Best Picture Oscar: Does the Most Feel-Good Movie Always Win?
This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
From the very first scene of Parisian police finding a woman’s dead body, you know it’s not going to end well. The only thing that saves viewers from complete despair are the glimpses of the loving bond shared by the glorious Emmanuelle Riva and magnificent Jean-Louis Trintignant.
12% Zero Dark Thirty
Jessica Chastain’s Maya perseveres through torture and terrorist attacks in her obsessive manhunt -- but the grim killing of Osama bin Laden is not presented as a triumphant moment. And she’s left alone, exhausted and deflated, a tear running down her check.
44% Django Unchained
Jamie Foxx’s Django wins freedom for both himself and his wife, but his ally Christoph Waltz dies in all the Armageddon-like destruction. And there’s no shaking off those brutal images of slavery that haunt the movie.
47% Beasts of the Southern Wild
The Bathtub remains threatened by those inexorably rising waters. And Quvenzhane Wallis’ Hushpuppy, who barely knows her momma, witnesses the passing of her loving daddy, Wink. But the score is so uplifting, and Hushpuppy such a resilient presence, the movie ends on a magical and exhilarating note.
50% Les Miserables
It’s a musical massacre: Fantine, Eponine, Javert, Valjean and even that cute little urchin boy all meet their maker. But young lovers Cosette and Marius ultimately do find themselves in each other’s arms, rewriting history, and then everybody reassembles on the barricade for a final, triumphant chorus. To cap it all off, the movie’s fans, weeping away, thoroughly enjoy a good, therapeutic cry.
62% Life of Pi
Suraj Sharma’s Pi is a born survivor who lives to tell his astounding tale of being adrift at sea with no company but the fearsome tiger Richard Parker. The 3D imagery of the luminescent ocean is quite intoxicating, too. Still, there is something unnerving in the final revelation that his story might not be quite what it appears to be.
Since there’s no rewriting history, Daniel Day-Lewis’ title character doesn’t get to savor his victory. But right before his untimely end, he masterminds the abolition of slavery — cue cheers in the congressional gallery! — as the film becomes an object lesson on how, at their best, politicians can come together to do the right thing.
Truth that’s almost stranger than fiction: A CIA operative and a couple of Hollywood producers join forces for the successful rescue of six American hostages. The amped-up suspense leads to a thrilling escape. And everyone involved, even former President Carter, takes a celebratory bow.
100% Silver Linings Playbook
The happiest of endings! Somewhat damaged boy gets equally damaged girl. The dance contest goes their way. The Eagles beat the Cowboys. And as the family gathers round, everybody smiles and laughs and hugs.