2009 Watch: Why Your Favorite Movie Will Not Be Nominated for Best Picture

January 6, 2009

Most of the film criticism here is subjective, as is almost all film criticism. Haverstam’s post on A.O. Scott is as much a rumination as Scott’s piece (more on this shortly). We may tease out meanings of film’s since it entertains us (yay Freud, contra Sontag), but ultimately our enjoyment of the movie is going to be a matter of personal taste (up with Sontag!). But this is one of the few places where we try to do objective “research.” A while back, I invented an algorithm to try and guess the best picture nominees, and I routinely go 4/5 with the fifth film typically ranked a bit lower on the list, usually 6 or 7. Not perfect, but that ends up being better than almost every major precursor (DGA is the exception).

I’ve decided to use the rankings more as a guideline than a be all and end all. For example, there’s almost always one musical or comedy nominated, so last year it seemed clear that Juno would leapfrog into the top 5 and something had to drop. I thought it would be Clayton, but instead it was “Into the Wild,” which I was not so wild about and now find myself disliking more on retrospect. I probably should have given the Academy more credit for taste than I did.

So, with that in mind, here are this year’s updated rankings, especially post Producers Guild:

1. Slumdog Millionaire, 3.119

2. Milk, 2.93

3. Benjamin Button,2.779

3. Frost/Nixon, 2.779

5. Wall-E, 2.003

6. The Dark Knight, 1.575

7. The Wrestler, Gran Torino, .84

9. Doubt, .655

10. Burn After Reading (!), .62

11. Revolutionary Road, The Reader, .549

Everyone seems to agree that the first 4 movies are locks, and everyone else is fighting for the fifth spot. I think that’s pretty true. David Carr isn’t so hot on TDK (I’m bullish) but is equally not-so-hot on Wall-E. Me neither. For what it’s worth, he gave Defiance a rave, and, if it gets nominated, I’m going to declare David Carr the most powerful man alive.

Right now, I see several scenarios for the 5 slot (in descending order of probability)

1. TDK: Too much money and too well liked—but we’ll know more after the Director’s Guild

2. Wall-E: Until an Animated movie gets nominated (there wasn’t a separate category when “Beauty and the Beast” was nominated), I’m always going to bet against it.

3. Revolutionary Road: If the recent “This is the film that critics will ‘discover’ years from now” (see Awards Daily) argument is self-negating and leads to it being “discovered” now. Also known as the “Sasha Stone is the most influential oscar blogger alive” scenario (Maybe this should be higher?)

4. The Wrestler: Like James says in “The Turn of the Screw,”

If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children—?”

“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”

Replace “child” with “comeback,” and “two” with “three,” and that’s the situation of “The Wrestler”: Rourke, his charactor, and the great Darren Aronofsky.

5. Gran Torino: If 2009 is a replay of two years ago, and people just love the Clint that much

6. Defiance: In the aforementioned “David Carr” is superman scenario

Historical Study of 2002 after the Jump

I’ve done a few “historical studies” and the same truth holds. For example, here were the ratings for 2002.

1. Chicago, 6.15

2.The Hours, 5.375

3. Gangs of New York, 3.655

4. The Two Towers, 3.195

5. Adaptation, 2.47

6. The Pianist, 1.911

7. About Schmidt, 1.809

The Pianist eventually leapfrogged Adaptation and was nominated for Best Picture. There are any number of data pieces that I haven’t incorporated into the system (Palm D’Or being an obvious example) because they simply don’t correlate well. Still, lots of small points do add up. Also, had we operated under the assumption of only one comedy being nominated, we would have discounted Adaptation and substituted “The Pianist” as it had more going for it than “About Schmidt.”

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2 Responses to “2009 Watch: Why Your Favorite Movie Will Not Be Nominated for Best Picture”

  1. Matt Says:

    “2. Wall-E: Until an Animated movie gets nominated (there wasn’t a separate category when “Beauty and the Beast” was nominated), I’m always going to bet against it.”

    It won’t get nominated until an animated movie gets nominated, but if it gets nominated it will be the animated movie to get nominated…circular logic much?

  2. dailysalad Says:

    Obviously it could happen. Just, as I betting man, I don’t like the odds. Dustin Hoffman recently had some pretty bad things to say about animation from an actor’s point of view on “The Today Show.” He said that the animation was an art, but as an actor it’s very uninteresting work. Maybe it’s a minority opinion, but actors are the largest branch of the academy, so it’s worth considering the point.

    This is secondary, but I also didn’t think that Wall-E was all that great–probably not as good as Ratatouille. The beginning was rich and textured, wonderfully exciting to see how Pixar redeveloped a silent movie. But the last third was monotonous and one-note.


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