Something is Rotten in Hollywood. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises at this morning’s Best Picture nominations was the nod for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The 9/11-related drama, which was just released wide Jan. 20, was admittedly a hit with audiences (it merited an A- CinemaScore), but critics… not so much. The film scored a paltry 48 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which makes the B- grade from EW’s own Lisa Schwarzbaum (“A polarizing load of quirkiness in Extremely Loud gunks up … what is at heart a piercing story”) seem practically charitable. Compare to the other eight Best Picture nominees, which ranged critically from a low-end 76 percent RT score (The Help, which had 196 reviews to Extremly Loud’s 119) to a near-perfect 97 percent (The Artist, with 175 reviews). And yet! The film scored a Best Picture nom. Where does Extremely Loud fit into this mix?
Admittedly, Max von Sydow’s Best Supporting Actor nod was well-deserved and somewhat expected. But at a certain point, you have to acknowledge that Extremely Loud seems to be out of its depth. It was a case of the stars (not to mention the trailer) outpacing the film. The strength of Von Sydow, plus Tom Hanks, and Sandra Bullock (who have three Oscars between them) seems to have carried the movie to a consolation prize nod.
There have only been a handful of times in the past 10 years with this kind of gap between critical reception and Oscar acknowledgement: 2010’s The Blind Side (66 percent RT, including a C grade from EW), 2009’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (72 percent RT despite an A- from EW) and The Reader (62 percent RT, including a B- from EW), 2007’s Babel (69 percent RT, including a B- from EW), and 2001’s Chocolat (63 percent RT, including a C- from EW). Are we noticing a pattern? All of these movies have at least one star who is an Academy darling. Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, and Bullock – who was in, you guessed it!, Extremely Loud – are just the kind of A-list seat fillers that Oscar needs to keep its telecast going. (And that’s without getting into the nebulous world of studio campaigns…)
Now consider the films that were knocked off the final list for Best Picture. Bridesmaids received 90 percent. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows–Part 2 got a staggering 96 percent (with 274 reviews). The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo received 87 percent. Heck, even Best Song nominee The Muppets got 96 percent. Again, where does Extremely Loud fit in?
What do you think, PopWatchers? Were you surprised that Extremely Loud was called out this morning? For better or worse? Which film would you have rather seen on the list?