Oscar season is upon us once more, and with it comes many questions. What are these movies? Why didn’t so-and-so get nominated? Why did they pick these over everything else? While I don’t understand the reasoning of the academy sometimes, I do appreciate good movies. So let this be a guide to help you in determining which films might be worth seeing, and which ones should’ve just stayed in a limited release. Here are the nominees for the 2012 Academy Award for best picture.
“The Artist” – A movie buff’s masterpiece film. An Oscar-nominated cast dances through this story about a silent film star during the transition to “talkies.” The whirlwind pace and dazzling showmanship makes you remember why you love movies in the first place.
“The Descendants” – George Clooney gives an Oscar-nominated performance as a father and husband trying to cope with his wife dying, infidelity, and raising his children, with whom he doesn’t have a close relationship. The melancholy tone works with the contrasting setting of Hawaii in this beautifully told story of letting go and re-evaluating your life.
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” – Although the film stars Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Oscar nominee Max von Sydow, the real star is Thomas Horn as the boy trying to cope with his father’s death on 9/11. You’ll be riding an emotional rollercoaster in this touching story, as Horn delivers a shockingly powerful performance.
“The Help” – Excellent performances by Emma Stone and Oscar nominee Viola Davis, as well as an Oscar-nominated supporting cast sell this film about the African-American maids of the civil rights era. While slightly exploitative, “The Help”’s heart is in the right place, and so is its humor.
“Hugo” – Oscar-nominated director Martin Scorsese weaves a wondrous tale about a director longing be remembered for his early films. Scorsese clearly has a passion for the source material, “The Invention Of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, as it plays out like a love letter to the thing he loves most: movies. I share this passion, and that is why “Hugo” is one of my favorite films of 2011.
Midnight In Paris – Oscar-nominated director Woody Allen paints a wonderful picture of Paris, both in the 1920s and present day. Owen Wilson leads an eclectic cast in a film in which he jumps between the two different time periods, meeting legends such as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso along the way. As someone who doesn’t care for Allen’s movies, this was the most pleasant of surprises for me.
“Moneyball” – Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill give Oscar-nominated performances in this “The Social Network”-meets-baseball film. And it’s no surprise they are similar. “Network” scribe Aaron Sorkin co-wrote the adapted screenplay based on the novel by Michael Lewis about the Oakland Athletics using statistical formulas to build a playoff team with a limited budget. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, “Moneyball” manages to pull you into the story and won’t let go until the closing credits.
“The Tree Of Life” – Director Terrence Malick gains an Oscar nomination for this film that belongs in art houses only. It seems as if he made an hour-long film, then made it two hours by splicing in footage from “Planet Earth” and “Universe.” In a twisted, depressing, and frankly boring way, Malick tells a story about the meaning of life through a kid’s eyes from the 1950s. This film is a pretentious, self-applauding waste of your time.
“War Horse” – Oscar nominee Steven Spielberg returns to the director’s chair in this film about a man and his horse journeying through World War I. While the film tells a lush story, its emotional delivery is spotty and even forced at times. But the imagery and score really pull you into the time period to make it an overall enjoyable experience.
Who will win: “The Artist”
Who should win: “Moneyball”