Beth Accomando, author of the blog Cinema Junkie and KPBS arts reporter
Anders Wright, film critic at San Diego CityBeat and president of the San Diego FIlm Critics Society
Related Story: Oscar Preview
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Hollywood's biggest night is coming up on Sunday. It's the 84th annual Oscars, and somewhere in between the gorgeous gowns, the embarrassing production number, and the Angelina Jolie sightings, people will actually take home academy awards. Joining me to talk about which of the nominees might snag those Oscars, are my guest, Beth Accomando, welcome.
ACCOMANDO: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And Anders Wright, President of the San Diego film critic society. It's good to see you.
WRIGHT: It's good to see you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: The academy expanded its best picture nominees in five to ten in 2009. But this year, there are only nine nominees. What's happening here?
ACCOMANDO: What's up with that? They used to have ten, they brought it back down to five, and then back in 2009, they upped it back to ten because of the dark excite, mostly
WRIGHT: And Star Trek too, right?
ACCOMANDO: Yeah. The feeling was that people weren't watching the Oscars because too many of the films were smaller, arty, independent film, and none of the big bloc buster films were getting judicious nominations. So the theory was, more nomination, bring these films in. But you still have to receive a certain number of votes to make that list. But this year, only nine of the films, I could have cut off two or three of those nominations, made it. And the interesting thing is, because it was designed to be more inclusive. Only one of the films nominated is in the top ten, and that was the help.
CAVANAUGH: We do have a clip from the help. The most financially successful of the best picture nominees.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: Viola Davis, from the film, the help: So that's the most financially successful of the nominees. Let me just tell people what the nominees are in case they don't know. The Artist, the Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, the Tree of Life, Warhorse, and of course the Help. What do you think of these best picture nominees?
WRIGHT: To be honest, I think this would have been a great year to only have five nominees.
[ LAUGHTER ]
WRIGHT: I don't think all five of these are worthy. If you had only five, there would have been one or two that maybe could have gotten the cut, and that's what we're looking for.
CAVANAUGH: Which ones don't you like and
ACCOMANDO: War Horse really needed to get cut from the list.
WRIGHT: Yeah, and I think Moneyball is a perfectly serviceable film but it's not a best picture.
ACCOMANDO: Exactly. Some of them aren't bad, they're just not what I would consider the best that the year had to offer
WRIGHT: I don't think the help is a best picture.
ACCOMANDO: No, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: Which films do you think have gotten overlooked by the academy this year?
ACCOMANDO: One of the ones I felt was most overlooked was drive. And it received one Oscar nomination for sound editing, and it also got overlooked in all the technical categories which are not big grabbing categories, but it had gorgeous cinematography, a great score, fantastic editing.
WRIGHT: The other thing the drive missed out on is a best supporting actor nomination for Albert brooks. And that's the most egregious piece of snub-ery.
WRIGHT: But it's rated R, it's got some really harsh violence, and it's not accessible to everybody. If you look at this list, that's what you see. Almost everything in here is extremely accessible, minus the tree of life, which somehow for all of its incredible ambitions is on the list.
CAVANAUGH: Let's hear a scene from drive.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: From the film not on the best list.
ACCOMANDO: He was so good!
CAVANAUGH: Drive. Let's go back to the Oscars themselves, though. Which films on this list do you like?
WRIGHT: Personally, when I look at this list of movies, I -- let me go back to the tree of life. That, to me, is the moving that is the most sort of artistically ambitious of any of these film, and maybe of any of the big movies being made in this millennium. And I think it's an amazing cinematic experience. But half the people who came out of there, were, like, what was that? I don't understand what I saw! Which I think is the idea, as well. But I think that's a really extraordinary film. I believe this is the year that the artist is going to win most of the major awards, which, again, it's accessible, people like it, it's charming, it's fun.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's silent!
ACCOMANDO: Not entirely, but yes, no dialogue.
WRIGHT: But people are really touched and charmed by the film.
ACCOMANDO: I'm happy to see Alexander pain get nominated for the descendants. I'm sad for the fact that it's probably one of his more conventional films. Election is more edgy and interesting to watch. But it's nice to see someone like him who does work a bit outside the mainstream to get a nomination. That was nice. I was also happy to see Gary old man get a nomination. He's an amazing actor.
WRIGHT: And he's never been nominated benefit, right?
ACCOMANDO: I thought he got nominated for prick up your ears
WRIGHT: If there's any big steal that could happen, it would probably be George Clooney.
CAVANAUGH: Which of the women, glen close, villa Davis, Rooney Mara, of the dragon tattoo, Meryl Streep, and Michelle Williams.
>> This was a frustrating category.
WRIGHT: There's so many really wonderful performances that are not here. And it does feel as though -- Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep, but this is certainly not her best work. And the iron lady is not her best film.
>> It's an awful film
WRIGHT: Yeah. And Michele William, same thing, she's done better work. Viola Davis seems to be the frontrunner, she seems to be the person who's going to take the walk to the podium. But Tilda Swinton -- and
ACCOMANDO: She is amazing. One of the reasons I'm sure they left her off is she's an eccentric actress out of the mainstream, and these won an award lately, and they feel, like, oh, we've done our duty, we don't have to acknowledge her
WRIGHT: And I thought Elizabeth Olsen, all very good performances in very, voter small film, which no one really saw. Which is sort of --
ACCOMANDO: But al -- this year, the Awards are baffling because they're small films that are getting nominations, and they're not necessarily exceptional or really good films. It defies logic because they're not going to the films that everybody has seen that they're trying to cash in on popularity, who might tune in on TV. And they're missing some really great performances in films that are better seen, better reviewed. So it's just a real odd selection and kind of bland. Not necessarily bad, but bland and middle of the road.
CAVANAUGH: Who will take home the director award?
WRIGHT: When a movie like the artist, which has swept most of the other big award ceremonies comes in, it usually will take home almost everything here. Martin Scorsese just won the award two or three years ago.
>> So Alexander pain could slip in.
WRIGHT: I don't see it.
ACCOMANDO: I know.
WRIGHT: And to be honest, I think the artist is better directed than both of those films it is.
CAVANAUGH: As you say, it is a curious list in that some of these films are smaller films that you wouldn't expect to see unless they were remarkable, and some of the them are not remarkable. But where can people in San Diego go to still see some of the movies so they can make their own picks?
WRIGHT: There are a number of films that are still in theatres, including the artist. AMC both mission valley and La Jolla next Saturday, I think, are doing part two of a best picture marathon, five of the nominees. Starting at 11:00, you can basically sit it in your seat and soak it up.
>> And landmark is running the animated shorts, are the descendants, and also pina in 3D, is still playing at the Horton.
CAVANAUGH: That's fabulous. I'm so glad to hear that. These pictures come and go, and sometimes you don't make note. Which films or what academy award are you really looking forward to and who do you really want to see take home an Oscar?
ACCOMANDO: I would really love to see Gary Oldman take home an Oscar.
WRIGHT: It would just be such a treat. And the other one is best foreign language film that. Is a situation where very if you of these films ever come to San Diego at all, and it really determines honestly somebody's future, whether or not their movie is going to be a hit --
ACCOMANDO: Or even released
CAVANAUGH: And do you have a pick?
WRIGHT: There's a Belgian movie called bullhead that I have seen that I thought was just fascinating.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much.
WRIGHT: Thank you
ACCOMANDO: Thank you.