Some of my favorite movie critics and Oscar pundits Sasha Stone, Guy Lodge, Kris Tapley, and Tom O’Neill among others recently ranked possible Oscar contenders for the 2012 movie year on a list. These assumptions are mostly based on the films with talented/respected directors, an exceptionally cast, and intriguing synopsis. However, I think that if a critic hasn’t seen a movie, it’s not worth compiling a list of unseen films let alone put stock in them. And I don’t blame Oscar pundits who want to put a list together during the weeks “Rock of Ages,” “That’s My Boy,” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” are released. Critics and pundits have to believe the year in cinema will improve. And it will, studios love waiting last minute to drop there Oscar bombs.
Last summer, there was a lot of Oscar hype for “War Horse.” I even fell for it declaring it was the front-runner favorite to win Best Picture only to eat serious crow. After all, the trailer featured inspirational sap (“Be Brave!”), impressive cinematography, and the horse running through war battle. Until people saw “War Horse,” they realized the 2-½ hour movie had ½ hour war battles, and 2 hours of the horse. The corny family vibe tone was a letdown and burdens the positive quality of the films. When a ‘sassy-acting’ goose chasing the farmer is played for laughs, it became obvious “War Horse” was more similar to “Flicka” then “Saving Private Ryan.” On Oscar night, “War Horse” didn’t even win the sound categories! Yet, “The Help” won an Oscar for Octavia Spencer for a movie that caught all pundits by surprise until they actually saw it.
Simply put awards consideration is something which usually cannot be gauged until we see the movie. This year Spielberg tops their list again for the movie “Lincoln” starring Abraham Lincoln. For all we know it can be a big letdown like Clint Eastwood’s “J Edgar.” Honestly, that’s where I’m placing my expectations for the film. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” Katherine Bigelowe’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Quinten Taratino’s “Django Unchained” all are ‘assumed’ front runners, even Baz Luhrmann’s revisionist looking “The Great Gatsby” is generating buzz from the trailer alone.
For me, the only real 2012 Oscar contenders are movie I have actually seen including the lighthearted “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” the powerfully poetic “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” and the spectacular activist documentary “Invisible War.” These movies have strong potential at a nomination for at least one category. (I won’t include the animated films including obviously Pixar’s “Brave” and probably “The Lorax.”) I’m sure most Oscar pundits have seen these certain movies, too. If those pundits have seen a movie they think will receive Oscar nominations, then by all means share it to the world! Some have gone so far to declare “The Avengers” might receive a Best Picture nomination for its solid box office performance. I’ll believe it when I see it especially if the “Harry Potter” franchise walked away empty handed. Somehow, I doubt the fuddy-duddy Academy is going to roll over and vote for a super hero ensemble a Best Picture nomination.
The film cynic considers the Oscar race a popularity contest. Normally voter passion toward the films has a tendency to win those awards. With this logic, it’s mostly impossible to predict the emotional reaction of a select few just by reading the title, synopsis, and filmmakers on these so called ‘frontrunner’ movies. Instead of speculating the unknown, pundits are better off taking a wait and see approach to award movies. The Oscar talk should really start on Labor Day weekend at the Telluride Film Festival. All other prior discussions are just talk.