Now that “Argo” has won best picture, we know who’s No. 1 this awards season. But what about the rest?
With the confetti having fallen Sunday on this year’s Oscars, here’s a final 2012-13 awards-season film top 40.
To be clear, this isn’t an artistic ranking of the films, but rather of how rewarding their journey through kudo country was (with preseason expectations ever-so-gently factored in). Only scripted features were considered.
And so, to the rankings …
Like a no-hit pitcher who walks seven, it was a wild but otherwise incredibly fulfilling ride for this year’s Oscar best picture champion. Even though it won only three Oscars overall and director Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated by the Academy, “Argo” pitched a memorable awards game, sweeping top film prizes from the Oscars, BAFTA, Golden Globes (in drama), Directors Guild, Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild.
2) “Life of Pi”
The beautiful also-ran best picture came away with the director prize for Ang Lee and won more Oscars than any other film, establishing its group effort as one of excellence.
3) “Django Unchained”
No one really knew what awards would come when “Django” became the final Oscar hopeful to present itself onscreen. It fared quite well, with two major Oscars in supporting actor (Christoph Waltz) and original screenplay (Quentin Tarantino) off four nominations, in addition to wins for Tarantino and Waltz at BAFTA and the Golden Globes.
4) “Les Miserables”
Did you hear the people vote? What had been something of a disappointing awards season was salvaged on Oscar night when Tom Hooper’s film tied “Argo” for second place in Oscars. And that wasn’t all: Four wins at BAFTA and three at the Golden Globes (including top musical/comedy) aren’t exactly chopped liver.
Keep your sunny side up, Steven. Mr. Spielberg made a movie about the legendary present that will live long after any agony of defeat from this year’s Oscars. Still, it was shocking how quickly the film went from the catbird seat of an Academy-high 12 Oscar nominations (including picture, director, screenplay and three in acting) to being put on its heels by the “Argo” surge, landing only two Oscars in all.
6) “Silver Linings Playbook”
The first film in three decades to earn Oscar nominations in all four acting categories, plus nods for picture, editing and for David O. Russell in writing and directing, “Silver Linings” made some noise, even if it only won one Oscar. It was also the big fish in the pond that was the Indie Spirit Awards. It’s hard to say what the film will be remembered more for: its bravado combination of romance and mental illness, or for launching Jennifer Lawrence into the stratosphere.
7) “Zero Dark Thirty”
The what-might-have-been award goes to “Zero Dark Thirty,” whose awards season will be forever colored by a controversy that for at least a month eclipsed any discussion of its critical merits. With five nominations including picture, lead actress and original screenplay, it was hardly a lost winter, but the promise of its early spree among critics groups evaporated like water in Death Valley. Its only Oscar on Sunday was a shared prize for sound editing.
Michael Haneke’s somber pic broke out of the foreign-language film suburb to also earn big-city Oscar nominations in picture, director, screenplay and lead actress. As a result, it figures to be one of the most-remembered foreign-language Oscar-winners for quite some time.
9) “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Hushpuppy hushed the naysayers, as “Beasts” beasted Oscar nominations in picture, director, lead actress and screenplay. Quvenzhane Wallis, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin helped give the Academy’s kudofest a youthful glow.
Though it didn’t break through to become the first Bond movie nominated for picture or acting, five Oscar nominations and the first two Oscar wins for the Bond franchise in 47 years (not to mention a BAFTA prize for top British film) made this the franchise’s top Oscar overachiever. Would this have been the 10th best picture nominee if that had remained the magic number?
11) “The Master”
Of the summertime best picture picks that ultimately fell short, “The Master” ended up an acting showcase as far as voters were concerned — and next to “Skyfall” is arguably the film that would have rounded out an Academy top 10. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman each earned BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar noms, while Hoffman added a SAG nod as well. However, it was certainly thought before winter arrived that writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson might fare better, not to mention such pros as Mihai Malaimare Jr. in cinematography and Jonny Greenwood for score.
