The 2012 Oscars and How "Best" Almost Never Means "Favorite"

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | January 10, 2013 | Comments ()


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If there's one thing that putting together our 10 Most Rewatchable Films of 2012 demonstrated, it is this: There's a huge difference between what is the best, and what are our "favorites." In our own lists, there were three crossovers: Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, and Safety Not Guaranteed . None of those were nominated for Best Picture by the Academy this year. In fact, looking at the 2012 nominees for Best Picture, there are exactly two I'd watch a second time: Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained, although I'm sure there are many who'd also give Les Mis a second viewing.

The others? Great films, but none of them will be occupying space on my DVD shelf. It's probably why most of them won't be lasting movies, either. To truly survive the ages, a film needs to be rewatched, shared with others, passed down to our new generations. I think The Hurt Locker is a brilliant film, but I'm not going to watch it again with friends or family, and I'm certainly not going to watch it on a Saturday night with the kids now or in ten years. Most Oscar films are watched because they're Oscar films: People feel obligated to see what all the fuss is about, and when they're over, we often sit in stunned silence, nod our heads with approval, commend the actors on their brilliant performances, and then we watch Fight Club or The Princess Bride again.

Still: I don't care what people say: The Oscars matter. They matter because there's money involved; they matter because they generate millions of news headlines; they matter because the horse race can be entertaining; and they matter because they're often the only reason many people will even see the films being nominated. Whether they're an accurate representation of what's best is anybody's guess, but what is for certain is that they're rarely an accurate representation of what people will be watching five, ten or 30 years from now.

Look: The movie we best remember from 1983 is Return of the Jedi. In 1984, that title belongs to Ghostbusters and Temple of Doom. In 1985, it was Back to the Future. 1986: Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Stand By Me. In 1987 it was Dirty Dancing. In 1988, it was Big and Die Hard. Those are the movies from those years that will be watched and rewatched, that will be fondly remembered, that will be shared with future generations. How many Best Picture nominations do they have combined? Zero (there's a couple of screenplay nominations, one acting nod, and a lot of technical nominations among them). But ask someone under 30 if they've ever seen A Passage to India or Terms of Endearment or Amadeus, and you're more likely than not to get a blank stare.

All of which is to say: Best doesn't mean favorite, and best certainly doesn't mean classic. There's a pretty good chance that audiences will trickle out and see the films that are nominated, and even more may run out and see the Best Picture winner (unless it's Amour), but chances are, most of the nominated films will rarely be spoken of again. We'll be too busy watching The Avengers and Pitch Perfect to give Beasts of the Southern Wild another look.

Below, I've taken the liberty of running down the Best Picture nominations since 2005. Check them out. How many have you seen a second time? Of the nearly 50 films, I've seen about 20 percent of them a second time. And maybe three or four of them might be watched a third time in the future.

2005

Crash
Brokeback Mountain
Capote
Good Night, and Good Luck
Munich

2006

The Departed
Babel
Letters to Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

2007

No Country for Old Men
Juno
There Will Be Blood
Michael Clayton
Atonement

2008

Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader

2009

The Hurt Locker
Avatar
The Blindside
District 9
An Education
Inglorious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

2010

The King's Speech
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are Alright
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

2011

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
Tree of Life
War Horse



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Frankly

    I would name 2007 the most re-watchable year on this list.

  • Archie Leach

    Hey I can ALWAYS rewatch Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Wil Be Blood".

    "I... drink... your... milkshake!" "I drink it up!"

    Or "District 9"? Completely rewatchable!

  • Three_nineteen

    I don't watch a lot of dramas multiple times, so until The Academy starts viewing comedies as worthy of nomination, not many Best Picture nominees will be on my rewatch list.

  • KatSings

    Apparently, I've already rewatched about 24% of them. Of that list, I've seen 68% of them at least once. Then again, I also throw an Oscar party every year, so I like to try to see many of them, even if I wouldn't normally.

  • BWeaves

    Wow, I haven't seen any of those twice.

