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Oscar Movies 2013: Should 'The Hunger Games' & 'Marvel's The Avengers' Be Nominated?

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OSCAR MOVIES 2013
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Welcome to For Your Consideration, HuffPost Entertainment's weekly breakdown of all things Oscar. Between now and Feb. 25, 2013, executive arts and entertainment editor Michael Hogan and entertainment editor Christopher Rosen will chat about awards season and which films will make the most noise at the 85th annual Academy Awards.

Rosen: Hello, Mike! It was quite a week: An incredibly feisty presidential debate, an incredibly pathetic performance by your beloved New York Yankees (that's the last shot, I promise) and an incredibly interesting quote from Joaquin Phoenix about Oscar season: "I think it's total, utter bullshit, and I don't want to be a part of it. I don't believe in it. It's a carrot, but it's the worst-tasting carrot I've ever tasted in my whole life. I don't want this carrot. It's totally subjective. Pitting people against each other ... It's the stupidest thing in the whole world."

My first reaction to that quote was, well, not that much. Nothing Phoenix said there is particularly revelatory, and his point is one echoed by everyone from Emmy winner Damian Lewis to many readers of this column: Art is subjective and having actors compete for a trophy is foolish. That said! It's the game and actors who don't play the game don't win.

Which is why Phoenix is kind of genius. By not playing the game he is playing the game. It's the same strategy that Mo'Nique used in 2010: focus on the work, call bull on the politics and engender yourself to voters as the anti-candidate. I have no doubt that Phoenix knew what he was doing with that quote, which not only made him standout during a week where Denzel Washington potentially overtook him in the Oscar conversation for Best Actor, but also put the spotlight back on "The Master."

Otherwise, it's a lot of status quo. "Argo" continues to surge at the box office, making Ben Affleck's film the leader in the clubhouse for Best Picture. It's a hit, which makes it one of the few audience favorites currently in the thick of the Academy Awards race. (I still expect "Silver Linings Playbook," "Life of Pi," "Les Miserables" and "Django Unchained" to win audience approval as well.) That got me thinking (dangerous, I know): What are some of your favorite films from this year that won't get a sniff from the Oscars? Mine include "Safety Not Guaranteed," "Sleepwalk With Me," "Looper," "The Dark Knight Rises" and, of course, "Pitch Perfect," which should win all the awards forever. Rebel Wilson for Best Supporting Actress?

Hogan: Hey Chris, I'm going to go ahead and ignore your comment about the Yankees, since it's just too soon, but just remind me when you get a chance how long it's been since your beloved Mets played a postseason game.

I like your list, and would add "Marvel's The Avengers," "The Hunger Games" and "Prometheus" (Fassbender for Best Supporting Robot!), as well as "Celeste and Jesse Forever" and "Ted" on the comedy side. Hell, I'd even throw "Haywire" and "The Grey" in there, if only because they brightened up the generally horrid month of January. Oh, and "Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a movie that has a lot of passionate fans and no real awards buzz.

I think it's important to talk about this, because a lot of commenters have been complaining that we aren't talking about their favorite movies. So maybe we should answer the question, title by title. I'll start!

"The Avengers." Joss Whedon deserves some kind of award for turning what could have been the clunkiest superhero-supergroup spectacle since "Fantastic Four" into a razor-sharp, bullet-fast fun-fest, but they don't give Oscars for that. That's because the Academy's members are the last people in Hollywood holding on to the fantasy that movies should be made for adults.

"The Hunger Games." Same problem, really, even though Gary Ross directed Best Picture nominee "Seabiscuit" back in 2003. (Perhaps notably, Ross was snubbed in the Best Director category.) At the end of the day, this movie (which I loved) was geared toward young girls, and that's not a recipe for Oscar success.

"Prometheus." This movie was almost Kubrickian enough to sidle into Oscar territory, but ultimately it fell into that confusing gray area between arty and coherent. Nobody was happy -- except me.

"Celeste and Jesse Forever." Comedies get no respect at the Oscars, and this one was a classic festival darling: big buzz out of Sundance, but no bounce at the box office. Don't worry, Rashida -- all you really had to do with this one was prove that you can write a script. There will be other projects.

"Ted." Perhaps the least Oscar-y movie on this list, which is why it's so funny that its creator, Seth MacFarlane, is going to be hosting. And of course that's by design. The producers of the Oscars know it's an uphill battle getting young men to watch a show that's basically about fancy dresses and actresses crying, so they're hoping Seth will reel in a few family guys. But no, cursing teddy bears do not win little gold men.

"Haywire." Hahaha, let's just move on.

"The Grey." Liam Neeson has an Oscar mode, but this isn't it. This is his Killing Wolves With His Bare Hands mode. Which one do you think audiences prefer?

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Too many unknown quantities in this one for it to break through in a strong year. Plus it's about high school students in the '90s. Those high school students need to be living through the '60s for members of the Academy to relate. Class dismissed.

OK, your turn!

