Monday, 15 February 2010

The BAH!scars #5: Best Picture?

Welcome back to another installment of the BAH!scars! This entry really requires no I'll stop now.

Level 1 – the Other 3

These were the three films that were kind of the toss-up when it came to the Best Picture nomination discussion. Obviously, they all stand an Aronofsky’s chance of winning (despite Aronofsky’s films being able to wipe the floor with these pieces of poo).

The Blind Side

The one nominee I have not yet seen and, to be perfectly frank, have no interest in seeing. Anyone who I respect and who has seen it has nothing but condemnatory words to say about it. “Glorified TV movie.” “Bullock’s just okay.” “Boring then boring then racist then boring.” What can I say? I hate schmaltz, I hate sport movies, I hate mindless Oscar feel-good-inspiration bait. And I hate Sandra Bullock. I’d be miserable every step of the way and I’m not giving into the Academy by seeing this movie just because they threw two nominations at it.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 10

Odds of winning: 1 to 1,000. This film was the surprise nominee of the year, bolstered only by the awards/reviews for Bullock, very similar to The Reader last year. In a five-picture year, the odds might be 1 to 100, but now there are nine other films to beat, all of which have more clout/support than this one does. Of course, bad Bullock movies that take a heavy-handed look at race have won before against all odds. But if it happens this time, film-nerds nationwide may have their own “Rodney King Verdict”-style riots.

District 9

Like I said in a prior entry, this movie snatched up Star Trek’s “Token Summer Movie Nomination/Let’s Keep the Plebs Happy” prize. Ironically, despite thinking Star Trek is a better movie, I am annoyed less by this selection. Possibly because at least this choice seems more in line with typical Academy thinking (Little Indie That Could, Important Issue, etc.). That being said, the fact that District 9 is a nomination for Best Picture is a complete and utter joke. The plot was incredibly cookie cutter (I dare say it may rival Avatar’s), the commentary was heavy-handed, and I really do not think I should feel so bored when watching people explode.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 9

Odds of winning:
1 to 500. Note the “Token” in its prize. This nomination was an act of diplomacy by the Academy. Diplomacy is taking a few small hits to appease the other party. It’s not committing seppuku to show you were wrong.

A Serious Man

The more I thought about A Serious Man, the more it crumbled for me. Probably initially I was temporarily blinded by what so many people were blinded by: if a movie is that depressing, boring, dense, and contains no answers, it must be great stuff. It had a strong lead performance and a few good moments with the camera (and I did love the opening scene), but aside from that…it was a shaggy dog of a movie: a lot of hair that couldn’t attach itself to anything. While there have been great movies that have broken free of traditional norms of plot and character (e.g. Bunuel’s The Phantom of Liberty), this picture did not even have a single idea upon which to hinge itself, aside from the very tired Job one.

This nomination was probably a combination the aforementioned blinding with A) “Hey! We’ve nominated and awarded the Coen’s before!” and B) a desire for more cred among the film geeks who hate the Academy as much as the cretins.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 8

Odds of winning:
1 to 150. In many’s eyes, this was a doubtful nomination. I thought it had a good chance of making it to the race of 10, but that’s about it. This movie is bland, but not Academy-Approved-Bland and will therefore not grab voters’ eyes come check-off time.

Level 2

“We’re so happy the Academy amped it up to 10!” These two were the ones that were pretty much guaranteed 2 of the 5 extra slots. They never would have gotten a real nomination, but they were also not a question when filling out the list. They have the slightest chance of winning, though a picture of that moment would have to go in the dictionary under “upset.”


Oh, how I love this movie. Oh, how it’s refreshing to see the Academy’s need to nominate token films used for good instead of evil. Oh, how this movie does not have a chance of winning.

Amazing - Up is a film that delivers well-developed characters, clever humor, tears, an uplifting message about the human condition, and adventure…and because it’s computer animated, it has a pretty infinitesimal chance of taking home the gold. However, this nomination does cement what everyone already knew: that Up will win Best Animated Feature.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 2

Odds of winning:
1 to 85. This nomination is almost as much of a token as District 9. However, this injustice has the benefit of having a more vocal, consistent, and intelligent group of complainers rallying behind it. There is a miniscule possibility that the Academy will try to appease the animated lobbyists in one foul swoop before returning to their usual antics. But it’s miniscule.

