So we’re gearing up for Oscars fever here at Movie Talk and getting very excited about the variety of films up for this year’s Best Picture award on Sunday night. But we’ve discovered they fall rather nicely into three distinct categories – so which type do you prefer?
The Heavy Hitters
Epic films with big-name stars, grandiose themes and all the right pedigrees to appeal to Oscar’s rather conservative voters — and, in some cases, maybe just a tiny bit of added cheese too.
Lincoln: Steven Spielberg goes the full patriot with this stately star-spangled history lesson about the crucial passing of the 13th Amendment which heralded the end of slavery during the US Civil War. A towering turn from our own Daniel Day-Lewis which has him giving good ole Ab more grit and gravitas than his Mount Rushmore figurehead can’t hurt its chances either.
Les Misérables: Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman sing their tonsils out (live, no less) while Anne Hathaway gives Su-Bo a run for her money with a tear-jerking rendition of I Dreamed a Dream and proves her commitment by getting her lovely locks shorn for real. The only possible fly in the ointment for Tom Hooper’s lavish Hollywood reworking of the Broadway show based on Victor Hugo’s novel is that it is all a petite bit… Gallic. But luckily no-one actually speaks francais in it (a bit like last year’s winner The Artist), so maybe no one will notice the French connection.
Life of Pi: Lions and tigers and blue whales.. Oh my! Ang Lee makes the arthouse case for 3D (well, someone had to eventually) with his magical, mystical and magnificent version of Yann Martel’s much talked-about novel. A heavy hitter by virtue of its sheer cinematic beauty but will a cast without any star names in it stop it from gaining its sea legs for the vote?
Zero Dark Thirty: Oscar favourite Kathryn (The Hurt Locker) Bigelow goes back into combat and this time comes out with a win-win situation when her gritty realism is matched with a feel-good ending in the hunt for Bin Laden… Because we all know how that ended right! Her only possible problem will be overkill (no pun intended) as she scooped Best Director and Best Picture a scant three years back in 2010.
The Dark Horses
Films with more edge and attitude than your average Oscar contender — which might put them out of the running because Oscar isn’t known for his street cred!
Silver Linings Playbook: David O Russell’s wonderful character-led romantic comedy-drama about life, love, mental illness and dance competitions. Bradley Cooper proves he can do more than just act like he’s got a hangover as a man struggling with bipolar disorder while Jennifer Lawrence is his perfect match as a young widow who’s getting over a bout of post-traumatic nymphomania. Plus there’s Robert De Niro doing some proper acting again. But will a little love story about quirky people who don’t so much triumph over adversity as learn how to tap-dance (badly) really have enough of the obligatory wow factor?
Argo: Ben Affleck’s true (ish) story of how a CIA agent got a group of American diplomats out of Iran during the 1980 US embassy seige, by virtue of a fake sci-fi movie, is wonderfully quirky and has that essential feel-good-America factor. Plus Alan Arkin and John Goodman keep their tongues affectionately in their cheeks as hackneyed Hollywood types… And it did do the business at the BAFTAs. But is it all a bit too random, and doggedly political to get the nod?
Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino gives the horrors of slavery the spaghetti Western treatment with help from Jamie Foxx’s iconic black hero and Leo DiCaprio’s fabulously OTT white slaver villain. The ultimate dark horse by virtue of its extreme violence (well, this is a Tarantino movie so lashings of tomato ketchup is sort of required) and the fact that Spike Lee decided to diss it in public (even though he hadn’t actually seen it… sour grapes, anyone?)
Brilliant films which frankly haven’t got much of a chance because they’re either too small, too obscure or too foreign… But hey, you never know, right!
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Little Quvenzhané Wallis’s refreshingly real performance is the cracking centerepiece of this micro-budget tale of magic realism, extreme poverty and life on the edge of New Orleans’ pre-Katrina wilderness. Wonderfully unconventional, this is one of those movies that’s had to perform out of its skin and beat all the odds just to get nominated… So really, it’s a winner already!
Amour: A subtle and sublime French drama about love in the shadow of dementia. Veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give disarmingly understated performances… But unfortunately they do actually speak French in this movie, so frankly the film’s probably feeling quite lucky to have got an extra nod on top of the Foreign Language category… And at least it must be a shoe-in for that award!