Oscars 2012 – Best Picture

22 Feb

Doug: OK, what might be the final Oscars 2012 conversation of… of all time.  Especially since we’ve produced about 86 pages of blog content discussing it already.

Sarah: I think we’ve covered our bases. I hope you’re saving all these conversations for posterity.

Doug: Of course I’m saving them all. And as we start the Best Picture conversation, you want to say to me…

Sarah: I want to say to you, “You’re picking The Tree of Life, aren’t you?”

Doug: Yes, yes I am. And I want to say to you, “You’re picking Hugo, aren’t you?”

Sarah: I think I probably would. But I do want to say, I don’t want to discount The Artist. It’s a pretty close second to me, but I think in the end Hugo just has a little more of the epic going for it.

Doug: Best Picture is tough, because the criteria can shift from film to film. I would never say about The Artist that it’s just a fun film, but not enough of a message. Not really supposed to have a big message. And sometimes the fun movies just mean more to you than the “message” films.

Sarah: Yes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched So I Married an Axe Murderer.

Doug: I honestly still can’t figure out how that didn’t win an Academy Award in whatever year it came out.  Disgraceful.

Sarah: But on a Saturday afternoon when you want to giggle at something stupid, that might be the movie I put on.

Doug: At some point, how does a person’s list of best films not simply become the list of movies they’ve watched the most in their life? So, for example, for me Caddyshack is clearly one of the greatest movies of all time. Another movie that should have a statue.

Sarah: And now we’re getting excited and making hand signals and gestures at each other. Another reason we should do this live, so people can see the fun.

Doug: Oh, you’re talking video and not just an audio podcast? That’s big time, very classy.

Sarah: That’s right. I’m thinking big.

Doug: But back to The Artist. We might be in agreement on our second favorite movie, at least of those nominated. I think we both thought the section near the end that went on a bit long with Dujardin’s character hitting the skids held The Artist back just enough. And we’re talking about just the list we have to work with. I’m pretty upset that A Separation couldn’t have found a spot on a list of 10 nominees. History probably could have done without Moneyball as a best picture nominee.

Sarah: And we’ve slagged on Midnight in Paris a lot, but come on? I would have liked to have seen Beginners on the list. I’m pretty disappointed that A Better Life didn’t get more recognition overall. I would have liked to have seen the son, played by Jose Julian, get a best supporting actor nom.

Doug: I’ll back you up on A Better Life. We have nine nominees? Go ahead and give me 10. Put A Better Life on if you want. But not ahead of A Separation.

Sarah: And remember when they expanded the list of best picture nominees, and we got movies like District 9, even Inglorious Basterds nominated. What happened with that? Where are the more unusual movies?

Doug: We talked in other categories about how safe these nominations feel, and how dominated by nostalgia they are. You’re right. Where are the more edgy choices? Not saying they specifically should have been nominated, but where are the movies like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Drive? Or even Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy for best picture? At least for nomination purposes, and so 25 years from now people can have a little better feel for where film was in 2012. Not to sound corny, but where are the nominations for the movies the kids are watching today?

Sarah: And even the recognition for the purely popular, the blockbusters. Where is at least a little love for Harry Potter? Plus, again, they left off some of the message-y, more moving movies that often would get nominated, like Beginners or A Better Life. That sort of leads me back to my going with Hugo as my best picture for the year. Hugo had a lot going for it, a little larger feeling than The Artist. A lot of this all leads back to something you said earlier, that in the end a person’s vote often comes back to simply the types of films they like best personally. Hugo was enjoyable, it was sweet, it was fun, it was uplifting, plus it was a great looking film. But The Artist is still right there as a film, for me, to watch over and over.

Doug: Interesting you talk about Hugo’s visuals. It’s sort of funny when people talk about movies, a lot of times simply how movies look is overlooked. Visuals are usually important to me. After all, film is visual. And the movies that stick out the most for me in that regard are The Artist, for obvious reasons, Hugo and The Tree of Life. Hugo has the unreal art direction and the unbelievable 3D work. Scorsese has even said he’s so excited by the potential of 3D that he’s not sure he wants to work in anything but that. That’s pretty strong. And Tree of Life is more basic in the visuals, but just the beauty of the photography is several notches above.

