Our film writers vote for their “Best Picture”- and why it should win big on 24 February. They also debate the value of Hollywood’s grandest ceremony.
Silver Linings Playbook
With Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell continues the rehabilitation of a career that many thought dead and buried. In 2007, the infamous video of his on-set outburst went viral. In it, Russell flipped out on I Heart Huckabees actress Lily Tomlin, releasing a torrent of uncontained expletives in her direction. It is perhaps fitting then, that his return to critical and commercial success is this film, a delicate study of explosive, emotionally volatile behaviour. Mistake it for a typical romantic comedy at your peril, as Silver Linings Playbook superbly portrays the complexities of adult relationships. Plus, it even draws a recent-career best performance out of Robert de Niro.
After already winning the prestigious Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, the chances of Michael Haneke’s Amour nabbing Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars are looking pretty good. As one of the most truly individual and poignant films of 2012, it certainly deserves its nomination. The loving relationship between elderly couple George and Anne Laurent is examined with scrutiny as the pair struggle through deteriorating health. This may be a film about love but it is anything but romanticised; Haneke’s film is perhaps best classified as brutal realism. With the entirety of the film set in the couple’s apartment, the feeling of claustrophobia remains with you long after Amour has ended.
When classics hit the screen as hard as Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables has, you know the road to the Oscars is paved with gold. A box office hit in the UK and internationally, Les Misérables does not disappoint. From its opening scene featuring an almost unrecognizable Hugh Jackman to Anne Hathaway’s striking and heartbreaking performance as the doomed Fantine, the performances of the film are its biggest and strongest asset. A stunning transition to film with a brilliant cast and outstanding direction, Les Misérables is a visual and auditory feast for audiences. It is sure to be recognised by the academy, amongst its eight Oscar nominations, with the Best Picture award.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
The genius of Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature is that it should feel hallucinatory, but it doesn’t. As the Katrina catastrophe hits, and once-frozen beasts are unleashed from the Arctic, it is six-year-old Hushpuppy who leads the way in an adventurous blurring of what should and shouldn’t be taken as metaphor. At the heart of the “Bathtub” community, and the entire film, is the touching relationship between a girl and her father, where filmmaking rarely this empathic brings a crucial honesty to such an ambitious project. Unlike the others, here there is a soul that can be captured, but not created.
The seventh feature length film from ever divisive director Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained is the Stetson-clad outlaw amidst omnipresent Oscar-Bait. More than simply a controversy fuelled splatter-fest, Tarantino’s epic is overflowing with intense performances, classic set pieces and a schizophrenic, kick-ass soundtrack. Unquestionably the biggest, bloodiest and funniest candidate for Best Picture this year, Django also pulls no punches in its visceral and unflinching exposition of slavery and racism. Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained is bloody brilliant.