The Academy Award nominations are out and they're pretty much what you expected: The King's Speech, Black Swan, The Social Network, etc. This is the second year of the expanded ten movie Best Picture category. And as these things go, the ten nominees are not a bad indication of what stuck with people in a given year. The Oscars are also a very uncreative affair. You can almost slot every single Best Picture nominee, from this year and last, into a particular type. We've done just that, pitting all ten nominees from this year against their respective matches from last year, and used the results to determine which was a better year in movies: 2010 or 2009. (Hint: Avatar was nominated last year.)
Best Picture Academy Award Nominees: 2011 vs. 2010 2010 nominee listed firstPixar Movie: Up vs. Toy Story 3
Now that there are ten movies in this category, you can expect to see a Pixar movie here every year for the foreseeable future. Call it a needed hat-tip to the most consistently awesome studio of any variety today, except that none of these movies will ever win. Too good for the Animated Movie category, not "serious" enough for this one. Regardless, it's
by a hair.Winner:Toy Story 3
Dystopia Movie: District 9 vs. Inception Aliens vs. brain control. We actually enjoyed both of these movies a lot, but we'll take an exceptional performance from Leo for the win. Winner: Inception
Period Piece: An Education vs. The King's Speech Both British, even. We were never big Nick Horby fans, and there's something creepy about Peter Sarsgaard even when he's not picking up schoolgirls. This doubles as the category most likely to get people to say they liked it even if they didn't for fear of sounding stupid. Winner: The King's Speech
Coen Brothers Movie: A Serious Man vs. True Grit The most ridiculous thing about the Coens is not the rate at which they produce movies or the overall quality. It's the way they seem to be able to make any kind of movie at all. In fact, they actively don't have a specific type or feel, although True Grit is a somewhat kindred spirit with No Country for Old Men. Both are pitch perfect and crazy entertaining. We'll give the nod there, although A Serious Man was great as well. Winner: True Grit
Requisite Romance/Comedy: Up in the Air vs. The Kids Are All Right Every year, someone makes a romance, family type movie that ends up being just different enough from the overdone tropes that it gets an Oscar nod. This year, we had the lesbian couple and their adopted daughter's search for her biological father. Which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. But even though we sort of hated how Up in the Air played the recession and how much of a tool Jason Reitman seems to be, we enjoyed that one more. Winner: Up in the Air
Underbelly of Society/Drug Use Movie: Precious vs. Winter's Bone The most obvious of all Oscar-bait: The disenfranchised, drug-crippled lower class in American society. Inner-city over backwoods. Winner: Precious
Self-Destructing Character Study: The Hurt Locker vs. Black Swan These were both movies you hold your breath through. The Hurt Locker won it last year; don't be surprised if Black Swan does this year. There's something about these sort of intense character pieces that, when done well, leave you reeling. Note also that both movies seem to blame the institution more than the person. Winner: Black Swan
Sports Movie: The Blind Side vs. The Fighter We're not even going to dignify this matchup with any kind of analysis. And the amazing thing is, this isn't even the biggest blowout here. Winner: The Fighter
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Cult Classic Directors: Inglorious Basterds vs. The Social Network Quentin Tarantino vs. David Fincher. Both have been variously underrated and overrated throughout their careers, and both of these movies do their legacies proud. And while Tarantino is ultimately a better director than Fincher, The Social Network is Fincher's masterpiece, and Tarantino's done better. Winner: The Social Network
Misc: Avatar vs. 127 Hours This would be the biggest blowout. Although it's slightly unfair: Avatar seemed to have blindsided critics with its box office numbers and 127 Hours is a strange movie, even for the wilderness survival genre. But yes: no contest. Winner: 127 Hours
2010 winners: 2 2011 winners: 8 And we're not even feeling confident about the two picks from last year. Yikes.