The 84th Annual Academy Awards will take center stage in Hollywood on Sunday. While The Artist, starring Penelope Ann Miller, is the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture, offerings from George Clooney and Brad Pitt will also challenge for the night’s top-honor.
The films nominated for Best Picture are quite varied. This is evidenced by simply looking at Pitt’s offerings…the sports-themed movie Moneyball and critically acclaimed The Tree of Life. Both are long-shots, though, as are Pitt’s odds for winning Best Actor.
Clooney hopes to follow up his success at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards, where The Descendants won for Adapted Screenplay. He is also an Oscar favorite for Best Actor.
The competition will be fierce…well, fierce by standards set with a backdrop of champagne, ballroom dresses and diamonds, that is. Following are the nominations for Best Picture at the 84th Annual Academy Awards, listed according to their odds of winning as set by BookMaker,.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Thomas Horn
Produced by Scott Rudin, this movie follows the life of an autistic boy dealing with life after losing his father in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He finds a mysterious key that he believes holds the secrets of his father after his tragic death.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close didn’t achieve the hoped-for success at the box office, but is a solid story that was embraced by critics. Oscar success is expected to be similar to that at the theaters, though.
The Tree of Life, Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain
Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) is a middle-aged man reflecting on the meaning of his life and future. Using flashbacks, his youth is explored and how their mother’s love and fathers strict discipline shaped him as an adult.
It is a gripping story even with the common theme of a nurturing mother and an overly demanding father. Produced by Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill, The Tree of Life isn’t expected to be a factor in Oscar voting.
Midnight in Paris, Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates
A film that mixes the flashbacks of the 1920’s, Midnight in Paris depicts the life of a screenwriter’s trip to Paris with his fiancée. While he is obsessed with the city’s artistic culture, she becomes impatient with his distractions.
Midnight in Paris was written and directed by Woody Allen. In the end it looks at the balance of life between the couple as they attempt to resolve very different perspectives on happiness.
Moneyball, Starring Brad Pitt, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill
The baseball movie that really isn’t about baseball, Moneyball follows manager Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics following a devastating loss in the 2001 MLB playoffs. They look to transform their team, if not the game, using statistics to set their roster.
Bradd Pitt not only starred in the film; he produced it along with Michael De Luca and Rachael Horovitz. The movie was a box office success, grossing over $75 million.
The Help, Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer
Prompted by a young white Southerner, several African-American maids decide to share their stories from working in white households. They reveal the inequality and prejudices still present in 1963’s Jackson, Mississippi.
The Help was produced by Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan.
War Horse, Starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis
The Hollywood Icon Steven Spielberg produced War Horse with Kathleen Kennedy. It follows a conscripted horse that is being sent off to Europe to serve in the Calvary during World War I. The young owner that trained him enlists in hopes of staying with his horse.
This was the first Spielberg movie to be digitally edited. It grossed over $78 million with an estimated $68 million budget.
Hugo, Starring Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield and Sacha Baron Cohen
Produced by Martin Scorsese and Graham King, Hugo follows the life of a young Parisian orphan, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield). He lives a hidden life in a massive train station, secretly tending to his own business and the stations many clocks.
Hugo develops an unlikely relationship with grumpy toy shop owner, “Papa Georges,” played by Ben Kingsley. Hugo struggles with life and avoiding the station’s inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). Scorsese won Best Director at the Golden Globes.
The Descendants, Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Beau Bridges
A movie that combines a story worthy of critical acclaim and box office success, The Descendants follows the struggle of a family dealing with the loss of their matriarch. George Clooney’s role as father and husband netted him a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama, and leaves him the front-runner for an Oscar.
His character, Matt, must deal with the loss of his wife after an accident leaves her comatose. The story follows the changing family dynamics, as his parental role makes a marked shift with his two daughters. There are also financial issues to deal with, creating even more familial friction.
The Descendants was also a winner at the Golden Globes, capturing Best Motion Picture-Drama. The film it must upset to win the Oscar was in a different category, though.
The Artist, Starring Penelope Ann Miller and Jean Dujardin
Depicting the film industry’s transition from silent films to “talkies,” The Artist is the overwhelming favorite to grab the Oscar for Best Picture. It won Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical at the 2012 Golden Globes ceremony in January.
The Artist has the critical appeal of the Academy’s cerebral voters…not to mention most of them are old enough to remember this period. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration, but a study by the L.A. Times revealed the average age of the 5,765 voters is 62. Just 15% are under the age of 50, and the group is 94% Caucasian and 77% male.
These demographics will lean heavily towards The Artist. Produced by Thomas Langmann, the film depicts the relationship between veteran actor George Valentin and the young Peppy Miller, and how their connection changes along with their careers during the aforementioned transition in the film industry.
Some would argue the voters for the Academy Awards needs to be more reflective of the continued evolution of the movie-going public. As the home viewing experience continues to improve, theaters are relying on special effects, such as 3-D and high-end digital sound, to compete. However, awards tend to honor movies with limited mass appeal, ignoring the revenue stream that supports the industry.
Darin Pike is a contributor at HollywoodRinger, a celebrity insider blog. Recent post at Hollywood Ringer: Celebrity Mugshots & Arrests