Chocolat (Lasse Halstrom, 2000), Seabiscuit (Gary Ross, 2003), Ray (Taylor Hackford, 2004), Crash (Paul Haggis, 2005), Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2006), Atonement (Joe Wright), The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008), The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009) and Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (Lee Daniels, 2009)
5. Seabiscuit (Gary Ross, 2003)
Seabiscuit looks great, and its nominations for cinematography, art direction and costumes are certainly deserved. But this feel-good tale of the spirit-lifting racehorse, Seabiscuit, which became a national success story during the Depression lacks dramatic flair, and fails to be engaging throughout the entirety of its lengthy running time. Some of the supporting performances are quite good, but in the lead, Tobey Maguire struggled.
Alternatives: City of God and Finding Nemo
4. The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)
Kate Winslet won her first Academy Award for lead actress here and it is a fine performance, though not her best in my opinion. This adaptation of the 1995 German novel by Bernhard Schlink is a moving story but Daldry's film drags in the latter half and achieves little dramatic impact. It's pretty forgettable considering the other nominees, and those not considered.
Alternatives: The Wrestler, WALL-E and In Bruges
3. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
I really liked the cinematography, the score and Saoirsre Ronan's performance (I wish she had stayed in the film longer). The first forty minutes are excellent, but the film completely falls apart once it leaves the Tallis estate. The beach sequence is an impressive technical feat, but feels very out-of-place. The story doesn't allow us to like any of the characters, and the romance between Robbie and Cecilia is so briefly examined that it feels barely believable. My interest quickly wavered. Atonement had no chance against No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood though.
Alternatives: Zodiac and Ratatouille
2. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (Lee Daniels, 2009)
Shoddy direction, poor performances (yes, even Mo'Nique), and just unpleasant imagery make this one of the most grueling film experiences of my life. If the Academy tends to stand clear of harrowing, confronting cinema (heavily favoring The King's Speech over Black Swan for example), what were they thinking with Precious? Last year was a pretty weak year, and the first time the Academy opened up ten slots, but I couldn't believe it's inclusion. It irked me even more when it beat out Up in the Air for adapted screenplay.
Alternatives: Fantastic Mr Fox, The Messenger, A Single Man and Where the Wild Things Are
1. The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009)
The Blind Side received just two nominations. For Best Picture, and for Sandra Bullock. Bullock's near-unfathomable victory in the Lead Actress category is certainly the best feature of the film, which feels like a soppy, well-funded midday movie. The script for this glossy, American Dream/coming-of-age/sporting triumph story is dire. Full of cheesy montages, annoying child actors and predictable obstacles, there is almost nothing original here at all.
Alternatives: Anything. You have to agree that Fantastic Mr Fox, The Messenger and A Single Man are all far superior to this film. How bout Star Trek, Moon...Zombieland. Anything!
What are some films nominated for Best Picture you question the inclusion of?