Grantland‘s Mark Harris has joined the Gold Derby prediction gang, and he’s saying that the most likely Best Picture winner is The Help, followed by The Artist, War Horse and The Tree of Life. I’m sorry but apart from Harris’s choices being incredibly bland and hugely depressing, he’s way off.
The Help has awards heat because (a) it’s enormously popular with women and (2) because Viola Davis is the presumptive Best Actress front-runner. But it has never had genuine Best Picture heat and never will have genuine Best Picture heat because no one of any perception or integrity thinks it’s any kind of four-star achievement. It’ll probably be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar but solely because it made a lot of money. Even if the Oscar goes to the most popular film without regard to quality, Harris seems to be forgetting that a majority of Academy members are male. There are no beer-sipping, Cosby-sweater-wearing, baseball-bat-swinging guys out there who think The Help is any kind of great film…none.
Secondly, The Artist is going to start fading the more people talk about it, and especially if anyone sees it a second time, as I did at the Savannah Film Festival. “I felt under-nourished and bored…despite feeling mostly pleased and charmed when I saw it in Cannes five and a half months ago,” I wrote. “It’s too cloying and simplistic — too much of a peanut- gallery pleaser — to stand up to a second viewing.” And keep in mind what Brett Easton Ellis said anout eight days ago: (a) “Just walked out on L.A. screening of The Artist and wondered: am I a Grinch or is it just an unbearably cute flyspeck?” and (b) “Michel Hazanavicius‘ The Artist makes Mel Brooks‘ Silent Movie (1976) look like a masterpiece, and in their way The Weinstein’s are very smart.”
War Horse will probably be nominated for Best Picture. And it may indeed win. But Disney’s “show it to hinterland audiences first” strategy is probably indicative of issues that may amount to a problem down the road. And Harris surely understands this potential.
Finally, I will be surprised if The Tree of Life is even nominated. Nobody is questioning its merits, at least as far as the first hour goes. But older critics and viewers have had issues, as we all know. And if a Best Picture contender doesn’t have boomer-aged critics like Kenneth Turan and Marshall Fine singing its praises, it’s got trouble.