Movies, Oscar Race

Oscar’s Angels: Best Picture Roundtable 2012

12 Comments 11 October 2011


The Artist,Jean Dujardin,Berenice Bejo,Best Picture, Best Actor,Best Supporting Actress

Dujardin, Bejo: let them entertain you

OK, Angels, let’s do the best pic tango. Here’s my first look. Personal fave: The Descendants. Personal movie l least want to see: War Horse. At this point in the year, the wobble of identifying best picture is that so many of the biggies are yet to be seen. And, still, given that one of the Eastwood- or Spielberg-driven monsters may flounder, here’s my take on the viable top ten.

Of this list, I’ve actually seen six (starred below):

The Descendants *
War Horse
J. Edgar
The Help *
The Artist *
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Moneyball *
Midnight in Paris *
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy *

What’s your take, Susan?
Susan Wloszczyna: One topic that I haven’t seen discussed very much in terms of best picture: It’s unlikely an animated film will make the cut since Pixar released its weakest feature ever with Cars 2. And no one is bringing up an alternate title in the genre — although I guess The Adventures of Tintin might qualify and Rango has its fans.

Of the pre-fall releases I agree with Thelma that Midnight and The Help are more apt to sneak in than The Tree of Life.

The Help, Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Oscar 2012, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Kathryn Stockett

Stone, Davis

Of the un-seens (at least by me), J. Edgar and Tattoo feel like they could be more vulnerable than War Horse. But then I remember I haven’t really been satisfied by a Spielberg-directed film since 2002 and you have to wonder.

Considering that Stephen Daldry has yet to not be nominated for one of his films, Extremely Loud would have to be a mess not to get in — and the trailer does not suggest that it is.

For some reason, as far as thrillers go, Tinker might be more to the academy’s liking than Tattoo. Of course, I am still mad that Zodiac was so mishandled by its studio so part of me is rooting for Fincher to make the cut.

THELMA: Zodiac was my favorite Fincher by far.

SUSAN: The certainties seem to be The Descendants, the current fave although some might consider a mature Payne to be a lesser Payne. And there is no way they will ignore The Artist.

My question: Is there something unexpected that could suddenly sneak in? What of Hugo and Tintin? The trailer of Young Adult feels more commercial than Oscar-y (though bitchiness does seem to suit Charlize Theron — love her devil red lipstick).

THELMA: Bitchiness becomes Charlize — and it worked for Aniston, Roberts and Diaz earlier this year. But Young Adult does look commercial — more Something About Mary, than Something About Oscar. I’ve heard major about Hugo, especially after last night’s big sneak screening at the NYFF….so, maybe I shouldn’t have left it off my list.

I’m with you, Susan, in that Spielberg doesn’t do it for me lately. But I know people who have cried just watching that trailer for War Horse, and its trailing fans of the book and the play.  J. Edgar is a total white slate, as is Tintin.

And definitely no Pixar animated barbarians at the gates. Cars 2? Ugh. Rango: not an Oscar best pic contender. That’s a film that should come with an ounce of medicinal weed.

Having seen Shame, I’m not feeling the Oscar love. Many Academy members will be reaching for the Purel. This will be My Week with Marilyn. It looks more like a collection of acting noms so far – and I’m surprised at the early split on Williams’ performance, although it’s tough tackling an icon.

Again, Leo as J. Edgar? I’ll only believe it once I see it. Until then, I’m in denial.

SUSAN: Shame got more than a few things right — that awful waiter, that eager for beaver boss and Fassbender’s wholly committed performance. But it actually wasn’t raw and real enough for me, which is why I had no problem shaking hands and sharing coffee with Fassy himself this week in NYC.

I have hopes for Judi Dench as mama Hoover. Talk about the B-word!

So, like, is this the year of the bitch at least in comedies? Melissa M. was more loud and obnoxious than the B-word.

Also, Facebook is filling up with My Week with Marilyn opinions — sounds like Branagh is the only likely Oscar contender.

