Sizing Up: Best Picture

“Sizing Up” Series kicks off for 2012 with the big category…

It’s that time of the year again folks!  The name of the game here is to make an early grouping of the hopefuls for all the main categories. Beginning with Best Picture and categorizing the contenders by their assumed chances. I’m not ashamed to admit that my success rate has been only decent with these in the past, but that kind of comes with the territory of Oscar prognostication and I’m hoping for a good showing this year. This time around I’m sticking with last year’s model of a larger slate than in previous years, which still has to do with the relative uncertainty that this year’s race has surrounding it again. For one thing, how many nominees will we ultimately have? Less than the 9 we had last year? How many films will actually be able to get the required amount of #1 votes to qualify for a nomination? All of this remains to be seen of course, but for now, I’ve tried to grab all the viable contenders for Best Picture and laid them out for you below. Lots can change between now and the nominations, but this is where I think things stand now at this current and precarious moment. At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how this matches up to the eventual nominees (last year I correctly predicted 6 of the 9 eventual nominated films from the article).

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

These are the films I’d say are 100% out of the race, regardless of their quality (or perhaps lack thereof). Some are strong films that either are too small or too problematic to be included in the bigger field, and others just didn’t live up to the expectations/hype that we had for them. There are lots of flicks that fits this particular criteria, but I chose to highlight 12 of them. The movies in question are:

The Cabin in the Woods
The Grey
Jeff, Who Lives at Home
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Red Hook Summer
Safety Not Guaranteed
Take This Waltz
To Rome With Love
The Words
Your Sister’s Sister

While the quality wasn’t there for films like ‘360’, ‘Cosmopolis’, ‘Red Hook Summer’, ‘To Rome With Love’, and ‘To Rome With Love’, some of these other no go’s just are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’d love to see a surprise nod for ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, ‘The Grey’, ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home’, ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, or ‘Take This Waltz’, but I’m realistic enough to know that they won’t happen. The rest is just sort of stuck in that middle ground that stops a contender before they even get started. Essentially, count those movies out of the fold. In another place and time they might have been contenders…just not this particular one.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This next grouping consists of 25 films this year that I think ultimately won’t be contenders for the big prize, but aren’t out of the race completely yet. They either have subject matter that could be unsavory to voters, or just don’t seem to have the right traction yet. Some of them are bigger contenders than others, but for me I’m inclined to bet against them all right now. For many, if this was a mandatory year of 10, they’d be sitting a lot prettier than they are currently. The movies in question are as follows:

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Cloud Atlas
Frances HA
Great Expectations
The Guilt Trip
The Hunger Games
Killing Them Softly
Liberal Arts
Magic Mike
Not Fade Away
On The Road
The Paperboy
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Robot and Frank
Ruby Sparks
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Seven Psychopaths
This Must Be the Place
Trouble with the Curve

A couple of these have better chances than others of breaking away from the pack and moving towards a more realistic shot at a Best Picture citation. I’d say those include ‘Cloud Atlas’ (if somehow its ambition captures the attention of the Academy), ‘Not Fade Away’ (since we know very little about it outside of its impending prime début spot at the New York Film Festival), and ‘Quartet’, but there’s no way of knowing definitively now. A lot of these are worthy indie contenders that could surprise with a nomination (I’m looking at ‘Bernie’, ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’, ‘Frances HA’, and ‘Ruby Sparks‘ mainly), but the odds are certainly not in their favor. The others could better in other categories, but are going to need lots of help to make a dent in the Best Picture race, so I’d say they can be safely passed over right at this moment.

The “Second Tier” Contenders

These films are solidly in play for Best Picture love, but have enough question marks to keep them from being A-list players. I’d say that there will be at least one from this list that winds up making it to the big show, but many will no doubt fade away as well. There’s a dozen of these particular flicks that would like to be considered big time contenders, regardless of reality. I don’t see them as big time ones just yet, but like I said, they’re not amazingly far off. The movies I see in this light are:

Anna Karanina
The Avengers
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Hyde Park on Hudson
Moonrise Kingdom
The Place Beyond the Pines
This Is 40
To The Wonder

I bet there’s some sort of version of this year’s race where a good combination of these 12 films make up the Best Picture field, but there’s still another dozen films to come below with better chances. That means these flicks need to distinguish themselves in some sort of way, and that won’t be easy. Some will, but some won’t, and I’d say that most will fall shy in the end. ‘Amour’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Flight’, ‘This Is 40’, and ‘To The Wonder’ are the biggest question marks, but I’d expect the latter to follow the likely course of ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ and wind up a 2013 contender instead. I’m not buying the chances of ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ like some are, but stranger things have certainly happened. I’m not sure which one, but I have a suspicion that one of those dozen will end up a part of the final slate of nominees…the question is just which one.

The “Pole Position” Contenders

These are the dozen most likely contenders for Best Picture here in September. My personal Oscar predictions (where I’m nominating 10 flicks) consist of all but 2 of these films, so suffice to say I’m high on them. They each have a good amount in their favor, and seem to be sitting pretty in one way or another. They’re also some of the most mentioned films so far this year, and I don’t exact that to change much anytime soon. Which 12 flicks are they, you might wonder? Well, they are the following:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Dark Knight Rises
The Impossible
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
The Master
The Promised Land
The Sessions
The Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

I don’t see ‘Argo’, ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Lincoln’, ‘The Master’, or ‘The Sessions’ missing out on Best Picture, so they’re certainly top-tier contenders (and at least half of the slate) and almost any one of them is a real threat to win (I have my reservations about the Academy falling for ‘The Master’ enough to give it the win, and the trailer for ‘Lincoln’ gives me mild pause, but ‘Argo’ is looking incredibly strong). ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is just a notch below in my eyes, but still a very likely nominee, with the same being said for ‘Life of Pi’. ‘The Impossible‘ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty‘ are strong players but mild mysteries, so I’m taking a small lead on them, with a huge leap being given to ‘The Promised Land‘ as well. Factor in the festival love for ‘The Silver Linings Playbook‘ and we have a lot of contenders with a strong appeal to the Academy (in fact, it’s almost a sure bet that ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ winds up with a nomination, though it’s hardly locked in). What they do with ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ remains to be seen still, but I haven’t completely given up hope yet. Combine this group with the previous dozen, and I think those will make up the 24 films that get slowly filtered down to somewhere between 5 and 10 nominees at the end of this long and crazy road.

There you have it ladies and gents. I see this year as being a race to the finish line between 61 films for those 5-10 elusive slots, though under 50 of them have any real chance of making it to the end of the season intact. Most of the others still have little to no chance at being nominated, but as I said, there’s about two dozen solid contenders now, with some surprises likely still to come. I’m sure that the list will be reduced soon enough, though we could also see it increase as the festival circuit continues to reveal some new contenders for our prognosticating pleasure. The one thing you have to be sure of is this though…it’s going to be a very interesting Oscar season!

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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