Rating the Oscar Films

Not counting documentaries and the foreign film category, 37 feature films were nominated at the 84th Academy Awards. I saw 28 of them. Here they are, divided into four categories, and placed in the correct order. Best to worst. Simple as that.



I wish I had seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy last year. It would have made it to the top of my 2011 list. Such a cool, dense, incredibly classy film. And so quiet. You might say its silence is deafening. Speaking of silence, how could you not absolutely adore The Artist? Such a sweet, gentle and perfect film. Sequels get a bad rep, but there was a good story left to tell in Kung Fu Panda 2, and I found the film absolutely charming.

Margin Call was a big surprise. A taut, yet simple drama, with a killer cast, made by a first time director. Even more surprising was that fact that Roland Emmerich had a serious film in him, but Anonymous was a fascinating story, it made for a stunning film, and sent me home actually thinking about stuff. Never mind that softy Hawaii film, The Ides of March was the real George Clooney film of the year. A fabulous thriller that avoided all the pitfalls of similar political dramas.

I had no expectations for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I found the film surprisingly touching and effective. Don't know why I doubted it, because director Stephen Daldry hasn't put a foot wrong yet. And finally, there's The Muppets. An absolutely delightful and charming love letter to a lovable bunch of characters we never really forgot.

1) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
2) The Artist
3) Kung Fu Panda 2
4) Margin Call
5) Anonymous
6) The Ides of March
7) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
8) The Muppets



Real Steel is a fairly silly film, but it does what it does very well. Could have gone either way, but it got me, and the effects were spectacular. My only problem with Jane Eyre is lead actress Mia Wasikowska, but everything else in the film actually worked. It was moody, gorgeous, and heartbreaking.

Rise of Planet of the Apes was the sequel/prequel nobody wanted, and we were all stunned when it turned out to be quite good. We still didn't need it, but it turned out alright. We didn't need Transformers 3 either, but getting past that, it turned out to be fair bit better than the silly second film, but I actually missed Megan Fox. Go figure! We end this category with yet another sequel. Harry Potter 7.2 did have its moments, but didn't quite deliver the emotional payoff required after EIGHT FREAKING FILMS.

9) Real Steel
10) Jane Eyre
11) Rise of Planet of the Apes
12) Transformers: Dark of the Moon
13) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2



I love the mood of Drive, but the story was overly familiar and nowhere near as deep as director Nicolas Winding Refn evidently thought. Hugo is a far superior film. Well, half of it is. Unfortunately the first hour is dull and superfluous, which kind of ruined the perfect film magic of the second part.

I don't care about sports. Luckily Moneyball was more about how the math genius can beat the jock at his own game with simple numbers. That part I loved. Too bad it was about baseball. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo looks the part, but it's inferior to the original Swedish version in every way. I expected more from David Fincher.

I wish I loved Midnight in Paris more, but it was just too simple and obvious for my taste, and Owen Wilson certainly didn't help. My Week with Marilyn was strange. A very light film, close to comedy in some scenes, with a central performance from Michelle Williams who appears to act in a different film. And what the hell is wrong with Kenneth Branagh's face?

A Separation provided an interesting glimpse of a very closed world. Too bad it came across as a trite reality show crime drama, without any real emotional impact. Oh, and there's barely any mention of any separation. And finally Rango. Another film I really wanted to like. I just didn't care, and I hated the visuals.

14) Drive
15) Hugo
16) Moneyball
17) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
18) Midnight in Paris
19) My Week with Marilyn
20) A Separation
21) Rango



A Cat in Paris was sweet, but it was barely a movie, much less an Academy Award worthy one. The Help is so politically correct it'll make you vomit. On top of that it's just a bad film. Equally unbearable is The Adventures of Tintin, and those mo-cap dead faces are just beyond bad. What the hell were they thinking? The Descendants is just a big, dull dud.

War Horse was predictable Oscar-begging material of the kind Spielberg is too good for. Dipped in sugar with sugar on top, and you can basically write the entire story just by looking at the poster. Worst Spielberg film ever? I understand and respect why people like The Tree of Life. To me, it's not a film. I found it to be an utter bore.

But the worst, the absolute worst film, without any competition, was the stupefyingly politically incorrect, insincere and inappropriate whitewashing nightmare that is The Iron Lady. Makes Mamma Mia look like a quality film.

22) A Cat in Paris
23) The Help
24) The Adventures of Tintin
25) The Descendants
26) War Horse
27) The Tree of Life
28) The Iron Lady



I missed nine films this year, some of them because I just couldn't care any less. They were: Albert Nobbs, Beginners, A Better Life, Bridesmaids, Chico & Rita, Puss in Boots, Rio, W.E. and Warrior . The only one I plan to catch up on is Beginners.

