"While everyone has been distracted by the Argo-Lincoln wrestling match, Life of Pi has been quietly amassing close on half a billion — superhero numbers. How many adaptations of French-Canadian literary novels about Pantheism can you say that about? Traditionally, it is domestic box office that has the greater impact on the Oscar-race; international success is usually the sign of a Batman or a Transformers. But Life of Pi’s overseas action isn’t going unnoticed in Hollywood, which is increasingly watered with foreign cash. In 2009, the studios earnt a whopping 70% of their money abroad, and while North America is still the largest territory it won’t be for long: China is expected to eclipse it in 2019. If you think that hasn’t had an impact at the Oscars already look at the winners from the last few years: the Bollywood hybrid Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, the very British The King’s Speech in 2010, France’s The Artist in 2011. “I'm not American and I'm not French, actually,” Michel Haznavicious told the DGA when he accepted his directing award for The Artist last year. “I'm a filmmaker.” Hollywood movies have less claim on being an art form indigenous to North America than at any point in their history. Hollywood is now the world’s jukebox.
That’s why I was so excited by the Life of Pi’s awards prospects when I saw it back in September at the New York film festival.... It’s clearly popular with the Academy, garnering 11 nominations, second only to Spielberg’s Lincoln, which is still the film to beat for Best Picture, but as a directing vehicle, it has a crucial flaw: most critics have praised Spielberg for what he does not do. There are few battle scenes, little rousing oratory, no sentimental scenes in which freed slaves thank an overwhelmed Lincoln, and little heard from John Williams and his angelic choirs. It is, in short, the director’s least Spielbergian picture. He’s on a self-imposed diet. This may please his detractors, but I’m not sure such self-effacement makes for a convincing Best Director win. With no Affleck or Bigelow to contend with, this leaves Best Director up for grabs. Barring a sweep by Silver Linings Playbook —we’ll know more about that whether that’s possible when the SAG’s get handed out — it looks as if Life if Pi could take home more than just cinematography and special effects. I think Lee both could and should win his second Best Director Oscar."