It didn’t get an Oscar nomination for best picture or anything below the line, but “Flight” still flew high with noms for lead actor Denzel Washington (also recognized at the Globes and SAGs) and for John Gatins’ original screenplay.
13) “Anna Karenina”
The Joe Wright pic became something of a poster child for the virtues and perils of risktaking thanks to its highly conceptual approach to the legendary Tolstoy work. Hopes for major awards in directing, screenplay and acting faded slowly but surely, yet it still remained potent below-the-line with four Oscar noms and a victory.
14) “The Sessions”
Some inner-circle lead actor candidate had to be left out of the Oscars, and it was John Hawkes who drew the short straw, leaving fellow SAG, Indie Spirit and Golden Globe nominee Helen Hunt as the film’s only Oscar finalist. Writer-director Ben Lewin also might have had the right to expect more recognition than he got post-Sundance for this close-but-no-cigar awards contender. Hawkes and Hunt did win at the Spirits, however.
15) “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Directed by “Shakespeare in Love” helmer John Madden, the cast for “Best Exotic” seemed to play into the Academy’s wheelhouse. Buoyed by a SAG ensemble nomination plus an individual nod for Maggie Smith (plus noms to the film and Judi Dench at the Golden Globes), the film wasn’t definitively ruled out of the best picture picture until January. But it came up empty with the Academy and for that matter, polled only one nom from BAFTA.
16) “Moonrise Kingdom”
The combination of Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola produced a steady player in the writing competition from start to Oscar-nominated finish. Though acting noms — even for its great cast — were something of a longshot, more recognition might have been expected for the film’s striking visual look. “Moonrise” did have five Indie Spirit noms, including supporting actor for Bruce Willis, director for Anderson and feature – but no wins there, either.
One of the big fall headlines was the sudden entry of “Hitchcock” into the awards race, with a ballyhooed Nov. 1 premiere at the AFI Fest signalling that Fox Searchlight believed it had a major player. But auds (and in particular, voters) weren’t particularly fired up by the film, ultimately targeting their affection to Helen Mirren (Golden Globe and SAG noms) and to its only Oscar nomination, makeup and hairstyling.
18) “The Impossible”
Much best picture contender talk accompanied the Toronto premiere of “The Impossible,” before it became clear that voters didn’t feel the film’s post-tsunami chapter lived up to its initial drama. With young Tom Holland competing in the lead actor slot, it wasn’t a surprise that acting nods (including an Oscar nom) landed only on Naomi Watts, but the final blow to “The Impossible” was its absence of below-the-line recognition.
19) “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Eliminated as a serious contender for above-the-line awards the moment it screened, “The Hobbit” nevertheless earned three Oscar noms.
Winning top animated feature honors at the Oscars more than took the sting out of losing the equivalent Producers Guild prize to “Wreck-It Ralph.” “Brave” also won at the Golden Globes.
21) “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
The “Huh? What?” movie of awards season, the charming if lightly regarded “Salmon” came out of nowhere to nab three Golden Globe nominations including one in musical/comedy — getting Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor some quality ceremony time — then vanished upstream just as quickly as it arrived.
22) “Wreck-It Ralph”
“I am not an Oscar winner, and that’s good. I will never be an Oscar winner, and that’s not bad. There is no one I would rather be than me.”
23) “The Deep Blue Sea”
A New York Film Critics Circle victory for lead actress Rachel Weisz resurrected the mostly forgotten film and might have contributed to her Golden Globes nomination, but when Weisz came up empty at the SAGs, it was “Sea” you later.
24) “Snow White and the Huntsman”
One of only 15 films to have more than one Oscar nomination, “Snow White” was tapped in costume design and production design.
25) “Rust and Bone”
Eliminated from the foreign-language film Oscar early on when France chose “The Intouchables,” the film still remained an awards player thanks to the standout performance of Marion Cotillard, nominated at BAFTA, SAG, Critics Choice and the Golden Globes. If there was a surprise omission in the Academy Awards’ lead actress nominations, it was probably her.
