Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Oscar Tidal Wave

I saw Hugo last week, and as evidenced by my review, I was not a fan. However, the critics have been exceptionally kind to the movie, and I think the only real reason is because it is Martin Scorsese, but that is a different story. The thing is, after seeing the movie my friend said it was a sure Best Picture nominee for the Oscars, and I said, "There's no way," but does that still hold true?

The early reviews coming out of the New York Film Fest a month or so back were mixed, yet when the movie opened and more than a select few critics saw it, it seemed as if more and more people were going head over heels for the movie, not really on the merits of the movie itself, but simply because it was a passion project for Scorsese (once again, not the point of this conversation here, though it is the reason why I feel so many critics have given the movie a free pass). Now, this past week Hugo had good showings from the New York Film Critics Awards and winning Best Picture from the National Board of Review. Now, while both of these bodies tend to not be huge predictors for the Academy, it does beg to question: Is Hugo a potential Best Picture nominee now?

Right now, I would say 100% yes, but there is still a whole month and a half till nominations day. It is far from a done deal. Here is the thing I am getting at. While Hugo is getting a lot of love now, I feel it is simply because it is the freshest film on these people's minds. Now, I know there are a ton out there who genuinely love Hugo, and I am not trying to tear the movie down here, I am just trying to say this race is far from over. See, here's the thing to keep in mind. The tide of who is the Oscar frontrunner has changed at least four or five times already in this year's Oscar race, and it is more than likely going to change again.

Back before Cannes, it was all about The Tree of Life, then after Cannes The Tree of Life fell to mixed word of mouth and it became about The Artist. Then, at the end of the Summer, The Help became the one that was getting all the buzz. Then came Telluride and Toronto, where The Descendants started to receive all of the buzz. And even to a lesser extent, when The Adventures of Tintin premiered in the UK last month, it got a huge uptick in Oscar chances, however now, Hugo is getting all of that buzz that these movies all once had.

Here is the thing, and it's something that I fall victim to every year, it is foolish to try and predict the Oscars until January rolls around. That is when the nominations are actually made, so whatever is trending in May, August, September, or even early December, does not matter, what matters is what is trending come January.

This is why so many movies released before the months of September or October tend to have an uphill battle in getting nominated for an Oscar because their time in the spotlight has already come and gone and when all of these Oscar bait movies hit at year's end, they benefit from critical generosity because they are fresh on everyone's minds. It's a simple science, and it can be seen on a macro-scale and a micro-scale.

As I mentioned, Hugo is trending now, but we've still got a month's worth of well received movies to change the tide once more throughout December: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin, War Horse, and the further expansion of festival hits like The Descendants or The Artist. So while Hugo is winning the battle now, it is too early to name it a sure Best Picture contender. However, I will say this. With the events of the past two weeks and Hugo coming out of the gate far stronger than what most had been led to believe, it is firmly back in the Oscar hunt, and I wouldn't be at all surprised now that it has found such critical appreciation to see it crop up come January when the nominations are announced.

So folks, this is just a lesson to show how easily the Oscar game can change for those of us who have nothing better to do than follow every minor step along the way. A month ago, I would have said no way to Hugo, even a week ago, but now, I say yes. How easy it is for the tidal wave to change, and oddly enough I am loving it. After the past three years, where we pretty much already knew who was going to win Best Picture by this point, it's fun to see that there is no clear frontrunner and that the Oscars are still entirely up in the air. It could be anything come February, as far as I am concerned at this point. War Horse, Hugo, The Descendants, The Artist, The Help? Whoever is riding the wave last I feel will be the victor, and I for one am excited to see what happens.

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