An Education

This film is a solid choice. The acting is phenomenal and the dialogue is top notch. Carey Mulligan deserves the Oscar, though she won’t get it, and a few of the other actors were quite snubbed. It by no means is a “Best Picture” film either in the Academy’s eyes (Ew! Girl sleeping with older man! Ew! Quiet British film!) or mine, but this film is a welcome addition to filling out the list, be it 5 or 10 films.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 4

Odds of winning:
1 to 60. Like I said, it’s a good pick for filling out the list, but it is not flashy enough for the Academy. Only if there were an incredible vote split would it have a shot.

Level 3

We’re now on the movies that would have been the five nominees had the Academy not decided to make a desperate attempt to get more viewers and pander to the masses.

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

I will admit I went into this movie with some biases against it. I thought (and still think) that the title is as obnoxious as a neon yellow sweatsuit (and misuses quotations). All the trailers made it looks exploitative, predictable, and mindless Oscar-bait (let’s all think about race for two hours! Hurray for triumphing over adversity!). I did not like how certain critics/marketers were trying to guilt the American public into seeing the film by saying they were racist if they did not (when really, the American public will only see “indy”-ish film if they’re quirky and cute). And, I really did not want to see Fatty walk down the red carpet in a dress, trying to look attractive or at least not completely repulsive.

Now, little sidetrack. Sometimes, I see a movie that I expect I’m going to hate and it surpasses my expectations as to how repugnant it can be. I will then say, “Yes, it was indeed as horrible as I surmised...and then some!” and people will say that I went in prejudiced against it and did not give it a fair chance. I always argue with them that even if I go in with expectations, I still do not let those cloud my judgment. In fact, if the movie is even the slightest bit decent, it benefits from my bias. I often will think “Wow! This isn’t horrible!” and that will quickly transition to “This is quite good!” If anything, most movies find that my preconceived negative opinions ameliorate my final judgment, just as my excitement for a film has a tendency to lead to ultimate disappointment.

Upon reflection, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire is still predictable (it's only a step or two up from Avatar), a bit exploitative, and nothing all that special. But the acting is mostly strong (Fatty in fact so exceeds with what her role requires that I lament the reality that she probably will not have a career after this movie), the script is just interesting enough, and the directio – er, I’ll describe my ambivalence towards the direction in my next Oscar post – that it won my over. I approve of Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, as a movie. It may not deserve to be in the top 5, but it’s better than a lot of other nominees.

Of course, I may not have actually seen Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire since both my ticket and the marquis for the theater only said "Precious."

Where I rank it amongst the ten:

Odds of winning: 1 to 25. It’s the recipient of the “Little Miss Juno” Award. Part of the deal with that award is that the recipient has not all that great of a chance of getting any award past the “Little Miss Juno” Award.

Up in the Air

Back when this movie had a very good shot at winning, Entertainment Weekly ran this piece. It simultaneously interested and bothered me. Why did it vex me so? Because Up in the Air is not a triumph of witty dialogue and plot and great characters. It only thinks it is. It half-wants to be a modern day screwball comedy (as this article belies) but cannot bring itself to abandon its seeming-sophistication and unabashedly invite in the immaturity that allows such a pleasant juxtaposition. As a result, it drags. Furthermore, I simply did not find Clooney’s character as funny, sharp, distinct, roguish, or fascinating as the film expected me to. He seemed like a partially-formed idea that never fully took route into a person, and without that, the script continued its collapse. There are moments of greatness in this film, sure, but this is not a great film or anything close. There are just briefs flashes of what could have been one.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 7

Odds of winning: 1 to 10. This movie was probably the favorite back at the turn of the year, but it has lost steam like a kettle taken off the stove. I think the problem was that people started actually seeing it and realized it really wasn’t all that special. It’s only true shot comes from the fact that it carries with it a very timely and Academic message: having loved ones >>> having money and a job.

