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