'Winter's Bone': The Last of the Ten Best Picture Nods

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There was a time when just about every man, woman, and child in America could see all the best picture Oscar nominees before the big night; a time when the number of nominees was so manageable that you could see one movie a week between the nominations announcement and the awards show and still see them all. More innocent times, more innocent days, I remember them well. It’s hard not to. It was only two years ago. But then 2010 came along and changed everything. Or, more accurately, changed everything back.

You see, last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided that, after sixty six years of nominating five movies for best picture, they would go back to their tradition (that ended after 1944) of nominating ten movies for best picture.

Some people saw it as a way to honor more films. Some saw it as a conspiracy with the movie companies to increase ticket sales. I took it as a challenge; a challenge, which, admittedly, I failed at last year. But this year, I did things a little differently. I saw more movies than ever, and I saw any movie that had the slightest bit of award buzz…even if that award was a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award (damn you, “Marmaduke”).

Thus, by the time the Oscar nods were announced two weeks ago, I’d seen all but one best picture nod: the Ozark crystal meth version of “True Grit”:  “Winter’s Bone” (which, in addition to best picture, is nominated for best lead actress Jennifer Lawrence and best supporting actor John Hawkes).

I finally saw it this weekend, and I have to agree with the Academy: it really is a gem.

That being said, if you’re an Oscar-watcher who’s short on time, I don’t think you have to see it. Here’s why: it won’t win. Yes, the suspense is high and the acting is natural and the cinematography is beautiful. But it will. Not. Win.

And we all know the reason why: because, even though the Academy has thrown a bone to ten films, they’re really only nominating three to five for best picture, and we all know that those three to five do not include “Winter’s Bone” (much less “Toy Story 3” or “Inception”). The nominees are movies that win SAGs and Golden Globes…not movies that win the audience award at Telluride. In short, unless you have something akin to obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to the Oscars (as I do), you’ll be fine skipping “Winter’s Bone” (and you’ll keep up just fine on Oscar night if you just see “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” and maybe, “True Grit”).

But if you just want to see a good movie, check it out. I think you’ll be impressed.