    Sadly, I own LOTRs and watch it regularly. I just saw The Hobbit (in 2D) and I have no desire to ever see it again. It left me wanting less. I originally thought I'd see it in 2D and then go back and see it in 3D, but I just don't care now that I've seen it once.

    Now that I think of it, The Hobbit might be one of the few movies I actually watch on network TV, on the hopes that they cut out a lot of the bloat.

  • Actually, I love watching the 'best' films again. I honestly think that so much really good film-making gets better on a second viewing, I just appreciate it more. Also I would point out that the 'best' ones I appreciate a lot more than the 'favourites' even if I only watch them once. It's why yeah I'll watch films like the avengers a lot but it'll never be one of my favourites. It's an experience, an enjoyable roller-coaster of a film but having watched it a second time it just doesn't hold up.

  • Kailan_Sunshine

    I'm 23, and 'Amadeus' is one of my favorite movies

  • Atoz15

    I can't wait to rewatch the shit out of 'Argo'

    Aaand I'm 25 and 'terms of endearment' is one of my all time favs

  • "We’ll be too busy watching The Avengers and Pitch Perfect to give Beasts of the Southern Wild another look."

    Or we'll be watching them all on DVD because Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of the best fantasy films to come out since Pan's Labyrinth and should appeal to the same kind of crowd. Potatoes, tomatoes.

    As for your question, I've seen 35 of the 50 nominees twice; I've seen them all at least once; I saw most in theaters. I like film. I don't think a challenging film is only worth one viewing and I don't think a simpler story with lots of box office appeal means I have any reason to dig back in a second time.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Damn outside of The Departed, there hasn't been a truly classic Best Picture winner in over half a decade.

  • Pookie

    Rowles, I’m going to have to disagree with your picks. I think “Capote” will win in 2005, “Babel” in 2006, I think “Juno” will edge out “Michael Clayton” in 07. “Milk” is a sure bet in 08. I’ll go with your picks in 09 and 10 and 2011 is a complete tossup.

  • That's a fun exercise. I think I'd need to go back a few more years to find more favorites, but of the movies listed there's only two that I'd consider personal favorites:

    1. Brokeback Mountain
    2. Up

    And...wow, I thought there'd be more than that. Sure, I really liked a lot of them, but I'd honestly not even consider buying them. On the other hand, I'm glad I watched them, I guess, though I'm not sure I'll remember more than the vague details of some of them in the future.

  • And because I love making lists:

    Of the 50 or so listed, I've watched 30 --the last year screwed me, as I only ever saw The Artist-- and watched 7 of them twice. And of the seven only two were worth more than a second watch. Heh.

  • Janice Dawley

    Funny. Of those films, "The Hurt Locker" is the one I've seen the most (3 times). The only others I've seen more than once are "Brokeback Mountain", "Good Night, and Good Luck", and "Avatar". And I haven't seen a damn thing from 2011.

  • DarthCorleone

    It's not a huge factor, because the fact remains that I shouldn't be so lazy that I'd rather sit on the couch and not change the channel than get up and put a DVD in the machine, but I think that post-release availability should be considered as well. It truly is a vicious, self-fulfilling circle that has been set up in terms of exposing people to what I consider to be truly quality films and creating the demand for what people want to watch.

    Just like they marketed the hell out of The Avengers to make certain that we all saw it at the theater, I'm sure that one day it's going to be put on repeat ad nauseam on the movie channels and then on TBS, TNT, etc. And when that happens, I'll probably sit through pieces of it (likely never from start to finish) a dozen times. Just taking a few examples above, I'd be thrilled to come across Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich, or Brokeback Mountain during my channel-surfing so that I can watch them again (and, yes, though I enjoyed The Avengers, I'd rather watch any of those), but I don't remember coming across any of them there.

    I'd also say that sometimes we rewatch stuff because it's not particularly challenging or because it's a comfort food. Some films I respect so much that I want to give them my full attention, and with our increasingly fragmented media choices and new great things always around the corner, it's more and more difficult to make time for those repeat viewings.

