We’ve finally made it to the Best Picture nominees. As we work our way to the prediction for the grand prize of the evening, let’s also take a look at the Best Animated Picture and Best Foreign Language Film races.
Best Animated Feature
- ‘A Cat in Paris’
- ‘Chico & Rita’
- ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’
- ‘Puss in Boots’
Since the award was first created in 2001, the only years that Pixar hasn’t been included in the Best Animated Feature category were 2002 and 2005, which were not-so-coincidentally the only years that Pixar didn’t release any movies. ‘Shrek’ won over ‘Monsters, Inc.’ in 2001 (an egregious mistake on the part of the Academy), and ‘Happy Feet’ won over ‘Cars’ in 2006. [Ed.: That’s was a less egregious mistake, but still a mistake. -JZ] Otherwise, Pixar has not only been nominated every year but also won. This has been Pixar’s category since ‘Finding Nemo’ won in 2003. Then along came this year and the abomination that was ‘Cars 2’. It’s not just that ‘Cars 2’ is a bad Pixar movie; it’s a bad movie altogether. With Pixar out of the way, we have a batch of five films that aren’t wallowing in the Pixar shadow, which could make for an interesting race if…
…we already didn’t know that ‘Rango’ was going to win this easily. Have you seen either ‘A Cat in Paris’ or ‘Chico & Rita’? Don’t worry, neither has anyone else. ‘A Cat in Paris’ hasn’t even been released in America, while ‘Chico & Rita’ had only a very limited U.S. release that started at the beginning of this month.
Here’s a little factoid: The voting Academy members for this category aren’t required to see all of the nominated films. This is completely contrary to the special screenings that Academy members must attend for the Foreign Language and Documentary film categories in order to be allowed to vote on them. So, let’s just assume that only a select few people even saw ‘Chico & Rita’ or ‘A Cat in Paris’. That leaves ‘Puss in Boots’, which was slightly funny, but nowhere near clever enough to top ‘Rango’. Finally we have ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’, which is a good film, but feels too much like a Saturday morning cartoon during its first half. ‘Rango’, on the other hand, is brilliantly animated and perfectly poised to snatch this trophy. It’s an easy win for ‘Rango’!
Best Foreign Language Film
- ‘Bullhead’ (Belgium)
- ‘Monsieur Lazhar’ (Canada)
- ‘A Separation’ (Iran)
- ‘Footnote’ (Israel)
- ‘In Darkness’ (Poland)
I never get this category right. A couple years ago, I was sure that ‘The White Ribbon’ would take home the award, and then ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ stepped in and stole it. Last year, I was sure that ‘Dogtooth’ or ‘Incendies’ would win, but neither did. The award went to ‘In a Better World’. You never really know what you’re going to get when this category is announced, because you probably haven’t seen most of the nominees and you probably don’t care.
Even though there’s never really what you could call a “frontrunner” in this category, I find it hard to believe the masterful Iranian film ‘A Separation’ doesn’t walk away with the award. The film has built up a lot of critical momentum from last year. It was on numerous “Best of 2011” lists. Critics like Roger Ebert, Joe Morgenstern, Peter Rainer and David Fear (among many others) all agreed that the movie was one of the best films 2011 had to offer. We here at the Utah Film Critics Association awarded it with our Best Foreign Language Film award. The momentum is there and it’s as close to a frontrunner as you can get in an ambiguous, largely unknown category like this one. Still, I really can’t see it losing.
- ‘The Artist’
- ‘The Descendants’
- ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’
- ‘The Help’
- ‘Midnight in Paris’
- ‘The Tree of Life’
- ‘War Horse’
The key here is that history holds the key. The Best Picture winner almost always takes home the screenplay award in its respective category. The last time that didn’t happen was in 2004 when ‘Million Dollar Baby’ took home the big prize, but ‘Sideways’ walked away with the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Using this logic, we can eliminate all the movies that weren’t also nominated in either screenplay category. So long ‘War Horse’, ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’, ‘The Help’ and ‘The Tree of Life’. After culling those contenders, we’re left with ‘The Artist’, ‘The Descendents’, ‘Hugo’, ‘Midnight in Paris’ and ‘Moneyball’.
Out of these movies, which will take home its respective screenplay award? Well, ‘The Descendants’ has a fighting chance to do that against ‘Hugo’, simply because ‘The Descendants’ is seen as more of a writer’s movie while ‘Hugo’ is seen more as a director’s movie. Personally, I picked ‘Hugo’ to take home the Adapted Screenplay award, so I’ll stick with ‘Hugo’ beating ‘The Descendants’ there.
In the Original Screenplay category, I think ‘The Artist’ has it all sewn up, but I also think that Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’ could actually sneak in and steal it if ‘The Artist’ backlash is as bad as I’ve heard through the grapevine. If that happens, we could possibly be looking at two winners from the screenplay category who weren’t previously thought about as frontrunners to take home the Best Picture nomination.
That said, I’m standing by my original assessment that it’s going to come down to ‘The Artist’ and ‘Hugo’. ‘The Artist’ has everything that the over-the-hill Academy voters want. It’s black and white, full of heaps and heaps of nostalgia and even has a cute little dog. When all is said and done, and we find ourselves exhausted that we just sat through another four-hour-plus Oscar ceremony, ‘The Artist’ will be the last film standing, and Uggie will be dancing around on stage.
My ballot for the Best Picture categories looks like this:
Best Animated Picture: ‘Rango’
Best Foreign Language Film: ‘A Separation’
Best Picture: ‘The Artist’