Oscar Chatter with Kristin and Matt: Best Picture

Kristin: Out of the nine films nominated, I’ve seen all but War HorseHugo, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The good news is that I don’t believe out of those three films, that any stand a chance of winning. The most likely of them is Hugo, but even then, I see Hugo vying more for Best Director than Best Picture.

It really comes down to the main two contenders that have won most other awards this season: The Artist and The Descendants. Both are good films, yet very different from each other. The Artist seems to be the frontrunner, and having seen both films as well Tree of LifeThe HelpMidnight in Paris, and Moneyball, I will gladly confess that The Artist is my favorite of them all, and in my mind, the most deserving to win Best Picture this year.

While The Descendants was a good film that I would even watch another time or two, I don’t think it quite bears all the necessary material to win Best Picture. It stars Academy darling George Clooney, and was written and directed by Alexander Payne, an experienced writer-director who is no stranger to the Oscars, having had his writing for both Election and Sideways nominated (he won the award for Sideways). Payne’s work is story-centered, and a lot of reliance on his work being brought to life rests on the actors’ shoulders. The Descendants‘s cast gives justice to Payne’s script, and it is no surprise to see the film receiving such high accolade.

That being said, The Artist really separated itself from the mass when director Michel Hazanavicius chose to make a black and white silent film. A lot of great things have been said of The Artist in the past couple posts. But aside from its originality in this time period, The Artist also stars strangers to American film, namely Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, who won over the hearts of viewers. Their acting was flawless and moving, and they paid homage to the silent film era with their performances. Ludovic Bource’s score is unforgettable, and reveals the power of how a good score can complement a film that doesn’t rely on dialogue to tell the story. Hazanavicius was able to write a story with practically no words, and yet the story was easily told and understood by those who watched it. Of the six Best Picture nominations I’ve seen, The Artist, I believe, is the overall winner because it’s not strong only in story, but also in performances; not only is it a beauty to watch in the B&W film era, but also is the music stirring, the direction clear, and the film editing, visual effects, and art direction suitable for the film, delivering on all necessary levels. The Artist is the winner in my book. 

Matt: There is little doubt in my mind who will win Best Picture tonight. Like last years winner, The Artist slowly drifted from obscurity into the hearts of the film world. It will win not only because it was a very good film, but because it is exactly the type of movie the Academy loves. I quite enjoyed the film, and found it to be an ambitious, charming homage to a forgotten time in Hollywood’s history. Will people look at this film in twenty years and mark it as a classic? While that appears to be seen, my gut instinct is that they will not. The film works wonderfully for what it is: a salute to the silent era. Does it break new ground for cinema? I cannot argue that it does.

However, do any of this years nominees break new ground? Will any of these films be regarded as classics in the coming years? Now I have not seen War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or Payne’s much praised film, The Descendants. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight In Paris. Sweet and charming, it may be my favorite film of the year; however, it is not the best film of the year. Moneyball may be the first sports movie in years that I have not gagged over. Great writing and acting made it an enjoyable film. Was it this year’s best picture? Not remotely. The Help makes you laugh and cry; it also reminds us of a very dark time in our nation’s history. And Martin Scorcese created a dream to educate us all about the origins of celluloid dreams.

All of these were good; some of them great. Among the nominees, however, there was only one film that came close to breaking new ground for cinema. With each new film, Malick continues to explore the possibilities of pure cinema. Of this year’s nominees, The Tree of Life was the only film I couldn’t get out of my head. The film’s many themes stuck with me for days after I watched it: The birth of the universe, the existence of God, the smallness of man. The joy and hardships of childhood, the death of loved ones, what happens after this life passes. It asked all the right questions without giving too many definitive answers. That is what art is supposed to do, isn’t it?

Matt brings up an interesting point–should a film win Best Picture because it breaks new ground? Or is a film that’s considered popular or “the best”  more deserving? Does it matter if a film has more influence, but isn’t considered “Best Picture” by the Academy?  Share your thoughts below.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

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13 thoughts on “Oscar Chatter with Kristin and Matt: Best Picture

  1. Great point Matt. Probably the only movie that will still be talked about 10 or 30 years from now will be The Tree of Life. However, it doesn’t mean The Artist isn’t a great movie because it’s a crowd-pleaser. At the end of the day, TOL was a somewhat flawed movie that failed to capture the heart of many viewers and ended up being too polarizing to be a true contender.