  • Tinkerville

    This is a good distinction to make and I'll admit I'm definitely guilty of being one of those butthurt people who likes to gripe about entertaining movies being left out of the awards, mainly because I don't think "entertaining" and "great" are mutually exclusive like a lot of Academy voters seem to. Sometimes I wish there could be a little more of a balance between the "awards movies" and the ones made for mass audiences since a movie can be great and still entertain the shit out of millions of people if done correctly. LOTR: The Return of the King comes to mind as one of the few that actually broke through that barrier.

  • poopnado

    Ugh, I forgot that Crash won. I hate everybody now.

  • Lee

    I second that 'ugh!' Travesty that will always be with us.

  • E-Money

    Last year's omissions may have been terrible (particularly 50/50) but Hugo and Midnight in Paris are two of my all time favorite movies and I'd watch them over and over. So much charm. And to see them get quiet a few noms and even a few wins was terrific.

  • zomgmouse

    But in Oscar terms, "Best" almost never means best either...

  • Cree83

    This is an issue I really should keep in mind BEFORE I spend money on DVDs like Man Bites Dog and Amarcord. Yeah, I have bachelors and masters degrees in Film Studies and my tastes can be a little pretentious, but I don't think I've popped any of those DVDs in a second time. Meanwhile I somehow have TWO copies of Ghostbusters.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I SAW AMADEUS!

    oh, under 30. Gotcha.

  • raeraefred (under 30: check!)

    to paraphrase the film, 'One reads such comments, and what can one say but... "Salieri." '

  • jessllama

    I love Amadeus and The Kings Speech. I've watched both of them several times, but you're right. My favorite movies are nothing that the Oscars would ever even nominate for "best" anything.

  • AudioSuede

    I'm still fuming over The King's Speech. It was maybe the eighth best movie on the nominations list that year. But it was certainly a cute movie, and I could see watching it a few times.

  • Zirza

    Ehn. Firth. *shrugs* Whatcha gonna do?

  • jessllama

    Absolutely! Cute is a good description of The King's Speech. Well cast, well acted, interesting story line (I'm a sucker for the Royals), true(ish) story, yes - all true. Better than Inception or Toy Story 3? Nope.

  • AudioSuede

    I definitely appreciate the distinction between the best and the "favorites." I have friends who'll say things like "Skyfall was the best movie of the year! I saw it three times!" And all I can say is, "Yeah, it was a lot of fun, and I saw it twice in theaters, and I'll watch it again when it's on DVD probably, but no way did it have as much impact on me as Beasts of the Southern Wild or Django Unchained or Argo."

    Of those nominees listed above, I've seen the following more than once:

    Brokeback Mountain (love it, own it), Good Night and Good Luck (screened it a couple times for journalism classes), The Departed (a perfect example of a "best" movie that's also a "favorite."), Little Miss Sunshine, No Country for Old Men, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton (2007 was so awesome), Milk, Inglorious Basterds, The Fighter, Inception, The Social Network, Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball.

    So many of those movies I re-watched to confirm that I liked them as much as I did the first time, though several (like Juno and Midnight in Paris) were nominated as much because they were a fun diversion from the high-minded films they were nominated with as they were because they were great movies.

    All of which is to say: I'm better than other people because I watch Michael Clayton a lot.

  • Zirza

    I just rewatched The Departed the other day and I agree - it's easy enough to get into, it's an absolute nailbiter, the script is decent and the acting is great.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Michael Clayton is a top 10 movie of the decade.

  • ElvisCostelegram

    I watch a movie a second time to understand the choices the filmmakers made. I have no interest in doing that with Pitch Perfect or the Avengers. They were ok-to-good movies. I enjoyed myself while I was watching. But as soon as they were over I stopped thinking about them.

    I've seen Lincoln twice. And I'll see it again. Django twice, and I'll see it again. I'd like to see Argo and Zero Dark Thirty again. Beasts, Silver Linings, etc.

