Anyone who has followed this year’s Oscar race for Best Picture knows that the stats above are not meant as a joke. An intelligent case, pro and con, can be made for every single one of these films. Letters from Iwo Jima has the intelligence, grace, and prestige, but it’s told in a foreign tongue (a deterrent for those who claim to care about movies but really don’t) and enters the race having made very little money and without a DGA nomination, though a case could be made that Clint Eastwood failed to make that cut with his peers when his two war films split nomination votes. Stephen Frears’s The Queen lacks for passion, but there is something to be said about a film whose banal TV-ness offends no one except for elk. The Departed is a film fans of Martin Scorsese can be proud of without back-bending excuses, but there is still the fact that half its cast gets shot in the head at close range. (The Best Picture polls being conducted on the home pages of this site and The Film Experience would suggest the film is way out in the lead, but when cinephilles are your core demographic it’s easy to chalk up results like these to wishful thinking.) Little Miss Sunshine, a film whose only offense is the ridiculous fondness some seem to have for it, won both the SAG ensemble award and the PGA prize, but there’s still the fact that comedies rarely win here and that Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris weren’t nominated in the directing category. Babel, a film that desperately wants to give the illusion of import, has kept people busy connecting its spurious dots for months now, but there is still a considerable amount of people who have seen through the gas it emits. The closest thing to an epic in the category, Babel may not inspire the same intense affection and loathing people have for Crash, but its epic-scale tapestry of interconnected stories should appeal to voters feeling a little global this year. Also, if there is one precedent that’s impossible to ignore it’s the fact that Oscar has a history of rewarding the very worst film in this category.
Will Win: Babel
Should Win: Letters from Iwo Jima
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.