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The Tiers Strategy: Ranking the 2013 Best Picture Nominees 
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Post The Tiers Strategy: Ranking the 2013 Best Picture Nominees
I've never tried out the tiers strategy before, but I am anything if adaptable. Here is my order:

TIER #1: THE UPPER TIER

1. Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty - As a work of art, Zero Dark Thirty is a gritty, complex portrait of the decade-long hunt for the world's most wanted man. The characters are bleak, but alternately fascinating. The direction is tight, with Kathryn Bigelow at the top of her game. The sound and visual effects are done stunningly. This is a film for the ages, one of the decade's finest for the time being.

2. Ben Affleck's Argo - Argo is an entertaining Hollywood-ized version of true events told with fine direction, some dark comedy, and one particularly exhilarating action sequence at the very end. People will argue about the liberties the film takes with true events from now until the end of days, but I still think that it marks Affleck's finest directorial effort yet.

3. Michael Haneke's Amour - God, this movie is so heartbreaking. Everything about it is perfect: from the performances of Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant to the haunting sequences that depict the undying love the two share. Think of it as an arthouse Hope Springs, except about a thousand times better.

TIER #2: THE MID-UPPER TIER

1. Steven Spielberg's Lincoln - I personally don't think that Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best performance of 2012 -- in my mind, that honor goes to Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. However, I still believe that this historical drama is one of the finest to reach the screen in quite some time, solidifying Spielberg's status as master storyteller and prolific Hollywood giant. While Spielberg takes liberties with the story of the 16th President, namely in depicting him as something of a fiery abolitionist, he still manages to craft an enriching, satisfying epic that is sure to sweep the Academy Awards. Welcome to the world record books, Mr. Day-Lewis.

2. Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild - James wasn't a fan of Zeitlin's directorial debut. I thought that it a surreal, breathtaking adventure that truly demonstrated how fulfilling arthouse cinema can be. The performances, especially those given by young Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry are a sight to behold, as are the scenes involving the Aurochs. I won't tell you what they are, but I absolutely adored this film. In some ways, it is a bayou version of Where the Wild Things Are. Does Beasts reach the heights of Spike Jonze's 2009 masterpiece? No. But it's still very good.

3. David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook - Sure, Russell is a controversial public figure, but his films are almost always masterful feel-good movies for those of us who know that Nicholas Sparks is a hack. Here, he directs Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro in one of the most memorable, engrossing romantic comedies of the past few years, allowing the viewer to truly visualize the horrors of bipolar disorder, as well as the beautiful relationship that mania can generate between two individuals. In some ways, it reminded me of 2009's (500) Days of Summer. It's not as good, but it is still a sight worth seeing.

4. Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained - I was a tad bit indifferent to Tarantino's film at first, ranking it #22 on my best-of list for some time. However, upon later viewings, I truly came to realize just how significant a film QT has crafted, demonstrating the horrors of slavery in nineteenth-century America while soaking the screen in a gallon or two of blood and gore. This is why we love Tarantino -- his films pose age-old questions while being wildly entertaining, violent, and even hilarious at times. The Academy, however, is still ignorant for not nominating Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Supporting Actor. His portrayal of vicious plantation owner Calvin J. Candie is a must-see.

TIER #3: THE LOWER-UPPER TIER

1. Ang Lee's Life of Pi - Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed Ang Lee's remarkable film adaptation of the bestselling novel by Yann Martel, but in ways, it is this year's Avatar. The film is spiritually and emotionally-satisfying, yet I feel as if there were much better movies that could have been nominated for the AMPAS' highest honor. It is a breathtaking experience, with an excellent performance by Suraj Sharma, but I don't believe that it offers one of the year's finest cinematic enterprises.

TIER #4: THE LOWER TIER

1. Tom Hooper's Les Misérables - I'm not going to hide my animosity towards this film: I hated it. Granted, the film is far more ambitious than your average studio product, yet it is nonetheless an excruciating cinematic experience, a movie for individuals who need heavy-handedness and lackluster direction in order to get the point. I thought that the performances were fine, but nothing special. Maybe it's because of the fact that many are treating this tale as a love story, rather than the powerful allegory on social inequality that Victor Hugo originally intended it to be. Maybe it's because of the fact that The King's Speech was a much better film. Maybe it's because of the fact that Tom Hooper's directorial skills still need some improvement. Or maybe it's just because of the fact that Anne Hathaway kind of annoys me. Either way, Les Misérables did nothing for me. Re-reading the book last summer, I was dying with anticipation in order to see the film. After all of that waiting, it ended up being an even more crushing disappointment than Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, Anna Karenina, Hitchcock, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Combined.

What is your list? Comment below and let me know. :) Oh, and feel free to share your thoughts on my list as well.


Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:11 am
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Post Re: The Tiers Strategy: Ranking the 2013 Best Picture Nominees
Good stuff. I'll jump on board as well. Like JB, I thought Looper was the best movie of 2012, but never for a moment did I think it would get even one nomination, not even in technical categories.

UPPER TIER:

Lincoln-- I can't add much about Daniel Day-Lewis, other than that his coronation at the Oscars will be epic. For me, I love this movie because it's all about working toward compromise for the greater good. Like JB pointed out in his review, if you think squabbling among Democrats and Republicans is bad today, it was ten times nastier then. It's one thing to read about the passage of the 13th Amendment, but seeing it dramatized so well is a real treat. Lincoln is my personal favorite of the nominees.

Django Unchained-- Second favorite. Not quite the equal of Inglorious Bastards but damn close. About 10-15 min too long but what a ride it was. Tarantino should win a Best Original Screenplay award because his dialogue is the best. End of story.

Zero Dark Thirty-- Funny how the critics' champ and a one-time box office winner fell so far due to controversy. But I still love it and will defend it to this day. Jessica Chastain gives the best female performance of the year, although she won't win. More entertaining to me and more deserving than Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, which I liked but did not love.

Argo-- It's more tense and suspenseful than most "original" thrillers, in spite of the fact that there's very little violence and everyone knows the ending from history. And Affleck's Director snub? Argo fuck yourselves, Academy.

MID UPPER TIER

Les Miserables-- When this movie was first announced, I thought it had "OSCAR!!!!!" written all over it and would dominate. Several months later, I'm in the position of defending it from so many haters. Unlike most, I thought Tom Hooper's use of close-ups worked just fine and was not distracting at all. I enjoyed all the songs and felt genuine emotional attachment. Yes, the political themes are merely glossed over rather than explored, but the same is true of the Broadway version. Just misses the upper tier, but still a great time at the movies and I will buy it on Blu ray.

Silver Linings Playbook-- As someone who was diagnosed with depression a while back, I found this movie's examination of mental illness to be spot-on. Sure, it ends just like most romantic comedies do, but the path it takes to get there is unique. At 21 and with two Oscar noms (with a likely win here), Jennifer Lawrence has that rare combination of being a critical darling AND a box office draw.

Amour-- Very tough to watch, especially if you've had a parent or grandparent go through something similar, but very powerful. As JB noted, a few scenes drag longer than necessary, but the impact this movie left on me is difficult to shake.

MID-LOWER TIER

Life of Pi-- Similar to Sean's reaction. Enjoyed it immensely in the moment and it offered some powerful themes of faith and survival, but it just doesn't stick with me as long as most of the others. I wish Ang Lee had actually shown Pi's retelling of his story to Japanese officials. Would've had greater impact.

LOWER TIER

Beasts of the Southern Wild-- This is the one for me that sticks out like a sore thumb. Not even close to one of the year's best. What was with the aurochs? They served no purpose whatsoever and could've been thrown out to make for tighter focus and a better movie. Also, I have to question what kind of message the movie is ultimately sending. Better to live in poverty in the desolate Bathtub because "it's who we are and it's where we're from" rather than strive for something more out of life and treat your illnesses? Didn't hate it, there are things to admire including terrific acting and very strong atmosphere. I hope Quvenzhané Wallis goes on to have a long career. But hopefully she'll star in something truly award worthy next time.

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Last edited by KWRoss on Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:51 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:21 pm
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Post Re: The Tiers Strategy: Ranking the 2013 Best Picture Nominees
I'll do this for the ones I've seen so far. I'll update as I see them.

UPPER TIER

1. Zero Dark Thirty

2. Silver Linings Playbook - This one came out of nowhere for me.

UPPER MID TIER

3. Lincoln

LOWER MID TIER

4. Django Unchained - Good movie, but it's not one of his greatest. Very well made, but nothing you'll think about after you leave the theater.

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild - Nice little movie. I liked how it stayed pretty focused and used the environment well. Strong performances by the locals. Shaky cam didn't bother me.

6. Argo - Yeah, I know. I wasn't impressed for some reason. I'll have a writeup on it soon.

LOWER TIER

7. Life of Pi


Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:28 am
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Post Re: The Tiers Strategy: Ranking the 2013 Best Picture Nominees
I've seen eight of the nine nominees, and none of them are "Lower tier" candidates. All eight are good films. But:

Tier 1:
Argo
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook

Tier 2:
Les Miserables
Life of Pi

Tier 3:
Django Unchained (It became dramatically inert for a while after they got to Candyland. Before that, it was close to perfect)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (I admire it a lot for taking chances, but some of those chances don't work.)

Tier 4:
Zero Dark Thirty (The climax and its aftermath are exciting, but it's not really that good before that.)

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Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:15 am
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