    Maybe the nominees weren't perfect this year. I would've liked to see Moonrise Kingdom, surely. But they were sooo much better than last year's/ No one gave any consideration to Drive, 50/50, or Win/Win. But somehow War Horse and Extremely Loud were nominated for Best Picture, and The Artist won??

  • Fredo

    War Horse = Spielberg. (This year's Lincoln).

    Extremely Loud = Tom Hanks and 9/11.

    The Artist = The "magic of movies"

  • ElvisCostelegram

    Yeah but Lincoln is Good. And War Horse was not.

  • AudioSuede

    With you 100%. Last year was a joke. The Artist was fine enough, but I would have taken any of the three films you listed any day over The Artist. And I also love watching movies to over-analyze them.

    You have to be of a certain kind of disposition to watch every different commentary track and behind-the-scenes feature on the special edition of The Social Network in one day at the age of 23. I am of that disposition.

    /reference

  • Mrs. Julien

    CHARLIE, YOU FUCKING BITCH, LET'S WORK IT OUT!

  • So the only reason the Oscars matter is because people think they matter? Perhaps if the US had a less business-orientated film culture we wouldn't have to suffer through the same farce every year.

  • Untamed

    The Academy began as a way for the industry to improve the industry's image and consolidate its might. The Awards followed to add momentum by celebrating films and actors, directors, and other production team members who produce quality film making. It's evolved into a television show whose main goal is to entertain as well as a way to show the affects of peddling influence. And I agree, the only reason they count is because people think they count.

  • Jae

    If the US film culture was less business-oriented, a great lot of the movies people here list as their favourites wouldn't have gotten made.

    Yes, you can indeed blame the Oscars for being commercialy-oriented. You can totally do that when "Avatar" gets the Best Picture nom.

    But while whining about mega-sucsessful blockbusters like "The Avengers" or either of the "Dark Knights" being snubbed? Sorry, no.

  • ElvisCostelegram

    The Oscars matter because they expose people to certain films. Because a movie is nominated more people will watch it, and that's often the goal of a filmmaker. I think voters did a pretty decent job this year for the most part. It's a little hard to call it a farce -- especially since ticket sales for a movie like Amour don't exactly entering the realm of big business.

  • "Because a movie is nominated more people will watch it"
    That's kind of the problem I have. And because a movie has more marketing money behind it it's more likely to be nominated (Silver Linings Playbook, although I do like that film). By farce I meant more all the commentary surrounding it - I know so many people complaining at length about how dumb the Oscars are for this or that omission Why not share and discuss the films you feel passionate about regardless of their awards potential?

  • Fredo

    12 in total of that list of 50. And I love Amadeus.

  • Lee

    Me tooooo! My brother and I watched that film over and over when we were teenies!

  • AudioSuede

    He said that about Amadeus and I was like, "Hold up, you don't watch Amadeus whenever that shit's on TV?"

    Because I can't not watch that movie when it's on. It's a compulsion.

  • Zirza

    Me too. And I'm under thirty last time I checked.

  • Fredo

    and who doesn't love to throw in a Salieri comparison at someone?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Hell, Amadeus even was referenced in Last Action Hero.

  • AudioSuede

    And my favorite episode of 30 Rock!

  • theotherone

    The Avengers was neither the best (probably one of the worst films of 2012) nor a favorite.

    Looper on the other hand was the best and is my favorite movie of 2012.

  • BAM

    I'm with you on Looper, but Avengers was not nearly that bad. Mediocre? Maybe, but not one of the worst.

  • theotherone

    Sorry, I know Pajiba is Jonestown for Whedon fans and speaking ill of him or his work is frowned but the Avengers was hugely over rated and NOT certainly by any means good.

  • John G.

    I didn't really like it, but that's because I don't really like superhero movies, or superhero stories, or superhero logic. People bouncing around and shooting rays of various sorts from their eyes and hands is just boring to me. The Avengers really hits me on this count, since it has people with bows and arrows fighting gods.

    Just because someone liked The Avengers it doesn't mean that they're a Whedon-maniac, and just because you didn't, it doesn't make you a genius.

