Oscars 2012: Is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the worst best picture nominee ever?


“Stephen Daldry’s post-9/11 drama is almost universally reviled, but the Academy has a history of nominating some dreadful films for the top prize, and often ignoring future classic. If there is to be a prize for the best picture at this year’s Oscars, then why not one for the worst? To make a great film is difficult and therefore worthy of honour. But to make a bad film that gulls the voters into thinking it’s great is no mean feat either. It may not be noble, but you have to admire the chutzpah.

The presence of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on this year’s Oscar shortlist stirs golden memories of the interlopers of old. Stephen Daldry’s candy-floss memorial to the events of 9/11 had the critics gagging. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw daubed it with a one-star review, dubbing it “extremely contrived and incredibly preposterous”. Danny Leigh, co-host of the BBC’s Film 2012, described the tale as a middlebrow cousin to The Human Centipede 2, while Peter Howell of the Toronto Star dismissed it as cynical Oscar bait where “the bait is poisoned by opportunism and feigned sensitivity”. Try as I might, I can find no one (pundits or punters) who genuinely believes that Extremely Loud should win the top award. Still there it is, somehow slipping under the velvet rope to gatecrash Sunday’s party.

Is Extremely Loud the worst film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar? Early evidence suggests that it is. Daldry’s film is currently saddled with a 45% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes reviews aggregator. This makes it the most critically reviled contender in recent memory, comfortably breaking the 62% record set, incidentally, by the same director with his hilarious Nazi-in-the-bath caper The Reader back in 2009.

But wait. We are advised to keep the champagne on ice and the polished turd in bubble-wrap, because Rotten Tomatoes extends back only so far as 1999, beyond which the water turns murky and the titles less familiar. Monsters loom out of the gloom; ghosts rattle their chains. The prehistory of the Academy is awash with duff decisions and snake-oil scams. And dotted here and there amid the wreckage are choices that risk making Extremely Loud smell almost rosy by comparison.

Was Ghost really nominated for the best picture Oscar? Incredible but true. So too, for that matter, was the god-awful Chocolat, in which Juliette Binoche plays simpering Willy Wonka to the denizens of small-town France, the insufferable Four Weddings and a Funeral, and 1991’s The Prince of Tides, which I recall, vaguely, as being a Barbra Streisand film about Barbra Streisand’s legs.

But dig further, dive deeper and other candidates emerge “for our consideration”. Driving Miss Daisy won the title in a year (1990) in which Do the Right Thing was not even shortlisted, while the irksome Gigi emerged victorious from a field that had been pruned in advance of both Vertigo and Touch of Evil. These days we remember Doctor Dolittle as a tragic bit of studio taxidermy: the film that leaked sawdust from its ears, almost bankrupt Fox and threw Hollywood into crisis. In 1967, however, it was deemed good enough to be bracketed alongside The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde.

If this trip down memory lane proves anything, however, it is that the Academy has a long and illustrious track record in idiocy. Confusion reigns and compromise rules. Looking back through the annals, I find that there is only one best picture shortlist I could confidently hold up as flawless (the 1976 vintage, when the nominees were One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws and Nashville). As for the rest, they offer an ongoing jumble of the good, the bad and the ugly. This is a world in which Mildred Pierce is nominally as fantastic as Anchors Aweigh; a competition that pits Goodfellas against Ghost and Awakenings, and where Brokeback Mountain loses out to Crash. Extremely Loud is not the worst, merely worst among equals. Daldry’s picture is shallow, meretricious and chancing its arm. I think of it as this year’s Chocolat: marginally worse than War Horse, slightly superior to Dolittle and altogether par for the Oscar course.”

 – The Guardian, 23 February 2012 at 20:00 GM



One Response to Oscars 2012: Is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the worst best picture nominee ever?

  1. Pingback: The Academy Award Nominees 2012: Best Picture & Actor/Actress in a Leading Role | dbmoviesblog

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