Strongest Best Pic Contenders (Post-Toronto)

Right now David O. Russell‘s The Silver Linings Playbook feels to me like the slam-dunkiest Best Picture contender for six reasons — it portrays “crazy” as a state of exceptional openness and illumination in the same way R.D. Laing regarded schizophrenia, it’s fast and sharp and all the actors are “in the zone,” it reflects an anxious and cranked-up psychology that many of us share on some level, it’s funny and touching and a kind of ballsy ghoulash, it’s going to be a huge hit and, last but not least, Manohla Dargis has expressed semi-dismissive comments. That, for me, is fuel. That puts gas in my tank.

I’m obviously aware that many believe that Ben Affleck‘s Argo is just as strong or at least running a close second, but you can’t give a Best Picture Oscar for just craft and the director having grown in skill. It has to have something else going on, some kind of echo or undercurrent that punches through and adds up to something more than the sum of its parts. Boil out the patriotism and Argo is just a satisfying caper film, and yes, I know — nobody wants to hear that and nobody will listen.

And you have to put The Master up there, although we all know it won’t win the Best Picture Oscar (although I can imagine more than a few critics groups giving it their top prize).

And I’m infuriated that people are putting down Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina, which delivers the kind of bold and exhilarating chops that I live for. It’s the kind of film that hasn’t been made in a long time, and what a rush to encounter it like I did in Toronto, cold and unprepared. You have to embrace it if you have the slightest interest in movies that step outside and say to themselves, “Let’s throw caution to the wind.” This movie is Ken Russell reborn in the most delirious sense of that term, and Dargis — Dargis again! — has called it a “travesty” — I can’t remember her ever sounding this rash or savage or dead effing wrong. This is my idea of a Best Picture contender.

And we can’t forget Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild…right? The little movie that could, should and probably will.

The Five Big Unseens are Tom Hooper‘s Les Miserables (12.7), Robert Zemeckis‘s Flight (11.2), Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Zero Dark Thirty (12.14), Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi (11.21), and Steven Spielberg Lincoln, which I’m getting a really bad feeling about.

That’s ten titles, and I have a hunch that the weak sisters, no offense, are going to be Lincoln, Life of Pi, possibly Beasts of the Southern Wild (but maybe not) and possibly Anna Karenina if Dargis’s view carries inordinate weight.

  • pchu

    I have seen the movie, liked it, but don’t share your enthusiasm of it. It’s a good movie, a very good rom-com but it’s pretty safe material. It’s basically another Jerry McGuire, the characters may be different, but tonally it’s very similar.

    I am surprised you love this so much.

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  • david_friend

    Argo felt like a cookie-cutter political movie, and the audience I saw it with responded to it exactly how you’d expect. The film is effective in almost every way it wants to be, and for that reason alone I think it will be dull for most avid moviegoers. There’s nothing particularly intellectual about it, and very little to discuss aside from the black/white portrayal of the storyline, or how ethnicities and nationalities are played out through the characters.

    For me, it’s hard to get behind a movie that simply works, but doesn’t evoke any sort of passion, particularly if it’s political.

  • Mrilch

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I didn’t see The Master in your Best of 2012 (as of 9.16) chart, Jeff. Is that right?

  • Tad Whatever

    pchu: If it’s another Jerry Maguire and Jerry Maguire got a Best Picture nom, doesn’t that mean Jeff is dead-on in his assessment?

  • pchu

    I didn’t say it’s not a best pic contender, just saying the movie is good, not great.

  • RobbyH

    I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild and it will probably find new wind during the end of the year ‘Best of … bru ha ha .

    I’m really looking forward to Anna Karenina and Les Miserables. and I think it’s funny how many people were dismissing ‘Silver Linings’ before Toronto –

    I didn’t because I kept hearing from people who have read the book that it’s great source material…..people judge too much just from the trailers……

    I wasn’t expecting Jennifer Lawrence to become the top contender for Lead Actress…but I’m OK with it because I like her :)

    SEE everyone ! there is a whole “second half” of Silver Linings Jeff says ! they didn’t give it all away in the trailer like most movies do now adays :S

  • Breedlove

    I heard bad things about ZERO DARK THIRTY from someone who would know, although I’d take that with a large grain of salt since this person tends to be the pessimistic/jaded/melodramatic type. But that is what I’ve been told.

  • Eloi Wrath

    In the same way that Argo is “just” a caper movie, I find it hard to see how Zero Dark Thirty won’t be “just” a military procedural. The mission was pretty clear-cut, so I don’t see any controversial political statements making their way in here, and by and large the audience just wants to see heroic US soldiers undertaking a badass mission of revenge. We’re more likely to get a technically competent Act of Valor type film than any sort of Thin Red Line/Apocalypse Now treatise on conflict.

  • K. Bowen

    I’m intrigued by your notion of Just a caper film? Like Rififi? Or Bob Le Flambeur? Or Heat?

    Is a dysfunctional rom-com really going to win Best Picture?

  • Jeffrey Wells

    I’m not saying it’ll happen (there’s always been a huge Oscar prejudice against comedies) but it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if a dysfunctional romcom wins Best Picture.

