NYMag's David Edelstein posits that The Artist is a lock for the gold on Sunday, and I don't disagree, with the conclusion or the reasoning. It's a weird year for the Best Pic slate, with a lot of seriously-flawed-at-best material; it might come down to the least of nine evils.
The evil-lope, please…
The Artist. As Edelstein notes, it's charming -- charming enough. Some found it too self-consciously charming, but a lot of people saw it…and a lot of people felt good and smart about themselves for seeing it. The presumptive winner.
The Descendants. Went off the boil a few weeks ago, which is fine by me, as I despised it across the board. Not a terrible pick for your pool, but unlikely.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Man, people are REALLY afraid of Scott Rudin, eh? …I would drop a "just kidding" in here if I could find another reason for the nomination, but I can't. Widely, and correctly, reviled by critics; no chance.
The Help. Wonderful performances almost get the white-guilty writing out of its own way, but not quite. A long shot.
Hugo. I admired it a great deal, and while it's not something I will rush to buy on DVD, of the group this year, I think it's the most…complete, I guess. It's a story for all ages, the acting is good, the writing is a little strange but mostly good, the director pushed himself and the format, and it's pretty. It could win, but I would bet it for Best Directing, not here.
Midnight in Paris. A past-masters nomination, I suspect, for a likeable but redundant Woody Allen movie. No chance.
Moneyball. A very good movie that exceeded my expectations by a wide margin; it's built well. For whatever reason -- too niche? -- it's not in the discussion, which is unfortunate, but the nomination is the award.
The Tree of Life. A part of me wants it to win, because it didn't work for me, but I still think it's important, from an event standpoint and from a "half the fun of watching movies is talking about them afterwards" standpoint. Plus, watching people lose their fookin' minds on Twitter about it at 11:55 PM? Awesome. "Divisive" won't get it done, though, and I don't think it has enough friends in the room.
Who shouldn't be here: I'll just say it: most of them. EL&IC is the most egregious, but this is another category where it's not who's here. It's who's not.
Who should be here, but isn't: I was disappointed in Tinker Tailor, but it's ambitious, at least, and it's better than several of the nominees. So is Win Win. So is Meek's Cutoff. So is the entire Best Foreign Language category. Seriously, where is A Separation -- it pulled a screenplay nom, it got decent distribution compared to its category-mates, and it has a basic understanding of how human beings speak to one another, which is not something you can say for about half the BP slate. Where's Rango? Where's Bridesmaids, for that matter?
I get a whiff of "let's not bother nominating things the Academy voters won't make an effort to see" from the nominees this year. …Well, every year, but it's not usually the bulk of the list. I have absolutely no problem with nominating popular entertainments that did big box office, but if films got passed over as too challenging to the voters, that's horseshit. The rest of us have to pretend to take these awards seriously for 17 months out of the year, so the voters can take them seriously too, or they can step aside. Fall asleep reading subtitles? You're excused. Can't follow complicated plots? You're excused. "But how do I get the 3D glasses to go over my bifoca--" You're excused. You don't have to drive to Montreal and back in one day to see Monsieur Lazhar like one crazy lady I might mention, but if "best" means "least likely to inconvenience members of the industry whose kings we are crowning in front of the entire world on TV"? Not good enough.
ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! …Hee. Sorry about that. I'm a little tired over here. To the prediction-mobile, let's go!
Who should win: Hugo or Moneyball
Who will win: The Artist
Who needs a binky and a nap: This brother
Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.com. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here.