2012 Best Picture Thoughts

Over the last two weekends, I was able to see all nine of the Best Picture nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards. Here’s my order from top to bottom.

  1. The Descendants
  2. Midnight in Paris
  3. The Help
  4. War Horse
  5. Hugo
  6. The Artist
  7. Moneyball
  8. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  9. Tree of Life

The Descendants

This felt the most real to me of all the films. That isn’t necessarily a criterion for Best Picture for me, but this year it was. George Clooney gave a masterful performance (Best Actor winning performance if it was up to me) as a father and husband dealing with his wife’s horrific accident, an impending land deal, and strained relationships with his daughters. All of this complicated when he learns his wife was in a relationship with someone else. At times serious and funny, it stood out as something fresh and relevant. Even though situation is extreme, everyone deals with circumstances that stress the relationships with those around you.

Midnight in Paris

I loved this movie the first time I saw it in the theater and enjoyed it just as much during the Best Picture Showcase. I’ve never been a big fan of Woody Allen, but this movie was magical. I’ve never been to Paris, but if there was ever a film that made me want to, this was the one. The opening sequence was a great big sloppy kiss from Allen to Paris. Who hasn’t wanted to retreat into the fantasy of how things should be instead of dealing with the reality of one’s life. Watching him discover what was really important and what he should do as he winds his way through the Paris of old and interacting with notably writers and artists captivated me completely.

The Help

Someone else said it right when they described this film as an average film elevated by incredible performances.  The story felt like something we’ve seen before and didn’t really cover any new ground.  The cast, across the board, were all spot on, however, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis both stood above the rest.

War Horse

War Horse looked and sounded beautiful.  A Steven Spielberg feel-good movie, one that would have looked amazing in 70mm. No standout acting performances here save for the horses, the true stars of the film.


I enjoyed Hugo more than I expected. The use of 3D was masterful and from what I’ve read, Scorcese plans to continue exploring the use of 3D is his films.  I’ve never read the book upon which the film is based, but this was Scorcese’s love letter to the movies and a compelling case for film preservation. Looked great and was one of the only films that are appropriate for the whole family. Chloe Moretz showed she has a successful career ahead of her.

The Artist

Maybe there was too much hype, but The Artist was a bit of a letdown. It sounded and looked great. It was creative.  It was unique.  I just found myself losing interest about halfway through. I thought Uggy was great,  and Jean Dujardin wasn’t bad either.  I know a lot of people have anointed this as the presumptive winner tonight, but I think an upset might be brewing.


I’m not a baseball fan, but I am a fan of baseball movies.  Watching the story of how the baseball world was introduced to the use of statistics in scouting and managing players was, contrary to what you might think, quite interesting. I’m sure that great performances by Brad Pitt and especially Jonah Hill are what propelled this into the list of Best Picture nominees.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Watching this movie was almost unbearable, not because it was bad, but because it was so overwhelmingly sad.  The story of a boy trying to deal with the loss of his father at the World Trade Center on 9/11never gives you time to breathe. The story drags you down so low, that even the trajectory of the ending isn’t enough to get out of the hole you’ve spent the whole film in. Thomas Horn, playing the son, gave an amazing performance, and all you wanted to do was grab hold of him and hug him and cry with him. Max von Sydow was, I think, the best silent performance this year (sorry The Artist), and I really hope he wins Best Supporting Actor.

Tree of Life

I’ll admit it, I didn’t hate this film like most people did. I maintain last year’s A Serious Man was much worse. There was nothing on the big screen that looked anything like Tree of Life. The music and visuals were stunning, but the story got lost somewhere in the creative process.  Terrence Malick had two good films here, and if he had split the story of the family from the story of the universe, things could have been much different.  The film lost the audience at our showing when the dinosaurs made their first appearance onscreen.  As the story shifted to focus on the family’s story, it seemed that people were back onboard.  As soon as things shifted back to the dinosaurs, laughter broke out and you knew at that point that there weren’t going to be many thumbs up from this crowd. I’m very interested to see The Voyage of Time, the IMAX documentary that was based on the scenes that told the story of the creation of the universe.


So, what did you think of this year’s nominees and my choices/ranking?