For Your Consideration: How To Improve The Best Picture Race
With the announcement Tuesday of the Producers Guild's picks for the top ten best films of the year — as good a list as any of which films will go on to receive "Best Picture" Oscar nominations on January 24 — a good deal of grumbling is in order. Say what you want about the meta-cinematic achievements of The Artist and Hugo; about Moneyball's transcendence of both the baseball movie genre and Brad Pitt's history of bad acting; about War Horse, Tintin and Spielberg's direct line to the supple hearts of regular moviegoers. This year, as they did last year (and the year before that, and the year before that...), the Oscars already feel like a snooze fest. If it weren't a Meryl Streep year, I probably wouldn't pay attention at all. But it is, and I am. And I'll have plenty to say about the Oscar race as the awards season heats up.
While I am mildly happy to see Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo included, and mildly disappointed to see Tree of Life left out, I have a few ideas as to how to shake up this year's Best Picture race so we'll actually have a reason to stay up late on February 26 to hear which film takes the top trophy. Actually, I have five:
5. Replace The Help with 50/50 — Bryce Dallas Howard as a manipulative girlfriend. Angelica Huston as an overbearing mom. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a twenty-something who abruptly becomes a cancer patient. Anna Kendrick and Seth Rogen, solidly entertaining in less flashy roles, round out this well-written film's ensemble of funny and touching performances. Compared with The Help, which similarly puts strong actors in tough circumstances, 50/50 is simply less preachy and more relevant.
4. Replace The Ides of March with Drive — If you'll only allow one Ryan Gosling vehicle to cross the finish line, pick this edgy and sexy joy ride over the extended episode of West Wing.
3. Replace Hugo with Contagion — One's a legendary director's love letter to cinema, the other's a legendary director's experiment with deadly disease, but both films achieve different effects with their allegorical twinning of story and subject. Soderbergh's Contagion, a film actually about how information spreads and is received, quickens our pulses and stimulates our brains, whereas Hugo just makes us happy we took that Film Studies course.
2. Replace The Artist with The Skin I Live In — If you want to see something that looks as if it was made a 100 years ago, watch The Artist. If you want to see something that looks as if it were made in the future, watch Almodovar's more advanced, more surprising film.
1. Replace War Horse with Rise of the Planet of the Apes — When animals do battle, people watch. (How else can you explain the widespread popularity of cock fighting?) But the primates in Rise, particularly the one portrayed by Andy Serkis, tell us more about ourselves than any equine friend — often without saying any words, but in the climactic scene of this film, by saying just one.
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