Michelle Williams,Best Actress,My Week with Marilyn,Kenneth Branagh,Marilyn Monroe,Laurence Olivier

Williams wants to be loved by you


THELMA: I didn’t have it pegged for a best picture, but now it seems like it’s not necessarily a best actress either. Still, early word is mixed not universally negative. And early buzz was that it was soft, not groundbreaking.

This is the year of the bitch in comedies — and actresses finally realizing that it’s a lot more fun to play bad, than trying to carry a romcom opposite Gerard Butler.

Now,  with that well-received sneak screening of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo at the NYFF, it could be a game changer. And, in other news, Ides of March, never high up on my best picture list, blew in not like a lion, but like a lamb. A lamb chop even. But writer-director-co-star Clooney has some big salve: the unbeatable The Descendants on the horizon, which should prove to be Alexander Payne’s most commercial movie yet.

SUSAN: Ides was always a non-starter for me. It might get some Globe attention but only Gosling seems like an Oscar possibility.

The Descendants is ascendant for now. But it does not feel as secure as The King’s Speech did last year as far as favorite status. Your Georgie just could take the gold however. I would give it to him just for when his head pops up like a sniper when he is scoping out the rental bungalow of his wife’s lover.

Oops. Going off topic a bit. Rally those other angels already.

Sasha Stone: I feel like we’re in a holding pattern. We can’t say how it’s all going to go down since there are so many movies left to see. I feel like the strongest contenders to get a lot of number one votes right now are:

The Artist – a no-brainer
The Descendants – ditto
Midnight in Paris – remains a favorite by many
Moneyball – just a hunch
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – it’s one of the few smart-person movies.

And then, I’m thinking two more – I’m gonna guess that Best Pic comes in at around seven nominees. Supposedly it’s going to be closer to five than to ten.

War Horse
Dragon Tattoo
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

And that’s pretty much it so far. Things start to become clearer as we get closer, obviously, but we’re dealing with a situation we’ve never dealt with before — the whole number one thing. So in a way this will be the most unpredictable year for Oscar as long as I’ve been predicting them.

Ides of March feels to me like a movie that would be in with ten nominees for sure, but not with five, and maybe not if they have to rely on a goodly portion of number one votes. A wild card in that scenario might be Tree of Life.

As far as game changers – Hugo could be one. We Bought a Zoo maybe another. Who knows?

THELMA I have to ask about Moneyball as an Oscar contender. OK: it’s very Robert Redford peak movie star era. Got that. Jonah Hill good. Got that. But it’s three innings too long, makes its point, makes it again, and again. Robin Wright: total waste. Ends with cute kid song. But total Oscar? Huh? It doesn’t make my five, not sure it makes the seven. Could make the ten.

And, Sasha, the strange backpedaling of the Academy, ten or less, does seem like it will end up in the neighborhood of seven. We are in a bit of a holding pattern and I think Sasha nailed the top five more or less — again I’m unconvinced of Moneyball but I’m open to convincing. So, babies, convince me. Now that they’ve moved that Fishing in Yemen to next year, so that’s not a possibility. And, Sasha, despite your personal Shame love, that seems to have dropped from your viable contenders.

What are the big question marks? War Horse?; J. Edgar; Hugo; They Bought the Zoo?

SASHA: And p.s. I forgot The Help. I really do think it will be a major player. And its star, Viola Davis, not to mention its supporting star, Octavia Spencer.

Moneyball, to me, is just a really good movie that will appeal broadly — I think its place is assured. But I guess we’ll have to see.

Anne Thompson: Remember not to look at Oscar contenders from the POV of a New York critic.

THELMA: Point taken.

ANNE: In Hollywood, Moneyball is seen as an art movie that somehow made it through the studio system. The writers will go for Zaillian and Sorkin. The actors will go for Pitt and Hill. The directors will go for Bennett Miller. Wally Pfister–Chris Nolan’s DP–very respected. And so on. Trust me, it’s in the mix. How does a movie get to be a best picture contender? One branch at a time.

