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Road to The Oscars: Best Picture Power Rankings

(Photos: Feature via Filmolia.com and Movie posters via IMDB)

The 84th Academy Awards showcases a fantastic selection of the best films from 2011. Sometimes, as in 2009 when The Reader, Frost/Nixon, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were nominated instead of The Wrestler, The Dark Knight, and Wall-E, it can feel like Academy members toss darts at random targets while wearing blindfolds in the dark during the middle of the night.

This is not one of those years. In 2012, with a couple of exceptions you can expect annually, the rightful movies get their due.

The road to the Oscars started early, in the summer. The Artist, at this point the clear favorite to win it all, premiered in France at the Cannes Film Festival in May, although it didn’t reach our side of the Atlantic until October. Midnight In Paris also received a summer release date, and with it, showed the world that Woody Allen has regained the touch he had with Annie Hall.

From then on, George Clooney delivered another powerhouse performance in The Descendents, Martin Scorsese thrilled audiences with Hugo, and the strongest ensemble cast in recent years teamed up for The Help. In a notable milestone, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close became the first 9/11 themed film to be nominated for Best Picture, a distinction it will hold until the end of time.

Nine movies contend for Best Picture, but only one can rule them all. The winner will be revealed this Sunday, but how do they all rank on Brooklyn Exposed?

Midnight In Paris 4 stars (out of 4)

Although it’s quite doubtful to win Best Picture, this critic likes Midnight In Paris as the year’s best movie. Woody Allen’s Euro phase has reinvigorated the man’s career. Best Original Screenplay is Midnight In Paris’s likely path, should it win something big.

 

The Descendents 4 stars (out of 4)

George Clooney delivers the performance of his life in The Descendents, which in the last 5 years (Michael Clayton, Up In the Air) is not that unusual for George Clooney.

 

The Artist 4 stars (out of 4)

The Artist is the film to beat for the Oscars’ biggest prize, and it’s easy to see why. It overflows with charm, and it’s a silent movie in the 21st century that’s truly marvelous.

 

 

Hugo 3 ½ stars (out of 4)

James who? Leave it to Martin Scorsese to do 3D better than anyone else around. If that weren’t enough, Hugo is also a family movie. Think about that one for a bit: a 3D family movie by Martin Scorsese. And it’s fantastic.

 

The Help 3 ½ stars (out of 4)

The Help features a tremendous ensemble cast, with Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain all receiving Oscar nominations. Although not nominated, Bryce Dallas Howard also shines as the despicable and thoroughly unlikeable Hilly.

 

 

Moneyball 3 stars (out of 4)

Who needs giant robots when what goes on in the general manager’s office of the Oakland Athletics is enough to make a gripping movie? Brad Pitt reminds the world again that he’s not just a celebrity while Jonah Hill succeeds in a dramatic role.

 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 2 ½ stars (out of 4)

The relationship between Oskar (Thomas Horn) and his father (Tom Hanks) is sweet and sincere, while Oskar’s colorful personality (“I was tested for Asperger’s… the results were inconclusive.”) make Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close enjoyable. It’s not as memorable or distinctive as most of the other nominees, however.

 

War Horse 2 stars (out of 4)

You realize twenty-five minutes into the movie that this horse is remarkable and are left aghast when you realize there are two hours remaining. War Horse escapes the cellar spot by providing a couple of touching moments and a few entertaining battle scenes (none near the level of Saving Private Ryan), but it is overly long and suffers from a wishy-washy protagonist.

The original stage show uses elaborate puppetry for the horses, and the movie provides none of that creative – and interesting – theatricality.

The Tree of Life 1 ½ stars (out of 4)

Pretentious? Moi? Not only is The Tree of Life as boring as it would be to watch said tree grow, it is shamelessly pompous. Out-of-the-blue cutaways of characters whispering nonsense irrelevant to the uneventful narrative will make you tear your hair out. It may be that only Terrence Malick knows what the heck The Tree of Life is all about, besides the inflated, grandiose subject of “life.”

On a more basic level, Brad Pitt’s character doesn’t even make sense. One minute he’s a strict but loving father, the next he’s a jerk who beats his kids.

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