Sunday, February 07, 2010

Shearing the Oscars: Best Picture

As was started yesterday, Black Sheep continues today with a brief look at each of the ten Oscar nominated films for Best Picture. Yesterday, we looked at the first five, alphabetically, AVATAR, THE BLIND SIDE, DISTRICT 9, AN EDUCATION and THE HURT LOCKER. Today we continue with five more incredible films and I ask only one thing today. I ask that we take the time to acknowledge each of the nominated films and why they are being recognized instead of focusing on just two front runners.

All five of the following films deserve their place in this year's race. The remaining five Oscar nominees for Best Picture are ...


I've seen this film three times now and it honestly took me all three viewings to get past director, Quentin Tarantino's ego in order to appreciate its beauty. At least I can say he's earned it. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS certainly stands as one of his finest works, potentially second only to PULP FICTION. A variety of his influences are not only being honoured here but actually reappropriated and given the Tarantino touch. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including two for Tarantino himself as writer and director, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS should not be discounted as a serious contender. The Tarantino camp just has to want it as bad as Brad Pitt wanted his scalps in the movie.


I believe that had the Oscars taken place a few months ago, PRECIOUS would be taking the top prize. The reality is that this film first screened over a year ago at Sundance and has been making nothing but noise since then. By the time it screened at TIFF and took the audience award, insiders were calling it this year's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. In other words, it was a sure thing. Maybe it was overkill or maybe it only had enough to strength to go so far, but interest in PRECIOUS dropped almost instantly when the box office receipts started dropping. I still believe it deserves its place in the winners' circle but it will be tricky to get people back on this train.


I was really hoping to see A SERIOUS MAN included amongst the Best Picture nominees. This is one of the most personal stories the Coen Brothers, Joel & Ethan, have told and yet it is one of the least inclusive works I've seen from them. Their authenticity and playfulness with the idea of one man cursed by God is often hilarious and even more often, painfully uncomfortable. Led by a brilliant performance by Michael Stuhlbarg, perhaps my most disappointing acting snub, A SERIOUS MAN has not and will not reach enough of an audience to get enough votes in this category and the Coen's far better work, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, already took this prize just a few years ago.


The people at Pixar are probably very happy about the five Oscar nominations their latest hit, UP, has earned. It is also only the second animated film in history to earn a Best Picture nomination. And while it may have been their biggest money earner in years, I do not personally feel this is their best work in years. I loved UP; I've seen in three times and have laughed and cried each time but WALL-E not making the cut last year is one of the major contributing factors to UP even having a shot at being nominated this year. A win for UP would be a consolation prize almost, I feel. It is edging out FANTASTIC MR. FOX in the Animated Feature category and that, and possibly Michael Giacchino's enchanting score, is likely as far as it is going to go.


Back when awards season was just starting, people were calling UP IN THE AIR the one to beat. It was winning critics awards over and over again, while director Jason Reitman and star, George Clooney, were looking like top contenders in their fields. The energy has died out some but it isn't too late to get it back. If the cast and crew work their magic on the scene, it shouldn't be too hard to remind people that UP IN THE AIR is an incredibly timely and tender piece about connecting with other people and other flights. Reitman's smooth touch and Clooney's classical charm give UP IN THE AIR an ease that let it glide right into your heart.

And so that sums up all ten nominees for the Best Picture Oscar. Who are you rooting for? Get creative!


Ryan McNeil said...

With the crazy balloting system that's been put in place this year, part of me wonders if UP could sneak in a victory.

Can't say it'd be the worst thing in the world, though my first choice (in staggering unoriginality) is THE HURT LOCKER.

Black Sheep said...

Too funny. I read your comment just as I finished writing in my new piece that UP has no chance of winning Best Picture. Unless you meant UP IN THE AIR, which I can see taking it if AVATAR and THE HURT LOCKER split their votes. My sentimental favorite is UP IN THE AIR ... for now anyway.

Ryan McNeil said...

Well then how's that for timing!

The strange thing about the way the balloting works, is that the ultimate winner doesn;t have to be everyone's first just can't land too terribly low on too many people's lists. Kinda makes me think that an animated movie that finds it way into enough voters' hearts stands half a chance!

If something is gonna sneak in and steal while HURT & AVATAR split, my money is on the basterds.

By the by, heard you went out to the last Toronto Blogger's pub night. I really dig your blog, so hearing that I missed meeting ya made me kick myself for not showing up.

Black Sheep said...

You may be right about the Basterds coming from behind. Seems like something they would do anyway.

And I should be at the next blogger's event so hopefully we will get the chance to shake hands and get into it on movies. I was wondering if you would be there last time actually.