At this stage MCN’s Gurus of Gold charts are supposed to be predicting likely nominees for the Best Picture Oscar, even though we all know that Guru charts are not only a conversation point but a conversation driver. You know, I know and they know that Guru charts have a way of pushing the notion of this or that Best Picture favorite into people’s heads. And yet The Gurus always pretend they’re sitting in the bleachers and watching the rodeo and predicting which cowboys will be thrown off their horses and which will score the most points when in fact they are the rodeo as much as anything or anyone else. They’re right down there in the dust, riding those broncos and those steers and scraping their shins and knuckles.
Which is why it’s profoundly diseased to predict that The Butler, a gently emotional history lesson that is acceptable at best and mediocre at worst by the measure of any thoughtful criteria, is more likely to snag a Best Picture nomination than J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost, a mesmerizing action-is-character-and-vice-versa movie that delivers such shrewd and gripping visual intelligence. It’s degrading and insulting to even compare All is Lost to The Butler, and yet compare it we must because of a certain portion of the Academy and the viewing public….well, because they like what they like.
All Is Lost “is an action movie in the most profound and exalted sense of the term,” writes N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott. “The ancient Greeks believed that character should be revealed through action. I can’t think of another film that has upheld this notion so thoroughly and thrillingly. There is certainly no other actor [besides Robert Redford] can command our attention — our empathy, our loyalty, our love — with such efficiency. Mr. Redford has always been a magnificent underplayer, a master of small, clear gestures and soft-spoken intensity. This role brings him to the pinnacle of reticence but also allows him to open up in startling ways. Behind the leathery, pragmatic exterior is a reservoir of inexpressible emotion. An opera thunders in the silence.”