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For your consideration, Part 4: Top contenders in a banner year
Look for 'Argo' and 'Lincoln' to duel for best picture honors
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Daniel Day-Lewis appears in a scene from "Lincoln," one of the top contenders for the Best Picture Oscar this year.

This being the last column in which I will mention the 2012 year in movies, it’s time to make some observations.

We said at the beginning of last year that Hollywood saw 2012 as a litmus test of its future. The slate of movies was strong enough in all categories that most agreed: If these movies don’t attract bigger audiences than in years past, then nothing would. Which meant the future of movie theaters themselves was at stake.

Well, 2012 was an unmitigated success. For the first time since 2009, domestic theatrical ticket sales rose, resulting in record high grosses of $10.8 billion. That trend held throughout the world, with numerous countries reporting record ticket sales figures. And all of this while the home video market expanded, thanks to more streaming options.

It wasn’t just dumbed-down blockbusters that brought in audiences, either. Most critics agree that 2012 offered more high quality films than we’ve seen in years.

The question is, will Hollywood producers recognize that it was better films and changing audience demographics that produced success, and not 3-D or bad movies dressed up with special effects? Let’s check back on that in about a year.

For now, let’s close the book on 2012 with a look at the films most likely to win Hollywood’s most coveted prize, the Best Picture Oscar.

It’s a bit hard to predict this year since the movies getting the most buzz are attracting that buzz for the wrong reasons.

“Django Unchained” and “Zero Dark Thirty” are the most discussed films of the year, but half of that chatter is negative. And tellingly, neither film’s director, Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow, respectively, was nominated for Best Director.

The only films ever to win Best Picture without their directors being nominated are “Wings” (1927), “Grand Hotel” (1931), and “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989).

Add to those historical precedents all of the controversy surrounding both films, and it looks highly unlikely either will win.

History is also working against “Amour,” only the ninth non-English language film to be nominated for Best Picture.

No film with all foreign dialogue has ever won Best Picture, and the only partly foreign-language films to win are “The Godfather, Part II” (1974), “The Last Emperor” (1987) and “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008), all of which feature more English dialogue than “Amour.”

Neither “Life of Pi,” “Les Misérables,” nor “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is garnering much buzz. Almost no one expects any of them to win.

Before the Golden Globes, it looked like a two-way race between “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

I enjoyed “Silver Linings Playbook” very much, but on second viewing I noticed numerous technical flaws and story inconsistencies that passed me by initially, so caught up was I in the movie’s infectious emotional swings.

That put “Lincoln” solidly in the lead in my book. (For the record, I don’t actually keep a book of that kind, which would be illegal.)

But then “Argo” won Best Drama and Best Director for Ben Affleck at the Golden Globes, just as the controversy surrounding “Django” and “Zero” heated up and talk about “Lincoln” and “Playbook” began to wane.

It’s a three-way race at this point, and “Argo” has all the momentum. I would feel fine if it won.

I rate “Argo” as the second best film of the year, behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Affleck’s story is one we can all embrace. He and Matt Damon made a legendary splash in 1997, sharing a Best Screenplay Oscar for “Good Will Hunting.”

But thanks to a series of either mediocre or notoriously bad films and a personal life that kept him constantly in the tabloids, Affleck was a punchline for years.

He kept working, though, and found his greatest talents as a director. “Argo” showcases those talents brilliantly and will likely restore Affleck’s status as a Hollywood elite Feb. 24, the night of the Oscar ceremony.

Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.

 

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