  • NateMan

    It's the difference between 'literature' and a good book. You can give me whatever hoity-toity reasoning is necessary to make a book like 'Beloved' mean something, but I'm not reading that shit without a gun to my head. Or The Help. Or whatever Franzen's latest novel is. Give me a Pratchett, or a good Jordan, or something similar any day. The writing might not be as deep and meaningful (though any asshat who says Pratchett doesn't have as much to say and better is a fool), but by Gods it's a better read.

  • AudioSuede

    Beloved blew my mind when I read it for an Intro to Lit course, but you're right that I'll never go back and read it again. It collects dust on my "Good Literature Show Off To Friends" shelf, while I keep stuff like Harry Potter on my "Fuck You I Still Read This" shelf (and my wife keeps all her Murder, She Wrote books on her "No One Is Allowed to See This Who Is Not Tied Into The Bondage of Marriage With The Owner of This Shelf" shelf. We have a lot of shelves).

  • NateMan

    All I can remember about Beloved is the slaves who would have calves suck their peens. It's not something I ever want to touch again. And if you don't want to reread it, and it doesn't resonate with you, I don't understand what makes it 'better' than popular fiction, ya know?

  • AudioSuede

    "Better" and "Worse" are limiting and subjective terms. What I will say is that Beloved, in particular, is staggering in its form and meticulous in its craft. It's one of those novels that really challenges the literary medium and lets the form of the language tell the story as much as the words themselves, and that makes it endlessly open for study and interpretation and meaning. It's historically relevant, artistically bold, extraordinarily laborous, and emotionally trying.

    I was moved by it, personally, but it's the same for me as the movie Synecdoche, New York : It twisted my mind and made me look at the world with fresh eyes, and it ripped my heart apart and left me curled up in a ball, and I'll never, ever go back to it, because it's simply too hard.

  • John W

    In 2008 the Dark Knight was left out.

    Now I haven't seen Slumdog or The Reader yet, but you can't tell me Benjamin Buttons, Frost/Nixon or Milk was a better movie than DK. No way.

  • AudioSuede

    I would have to disagree with you on Milk. I thought that was the best movie of 2008 then, and I still think it now.

  • Shadrach

    I believe that miss was a big reason for expanding the category to (up to) 10 nominees the next year.

  • John W

    Go back one more year to 1982

    The winner that year was Chariots of Fire.

    One of the movies it beat out? Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    Nuff said.

  • Carlito

    Chariots and Raiders were 1981. 1982 was Gandhi beating out E.T with the movie of the year clearly being Porky's.

  • John W

    Your right I meant the Academy awards held in 1982 which would have been for the films released in 81.

  • Enrique del Castillo

    Of all those movies, the one I've seen the most is Inglorious Basterds, I love that movie (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, The Departed and Inception would be the runner ups; Up would be there as well, but I'd rather not cry like a baby again)

  • JT

    there are definitely far more rewatchables once the category opened up to a possible 10 nominees. before that, i'd only rewatch little miss sunshine and slumdog millionaire. after, there's up, district 9, inglourious basterds, the fighter, toy story 3, true grit, and the help. it averages out to 20% probably, but the average is much lower before the category widened to allow for some popular favorites.

  • TS

    There are probably 5 or less I'd watch again.

    In 2009 why didn't Up win?! Re-watched at Christmas and I basically cried for the entire thing.

  • Wembley

    Of the movies listed, I've seen one, True Grit.

  • Wembley

    Oops! Saw Moneyball as well. Both on DVD. Huh. I guess I just see popcorn flicks...but I never buy popcorn. spooky.

  • Claus

    Oh thank God, I thought I was the only unwashed Philistine here. I've seen nine of these, and one (Toy Story 3) multiple times. Of course, I do have 2 kids...

    Note: I love movies. Just hate watching them by myself, so I don't get to see nearly as many as I'd like.

  • jessllama

    I've only seen a small handful of the ones listed here (I'm entirely too lazy to go back and count). There are a few more that I want to see but I'm not a big movie person really.

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