Six Circuit: Which 2011 Best Picture Hopeful Came ‘Incredibly Close’?

Welcome to the thirty-seventh entry in our Six Circuit series.

Of our Best Picture winners this decade, none have steamrolled the season quite like “The Artist” in 2011. The silent film won tons of Best Picture awards on its way to the Oscars. This includes the PGA, DGA, BAFTA, Critics Choice, Golden Globes Awards. Though the winner may have been predictable, the nominees for Best Picture were far from expected. This year was the first year of the sliding scale in the Best Picture field, where the category could have six to ten nominees. Let’s take a look at the nine films that earned nominations.

THE NOMINEES WERE:

  • “The Artist” (WINNER)
  • “The Descendants”
  • “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
  • “Hugo”
  • “The Help”
  • “Midnight in Paris”
  • “Moneyball”
  • “The Tree of Life”
  • “War Horse”

OVERALL SUMMARY

We’ve already talked about “The Artist’s” relatively easy walk to Oscar glory. By the end of the night, the film won five Oscars, including Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Actor (Jean Dujardin), Costume Design and Original Score. The film’s main challengers were “Hugo,” which won five tech categories, and “The Descendants,” which won Best Adapted Screenplay. The former suffered from genre bias around children’s movies, even though Martin Scorsese directed it. Meanwhile, the latter was supposed to be a bigger play in categories like Best Actor, though it fell behind Dujardin by the end. It still won at the Golden Globes and WGA Awards, but that wasn’t enough to compete with “The Artist.”

Among the other major guild winners, the SAG Awards can sometimes predict a surprise. That year’s winner, “The Help,” was a huge box office hit. Yet, it didn’t manage nominations outside of the acting categories. Additionally, “Midnight in Paris” won the Original Screenplay race at the Oscars and WGA Awards. Yet, it wasn’t able to translate that into greater awards momentum. “Moneyball” and “War Horse” both were along for the ride with precursors, but never made a play for major wins.

The other two films – “The Tree of Life” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” – only earned Critics Choice Awards prior to Oscar nominations. “The Tree of Life” carries with it plenty of Terrence Malick fans that helped it win passion votes. Yet, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” opened on the last week of the year to tepid reviews and terrible box office. Its Best Picture nomination remains one of the strangest in recent memory. Keeping that in mind, what movie did it displace?

THE SIX SPOT CONTENDERS ARE:

  • “50/50”
    • Precursors – WGA Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Indie Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • “A Separation”
    • Precursors – National Society of Film Critics Nominee
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Foreign Language Film (WINNER), Original Screenplay
  • “Albert Nobbs”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Glenn Close), Supporting Actress (Janet McTeer), Makeup
  • “Beginners”
    • Precursors – Indie Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards (WINNER)
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer) (WINNER)
  • “Bridesmaids”
    • Precursors – PGA Awards, SAG Awards, WGA Awards, Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Supporting Actress (Melissa McCarthy), Original Screenplay
  • “Drive”
    • Precursors – BAFTA Awards, Critics Choice Awards, Indie Spirit Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Sound Editing
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
    • Precursors – PGA Awards, DGA Awards, WGA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Rooney Mara), Cinematography, Film Editing (WINNER), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
  • “The Ides of March”
    • Precursors – PGA Awards, Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Adapted Screenplay
  • “The Iron Lady”
    • Precursors – None
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Meryl Streep) (WINNER), Makeup (WINNER)
  • “Melancholia”
    • Precursors – National Society of Film Critics (WINNER), Cannes Palme d’Or Nominee, New York Film Critics Circle Nominee,
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • “My Week With Marilyn”
    • Precursors – Golden Globe Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actress (Michelle Williams), Supporting Actor (Kenneth Branagh)
  • “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
    • Precursors – BAFTA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
  • “Win Win”
    • Precursors – WGA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None
  • “Young Adult”
    • Precursors – WGA Awards
    • Oscar Nominations – None

INDIE CONTENDERS

This year found plenty of room for small contenders with passionate fans. Being a black-and-white silent film makes “The Artist” quite an atypical winner. Beyond that, “The Tree of Life” was an independent film from a world-class filmmaker that inspired just as much hate as love among audiences. These same claims could be applied to “Melancholia,” another art-house, allegorical film about the nature of existence. Lars Von Trier’s movie got a jump start at the Cannes Film Festival, where it contended for the Palme d’Or and Kirsten Dunst won Best Actress. Unfortunately, it could not sustain this momentum heading into the critic awards phase, where “The Tree of Life” took some of “Melancholia’s” passion.

