Of the potential Best Pictures, I've seen only three: Moneyball and Midnight In Paris, as well as Hugo, in 3D — twice. Hugo caught me completely off-guard both times: the first time with its artful suspense, and the second time with its emotional depth. Both times I braced myself to be distracted by/impressed with the technical gim-crackery, but was instead distracted from such superficiality by my love for the story.
So I'd declare Hugo the best of those three options. Midnight In Paris was a pleasant 90 minutes in the dark, although too saccharine in its conclusion to be given a second thought. And I simply can't understand how Moneyball makes it onto lists like this. I have no trouble getting caught up in a rousing sports movie — Hoosiers is a favourite in this category. I also have no trouble enjoying an ambivalent sports movie — and who would argue that Slap Shot is not the best in that category? But Moneyball can't decide if it's rousing or ambivalent.
"Uh ... ambivalent?
The script is a mess. At one point the Brad Pitt character gives an older player an inspiring speech about becoming a mature player, and letting go of the 20-year-old kid he no longer is — being a leader, a mentor, someone who passes along some wisdom, etc. Cut to the next scene, and the older player asks a younger player what's going on. The younger player admits he's scared, of everything. The older player shakes his head, says, “Huh.” End of scene. This, and other dropped balls, puts Moneyball into the same league as the team it celebrates: a phenomenon that gives mediocrity a good name.
My favourite movie of the year isn't even on the list: Margin Call gathers a dream cast that teases and stretches suggestion and insinuation to untested lengths.
MINOR SPOILER: one of the early questions in the film is whether or not the Kevin Spacey character will deliver a monologue he's been assigned. By film's end, he does. It is long (and, if memory serves, uncut) and it is among the most riveting monologues that Spacey has done. END SPOILER.
Margin Call does what indy films do best: capitalise on the energy of a necessarily brief moment — in this case a convergence of two brief moments: the assembling of the creative ensemble, precisely as the American economy collapses.
Might I like Tree Of Life more? I'll tell you when I see it. For now, all I can say is I suspect Tree is the better of Pitt's movies to be nominated.