Tonight’s Oscars likely to honor quiet favorite ‘The Artist’

By Burk Krohe

Sunday night is the 84th Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. The award ceremony will recognize the best of best in film from 2011. The show will be hosted by Billy Crystal (his ninth time) and will be televised starting at 4 p.m. on ABC. Read on to brush up on what people have been saying about this year’s best picture nominees. 

Best Picture buzz

This year’s Oscar nominations represent a somewhat stilted field. Several of the nine picks are no-brainers, but others leave film fans wondering.

The favorite so far seems to be the French film “The Artist.” The black-and-white film tells the story of the 1920s-era silent films and the rise of “talkies.” Oh, and it is absent of dialogue. It’s much different than any other best picture nominee in recent memory, and it has art-house appeal working in its favor.

The fact that it earned 10 nominations overall and has already won four Golden Globes, one Screen Actors Guild award and seven BAFTAs doesn’t hurt either. One of the very things that makes it unique—no dialogue—could hurt it, though.

“The Descendants” and “Hugo” are also frontrunners for best picture. “The Descendants” deals with family issues including death, dysfunction and infidelity while injecting humor into the story. In other words, it’s Oscar bait. It also stars Academy favorite George Clooney. It could make a strong case to upset “The Artist.”

Another Academy favorite, Martin Scorsese, directed “Hugo,” which took home 11 nominations total. “Hugo” might get a boost because, like “The Artist,” it is essentially a love letter to old movies and eras past. But zero nominations for acting doesn’t bode well for a best picture win.

“The Help,” “Midnight in Paris” and “War Horse” are all dark horse candidates for best picture. “The Help” takes place during the civil-rights era and features strong performances from several actresses, but it might be too sentimental for its own good.

“Midnight in Paris” focuses on a group of Americans in the “City of Lights.” Each night Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter, is transported back in time to the 1920s. Any other year, this Woody Allen film would stand out quite a bit, but, in a year with so many films focused on the past, it loses much of its impact.

The title of “War Horse” says it all. It’s about a horse in World War I. However silly that concept might seem, it was directed by Steven Spielburg who is no stranger to Academy Awards.

The remaining three films, “The Tree of Life,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and “Moneyball” realistically have little to no shot of winning. Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” a film about the origins of life told via family in 1950s Texas, wowed critics, but the public gave it a lukewarm reception.

“Moneyball” is a good sports underdog story, but it still doesn’t have enough heart to win. Few people expected “Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close” to receive a nomination, and it really doesn’t stand a chance.


Oscar snubs

This year’s nominations focused on distinctly sentimental, nostalgic films, but younger cinemaphiles wondered “what about the here and now?”

Several non-period-piece films aimed at younger audiences easily could have made the case for nominations.

“Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” proved a big-budget fantasy film, and a sequel, could win. That’s why it was surprising to many that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” did not receive a nomination.

“Drive,” a stylized action film starring Ryan Gosling, was also touted by younger moviegoers. It included excellent turns by Gosling as a getaway driver and by Albert Brooks, playing against type, as a mobster.

Everyone hoped, but no one really expected the female-centric comedy “Bridesmaids” to get a nomination. It once again proves the Academy doesn’t have a sense of humor. The Academy also looked the other way when it came to a nomination for the comedy-drama “50/50.”

“Shame” also proves the Academy is on the prudish side. The NC-17 film, which deals heavily with sex was snubbed even though most critics agreed Michael Fassbender turned in an Oscar-worty performance. It’s worth noting “Midnight Cowboy” is the only X or NC-17 film to win best picture.

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