The WGA highlighted a few smaller films that could’ve had more Oscar buzz. “Win Win” is a lovely small film about a high school wrestling coach starring Paul Giamatti. The movie was never going to be a Best Picture nominee, but the movie should have made more strides in writing. Likewise, “Young Adult” is good enough that it should have been a major Oscar player. The re-teaming of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody should have produced “Juno”-level results. Yet, their follow-up was quite a bit more prickly, and voters didn’t necessarily warm up to it.

“50/50” likely came closest to major Oscar success in this group. The WGA nominee had a great chance in the Original Screenplay category, but fell short of an Oscar nomination. It also had Best Picture support at the Golden Globes and Indie Spirit Awards. The cancer dramedy caught some attention, thanks to the big names behind it like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston. Yet, the September release date contributed to the film falling between the cracks.

OSCAR WINNERS

Two of the four acting winners came from movies outside the Best Picture race. “The Iron Lady” may have won two Oscars (the third most of the ceremony), but few movies were further from the Best Picture conversation. Meryl Streep campaigned hard for her transformative performance as Margaret Thatcher. Yet, the movie around Streep’s performance was widely panned by critics and audiences. On the other hand, Christopher Plummer won his Oscar for the well-reviewed summer indie hit, “Beginners.” The Oscar conversation never extended far past Plummer. Still, it did win Best Picture at the Gotham Awards and get nominated for the Independent Spirit Best Picture prize.

Recently, foreign language films have found success outside of the Foreign Language category. “Roma” nearly won Best Picture just last year. Yet, 2011 was even before “Amour” pulled off a surprise nomination. Had it come out this year, Foreign Language Film winner “A Separation” likely would have been in the Best Picture hunt. Unfortunately, it had to settle merely for an Original Screenplay nomination in addition to its Foreign Language Film win. Still, that screenplay nomination was a triumph.

One of the most surprising wins of the 2011 Oscars came in the Best Film Editing category. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” beat a category full of Best Picture nominees, despite being snubbed in major categories. Prior to Oscar nominations, the David Fincher remake ran the gauntlet with guild awards. It was the only film this year to earn a DGA nomination, but not a Best Picture nomination. The PGA and WGA Awards also nominated the film. Perhaps the violence or lukewarm box office turned off voters. Maybe some didn’t want to vote for a remake. Either which way, the film settled with five nominations and one win.

ACADEMY ALSO-RANS

Acting nominations can sometimes lead to surprise Best Picture nominations. The only other nomination “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” received was in Supporting Actor for Max Von Sydow. “Albert Nobbs,” “Warrior,” and “A Better Life” all earned acting nominations, but never saw precursor traction for the movies. Even though, “My Week with Marilyn” showed up at the Golden Globe Best Picture category, it was never going to do more than its two acting nominations. If anything, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” showed some potential. The BAFTA Best Picture nomination gave the movie a much needed boost. Yet, that mostly just helped the film secure nominations in Best Actor (Gary Oldman) and Adapted Screenplay.

“Drive” and “The Ides of March” both had high Oscar prospects, but only wound up with one nomination a piece. Action films don’t scream Oscar-bait. Yet, “Drive” found passion within critics and audiences that led to BAFTA, Critics Choice and Indie Spirit nominations. Yet, the guilds shunned the film and it only showed up in Best Sound Editing. Meanwhile, “The Ides of March” seemed like perfect Oscar-bait on paper. Yet, middling reviews took a lot of steam out of it. Despite PGA and Golden Globe support, the film puttered to a lone Adapted Screenplay nomination that came as a surprise consolation prize.

The major Oscar story this year revolved around “Bridesmaids,” the raunchy comedy from May. After word of mouth turned the Kristen Wiig vehicle into a hit, people began to wonder whether Oscar would notice. Breakout star Melissa McCarthy became the focus of the campaign and ended up with a nomination. Wiig also contended with co-writer Annie Mumolo in Original Screenplay. As the campaign intensified, many thought it could also get into Best Picture. Not only did it show up at the Golden Globes, the guilds also voiced their support. The PGA, WGA and SAG Awards all nominated the film. In fact, it was the only SAG Ensemble to miss in Best Picture.

Both “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Bridesmaids” had three major guild nominations. The major difference was “Bridesmaids” still earned writing and acting nominations. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” couldn’t turn any of its guild nominations into a corresponding Oscar nomination.

THE SIX SPOT FOR 2011 BEST PICTURE WAS:

“BRIDESMAIDS”

Who do you think came in 6th place in the 2011 Best Picture race? Share with us in the comments below.

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