Sarah: The Tree of Life is an excellent looking movie. I won’t argue that. How it looks wasn’t the reason I thought it was pretty insufferable.

Doug: I get you. I would disagree but you thought it was pretty much an iceberg. And maybe you can take some beautiful photos of an iceberg. But you probably don’t want to sit there and look at the iceberg photos for two and a half hours.

Sarah: Just saying. And that iceberg floated right into the ship and sunk the ship.

Doug (laughing): Now you’re just playing with my fragile feelings for The Tree of Life.

Sarah (laughing): I had to do it. Come on.

Doug: And I will cop with Tree of Life to what we were talking about earlier, that the types of movies you are going to like or dislike can be really personal.  I liked the film’s message, but I also liked how sincere it is. Right now I find myself noticing the sheer volume of sarcasm and cynicism people have. And I’m all for making fun of and mocking things that deserve it. But not every single thing in the world deserves to be mocked. So, with that being a little bit of where I am right now, a movie like Tree of Life is definitely one that maybe I like more now than I would have if I had seen it at a different stage of my life. I’ve got that Pollyanna side of me, hopefully in a good way, that is happy to see a film like this that has a hopeful message. And gives credit to the role that a figurative shining light, in the case of The Tree of Life the mother, can have on someone. Have we gotten so cynical that that can’t be an OK message?

Sarah: Yes, and maybe I liked A Better Life because in A Better Life, the father doesn’t just tell the child things or represent things in an abstract way. He shows his son how to live and does things that tangibly show the right path. You were mentioning to me that you thought it was interesting that I liked A Better Life, but didn’t like The Tree of Life…

Doug: Well, you like life, apparently.

Sarah (laughs): Pretty big fan of life. In this case, I liked that Carlos actually is better, he actually does rise above.  You can invest in that more than a film that sort of talks the lesson at you. That’s the main difference for me.

Doug: And I might argue a little that the mother in Tree of Life did teach by deeds, trying to remain positive and encouraging and nurturing in an environment with a husband and father who chose to lead the family with, shall we say, a different technique. But for sure she was more of a symbol.

Sarah: The characters in The Tree of Life were almost more avatars than real people.

Doug: I really, really, really liked The Tree of Life and it’s my favorite of the nominees. But in the end I would go with A Separation as my favorite movie of the year for many of the things you talk about with A Better Life. Tree of Life was more about a higher calling, a higher way to shoot for in a philosophical sense. A Separation was more about the reality of a person’s everyday life. And how every single factor that adds up to you being an individual make you who you are and affects the way you live your life. In a much more real way, it examines what humans are as opposed to The Tree of Life which is sort of examining a way to look at what you can be. Plus it’s got a nice little Hitchcockian story going on, too.

Sarah: And neither one of us saw War Horse or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. So, we have to draw that as a caveat on our picks. I don’t think we think either one of those are true contenders. And going back to perspectives, I think on The Help, I was swayed a little by the rave reviews before I saw it. When I saw it, I liked it. I did enjoy it. But I kind of wondered what all the hype was about. I never reached that level of excitement for The Help. And there’s pretty strong subject matter there. You can see why people would have been bothered by some of it, and why people would like some of it.

Doug: Not to be too political, but you can definitely see why people would have been bothered by the whole it takes white people to save black people theme.  And, if you want to go in the other direction, that in the end maybe we all do have to work together in some way to move forward.

Sarah: Yes, and the good part of it all was that Aibileen was so dignified and played in such a way that it was obvious that she would have been just fine if she had been completely on her own.

Doug: Definitely. Once you get past a lot of that, it turns out to be a sort of mediocre movie.

Sarah: But the Academy likes the socially conscious movies. We talked in other conversations about how maybe there were a lot of good movies this year, but not many great ones. As critical as we are about some of the films nominated this year, I will say I have a hard time thinking back over the year and coming up with a big list of really great movies that got snubbed. You and I do like some different types of movies. I am a big fan of the big comic book type movies. But even a couple of those were pretty disappointing this year.

