06 Dec 2011

Oscar Insight: Busy Bodies Buzz

No Comments Hollywood Briss, Oscar Insight, Published Work

Welcome back to another season of Hollywood Briss’s Oscar Insight! It is once again that time of year when Hollywood’s best flicks take a three month trek in search for that glorious golden shower… of awards that is.

In all honesty, the 2010 awards stretch was a disheartening blow to film lovers. And there are two reasons for this. First came the juggernaut that was “The Social Network,” which seemed to win every critics award and some not even in existence. The bounteous love for it, mixed for the complete lack of respect for any other great 2010 films (“Black Swan,” “Inception,” etc.) set up for what appeared to be a boring sweep come February.

Then “The King’s Speech” was released. Then, seasoned Oscar veteran and producer mastermind Harvey Weinstein crafted a brilliant promotional campaign for his British flick. And finally, heart trumped brain and the very well made, but quite standard fare that was “Speech” took home almost every non-critic award including the Best Picture Oscar. Game over, man.

But those tears have been shed; it’s time to move on to a new season that looks to be infinitely more exciting. Why is that you ask? The answer lies in the frontrunner, the rare lack of a clear frontrunner that is. Or maybe it’s the buzz sparked by the numerous late-season released films.

Buzz… funny word. A sound made by a bee, it also can stand for the amount of acclaim a movie receives mixed with its potential for greatness. So in order to define the intangible being of “Oscar buzz,” I’ll use a three prong checklist: name power, historically winning themes and critical recognition. Using these factors, let’s take a look at 2011’s buzziest.

The Artist

Names: While director Michel Hazanavicius and leading man Jean Dujardin have little recognition in the U.S., they are highly respected in their home country of France (Dujardin has been called the French George Clooney). And then there’s producer Harvey Weinstein… We all know what he can do.
Themes: A silent, black and white film about the end of the silent film era in Hollywood. The last silent film to win Best Picture was “Wings.” That was in 1929, during the first Oscar ceremony. The last black and white film to win was “Schindler’s List” in 1993. With an Oscar voter pool full of AARP members, this less musically inclined  “Singin’ In the Rain” reenactment looks to draw the votes of those wanting to embrace the good ole’ days.
Critics: With a 96% on Rottentomatoes.com and an 87/100 on Metacritic.com, it is tied with Harry Potter for the best reviewed contender of the year. It also won Best Picture and Director at the New York Film Critics Circle, which gave out the first awards this season.

The Descendants

Names: George Clooney and Alexander Payne. Any movie these two make seems to draw some kind of awards recognition.
Themes: Struggling family man, rebellious children, and real-estate troubles. The last winner to include all those themes was “American Beauty” back in 1999, but this film looks to capitalize on its strong emotional resonance and the “he’s due” factor of director Payne.
Critics: In no surprise, critics love the film, which stands at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Payne’s directorial career average is nearly flawless at 89%. Through the numerous rave reviews, they’ve also established Clooney as the Best Actor frontrunner.


Names: Martin Scorsese: Humanitarian, legend and a filmmaking god.
Themes: The importance of film preservation and the undeniable magic of the cinema experience. Never mind that it’s a kids flick, it’s a built-for-awards whore. Even if it wasn’t a beautiful and captivating film, this theme alone would carry it through the season with ease.
Critics: I’m guessing the few critics that actually gave it a poor review have already been banned from ever critiquing again and shipped off to Pluto (a planet that sucks so much, it isn’t even a planet). At 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is a critics’ darling and was awarded Best Picture and Director by the National Board of Review.

War Horse

Names: Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg and yes, Steven Spielberg. Oh, there’s also John Williams; the most Oscar nominated film composer of all time.
Themes: War, courage, survival, animals in peril and based on an acclaimed Broadway play. Nobody makes a war film quite like Spielberg (The man’s two Best Director Oscars come from his war flicks “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”). On top of that, this looks to be the heartwarming, tear jerking, inspirational film of the year. Other films that tugged on enough heart strings to win were “The King’s Speech,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “Million Dollar Baby.”
Critics: The reviews are still in the waiting, but from word around other Oscar blogs, it’s going to be liked. Ve-hairy liked.

With hundreds of awards and recognitions yet to be given, it is an open race to the Academy Awards at this point. As for a bit of early season punditry of my own, my gut is telling me to go with the horse over the silence, the depressed dad and the skinny orphan. Screw “I believe in Tebow.” I believe in Spielberg. Even if the latest “Indiana Jones” was a monstrosity to all that is cinematically holy.

Next week, I will continue to break down the awards race and reveal the winners of the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Sierra Awards, which I shall be voting on this coming Saturday. Until then, I urge all to listen to the nation’s critics and check out the plethora of well-reviewed films now playing in theaters.

Photos courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Pictures and The Weinstein Company.

written by Jay Brissenden
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