This weekend arguably the most glamorous, star-studded event of the year will take place at the Kodak theater in Hollywood, the 84th Academy Awards.

Looking at the list of nominees in the ‘Best Picture’ category, only two of the films have been released here in Japan, ‘Moneyball’ and ‘The Tree of Life’.

This is a good chance for us to look at the films that the Academy has deemed to be the best of last year, which we can look forward to seeing in cinemas here in Japan within the next few months.

The Artist

One of the most surprising hits of recent years has to be Michel Hazanavicius’ ‘The Artist’. This homage to silent era Hollywood, is itself a mostly silent, black and white French-made film.

The film stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo (also nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively) relative unknowns outside their native France, with support from Jon Goodman and James Cromwell.

Set in the 1920’s, Dujardin stars as successful silent film actor George Valentin who, after a chance meeting with Bejo’s soon to be starlet Peppy Miller see’s their careers go in opposite trajectories with the rise of sound in film.

The Artist has been extremely successful at the box office and has won an array of awards at competitions around the world and has been highly regarded by both critics and movie-goers alike.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ is an American drama made by the British director Stephen Daldry who is most famous for having made ‘Billy Elliot’.

Like ‘The Artist’ this film also centers on the story of a young boy, this time played by newcomer Thomas Horn, whose father, Tom Hanks, died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.

When Horn’s character Oskar finds a mysterious key that belonged to his father it starts him on an adventure around the city meeting friends, family and strangers.

The film also stars Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

The Descendants

George Clooney’s latest, ‘The Descendants’ has also picked up the oscar nod.

The director has picked up nominations in the past for Best Picture and Best Director for his 2004 hit ‘Sideways’, and will be hoping to come home with the award this time around.

Like his earlier film, ‘The Descendants’ is a comedy-drama centering around the story of Clooney’s Honolulu based lawyer Matt King.

King has control over a sizable amount of land held in trust for his large extended family on Kauai island.

After a boating accident leaves his wife in a coma King must come to terms with his troubled marriage, his two daughters and the Kauai land. The film has been a hit with critics and picked up numerous awards and nominations.

Based on a book of the same name ‘The Help’ is a drama set in America during the civil rights movement of the 60’s.

The film has been praised for its strong ensemble cast, headed by Emma Stone as the films protagonist, Skeeter Phelan.

Phelan is a journalist who decides to write a book detailing the struggles of African-American maids working in a white household, exposing the racism of the era.

The cast includes Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, who have been honored with a Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominations respectively.


Martin Scorsese, who finally scored his first Best Director oscar in 2007 for ‘The Departed’, is again up for Best Director and Best Picture with ‘Hugo’.

This, his first foray into 3D, is the story of a young boy who lives in the walls of a train station in 1930’s Paris.

The boy befriends a toy store owner who helps him on his quest to find a key that is needed to start a mechanical man that belonged to his late father.

This is another film with an all-star supporting cast, with the likes of Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Sacha Baron-Cohen, Christopher Lee and Jude Law supporting the young star, Asa Butterfield.

The film has been praised for its use of 3D, with ‘Avatar director James Cameron declaring it the best use of 3D he’s ever seen.

War Horse

Another Academy favorite is Steven Spielberg and he’s here again with ‘War Horse’, an epic adventure story set across England and Europe during the First World War.

Jeremy Irvine plays Albert Narracott who trains a horse he names Joey.

Albert and Joey are separated by war but their paths cross again as the war rages on. Spielberg has won in the Best Picture category in the past with another war epic ‘Schindler’s List’.

Midnight in Paris

Our final film up for Best Picture, is by another legend of cinema, Woody Allen.

Working in the romantic comedy format he’s perhaps best known for the film has been cited as a return to form for the director.

The film stars Owen Wilson as Gil, a screenwriter who comes to Paris with his fiance, Inez, played by Evan Rachel-Wood. Gil is in love with the city, but his fiance isn’t quite so keen.

While walking alone at midnight Gil finds himself transported back to the 1920’s, where he finds inspiration meeting with his favorite writers, musicians and artists.

The film has been well received and is one of the veteran directors most successful films to date.

Full List of Best Picture Nominations with their Japan release dates:

“The Artist” 7th April 2012

“The Descendants” 18th May 2012

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Out on DVD

“The Help” 31st March 2012

“Hugo” 1st March 2012

“Midnight in Paris” na

“Moneyball” Out on DVD

“The Tree of Life” Out on DVD

“War Horse” 2nd March 2012

Text by Christopher O’Keeffe