Monday, November 9, 2009

The Oscar Race...What's still up in the air?

Many months after the announcement that there will be ten best picture nominees, rather than the usual five and people are still in a tizzy. What will make it in? What won't? This is It and Star Trek are clearly locks, right? And what about Paranormal Activity? Surely they'll have room for that in a ten-wide field. These are all things I've actually heard from people who follow the Oscars, believe it or not. But one thing I've learned is that (even from myself) is the following the Oscars doesn't mean that you always understand them. There is still much to be discovered in the way of best picture fodder. If my top ten list were to come out today, it'd probably look a little something like this:

1. Up
2. Precious
3. Inglourious Basterds
4. The Hurt Locker
(though I need to see this again, and if they want a really good shot at an Oscar campaign, the people behind this movie better be planning a DVD release or a theatrical re-release very soon).
5. An Education
followed by a very VERY big leap. From there we have.
6. Moon
7. Away we Go
8. The Girlfriend Experience

9. Drag me to Hell
10. 500 Days of Summer

Being in grad school this past year, I have missed a lot of things. I missed Julie and Julia. Should I see it? I'm going be playing catchup this month. I still need to see Antichrist and Bright Star, probably in that order as they are both likely to be out of theaters soon (the former moreso than the latter). I need to see Where the Wild Things Are and A Serious Man. Pronto. I'll be seeing Up in the Air later this week for school, so luckily that's taken care of. Here's my thoughts on the majors.

1. Best Picture

Although there are going to be ten nominees, and I'm aware they have to come from some place, these are the only three I've seen that I think are assured a spot:
The Hurt Locker

I think anything else is vulnerable. An Education seems likely, but it's so slight. I could very easily see buzz, outside of Mulligan, drying up when its time to cast ballots. The word on Up in the Air seems to be "lock" but having not seen it, and having lived through enough Pay it Forwards in my day to be weary of early buzz, I'm reserving judgment. Call me crazy, but I think Precious might just win. Like Slumdog Millionaire, the people who like it love it. And unlike Sulumdog Millionaire, it has the benefit of being locked up for at least two acting nominations and a probable win. The only thing against it that I can see right now is Oprah's endorsement. She's so divisive outside of the housewife set, that Oprah. Of the yet to be released films, obviously Nine, The Last Station, The Lovely Bones, Invictus, etc, etc. These could all easily factor in. Having now seen two Avatar trailers, I must say there's a disconnect where I'm concerned regarding all this Oscar talk. Why? Because it's James Cameron? Am I the only one who thinks Avatar looks a little...silly? Call it a hunch, and I'll be reading my mea culpa if I'm wrong, but I don't think it will factor into the race in a major way.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Lee Daniels (Precious) are (probably) good to go. I can't say the same about Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) having not seen his film, but if it's as well received as the buzz is suggesting, he should have no problem here, being a former nominee. Outside of those me. Can't count out Eastwood, I suppose, though he was overlooked (rightly so) last year for work that I'm not sure was all that much worse than the stuff he's been recognized for. Anything can happen here.

Best Actor

So, it's Clooney (Up in the Air) probably Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). Then we have Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela in a Clint Eastwood movie. Unless Invictus is a total suckfest, I don't see how Freeman doesn't coast to an easy nomination here. Colin Firth is feeling the buzz for Tom Ford's A Single Man, but buzz for the film itself is mixed. Will that hurt him? Who knows. This category is still very nebulous as well.

Best Actress

Three of the five spots are already locked up. Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia), Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Gabby Sidibe (Precious) are locked and loaded, ready to go. Done. The question is, who will win? A lot of people are saying Streep. Having not seen this film yet, I cannot comment, but the word and the vibe I'm getting is that the movie is far too slight for her to win. Why give Streep the third Oscar for this film? Surely, she has another Silkwood or Postcards from the Edge left in her, right? I'm almost sure of it. Then there's Mulligan. Young, British and lovely...which means surely she'll be here again. Sidibe, as great as she was in Precious, will be nearly impossible to cast again in Hollywood. The precursors will tell us a lot in this race. Whoever ends up getting the trophy probably won't "sweep." Mulligan and Sidibe will be battling it out for those breakthrough awards and critical prizes. It'll be tight, but I think it's a two-way race between these two young upstarts, with a slight edge to Sidibe.

Best Supporting Actor

I won't even pretend as if I have any clue about this category. I loved Christoph Waltz and Alfred Molina in their respective films, but I'm not buying the buzz for either of them at this point. Wide open spaces.

Best Supporting Actress

Only one spot is locked up here and that's Mo'Nique for Precious. And she's going to win. Signed, sealed, delivered. It's hers. If Julianne Moore gets nominated for A Single Man, there will be talk of her as a potential spoiler. But alas, she'll only be Peter O'Toole to Mo'Nique's Forest Whittaker. Gone are the days when the Jaye Davidson shocker loses to the Gene Hackman snoozefest in the supporting categories. They want big, flashy and outlandish for the most part, particularly in supporting actress. Supporting actress winners generally come in these varieties:

1. There's the "Check out the mouth on her! Can she say that?" Bold, brash ladies who steal the show in their one or two scenes with their attention getting one-liners and moxy.
(See Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aprhodite, Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love etc. etc. etc.)

2. There's the "Everything (or much) about this film seems designed around me winning an Oscar" performance. Leads masquerading about supporting performances often win here as well.
(See Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls and Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain)

and 3. The bad seeds/villainess/otherwise monstrous performances.
(see Tilda Swinton in Michael interesting twist on this one, Anna Paquin in The Piano...naughty naughty and Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain...I was terrified).

Mo'Nique arguably fits all three, n'est pas? The good news, she's actually deserving.

There is still much to see, and who knows how this whole thing will play out. I will say that I don't think the ten-wide best picture list will last long. They can't do away with it next year (they don't want to look THAT stupid) but I give it four, five years max before they're back to five.

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