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Oscar Breakdown Part 1: Films You've Already Seen

Updated on October 2, 2012

With Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane being announced as the host for the 85th Academy Awards next February, the race for Best Picture at the Oscar’s has officially gotten underway. For the next several months, contenders will rise and fall, campaigns will be made, stars will be born and people will wonder if their favorite film is going to make the cut for the biggest prize in film. So who exactly is the favorite right now to take home Best Picture?

For the next several days, I will be breaking down potential nominees for the award, breaking up a total of 23 contenders into three categories. Today, we will focus on films that have already been released, with films with limited releases being covered tomorrow and films yet to be released being covered Thursday. In order to break down the buzz a film generates critically, I have come up with a stat called ACV (Average Critical Value). The ACV takes the scores from critic sites Rotten Tomatoes (abbreviated below to RT) and Metacritic, adding the scores each site has for a film and then dividing them by two, giving the film an average critical score. This score can help determine whether or not the film will get nominated for Best Picture; approximately 78% of nominations in the past ten years have had an ACV of 80 or higher. The greater the ACV, the better chance of a nomination.

Let’s now take a look at the seven contenders that have been released so far.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

ACV: 75.5 (84% on RT and a score of 65 on Metacritic)

While coming of age stories aren't exactly great Oscar bait, Wallflower has been far more critically acclaimed then I thought and the maturity of the film definitely presents it as something Oscar voters enjoy. Does it have a shot though? While not a poor ACV, it’s certainly not on par with past nominations, and the Academy will likely find the film more good than great (as most critics have). However, the performances (particularly Ezra Miller as Patrick) may warrant consideration, and if some of the favorites start to fall the film could be a sleeper.

Chances of nomination: 1%

The Avengers

ACV: 80.5 (92% on RT and a score of 69 on Metacritic)

Joss Whedon’s film may have lit the box office on fire, but its award considerations outside of effects and such is slim. As good as the film was, it wasn’t remotely deep, nor was it ultimately any more impressive than The Dark Knight Rises (which we will get to). Its possible Whedon could get a screenplay nomination, but beyond a total collapse from the top contenders, The Avengers will have to settle to being just the box office king of 2012.

Chances of nomination: 1%

Magic Mike

ACV: 75.5 (77% on RT and a score of 72 on Metacritic)

Though it shares the same score as Wallflower, I’d give Magic Mike a little better shot for a nomination. It’s a more feel good story, features a risqué subject matter and contains better performances, particularly from Matthew McConaughey as the club owner. Combine that with the reputation of director Steven Soderbergh and the Magic Mike could easily be like Crash, another film with a low ACV that snagged not only a Best Picture nomination but a victory. The problem for the film is that it was released in June, meaning it will likely not be the first film on the minds of the Academy come January. Barring a December re-release, Magic Mike will likely be missing out on the party.

Chances of nomination: 3%


ACV: 89 (94% on RT and a score of 84 on Metacritic)

Perhaps not seen as a candidate earlier this year, Rian Johnson’s third directing effort has been so acclaimed that it’s pretty much vaulted itself into the discussion with the highest ACV of the Oscar contenders released yet. The question thus becomes will it be enough to secure nominations outside of technical aspects? The answer may be in past films like Avatar and Inception, two science fiction films that both received Best Picture nominations with an ACV lower than what Looper has right now. The difference may ultimately be how big of a hit Looper is at the box office. Even still, the film is a legitimate force to be reckoned with right now.

Chances of nomination: 15%

Beasts of the Southern Wild

ACV: 85.5 (86% on RT and a score of 85 on Metacritic)

Perhaps no film has been more imaginative this year than Beasts of the Southern Wild, the debut film of 29 year old director Benh Zeitlin. In fact, many critics believe this film will be a lock for numerous awards, including Best Picture. Is it a lock though? The issues are the film’s release date (June), it’s unknown cast and crew, and the fact that it’s ACV is far below the similar Pan’s Labrynth, which wasn’t able to get a Best Picture nomination even with an ACV of 96.5. This isn’t to knock the film; it’s very much in contention for a nomination in several categories. With many other films to arrive in theaters yet though, Beasts is nowhere near the lock many appear to think it is.

Chances of nomination: 15%

The Master

ACV: 84.5 (84% on RT and a score of 85 on Metacritic)

The only concerns for Paul Thomas Anderson’s recent film are that the Academy has had the tendency to snub him in the past. Though Anderson’s previous five films have a combined ACV of 83.7, only his most recent film There Will Be Blood has received a Best Picture nomination (Anderson does have several screenplay nominations and one direction nomination as well). Fear not though, as The Master features such rich performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (all who may be nominated) as well as a captivating subject that is just too hard to ignore. The film will only fall out of contention if numerous upcoming films are classics.

Chances of nomination: 40%

The Dark Knight Rises

ACV: 82.5 (87% on TR and a score of 79 on Metacritic)

If I had been asked about this several months ago, I would’ve told you that the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman series would be a sure lock for a nomination (and maybe even a win) after The Dark Knight was snubbed from a nomination four years ago. Now, it’s just too close to call. Working against The Dark Knight Rises is its release in July (which no doubt hurt its predecessor), and its ACV score being five and a half points lower than The Dark Knight. Those may not seem like glaring flaws, but they do point more towards The Dark Knight Rises failing to secure the nomination we all thought it had. Having said that, the film is still great (and far more ambitious in combining genres than The Dark Knight was) and the fact that it’s the concluding piece to an outstanding trilogy may help it receive the Lord of the Rings treatment where the films are acknowledged as a whole. In the end, though I’m nowhere near as confident in the film’s nomination as I was before its release, I would bet on The Dark Knight Rises being received by the Academy more like Lord of the Rings than Harry Potter.

Chances of nomination: 25%

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the Oscar Race, focusing on films who have not yet received substantial critical attention.


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