There are but a few sure things in this world from year to year, and this year’s first certainty is the The Artist will be one of the five-to-ten Best Picture nominees. Here is your frontrunner for Best Picture, an art-house picture with a full head of steam heading into the Oscars and a handful of Golden Globes in its back pocket. Hot on the heels of The Artist, lying in the weeds waiting to steal the statue, is Alexander Payne’s family drama The Descendants. I may have issues with The Artist being the leader in the clubhouse, but I have a real problem with Payne’s film sitting in a close second. There are a dozen better pictures out there this year. Alas, it is not my decision, and I can see no way The Descendants is left off the ballot.
And what of this new format for Best Picture where the number of nominees can vary anywhere from five to ten films based on the number of first-place votes? Some reject the idea, but to me it seems the most logical. Sometimes there are only five films, but rarely are there ten deserving of Best Picture status. These last few years – a reaction to The Dark Knight arguably being the sixth film left out on Awards night in 2008 – The Academy opted to have a solid ten nominees. That allowed films like District 9 and The Blind Side to call themselves Best Picture hopefuls. This is the only logical response to a fluctuating medium of quality from year to year. I suppose the best way to try and predict, then, is to list from 1 to 10 the films I think have a chance at a nomination.
Numbers one and two are, respectively, The Artist and The Descendants. After that, it’s anybody’s guess as to who is in and who is out. There is a set number of films with a shot, but only eight possible slots left. I am fairly certain the big crowd pleaser of the year, The Help, will grab a nomination. Alongside The Help will be Hugo, one of the most beautiful films of the year which also happens to have the prestige of one Martin Scorsese in its corner. And I don’t see any way the Academy can ignore The Tree of Life. This is too big a film, too ambitious to be overlooked. This fills out the minimum five slots, but I have a feeling there will be more than just the minimum because of the strong year.
Midnight in Paris should get a spot for many of the same reasons Hugo should. Woody Allen is Hollywood royalty, and he has made a wonderfully charming picture that deserves recognition. And there is Moneyball, the rare sports film handles with class and delivered with prestige. It also happens to be solid entertainment. After Moneyball, however, the field thins considerably. I can see the nominee list stopping at seven. But if the field expands to ten, these final three slots could go in any order of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and a whole bevy of films at ten. For the sake of argument, let’s put the comedy sensation Bridesmaids here. If there is to be ten slots, I fully expect a recognizable crowd pleaser with a broad reach to fill out the category and draw in bigger numbers on February 26. That leaves small pictures like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive, Melancholia, and The Ides of March out in the cold. Though I wouldn’t expect any of those aforementioned outsiders to have much of a chance either way.
1. The Artist
2. The Descendants
3. The Help
5. The Tree of Life
6. Midnight in Paris
7. Moneyball (and this is where I see the cutoff)
8. War Horse
9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo