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Four Great Movies in a Row Lead to Talk of Oscars

November 28, 2011

By John C.

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley are both Oscar contenders for The Descendants

What do The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, The Descendants and Hugo all have in common?  These were the four movies that we reviewed last week and they all got my highest rating of 4-stars.  For a film critic, this is a pretty great run, especially in the wake of several disappointing movies.

This is also further proof that we are pretty much in the heart of awards season, meaning that it can be downright disorienting to try and keep track of everything that is released.  But what’s interesting about these four films is that they each have categories in which I think they will do very well at the Oscars.

For the moment, The Descendants (along with the brilliant silent film The Artist) remains the frontrunner for Best Picture.  It is also doing excellent box office business in limited release, which elevates any awards possibilities to an even higher level.  George Clooney is the frontrunner for Best Actor, and I expect nominations in several other big categories as well, including Shailene Woodley for Best Supporting Actress.  At the end of the day, I also think that Hugo will make the cut.  The film is guaranteed to be a frontrunner for Set Design and Art Direction, but Martin Scorsese brings the whole thing to a really great level that would also make it deserving of a Best Picture nomination.

At the moment, The Muppets is the frontrunner for Best Song, with the two wonderful tracks “Life’s a Happy Song” and “Pictures in my Head” pretty much guaranteed a nomination.  But with an almost perfect score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, my fingers are crossed that the film will be able to make it into some of the other big categories as well.  Then there’s Arthur Christmas, which is a pretty safe bet for Best Animated Film.  Despite receiving some strong competition from Rango and probably also Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, it really is the best reviewed animated movie of the year and will likely get a box office boost over the Christmas season.

But it might not actually be easy to predict any of this, because every second film seems to be having at least some amount of Oscar buzz swirl around it, regardless of whether or not it is actually deserved.  A prime example of this is Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar.  The farther I get away from the film the more I think about just how unmemorable the whole thing really is, especially the terrible aging makeup and surprisingly uninspired performances.  Another film that has seemingly dropped out of the race is George Clooney’s politcal drama The Ides of March.  It’s a good movie with a great cast, but it has been pretty much forgotten in terms of any nominations.

We aren’t even out of the woods yet in terms of contenders.  I’ll be seeing Steven Spielberg’s WWI epic War Horse a little later this week and I’m very anxious to find out how it ranks among these other great films.  Something tells me it could end up this year’s equivalent of Avatar – a big holiday film from a director that won Best Picture in the 1990’s, that becomes the frontrunner but doesn’t actually win the award.  Another one of the dark horses in this year’s race is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  I’m a big fan of Jonathon Safran Foer’s novel, and if the movie is even half as emotionally effecting then it could be a serious contender.  Both of these films open on Christmas day and are directly competing for the top spot at the box office.

The four films at the centre of this article seem to have nothing in common, but they all played to different emotions that made me truly believe they were all worthy of a perfect score.   The Muppets is a joyous and heartfelt celebration.  Arthur Christmas is filled with the true spirit of the holiday season and that’s just what we need at this time of the year.  The Descendants is a moving and beautifully acted film about a family brought together through loss.  Hugo is a visually stunning and magical experience that won’t soon be forgotten.  Maybe they won’t all get the Oscar attention they rightfully deserve, but reviews of four great movies in a row is a pretty awesome run.

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