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Reviews of the Best Picture Nominees

January 27, 2012

As the nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards were announced this past Tuesday, here are our brief thoughts on all nine of the nominees in the running for Best Picture.  For future reference throughout the Oscar season, links to our full thoughts on each of these films are included in the titles, as well as the categories in which they are nominated.  We are offering this in lieu of reviewing one of this Friday’s new releases and encourage our readers to check out all of these films, before the Oscars on February 26th.  Enjoy!

The Artist:  Released in theatres on December 16th, this is a black and white silent film that beautifully pays homage to the rise of the talkies in Hollywood.  Directed by Michel Hazanavicious, this is a moving, inspirational and ultimately unforgettable film that features a wonderful musical score by Ludovic Bource and a brilliant leading performance from Jean Dujardin.

The Artist is nominated for ten Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Havanavicious) Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Best Supporting Actress (Bérénice Bejo), Best Original Score (Ludovic Bource), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Editing.

The Descendants:  Released in theatres on November 18th, Alexander Payne’s adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ wonderful novel The Descendants is a brilliantly acted and very moving film that believably deals with the emotional journey of a family coming together through loss.  Set against the beautiful backdrop of Hawaii, George Clooney gives one of the best performances of his career in the leading role and cinematic newcomer Shailene Woodley is his match.

The Descendants is nominated for five Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Director (Alexander Payne), Best Actor (George Clooney), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close:  Opening in limited release on December 25th and going wide on January 20th, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a deeply moving and brilliantly acted film about people coming together in the wake of tragedy.  Based on the excellent novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, the film is anchored by a great performance from newcomer Thomas Horn and a beautiful musical score from Alexandre Desplat.  This is a severely underrated film, and it was one of the best surprises of Tuesday morning to see it honoured with a Best Picture nomination.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is nominated for two Academy Awards:  Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow).

The Help:  Released in theatres on August 10th and available on Blu-ray & DVD since December 6th, director Tate Taylor’s pitch-perfect adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel The Help is an incredibly moving and beautifully realized film.  With unforgettable characters and brilliant performances from the entire ensemble cast, this was a breakout hit with audiences that proved to be the biggest box office force of the nine Best Picture nominees.

The Help is nominated for four Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain).

Hugo:  Released in theatres on November 23rd, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a modern classic about the importance of old movies, based on the magnificent novel by Brian Selznick.  With beautiful visuals that are made even more immersive by the flawless 3D and a heartfelt story filled with endearing characters, the film provides an unforgettable and moving tribute to classic cinema.

Hugo is nominated for eleven Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Original Score (Howard Shore), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects.

Midnight in Paris:  Released in theatres on June 3rd and available on Blu-ray & DVD since December 20th, we all loved Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  Filled with beautiful cinematography of France, the charming film plays as smart, classy and irresistible entertainment from beginning to end.  With excellent leading work from Owen Wilson and an equally strong supporting cast that includes pitch-perfect portrayals of some of the biggest icons of the 1920’s, this is one of Woody Allen’s best modern films.

Midnight in Paris is nominated for four Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Director (Woody Allen), Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction.

Moneyball:  Released in theatres on September 23rd and coming to Blu-ray & DVD on January 10th, we were all big fans of Bennet Miller’s excellent baseball statistics film Moneyball.  Reviewed through an article, this is a smart and engaging movie that is driven by sharply written dialogue and a brilliant performance from Brad Pitt, who hits a home run in the leading role.  Equally strong is the nicely understated supporting work of Jonah Hill.

Moneyball is nominated for six Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

The Tree of Life:  Released in theatres on June 10th and available on Blu-ray & DVD since October 11th, The Tree of Life is a deeply moving and visually breathtaking film that leaves the viewer with a lot to think about.  When the nominations were announced Tuesday morning, it was wonderful to see this film included in the Best Picture race.  Also reviewed through an article, we all deeply admired this beautifully filmed and hauntingly spiritual work of art from visionary director Terrence Malick.

The Tree of Life is nominated for three Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Director (Terrence Malick) and Best Cinematography.

War Horse:  Released in theatres on December 25th, Steven Spielberg’s World War I saga War Horse is the one film on this list of Best Picture nominees that we liked, but didn’t love.  Although this is still a film that older kids and adults can enjoy, as it generally overcomes the overlong 146-minute running time and thin character development with beautiful cinematography and several touching scenes involving the title animal.

War Horse is nominated for six Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

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