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Oscar voters had their say; here’s Emory experts’ best picture list

It’s a favorite winter sport: second-guessing the Oscar nominations, especially the best picture nominees, as soon as they are announced. Though there were nine best picture nominees unveiled this week, there’s been no shortage of talk about which titles were undeserving and which ones got stiffed.

We happened upon one smart Atlanta list of the 10 best movies — no surprise, since it was a collection of opinions by the cinephiles in Emory University’s Department of Film and Media Studies. Here are the films the experts singled out as the best (compiled, we should acknowledge, in mid-December before school let out), with excerpts from their reviews:

“The Descendants”: “Alexander Payne returns (seven years after “Sideways”) with another compelling and compassionate dismantling of the overconfident American middle-aged male.” (Matthew H. Bernstein)

“Drive”: “Explores the quiet magic of unexpected human connections through music, color, slow motion and understated acting from leads Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.” (Kevin Cryderman)

“Hugo”: “[Martin] Scorsese has created a dazzling affirmation of film’s fundamental basis in the machine age while offering us a movie with many kinds of wonderment.” (Matthew H. Bernstein)

“The Ides of March” and “Moneyball”: “Worthy of top 10 status not just because they are well made, and offer fascinating and true-to-life portraits of [government and baseball, respectively], but because … they tell us about where our country is in 2011.” (Michele Schreiber)

“Like Crazy”: “A non-formulaic take on young love and lives in progress which refuses a neat resolution.” (Amy Aidman)

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”: “[Director Sean] Durkin deftly reveals, using cross cutting, cult leader Patrick’s (John Hawkes) ability to creep into the unformed minds of his mostly teenage girl followers.” (William Brown)

“Melancholia”: “Pure visual poetry. … Seems to say acceptance is the only sane reaction to the end we all know is coming.” (William Brown)

“The Muppets”: “Stays surprisingly true to its wholesome small-screen roots by maintaining the backstage musical, show-within-a-show conceit…” (Eddy von Mueller)

“The Tree of Life”: “Aims to hold eternity, not in William Blake’s famous hour, but in 139 minutes. … Ambitious and risk-taking.” (Karla Oeler)

To read the full passages, click here.

  • To read an interview with ex-Atlantan Peter Linz, who portrayed Walter in “The Muppets,” singing on the best original song Oscar nominee “Man or Muppet,” click here.
  • Twitter: Follow Howard Pousner at ajcATLarts for regular updates on the Atlanta arts scene.

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