Level 4

These are the ones that are really duking it out for Best Picture. Any other one will be some level of an upset. None of these three have a definite chance of winning and therefore there will be surprise no matter which one wins, but not too much surprise.

Inglourious Basterds

Forget about the year; I’d rank this film as one of the best of the decade. It’s a remarkably clever, incisive film masquerading as a mindless, frat-boy gorefest. Yet, it’s façade of Eli Roth controlling Quentin Tarantino like Brainiac puppeteering Lex Luthor only manages to enhance the film’s overall message and make it more brilliant (I may have to gush about this more in depth in a full-length entry). I walked away from this movie back in August not knowing what to think. I did not even know if I liked it. Repeated viewers and what probably amounts to hours of thinking and discussion have affirmed its place in film history in my mind (and probably also guaranteed that I’ll be writing a real academic essay on this at some point in the future)

Where I rank it amongst the ten:

Odds of winning:
1 to 4. On one hand, we have a director that has already been nominated, the SAG win, nominations in director, screenplay, editing, and cinematography, and general good buzz. On the other hand (SPOILER), we have a movie that ends with Hitler getting a machine gun to the face. The Academy may not look too favorably upon a film that exposes all other “good” WWII films for being as bloodthirsty as any slasher flick. However, this film may be able to rise above the rubble that will ensue in the Avatar/Hurt Locker brawl.


I’ve already defended Avatar in this blog (read “Avatar’s Gross!” if you need a refresher). That being said, this movie is not Best Picture material. Too many necessary elements are lacking from the film to allow it to make the leap from “enjoyable” to “great” (by the way, I know I use the word “great” a lot when discussing films…I owe that quite a bit to Roger Ebert’s Great Movies. It’s more of a status than an adjective for me, hence why I don’t vary my vocabulary when it comes to that).

Where I rank it amongst the ten:

Odds of winning: 3 to 7. It will definitely eat up Technical Awards like they were white dots and it was Pac Man. And the Academy is really trying to appease the masses this year (see: ten nominations), so how better to do that than awarding the top grossing movie of all time the top prize? Hey, it worked over a decade ago! And then of course, there’s that whole Golden Globe thing and the fact that the last thing the director did was that movie where the boat sinks.

The Hurt Locker

The great paradox of the Oscars is that they make no one happy: not the masses, nor film nerds. The plebeians complain that the Oscars only choose prestigious, boring films that only a few people see. People who actually know about film bewail that the Academy only chooses films that tend to gross over $100 million and only give the illusion of being “small, independent films.” Yet, ironically, the plebs’ conception might finally be the case for a change. Up against the movie that everyone saw is the truly great film that only grossed about $10 million in its initial release in theaters.

Barely anyone saw The Hurt Locker this summer. Only a select few film nerds and friends of film nerds were lucky enough to enter the theater in July to see one of the tensest films in years and the best film about the Iraq war to come out so far. It was a film lover’s/thinking man’s action movie, one that delivered a few explosions but knew that the mere promise of an explosion is so much scarier and so much more thrilling.

While I prefer Inglourious Basterds to this movie, I will be more than happy if The Hurt Locker wins. This movie is the one that has the best chance of beating Avatar and it will be the first time in a while that I can really rally behind a Best Picture winner. Hurray for that.

Where I rank it amongst the ten: 3

Odds of winning: 1 to 2. This movie not only took home a lot of critic’s year-end awards, but has been catching up pre-Oscar awards like they’re Pokemon (what is with me and videogame similes?). By all means, it should be a hands-down favorite to win. But it’s a small movie. And therefore, it’s going to be a struggle. It has a slight advantage over Avatar, but that’s about it.


  1. You know, as Ron can also tell you, REAL Pokemon trainers don't just catch any old Pokemon that comes their way.

  2. In defence of The Blind Side, which I watched today because the Hurt Locker is taking forever to download, it actually surpassed my [very] low expectations. Is it Best Picture material? No. But if you watch it knowing that, it's not actually horrible, and I admit, it even made me tear up a bit at the end.