The awards story of “Arbitrage” mainly boiled down to whether the film would deliver Richard Gere his first Oscar nomination, though added depth came from the touting of Nicholas Jarecki’s original screenplay and notice of supporting work by Brit Marling and Nate Parker. In the end, Gere got a Golden Globes nom, but that was the film’s last kudo breath.
27) “Magic Mike”
A ton of recognition for Matthew McConaughey didn’t translate into any significant awards action outside the Indie Spirit win for the supporting actor, but the film stayed alive in the conversation well past its September exit from theaters.
Heavy campaigning for and by Jack Black helped the film to Indie Spirt noms for feature and male lead, and Shirley MacLaine added a Critics’ Choice Movie Awards nom. But the competition was too challenging for the Richard Linklater pic to go further.
Rian Johnson’s original screenplay got on a bit of a recognition roll, peaking with a WGA nomination, to become a de facto contender for an Oscar nomination it ultimately fell short of. The film was popular at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, earning five nominations, though four of them were in genre slots.
30) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Despite settling for little beyond its Writers Guild and Indie Spirit nominations for hyphenate Stephen Chbosky, “Perks” seemed to have a fairly strong presence in awards season and figures to have a longer legacy than some of the films above it on this list.
31) “Middle of Nowhere”
Though it did little outside of the Indie Spirits, “Middle of Nowhere” also won’t be forgotten. It notched four Indie Spirit noms, won the John Cassavettes Award for achievement in low-budget filmmaking and etched lead actress Emayatzy Corinealdi and writer-director Ava DuVernay permanently on discerning consciousnesses.
Won numerous critics groups honors leading up to its Oscar nomination, when its journey came to an abrupt halt.
Basically “ParaNorman” redux.
34) “The Paperboy”
Beset with shaky reviews, it was the biggest surprise this side of the “Yemen” when Nicole Kidman grabbed a supporting actress nomination at the SAGs, preparing awards pundits for her subsequent Golden Globes nom. Modest as it was, it was a better awards season than “The Paperboy” had reason to expect after its critical trouncing.
Somehow, Dustin Hoffman making his directorial debut didn’t resonate as an awards story, and interest in the estimable “Quartet” remained modest. Perhaps confusion with the similarly titled (and themed) “A Late Quartet” didn’t help, but the best kudo nod the film yielded was a Golden Globe nom for Maggie Smith.
36) “Hyde Park on Hudson”
Stumbled about as fast as any on-paper contender for major awards. Bill Murray hung tough the longest and was nominated for lead actor in a comedy or musical at the Golden Globes, but then “Hyde” went into hiding.
Miles apart in tone but similar to “Magic Mike” in awards journey, “Compliance” hung around in the kudo consciousness thanks to the extended appreciation given Ann Dowd’s performance — however much it was a lead jammed into a supporting slot. Unlike Matthew McConaughey of “Mike,” Dowd didn’t win at the Indie Spirits.
38) “The Intouchables”
Mostly well-received in the U.S. after breaking box office records in France, “The Intouchables” became a villain of sorts for some when it nosed out “Rust and Bone” for France’s spot in the foreign-language competition — then didn’t even break through to the final five at the Oscars. Still, in terms of Stateside critics honors for foreign-language films, it was ahead of all but “Amour.”
39) “Cloud Atlas”
Perhaps the film that took the hardest tumble from the highest ambition, the risktaking, unconventional “Cloud” drew no small amount of positive buzz out of Toronto before being overwhelmed by dissenters, ending up with one Golden Globe nom for score and nothing from the Oscars.
40) “The Dark Knight Rises”
If patterns held as many expected them to, the third chapter of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” saga would have aped the final “Lord of the Rings” film in surging to the top of this year’s Oscar charts — especially considering the commonly held belief that we largely owe Oscar’s expanded best picture field to the omission of “Dark Knight” No. 2. Whether it was derailed by the tragedy in Aurora, Colo. or whether it just fell too far outside the fancy of voters, “Dark Knight” came up empty on Oscar noms day (despite strong reviews) and mostly ignored elsewhere.