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I’ve written previously about the top contenders for Best Picture (Argo, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Les Misérables); in this post, I present the five remaining nominees, underdogs all.

Beasts
Denial:  Beasts of the Southern Wild

This story of a defiant Louisiana bayou community fighting to stay on their land (despite all evidence that it is slowly disappearing due to global warming) is beautiful and moving, but suffers a bit from being all over the place, swinging back and forth from gritty realism to poetic fairytale. I didn’t always understand it, but it had a great score and six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis gives an incredible performance as Hushpuppy. Sadly, I don’t think this will take any statues home Sunday night.

When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me lying around in invisible pieces. When I look too hard, it goes away. And when it all goes quiet, I see they are right here. I see that I’m a little piece in a big, big universe. And that makes things right. When I die, the scientists of the future, they’re gonna find it all. They gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy, and she live with her daddy in the Bathtub.

Anger:  Django Unchained

Color me surprised, Tarantino directs an angry, revenge/quest flick. This time the setting is the Wild West and Deep South. As a fan of westerns, I really enjoyed this film, although I was disappointed that Broomhilda wasn’t more kick-ass. I mean, this is Tarantino after all.

Christoph Waltz (who is running neck and neck with Tommy Lee Jones for Best Supporting Actor), Samuel L. Jackson, and Leonardo DiCaprio all give terrific performances, but the real star here is the gorgeous cinematography. Of course, despite the fact that you could frame almost every shot of this movie and hang it on your wall, Robert Richardson is likely to lose out on a fourth Oscar to Claudio Miranda of Life of Pi. (Of course, I am still pulling for Deakins. Go Deakins!)

Django

Django does have a good chance at an Oscar for its screenplay; however, it doesn’t come close to matching Tarantino’s other films in that regard, and I actually think the structure of this film is extremely problematic. A good deal of the script was apparently left on the cutting room floor, and (while I can’t believe I’m saying it) I almost wish this film had been cut into two parts. It certainly would work better here than in Kill Bill, which I thought could have been tightened up enormously. Personally, I am rooting for Moonrise Kingdom for Best Original Screenplay.

Bargaining:  Zero Dark Thirty

I kept going back and forth on whether I would see this film in theaters. I was a bit wary of both the September 11th opening and the torture scenes. The more time went on, the more I heard that really only the latter part of the film was great so, in the end, I decided that I would wait until I could Netflix it and fast forward through the difficult parts. (Note: My issue with the torture scenes is not the one everyone seems to be discussing, but rather my own problem with seeing incisions and pain inflicted upon the body. Personally, if I needed fiction films to be accurate in their depictions of reality, I would be left with very little to watch. This year alone, such a requirement would eliminate every movie nominated for Best Picture. And, yes, that includes Lincoln.)

Depression:  Silver Linings Playbook

Speaking of films with little relation to reality, I find this entry an odd Best Picture selection. While it starts off promising, it quickly devolves into your average rom-com, with a side of mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, this is a delightful film, and I love a good (or even bad) romantic comedy as much as the next person, I just don’t think this is Oscar-worthy. The performances are very good, but nothing about the writing, direction, or other technical aspects stands out to me. And, yes, it does present a very distorted picture of mental illness, but (see above re:) it’s a MOVIE.

"Silver Linings Playbook"

Acceptance:  Amour

This is another one whose presence on this list surprises me, not because it’s not brilliant and heartbreaking (because it is), but just because it’s a small, foreign film. I guess Oscar voters were paying attention to Cannes and film festival buzz this year. I’ve heard divided opinions on whether this was depressing or not, but I found the depiction of old age and coming to terms with mortality refreshingly honest, and the love portrayed absolutely beautiful. Emmanuelle Riva has been climbing in the odds to win Best Actress and, while I have no love for Hiroshima Mon Amour, I do have a special fondness for her turn in Vénus beauté (institut), so I would love to see that come about. Jean-Louis Trintignant, who I adored in Kieślowski’s Rouge, was robbed of a nomination here.

Qu’est-ce que tu dirais si personne ne venait à ton enterrement? —Rien, probablement. (What would you say if no one came to your funeral? —Nothing, probably.)

And thus concludes my annual Oscar Blitz, but check here sometime on Sunday when I post the final round-up of my viewing along with the awards that never were, including Most Overrated, Best Use of Françoise Hardy, and Worst Hair.

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