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Best Picture Oscar Nominees – Nine Movies About Change

It’s only a week before February 26, Oscar Sunday, when we find out which of the nine excellent nominees will be awarded Best Picture this year. Predictions have been made, analyses written, and here are two lists to begin with – by number of nominations and by the critics’ scores.

Number Of Oscar Nominations Line-Up:

1. Hugo (11)
2. The Artist (10)
3. War Horse (6)
4. Moneyball (6)
5. The Descendants (5)
6. Midnight In Paris (4)
7. The Help (4)
8. The Tree Of Life (3)
9. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (2)

Metacritic Score Line-Up:

1. The Artist (89)
2. Moneyball (87)
3. The Tree Of Life (85)
4. The Descendants (84)
5. Hugo (83)
6. Midnight In Paris (81)
7. War Horse (72)
8. The Help (62)
9. Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (46)

A few of the Best Picture Oscar contenders are about creators and their struggles, about the necessity of evolution in creative methods in the name of mere survival of creative forms but also about the importance of creative memory. This year three movies in the Best Picture category hinge on the struggles of artistic personalities, and all three – Hugo, The Artist and Midnight In Paris – are strong contenders for the most important Oscar in 2012.

Four Best Picture nominated movies are told, at least in part, by unreliable, naive narrators trying to make sense of chaotic, unfair reality (children’s perspectives in Hugo, The Tree Of Life, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and a horse’s in War Horse). In terms of pretentions to universality, Hugo is the most post-modern as it clearly positions itself as three movies in one: one for the children, one for the adults, one for the critics, aiming to please all in equal measure. (War Horse does the same but since Spielberg, unlike Scorsese, has done it since time immemorial, it isn’t as obvious). The Tree Of Life is the most innovative; in fact, it’s something that has never been done before, with a poem for a script and a prayer for narrative, a wonderful multivocality of whispers. The most accessible Best Picture Oscar contenders are War Horse, The Help, Hugo; the least accessible and viewer-friendly is The Tree Of Life.

The Dynamics of Change

All the contenders for Best Picture Oscar deal with change in one way or another. In the widely acclaimed The Artist tragedy occurs when the talkies are introduced and the familiar world of silent movies collapses almost instantly. In Moneyball a new approach to sports logistics challenges the foundations of baseball, and, on a more private level, the life of one talented coach. Midnight In Paris deals with change directly, on a narrower scale, commenting on the complex of seniority in arts, the spastic prejudice that the older a work/form of art, the more prestigious and precious it is. The Help is set during the turbulent civil rights era in one of the most turbulent states. The Tree Of Life deals with the ultimate, apocalyptic injustice – a death of a child, and the eternal question ‘Why do good people suffer?’ The protagonist of the tragic-comic The Descendants deals with death and change of perception caused by betrayal, trying to calculate the price for heritage, memory and continuity all at the same time. The characters of Hugo and War Horse are directly affected by World War I; Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close deals with the events of 9/11.

The Black Sheep

The inevitable black sheep are Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close and Midnight In Paris. The first stands out with the lowest critic scores and the fewest nominations; the second is simply very different in tone from the rest of the movies, as well as almost microscopic in scope and ambition (possibly too ‘light’ for the academy to be considered Best Picture).

The Questions

To say that I have enjoyed each and every movie contending for the Best Picture Oscar in 2012 is an understatement. They are all flawed, yet all worthy movies, even the hysterical Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. Most of them ask the big beautiful questions: Why do strangers fly planes into buildings killing people they don’t even know? Why do humans use the most developed intelligence among the species to create weapons to exterminate each other (a question asked by a horse)? What are creators without their legacy? What is freedom without equality? Where were you (a question addressed to the ultimate Creator) – the most blatant, most painful of them all…

About Sviatlana Piatakova

  • Ben

    Too bad most of the movies on the list were crap no one wanted to see. The favorite is The Artist? That was about the most boring and pointless hour or two I’ve ever spent…. Perhaps only exceeded by the time I spent watching The Tree of Life.

    It’s too bad Hollywood can’t make any quality movies that people actually want to see. They shove uncreative sequels and pretentious crap at us, but the last thing they will do is make an original, creative, and entertaining film.

  • El Bicho

    The Artist wasn’t made by Hollywood