Handicapping the Race: Best Picture

Ben Affleck and random extra in Argo.
Ben Affleck and random extra in Argo.

This is it. The Academy Awards are tomorrow and the excitement is… rather mild. None of the films in the running are generating much buzz, no freak candidate or favorite of the masses a la Titanic. Regardless, the competition is expected to be tight. There is room for a left field surprise, as the voting system rewards middle of the road flicks when there is no clear favorite (Academy members assign places to all the nominees, one to nine, following their preferences).

The nominees are:

Amour: Michael Haneke’s unflinching look at the indignities of aging is tough to swallow, but absolutely brilliant. How can this film possibly lose? Because the Academy Awards have never presented the Best Picture trophy to a foreign film. Odds: 25 to 1.

Argo: This year’s favorite is an undeniably solid thriller, but it’s not memorable. The fact Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director may hurt the film’s chances, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Odds: Even.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Cute indie film with an edge. If it failed to win the Independent Spirit Awards, it’s very unlikely Beasts will succeed at the Oscars. Odds: 20 to 1.

Django Unchained: Even though this is my least favorite Tarantino movie since Jackie Brown, I will always root for the former video store clerk. Quentin is one of the few American filmmakers that pushes the limits and hasn’t received the recognition he deserves. Odds: 15 to 1.

Les Misérables: Please. Let’s be serious. Odds: 12 to 1.

Life of Pi: Too CGI-heavy to be a significant candidate. Actors constitute the biggest voting block in the Academy, and Life of Pi features, like, five. Also, the magician branch doesn’t care for tigers. Odds: 4 to 1.

Lincoln: Preachy, boring and grossly overrated. Makes me want to root for Argo. Odds: 2 to 1.

Silver Linings Playbook: A glorified romantic comedy elevated by some strong acting. Not my favorite, but beats Lincoln. Odds: 3 to 1.

Zero Dark Thirty: My favorite American film of the bunch has no chance in hell, mainly because it depicts torture as conducive to capture Bin Laden. Because that could never, ever happen. Odds: 8 to 1.

Should Win: Amore. Will win: Argo.

I’ll be live-blogging the Oscars tomorrow night on Twitter. Follow me at @jicastillo.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

7 thoughts on “Handicapping the Race: Best Picture”

  1. I am sorry to say I’ve only seen three of the films which have been nominated (Argo, Django, Zero), and I honestly think none of them deserve “best picture.” Compared to something like Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” (nominated in 2012), none of these films really say anything that will last outside the current awards season.

  2. Well, I took your advice, Jorge, and ran and caught the final showing of Amour last night at the library.


    The obvious thing to say is that it was “slow” but from being used to American films, I can appreciate the pacing of a French film. The film is all about “slowing down” anyway. At first, I thought the minutae of getting Anne ready for bed was tedious. Little did I know that was only the beginning. This is a contemplative film, which forced me to confront my mortality, or better yet, someone else’s I cared (or could care) deeply about. In that respect, it is like slowly watching someone die- in fact, it is slowly watching someone die.

    I do not pretend to have enjoyed this film. Instead, I look at it as one of those “necessary” viewings such as Schindler’s List or Requiem for a Dream.

  3. I agree. As much as I liked Amour, I would have a hard time watching it a second time.

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