SASHA: Absolutely agreed, Anne. It’s generally wise to do it that way — guild by guild. Producers Guild, yes. SAG, yes. DGA probably. Best Picture, generally, is smooth sailing. The only stumbling block this year, and it’s worth considering, is the whole number 1 thing. I also think Moneyball won’t have a problem there.

The other thing to consider is that if you take Clooney and Pitt, two successful, likable actors in two films. If they can’t honor Pitt in Tree of Life, they will happily honor him in Moneyball. If they can’t honor Clooney for Ides, they will happily throw their weight behind him for The Descendants.

SUSAN: Moneyball is definitely in a list of seven. At least for now before the final possible best pic contenders are seen. And Thelma, a little Robin Wright is enough for me and I like that kid song — not expected at all in a sports movie. Gave it a heart beat. It emphasized storytelling over on the field dramatics and that is something to applaud.

That said, the big question for me about Moneyball is money. It is just barely hanging in at the box office. Should that matter? No. But, somehow, without that $100 million mark being met, it just feels more like a lightweight. I also think the weaker than expected B.O. for The Social Network hurt it last year.

SASHA: Moneyball, I thought, was doing fine. According to Phil at, it’s doing as expected. For instance, except for the weekend, Moneyball took the top spot from October 3 through October 6. The weekend, the dumb shits and the families came out to spend money….It’s already made around $50 million. It still has to cross its budget of $85. Not sure how much it will matter if it doesn’t but that could be a key factor in the perception (scared rabbits flee at the first sign of trouble).

So in a weird freak scenario where Ides of March charges upwards of $100M and Moneyball hovers around $60M, well, Kris Tapley could turn out to be right, as he’s said that he suspects Ides of March will be a big Oscar player and not Moneyball. Funny that they’re both Sony.

THELMA: And that kind of insider baseball can make a big difference. Meanwhile, LATE-BREAKING NEWS:  Hugo totally wows them at NYFF sneak. Still, Anne writes:  “I doubt that the movie will head into Oscar territory outside the technical realm—but cinematography, production design, costumes, sound, and VFX are in the running.” To be continued….

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Your Comments

12 Comments so far

  1. Lv says:

    Get your box-office straight!
    Moneyball’s budget is 50M$ not 85.. And it crossed 50 on Monday. There’s no way it will only do 60.
    It’s expected to do anywhere between 4-5 times it’s opening weekend, which is 80-100M$.
    Ides opened with 10M$. Even if it did 5 times that, which NO ONE is predicting, there is no way it will reach 100m.

    • Thelma says:

      You are correct. Production budget $50M and crossed that on Monday. I’m flabbergasted by your passion on the subject, but happy to be set straight.

  2. joy rose says:

    Thank you for bringing an all important woman’s voice to the film arena. Yay and thanks for sharing the article. Joy Rose, MediaMom™

  3. Mark Johnson says:

    “If they can’t honor Pitt in Tree of Life, they will happily honor him in Moneyball.”

    Just curious, why can’t they honor Pitt in the better of his two performances? Esp. in what looks like the weaker category of Supporting (entire cast of Tree to be pushed as Supp). With Woody Harrelson (Rampart)and Fassbender (Shame)rising as possible nominees, something has to give, right?
    I loved Moneyball, but just can’t see it as a film that gets #1’s. Lots of #2-5’s, sure. But #1? I just don’t buy it. I like it for Screenplay and nothing else.
    Loved the piece. A lot of great points from four of my favorite ladies in the biz.

    • Thelma says:

      I actually don’t think supporting is weaker, but I do think that for every person who loves Tree, another five don’t — even if they won’t say it out loud. It’s herd mentality. I like your thinking on Moneyball — I’m not feeling Hill, but do think Pitt could get his push here. Have to see how entire year plays out. Don’t think Shame is going to get Oscar love.

      And thanks for your Oscar’s Angels love. We appreciate it — pass us around and we’ll keep it up!

  4. Thelma says:

    Thanks, Sasha, and do think that the “branch-by-branch” theory that emerged in our playful discussion is a definite keeper.


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