As always, some of the most popular films turned out to be worthless, while a few of the really criticized ones were actually pretty damn good. That's just the way it goes. It wouldn't be Oscar if they were all good and the best ones won, right?


The problem with the short film categories


You'll recall that a while back I posted my ideas about how the Academy Awards could be improved (How can we save the Oscars?). I'm glad to see at least one of my suggestions were taken to heart (Billy's back!), but as we're approaching the 84th award show, I'd like to take the opportunity to reiterate one of my original pet peeves. It's about the short films.


The Definition

First, let's define what we're talking about here. There are three short film categories:

  • Best Live-Action Short
  • Best Animated Short
  • Best Documentary Short

A short is defined as a film, with a running time of 40 minutes or less.

To qualify for the awards a movie must adhere to a few general rules: They can't be shown on TV first, they can't be edited versions of longer projects, and so on, basically the same rules all the feature films must follow.

A Live-Action or Animated short is eligible, if one of these conditions are met:

a) The film has a 3-day paid public exhibition i LA.
b) The film has won an award at a film festival (from a specific list).
c) If it's a student film it can qualify by winning in the Student Academy Awards competition.

For documentaries only one rule applies:

a) The film must have a 7-day commercial run in a theater in LA or Manhattan.

These are the basic rules the shorts must follow.

The Purpose

To the uninitiated it might seem that a short film is merely that. A short film. A film that's short and not long. The reality is, though, that short films and feature films have little in common.

No one watches short films and no one cares. They're rarely shown on TV or at the cinema, the newspapers and film magazines don't cover them, and only a fraction are released on DVD, so it's fair to ask the question... Why are they made?

Well, it's simple, really. They are made, to earn the filmmakers the right to make feature films. That's it. They are the means to an end.

The Quality

I'll admit I don't watch many short films. On the rare occasion, when I get a chance to watch one of the Academy Award nominated ones, I'm often appalled at how bad they are. There are some good ones among them, even a few brilliants ones, I dare say, but by and large these films are shit.

Every year when the nominations are announced I look at each of the short categories and ask (often out loud), are these REALLY the five best shorts films of the year? The best of the best? No. Hell no. Unequivocally no!

I guess the same critique could be leveled at the feature film categories. Depending on your personal preferences they rarely represent the best of the best either, but at least the feature film choices always make sense, when you know the Academy's taste.

When it comes to the shorts, the choices seem erratic, borderline insane. This is especially true for the animated shorts, some of which are so defiantly bad, you'd be forgiven for suspecting that the Academy members are actually trying to sabotage the category, so it'll go away.

The Selection

The big problem is the way these films are selected. A feature film can quality by being shown in LA for a week for a paying audience. That's seems simple and fair.

Like I explained earlier, shorts can qualify in different ways. If you have the right connections, and an amenable theater owner, you can qualify simply by paying to have your film shown. A film can also qualify on the strengths of its artistic merits, by winning an award. So the message is, either make a good film, or buy your way in. That's not a level playing field!

I don't know what goes on, when the short film committee selects the nominated films. In light of the utterly incomprehensible final choices, I would not presume to guess what you have to do to get through the eye of that needle, but it must be illegal in at least 40 states.

Once the nominees are found, the winner is selected by only a few hundred people. Those who bother to show up at an official Academy screening to see the films in an actual theatrical setting - you can't sit at home and watch screeners if you want to be a part of this.

The shorts are nominated side by side with the feature films, but they are not treated equally in any way. It's bad enough that you allow feature films to get a nomination with a limited one week run in LA, but some shorts can be nominated, hell even win, without ever being seen by a single member of the general public.

This is a muddled scene. It's not transparent, it's not fair, and it should not be a part of the Academy Awards.



Hundreds of interesting shorts are produced each year. Some are never really released, some are shown on TV, or as part of a short film festival, some of them go straight to YouTube.

It's a big and wondrous world out there, millions of stories and fascinating ideas make their way to short films every year, but in the hands of the Academy, shorts are reduced to a sticky unidentifiable substance stuck under your shoe. We use the short categories for pee break, when we watch the show, for God's sake! And when it's all over we never hear from them again, and we can barely remember the titles the next day.

The shorts deserved to be treated with respect, to have their own space, and frankly the further away from the Academy Awards they are, the better off they'll be. I used to think that there was a way to fix this, but I've changed my mind. So, Dear Academy, please drop all three short film categories from the show.

You'll be happier, they'll be happier, and the audience will never know the difference.


The images are from the following shorts: Presto (2008), Królik po berlinsku (Rabbit in Berlin) (2009), Logorama (2009), Grisen (2009) and Ryan (2004).