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Race for the Best Picture

William Neal | Thursday, February 21, 2013

 

This year, we’ve seen arguably one of the best lineups of best picture nominees in a long time.

Between the films “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” there’s plenty for Academy members and fans alike to discuss for the Oscars this year. But while there are often one or two clear frontrunners in the category, the race for best picture this year is really turning some heads.

In a surprising turn of events, after Ben Affleck was snubbed from the best director category – an award that often determines the best picture winner – for “Argo,” his film has gone on to dominate the award season. So far, “Argo” has brought in key awards from the Director’s Guild of America (best director), Producers Guild Awards (best picture), Writers Guild Awards (best adapted screenplay), British Academy Film Awards (best film/director) and Screen Actors Guild Awards (most outstanding cast), all after the Oscar snub in best director. It seems in the eyes of the public, that “Argo” has pushed itself to be the frontrunner of the top award in the movie industry. So where do the other films stand in comparison?

All of the films nominated offer something unique. Films from such a wide variety of genres broke into this category – everything from spaghetti westerns and musicals to stories of war, romance, poverty, fantasy and history. Everyone has their favorite genre, but when that time comes to fill out their Oscar ballot people often do not vote with their favorite.  Instead, people often base their vote on the mass public and critical opinion. Competition runs high and even people begin to look at films they once looked at with awe in a much more critical light.  Many critics will argue that while “Life of Pi” is a true achievement in filmmaking and a stunning piece of cinematography, the film doesn’t convey its religious message until it is shoved down your throat in the end. Harsh, critics.

Critics argue that the suffocating camera work, several less than impressive performances and the ambiguous theme in “Les Misérables” put it out of the race. “Django Uncahined” and “Zero Dark Thirty” (my personal favorites) are two excellent films, yet the movies’ controversial themes of slavery and torture (respectively) will overshadow their chances of winning. As for “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” I believe the two films are just not getting the attention, press and support that they need to win. The unfortunate fact is that the Oscars are highly political awards, and the films that receive the best press coverage often jump to the top of the category.

So while I would love to say that all of these films have their fair shot of winning, critics will point out two frontrunners come this Sunday: “Argo” and “Lincoln.” Like many past best picture frontrunners, these two movies follow stories based on true events in completely different styles. Most people who have seen the two films will tell you that “Lincoln,” while a highly respectable film, falls flat in keeping the audience’s attention ¾especially in comparison to “Argo.” Then again, as the result of the 2011 battle between “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” showed us, the Academy is a sucker for a good biopic, meaning “Lincoln” would be the likely winner between the two. But until Sunday rolls around and that final title is called, it’s all fair game. 

Contact William Neal at wneal@nd.edu