Tonawanda News

February 25, 2012

HAYNES: Sizing up the Oscars

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

— The big show is tonight and for the first time in my life, I have managed to catch every single movie nominated for the best picture award. And that’s no small feat since the Academy moved to allow up to 10 movies in this category two years ago, up from five in previous years.

That said, for the first time, I feel I can make a 100 percent informed decision on which flick I think should take home the little golden guy. Of course, who I think should win the award is often different from who the Academy selects, but that’s another story altogether. Without further ado, my thoughts on this year’s nine best picture nominees:

The Artist

Why it should win: “The Artist” was, simply put, a charming movie. Despite being a black and white silent picture — those who aren’t film aficionados could only complain more if it was foreign and more subtitle-dependent — it has found startling success, and much acclaim.

The film picked up a handful of awards at the Golden Globes last month: best comedy or musical, best actor in a comedy or musical, and best original score.

Why it shouldn’t win: It’s true, I fell in love with its charm and the actors’ charisma, but it didn’t blow me away. I felt the filmmakers didn’t make a clear case for George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). Are we supposed to hate him or love him? Is he a jerk or a lovable guy down on his luck? Should we be conflicted? I am, but not in the good way.

I'm betting the Academy ends up picking this one.

The Descendants

Why it should win: George Clooney’s had a big year and while I’ve never been a particular fan, this has to be one of my favorite films of his. It’s a good, solid story, and while we’re getting a little bit of the same ol’ George, the acting from newcomer Shailene Woodley was top-notch.

I could have watched the entire movie from her perspective, about her personal growth and her story, which leads me to ...

Why it shouldn’t win: Again, I’m not taken with Clooney, who plays, well, oscar ...

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a slightly depressed Clooney in this flick. Woodley was the most compelling part of this movie and that’s just not enough to earn it a golden statue.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Why it should win: I was amazed by how much I enjoyed this film. Nine times out of 10, I’m not going to go to the theater to watch a Tom Hanks or a Sandra Bullock movie, but this is neither. It’s a Thomas Horn movie — the kid who plays main character Oskar Schell.

Audiences are given to thinking Oskar might have something akin to Asperger’s, though we’re told he was inconclusively tested for the disorder. The kid is at once bright, incredibly social and often paralyzed with anxiety in his search for clues he believe his dead father has left for him.

Why it shouldn’t win: I honestly can’t find too many faults with the film and wouldn’t be upset if it took home the biggest award of the night, though it hasn’t gotten the buzz some of the other films have.

Some reviews have criticized the film for making light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but I find I don’t agree, because at its heart, the movie’s not really about that fateful day.

The Help

Why it should win: Another film I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did. As much as one might think there’s nothing new to be said about race relations during the civil rights era, they’re wrong. Have you ever considered what it must have been like as a black woman to leave your children behind to go take care of a white baby day after day? Key acting from the likes of Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain set this one apart.

Why it shouldn’t win: You need to be more than a pleasant surprise to rise to the top of the heap.


Why it should win: Martin Scorsese can direct a family film! The story — shockingly similar to the plot of “Extremely Loud” — and young actors are charming and sweet. It’s a movie that, at its heart is a love note to the magical world of cinema.

Why it shouldn’t win: There's actually a good chance this one gets the nod. The playing field is a little weak this year, why not take the opportunity to give the highest award to a family film, something that doesn't happen too often? Obviously, being a default winner, which in my estimation it would be, isn't enough to earn you an award.

Midnight in Paris

Why it should win: Woody Allen’s my pick as this year’s best picture. I absolutely adored Allen's return to form — "Scoop" and "Match Point" were a bit lackluster and while I enjoyed "Vicky Christina Barcelona," it was a departure from the angsty humor and charm I love so much about Allen's earlier works.

Why it shouldn't win: It should!


Why it should win: I applaud the film for making baseball almost interesting to me.

Why it shouldn't win: At best, "Moneyball" was a mediocre film with a pretty standard performance from Brad Pitt. Like Clooney, he tends to play himself in most of his flicks, so it takes something pretty spectacular to impress me. I really question the Academy's nod to this one.

The Tree of Life

Why it should win: It shouldn’t.

Why it shouldn’t win: I'm not sure opinions have been as divisive with any 2011 movie as they have been with this one. Some, like the Academy apparently, think the Terrence Malick-helmed film is the best thing to grace theater screens in ages. Others, like myself, think it's the most pretentious, overwrought film to ever come out of Hollywood. Unfortunately one of those spectacular performances by Pitt that I mentioned earlier gets lost in the ramblings and musings of what some are calling Malick's masterpiece. Too bad, because in its more lucid moments, the movie had some interesting things to say about parent/child relationships.

War Horse

Why it should win: Another film that surprised me. The initial trailers had me proclaiming to friends, "I have absolutely no desire to see a horse movie. Maybe if it was just about war, however. ..." Between "Extremely Loud," and "War Horse," it's a miracle I have any tears left. It's mostly an ensemble cast, so no one performance really sticks out, other than that of Joey the horse.

Why it shouldn't win: A good cry won't win you best picture, though I guess fan of "Titanic" would say otherwise.


In this amateur movie theater critic's estimation, it was a weak year for filmmaking, and even flicks that rose to the top for me (some that are perhaps easily written off as schlock, "The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo," "Bridesmaids" and "Harry Potter 7.2") were simply ignored.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.