Inside the Best Picture Nominees: A deep dive into 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close'

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Image Credit: Francois Duhamel

There are a whopping nine films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. And between your work, family, and constant USA marathons of Law & Order: SVU (when will those ever stop being addictive?!), you simply may not have time to catch all nine in the theaters or on DVD. But never fear, dear PopWatchers — that’s why we’re here! Each day leading up to the Academy Awards Feb. 26, we’ll be providing you with a deep dive into one of the nine Best Picture nominees. Fear showing up to your Oscars party unprepared to discuss the year’s most notable films? We’ve got you covered. (Just beware: SPOILERS AHEAD!) And if you’ve already seen all nine films, even better — our inside look at each nominee will serve as a handy guide to remind you of the best and worst moments from every Best Picture candidate this year. Today, we take an extremely close look at Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. (Be sure to click here for more deep dives into this year’s Best Picture nominees!) 

Name: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Release date: Limited: Dec. 25, 2011; wide: Jan. 20, 2012

DVD release date: N/A

Run time: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Box office: First weekend (wide): $10 million; total domestic (so far): $29.7 million

Rotten Tomatoes score: 45 percent

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close‘s movie math: (World Trade Center – Nicolas Cage) / Max on Parenthood + (The Blind Side / bottomless grief) + (Hugo – 3-D)

Tweetable description of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A young boy copes with his father’s death on 9/11 by scouring all of NYC in search of the lock that fits a key his dad left behind.

What EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum said“A polarizing load of quirkiness in Extremely Loud gunks up (at least for this hometown mourner; your results may vary) what is at heart a piercing story: Here’s a tale that compacts the grief of an entire world, country, city, and thousands of loved ones left behind into the pain of one vulnerable, fictional boy … B-

Number of Oscar nominations: Two. Other than Best Picture, the film’s only other nomination is for Best Supporting Actor for Max von Sydow’s wordless performance as an old man who helps the young boy, Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), on his quest.

Cast/Producer’s Oscar history: Von Sydow’s previous nomination came in 1988, for Best Actor in Pelle the Conqueror. Producer Scott Rudin has five of his films nominated for Best Picture (The Hours, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, The Social Network and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), and he won for No Country for Old Men along with directors Joel and Ethan Coen.

What Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has won thus far: Very little. Horn won the Broadcast Critics Association Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, and the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards for Best Performance by a Youth and Breakthrough on Camera. And that’s pretty much it.

Why Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close should win: The first Best Picture nominee to deal directly with the events of September 11, 2001, it is arguably the weightiest film in this year’s pack of contenders. Both Horn and von Sydow give striking, marvelous performances, and it boasts some serious Academy pedigree: It’s directed by multiple nominee Stephen Daldry, and stars winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Plus, with only two nominations to its name, it would make Academy history as the least-nominated film to win since 1932’s Grand Hotel.

Why Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close should not win: Of course, with only two nominations to its name, even the Academy can’t get much behind the film, and it’s hard not to see why: It tackles a singularly tragic moment in history with a singularly contrived central premise.

Vegas odds: 50/1, according to Las Vegas Sports Betting

EW’s Dave Karger’s odds: The longest of long shots. Karger puts this film dead last in line for the Best Picture win.

Moment most worthy of an Oscar: The film’s climax. (So, you know, SPOILER ALERT.) When Oskar finally finds the home for his father’s key, he discovers it’s for a safety deposit box owned by the father of the estranged husband (Jeffrey Wright) of the first person he sought out on his journey (Viola Davis). That may seem a bit…contrived, but to this man, Oskar finally confesses that he although heard his father’s final phone call from the Twin Towers, he could not bring himself to pick up the phone. In flashback, we see the message cut off right as the tower collapses, and Oskar collapse to the ground. If you’re not crying after this scene, even in spite of yourself, a little bit of your heart may be made of coal.

Best line from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: “ENOUGH.” — A message written by von Sydow’s character to Oskar regarding the kid’s dogged determination to find the lock for his mysterious key. (Finally, someone in the film is losing as much patience with this kid as so much of the audience is.)

Worst line from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Any the numerous factoids Oskar feels compelled to rattle off, but this one is particularly cloying: “Only humans can cry tears. Did you know that?”

MVP (Most Valuable Prop): The tambourine that Oskar — whose behavior (see previous entry) suggests he may have Asperger’s Syndrome — carries around with him constantly to calm himself down.

Sandra-Bullock

Image Credit: Francois Duhame

Best fashion moment: For a film this somber, there isn’t much by way of great fashion. But Sandra Bullock’s mother does manage to grieve in nicely understated T-shirts and oversize sweaters.

Worst fashion moment: It’s totally unfair, but Oskar throughout the film sports an intentionally mismatched melange of quirky outfits.

Best music moment: The film’s first trailer, featuring U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name”:

Like the movie? Learn about the book: Extreme Loud & Incredibly Close is based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel of the same name, which, much like the film, divided critics (click here to read EW’s review). It’s filled with even more idiosyncratic gimmicks, from typographic flourishes to a diagram explaining how to design a paper airplane, and goes much further into explaining the backstory of von Sydow’s speechless character.

I’ll take “Unexpected Movie Roles” for $600, Alex: Three weeks after Thomas Horn won $31,800 during Jeopardy!‘s Kids Week, producer Scott Rudin called him up and asked Horn to audition for the role of Oskar Schell. He had never acted before. “How many people get a call like that?” Horn, 14, told EW for our Holiday Movie Preview issue. “Why would you say no?” Relating to his characters loss, says Horn, “was really difficult. I just tried my best to channel his suffering.”

Five Oscar Party talking points:
1.) Along with The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, von Sydow is the third acting nominee this year honored for a silent performance.

2.) This is the first time Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close‘s director Stephen Daldry has not been nominated for Best Director. He was nominated for all of his previous feature films: Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader. Conversely, Billy Elliot is the only one of Daldry’s films not to be nominated for Best Picture.

3.) Viola Davis gives a yet another stunning (if brief) performance in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close that could have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress had her role in The Help not been so much of a sure thing. (Much like Brad Pitt’s nominated performance in Moneyball overshadowed his performance in The Tree of Life.)  

4.) This was the very last major film of 2011 that screened for critics, which caused a minor kerfuffle among the critics groups (especially among the New York Film Critics Circle). If Warner Bros. had screened the film sooner, would overworked critics seeing two to four films a day have been able to cut the film more slack, thereby boosting its awards-season buzz?

5.) What the heck is John Goodman doing in the film? He barely has any lines as the doorman for Oskar’s building, and plays no real role in the story.

Read more:
EW Special Coverage: Oscars 2012

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