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    • I definitely think Matt COULD be onto something. Then again, I’m of the belief that The Artist might be talked about more because it was such a bold, risky move that proved successful–bringing back silent film in the 2010s! Perhaps other directors will rise to the occasion and bring back older film eras to this time.

      I would agree that TOL was too polarizing to be a real contender. Thanks for visiting the site!

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      • No doubt about that… Definitely a gutsy move to make a silent film in 2011. What I’d be interested in seeing is a director shooting a modern film completely silent. Filmmakers have done small bits silent, like, say, the beginning of 2001 or the beginning of There Will Be Blood.

        The opening to There Will Be Blood is one of the most effective I have seen. Draws you into the story without a word of dialogue, or even a title card.

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  2. I think The Artist will be talked about 20/30 years from now. I think Tree of Life is more likely to be less well remembered. And The Artist deserved to win- it’s a bold film that just happens to have captured hearts due to all the praise heaped on it. Lubezki was robbed of that cinematography award though.

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    • I’m completely with you there, Pete. Maybe we’re in the minority, but I definitely think that The Artist will be talked about more in the future than the Tree of Life. Maybe it’s the group of people talking that will decide which is. And maybe neither will? My gut tells me that silent film era joining the 21st century will be more memorable.

      Agreed – disappointed Lubezki didn’t win for Best Cinematography.

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  3. Great discussion, guys and hello Matt!

    I like what you said about Tree Of Life, it definitely is a distinct style of filmmaking, and I respect Malick for following the beat of his own drum in every film he does. As a Christian myself, I do like films that explore themes about God and creationism, etc. which is a rarity in today’s films. So in that regard I really respect the film though I’m not exactly in love with it as I thought I would. I really thought the film would win Best Cinematography but I didn’t think it had a chance to win Best Picture though. In the end, I’m happy that The Artist won.

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    • The reasons you have stated are exactly what I loved so much about Malick’s film. The films of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodore Dreyer also explore the existence of God, though with often differing conclusion, if they come to a conclusion about the matter at all. Dreyer, like Malick, lines up closer to my beliefs(although we still would have plenty to disagree on). You should really watch both The Seventh Seal(Bergman) and Ordet(Dreyer). Both very powerful.

      P.S. I do think that The Tree of Life was robbed of the Best Cinematography award.

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      • I meant to tell you, Matt – I saw The Seventh Seal in my film class last semester, and I’m with you that von Sydow should have gotten some more credit for that. It had a lot of underlying themes regarding religion brought up. Have yet to see Ordet!

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    • Thanks, Ruth! You’re right – Malick is very distinct and really does his own thing, not giving a thought to what others might say. It’s definitely a great quality to have being in the filmmaking industry, because it separates him from many other directors. I would agree that Christianity/God/creationism really lacks in today’s films, and with a title called Tree of Life, I expected a lot more. But maybe I should blame my own expectations for being higher than need be. I lost the point of the Tree of Life, and that’s why it didn’t work for me. Everything felt too flowy and mythical and “draw your own conclusion” from whispering and random scenes pieced together (pretty sure I just pissed off half the film world with that line; oh well!). It was beautiful to look at, but I felt like it lacked the necessary story line to be a really great movie. But hey, that’s just me! I’m with you in that I think The Artist rightly won.

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      • @ Matt – Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll check those two films out. I know that even though Malick’s supposedly a believer, I don’t think I’d agree with his worldview necessarily. Still it’s nice to know not every filmmaker in Hollywood is an atheist or worse, God-hater.

        @ Kristin – “I lost the point of the Tree of Life, and that’s why it didn’t work for me. Everything felt too flowy and mythical and “draw your own conclusion” from whispering and random scenes pieced together (pretty sure I just pissed off half the film world with that line; oh well!). It was beautiful to look at, but I felt like it lacked the necessary story line to be a really great movie.” I think you nailed it there girl… the films is too ambivalent and almost new-age-y in its presentation. By the same token, I have a feeling the film wouldn’t be as well-received if he had been more ‘bold’ about the Christian aspect. I don’t know if the vague approach is intentional in that regard or it’s just his style to be cryptic. I guess we’ll never know as Malick hardly ever talks about his films, ahah.

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