    Heat is a much grander, richer ensemble piece — pyschologically, atmospherically — and a much more personal film than Argo ever thought about being.

    There’s a tragic noir arc to the final act of Rififi that elevates it above the mere conventions of a caper film, although that’s what it is, no question, for the first two-thirds.

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  • Los Bostonian

    Jerry Maguire was a Great romantic comedy and out of the 5 Best Picture nominees, the second most relevant today by a wide margin. Even then you could argue Maguire is neck and neck w Fargo. It boasts a terrific script and one of the best movie star turns of the 90s. Rush stole Cruise’s Best Actor award. The film just gets shit on now by hip film commentators because TBS plays it 5 times a week, it has a few pop culture lines that become overused, Gooding became a sellout and everybody hates Tom Cruise.

  • Rashad

    Oscar noms that should happen:

    Best actor:
    Jack Black – Bernie
    Liam Neeson – The Grey

    Best Supporting Actor:

    PSH – The Master
    Liev Schreiber – Goon
    Giovanni Ribisi – Contraband
    Tom Hardy – TDKR

    Hardy and Ribisi bringing the fun back to villain’s voices again.

  • Jer

    The Town is better than Heat, suffering from none of its sprawl, bloat, and dislocated focus while retaining comparable acting (except for Renner, whose performance is clearly better than anyone’s in Heat). It has a more engaging dramatic structure, while the shootout at Fenway, as well as the heist getaway, is better staged than any scene in Heat (including its much-praised robbery and shootout). That it owes Heat, The Departed, and the opening of TDK a debt doesn’t change the fact that The Town is uncommonly well-executed. So if Argo is better than The Town, it’s certainly better than Heat.

  • DiscoNap

    Wow, Jer. It’s amazing how the deranged can speak as if they’ve offered a perfect tautology.

  • Jer

    Does that pass for argument, DiscoNap? I’m certain many people would agree with me, if you’re unwilling to discuss the particulars of the two films, instead taking my thoughts for idiosyncratic lunacy. If I recall correctly, Heat has a metacritic score 2 points higher than The Town, and a lower Rottentomatoes score and average rating.

  • DiscoNap

    Even Affleck wouldn’t agree with you.

  • nakedman

    Jer,

    What are the chances that I, or anybody else, could change your opinion?

    I like both films, but to me Heat if far superior.

    I don’t see the point in arguing if neither side is willing to change their mind.

  • Jer

    “Even Affleck wouldn’t agree with you.”

    Does that matter? Francis Ford Coppola may think The Godfather Part II worse than The King of Comedy, but that should have no bearing on your own judgment.

  • hickoryduck

    I’m really confused as to why you think this is actually going to be a huge hit. Nothing about it screams $100 million as you previously predicted. Mind filling me/us in?

  • Watcher Of The Skies

    Was GOON this year? I’m seeing 2011 on it everywhere I look. That film was so good, so entertaining and blew me away. Liev is BRILLIANT in it.

  • Eloi Wrath

    Yeah, Goon really was good. I saw the neutered version on a 15-hour flight and still found it thoroughly entertaining. I’d like to see the unedited version.

  • GeorgePrager

    People continue to be surprised that cookie-cutter movies are nominated for Oscars? Anyway, ARGO looks good and my Dad will like it, so what’s not to like?

  • MikeSchaeferSF

    “Is a dysfunctional rom-com really going to win Best Picture?”

    Well, as you just described Annie Hall

  • Ira Parks

    KAKIHARA SAYS…

    ARGO will have trouble amongst the BMX crowd because “agro” is a biker term, and it’s sure to be confusing and lead to refund demands.

  • Zach

    Positions, everyone. Here we go again…

    The Silver Linings Playbook = Moneyball
    Argo = The Artist
    The Master = Tree of Life
    Lincoln = War Horse
    etc.

  • tyjagi

    . If anything Playbook is more Descendants or even The Artist.

    IMO, these are probably the strongest bets-considering we still haven’t seen Lincoln/Pi/Promised Land, etc.
    1. Argo
    2. Silver Linings Playbook
    3.The Master
    4. Les Miserables
    5. Lincoln
    6. Beasts of the Southern Wild
    7. Life of Pi

    BUBBLE LINE:
    8. Zero Dark Thirty
    9. Promised Land
    10. Amour- sure it’s tough, but there’s bound to be enough acclaim to, if 10 nominees, to squeeze in.

  • Zach

    I was referring to Jeff’s delegation of the films’ respective worth, but yes, I see your point.

  • Ira Parks

    My best of the year so far (most are catch up views for me, and not all are brand spanking new):

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  • Rashad

    The climax in Goon is one of the best in any movie this year. The music, the fight, Liev’s post-fight reaction – it’s all beautiful.

  • Ira Parks

    GLENN KENNY SAYS…

    I was offered certain “enticements” to give COOL AS ICE a favorable review by parties that shall remain nameless. When I blanched, my life was threatened by a certain cretinous someone. Ah, the magazine game. A tout le monde!
    (Wipes brow with purple silk hankie, reaches for a snifter of brandy.)

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  • Alicia Stills

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