdog Shakespeare in Love to a shocking win over the heavily favored Saving Private Ryan. It was an astounding victory, and this would be slightly less amazing if an equally impressive feat. If anyone can get it done, it’s them—but I don’t think I’d be too worried about history repeating itself if I was Mr. Spielberg.
Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to your Best Picture favorite.
Steven Spielberg’s lengthy historical drama snagged 12 nominations, has blown past $150 million domestically, earning more than enough dough to justify the public support I said it needed to win back in November. I dropped it down below Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty because they had the buzz prior to nominations’ day, but they’ve both clearly lost a lot of that steam since then.
To give you a good idea of just how far out in front this movie is, let’s look at how it stacks up to the competition.
· Lincoln > <>i>Life of Pi financially, $152 million to $94 million
· Lincoln > Silver Linings Playbook financially, $152 million to $41 million
· Lincoln > Life of Pi in nominations, 12 to 11
· Lincoln > Silver Linings Playbook in nominations, 12 to 8
· Lincoln > Life of Pi in quality nominations (top categories), 7 to 4
· Lincoln tied with Silver Linings Playbook in quality nominations, 7 to 7
The only category Lincoln seems to have a disadvantage in is precursor awards listed on IMDB.com, where Zero Dark Thirty has racked up 21 wins, Argo 19, Silver Linings Playbook 17, and Lincoln only 14 (Life of Pi is way back at 11).
This, however, is an unreliable predictor of what film will take home Best Picture. Precursor Awards may show a few trends, but many of the critics groups like to shine a light on films they feel aren’t getting enough awards attention. They’re not all trying to agree with what the Academy will say.
Lincoln is in a great spot. It shouldn’t have to do much work to maintain its healthy lead, but check back closer to February 24th when I’ll provide my final rankings.
// Notes from the Road
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