Rosen: I like your list, too -- especially "Celeste & Jesse" and "Perks of Being a Wallflower," two films that should at least get some screenplay consideration from the Academy, but won't. (As you said, neither are flashy enough, but both are deserving.) The same goes for "Ruby Sparks," an excellent indie comedy that got lost in the multiplex this summer. Zoe Kazan's script is whip-smart and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ("Little Miss Sunshine") do their very best to make Kazan's words as visually appealing as possible. It's a real treat, from top to bottom -- come for Kazan, stay for Chris Messina as Paul Dano's hilariously blunt brother; Best Supporting Messina! -- and I hope it finds an audience on DVD and Blu-ray. It's interesting: You mentioned the notion of a festival darling, and the Oscars used to reward those films, especially in the original screenplay category. ("Lost in Translation," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Good Will Hunting," et cetera.) Recently, though, that idea has fallen by the wayside, with prestige films like "Milk," "The Hurt Locker," "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" taking home the trophy in recent years.

Anyway. I'm glad you included "Haywire," another overlooked gem from 2012. It was the first great Steven Soderbergh movie of 2012 and marked the first screen appearance of Channing Tatum, 2012's Man of the Year.

While on the subject of Tatum and Soderbergh, let's highlight "21 Jump Street" and "Magic Mike." The former is still the funniest movie I've seen this year (see: Channing Tatum's thoughts on science), led by a totally committed Tatum, who gives one helluva charming and self-effacing performance. Blah blah blah, Oscars don't reward comedies, but maybe they should? Tatum is as good as Marisa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinny," if we're making comparisons.

He's equally strong in "Magic Mike," the second great Steven Soderbergh movie of 2012, which should actually be an Oscar nominee. It's smart, entertaining, adult, and loaded with star turns: Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, obviously, but also Olivia Munn, who lifts her character above the cliche it might have been. (It was also the first Warner Bros. film of 2012 to use the old Saul Bass logo; sorry, "Argo.")

I'll refrain from putting "Battleship" and "That's My Boy" on my list, but at the risk of becoming Armond White, I enjoyed them both more than, respectively, "Prometheus" and "Ted."

"The Hunger Games" and "Marvel's The Avengers" were both solidly made blockbuster entertainment, but neither were as successful in my eyes as "The Dark Knight Rises." Christopher Nolan's film wasn't as good as "The Dark Knight," but that doesn't mean it wasn't great. Here's some real-talk: We all laughed when Anne Hathaway was slotted in the Best Actress category for "The Dark Knight Rises," but the fact of the matter is that she was outstanding in the film, as were Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman. Why couldn't Hathaway get nominated in a category that is shaping up as top-heavy, with Jennifer Lawrence, Helen Mirren and Marion Cotillard at the top, and a bunch of others combating for the bottom two slots?

While we're giving out fantasy Oscars -- I just awarded Kay Cannon one for writing "Pitch Perfect"; congrats, Kay -- let's talk about "Moonrise Kingdom." Does Wes Anderson's film belong with these beloved also-rans, or will Focus Features get "Moonrise" into the Best Picture race?

Hogan: I love your enthusiasm for "Moonrise Kingdom," which was definitely one of my favorite movies of the year. I think it could sneak into the Best Picture lineup, but only because there are 10 potential slots. Clearly, Wes Anderson has a big and growing fan base -- how many actors this year have gone out of their way in interviews to mention that they'd very much like to work with him indeed? But apart from that, I see only technical nominations and no awards for this one. So perhaps that deserves an explanation: It's a comedy, it's twee, it's geared directly at bespectacled white men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. When that generation ages into dominance within AMPAS, Wes will get his lifetime-achievement award, but in the meantime he's going to have to sit back and watch the show with the rest of us.

It's hard for me to compare "The Hunger Games," "Marvel's The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises," if only because I saw them in that order and was supremely delighted by each one. It's possible that each one was better than the last, and that I'd have been disappointed if I'd seen "The Hunger Games" after seeing "The Dark Knight Rises." But in any case, they were all good. I have it on good authority that Warner Bros. is still holding out hope for Anne Hathaway (keep dreaming that dream, guys), and also wants nods for Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister. Then there's the fact that the whole expansion of Best Picture to 10 slots was basically invented for this movie, following the howls of outrage that erupted when "The Dark Knight" didn't make the final five. In a lesser year, I think this could have been an ultra-rare Oscar-decorated superhero movie, but the sheer gloominess of the film -- and whatever went wrong with Tom Hardy's face mask -- make me think it will go the way of virtually all other comic-book adaptations.

So what have we learned this week, Chris? That not all good movies are Oscar movies? That not all Oscar movies are good movies? Both?

Rosen: Certainly both, but I think we all knew that already. What's most surprising to me about 2012 is the depth of quality films. All of those movies we mentioned were beloved by audiences, big and small. Frankly, the only thing keeping "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hunger Games" out of legitimate Oscar conversations is that the other movies this year -- the "Oscar movies" that we obsess about -- are great too. I keep going back to 2011, but if movies like "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "War Horse" and even "The Help" were nominated, why couldn't something like "Marvel's The Avengers" get into the game? If only Joss Whedon's film was released last year.

The moral, I guess: If Hollywood keeps making good movies, perhaps every movie will get a chance to be an Oscar nominee. No pressure, 2013 movies!

EARLIER:
Week 1: Has Harvey Weinstein Already Taken Over Oscar Season?
Week 2: Will 'Les Miserables' Dream A Dream Of Oscar Gold?
Week 3: Will 'Life Of Pi' Roar At The Oscars?
Week 4: Will 'Lincoln' Reach Higher Office?
Week 5: Is 'Argo' The Clear Front-Runner?


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