Doug: And, for me, even some of the types of movies we talked about earlier. All the ones I named as possible to bump some off the nominated list, they all had enough flaws that I can’t go too over the top arguing for them, except for A Separation.

Sarah: And, for me, A Better Life. Or Beginners. I would be happy to have a separate conversation about Beginners, because it had flaws of its own. There were several quirky things tried in that movie that weren’t all necessary, especially with all the beautiful work being done by the actors, and the story itself was so wonderful.

Doug: We’ve got to have a separate Beginners conversation. Because I saw a version of Beginners without the talking dog, and I loved it. I’ve got to see the real version with the talking dog. But I’m starting to think that there was too much gimmickry in that movie. And I liked the movie a lot, too. It was my wife’s favorite movie of the year. I wonder, though, if it could have been even sweeter if it had been kept more basic and straightforward. But, yeah, a fuller Beginners conversation another time.

Sarah: Part of why I just could not get with The Tree of Life is that it really did not have fully formed characters like so many of the other movies we’ve been discussing have. There was so much to relate to and understand in what so many of the characters in Beginners are going through. And I didn’t have any of that connection with The Tree of Life. If you want to be a movie like Tree of Life, for me, I want to have the character and the plot that I can get invested in. I’m not saying you don’t like the character interaction and development, you obviously liked Beginners, but you don’t always have to have it.

Doug: You’re right. Having said that, that is precisely why A Separation barely edges out Tree of Life for me, because it is more perceptive about the reality of being human, and it is effective in that because of the way it develops so many pretty complicated characters.

Sarah: And now we’re getting more into what really gets us going to the movies. And this year, for us as movie fans, we’re thinking it was a good year but maybe not a great year. Not so many classics. The Artist pulled off something pretty fun and clever, Scorsese did some pretty exciting stuff in Hugo, but there wasn’t a whole lot elsewhere that was super innovative or exciting. I’m kind of excited to see where Scorsese goes next, because you expect great things out of him, but you probably didn’t expect this. I’ll be honest, I haven’t necessarily been the biggest Scorsese fan in the world. He’s obviously known for more guy movies, gangster stuff. But does he continue doing what he does here with Hugo?

Doug: That really will be interesting. As you say, you always expect Scorsese to do good things, but were we sure he was going to be able to do such a great kids’ movie? And Hazanavicius doing The Artist. To be able to pull that off and do it well, I think he’s a guy to watch going forward for sure.

Sarah: I say to Scorsese, “Hugo, thumbs up, way to go, dude. Keep doing that.”  And Hazanavicius obviously demonstrated a lot of technical skill.  It will be interesting to see where he goes.

Doug: So, we’ve gone over what we think is best, but what do we think the Academy is going to go for.

Sarah: It could be The Descendants, although I’d be disappointed by that for all the reasons we’ve discussed in some of the other categories. It could be The Help, and that would be disappointing.

Doug: It could certainly be Hugo or The Artist.

Sarah: Although I think we’ve both read that they won’t give best picture to a kids’ movie, so that might leave Hugo out. But I do hope that from the four we’ve narrowed it down to, I hope they give it to Hugo. I wouldn’t be as disappointed as you would be if they gave it to The Descendants, but it definitely lacks the big best picture feel.

Doug: One of my rules is that if you replace the cast of a movie with a lesser cast and the movie instantly becomes  better suited as a Lifetime feature, it’s probably not as good as it seems. And I worry about that a lot with The Descendants?

Sarah: But it had a Bridges in it, didn’t it?

Doug: Yeah, but it was Beau Bridges, and come to think of it, with Beau Bridges in the cast, maybe The Descendants will show up on Lifetime.

Sarah: Too bad it wasn’t Jeff Bridges, because then we could have given it the Oscar.

Doug: Technology and set design, they’ll give it to Hugo. Social consciousness, The Help. Celebrating Hollywood, The Artist. A sort of basic American film, The Descendants.

Sarah: I don’t think either one of us is sure, but I hope they give it to The Artist or Hugo.

Doug: And I just hope that whatever they give it to actually stands up as a true classic.

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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Reviews


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