Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Oscar predictions... 5 months out

So, Toronto's come and gone, as has Telluride and Venice, and it appears to not have changed the Oscar situation much. What's made the most impact is non-festival films starting to be shown, and others doing well or poorly at the box office.

"American Gangster" has begun screening, and those who have seen it seem to think it's a sure-fire nominee. I don't know exactly why, but I'm feeling a stylish, hard-boiled crime epic won't strike the Academy's fancy two years in a row. Each time I see the trailer (which seems to be attached to literally every movie I've seen since July), I acknowledge it looks good, but it also looks mighty familiar. I don't get a look at it for another two weeks, so who knows, maybe seeing it will change my mind, but for right now, I'm sticking with my guns.

Paramount Vantage also had secret screenings over the last week of Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" and the instantaneous word-of-mouth was what we all hoped for. The word "masterpiece" was used countless times and everyone seems all but sure that it'll garner Oscar gold. I figured straight away this would be Anderson's shot to finally get appreciation from the Academy, who've always overlooked him before, and the buzz seems to solidify that. Now if only we didn't have to wait till December 26th...

"Into the Wild" has also climbed over many awards contenders now that it's been released and people seem to going head over heels for it. Combined with the fact that it's doing rather well at the box office, is written and directed by a well-liked Oscar-winning actor AND it's a true story, its prospects are looking great. The only stumbling block for it may in fact be "Blood." Both films are Paramount Vantage, and it's increasingly rare that a studio (let alone a specialty division) can get multiple films nominated among the five slots-- ESPECIALLY considering Vantage also has the possibly-awards-friendly "The Kite Runner" on the horizon as well.

While it's not completely dead yet, Paul Haggis' anti-Iraq "In the Valley of Elah" is eating it hard at the box office, and being completely gone from theaters before November is something that usually can't be overcome in awards season. I feel about sheepish about jumping the gun and assuring it a Best Picture nomination. "Babel" had an uphill climb at the box office its entire theatrical run as well, but that at least had the benefit of not opening till November; being released the second week of September and dying at the box office is a combination that just might be insurmountable. While I could've sworn the ever-liberal (except when it comes to *gasp* homosexuality) Academy would make sure they got one of the Iraq films in among the nominees, it looks like even "Elah's" loudest supporters have gone quiet. There's still a chance of resurgence later in the season if the film evokes passionate response at screenings, but as of right now, it looks like Tommy Lee is its lone survivor.

So here goes with my five months out predictions:


-"Atonement," Focus Features
-"Charlie Wilson's War," Universal Pictures
-"Into the Wild," Paramount Vantage
-"No Country for Old Men," Miramax Films
-"There Will Be Blood, " Paramount Vantage

I acknowledge that Vantage getting two films nominated is terribly unlikely, but as of right now I can't think of any other factor keeping "Wild" and "Blood" from getting in here. "Atonement" and "There Will Be Blood" seem like the surest bets among these five and the rest are wild cards. I've read the screenplay to "Charlie Wilson" and it's terrific and there's no reason to think the finished product won't be too; the film's only drawback is being seen 6 months away as the front-runner, which can only result in unfair expectations (remember "Munich" and "Dreamgirls"?). "No Country" is being called the Coen Brothers' masterpiece (or second masterpiece) by many, and just as many people are saying the way the movie closes is going to infuriate mainstream audiences. Will the Academy fall into that category or will they jump on the hailing bandwagon? And yes, I do realize I'm predicting this to be a year when every nominee is an adaptation.
Strong Possibilities: "American Gangster," "In the Valley of Elah," "Sweeney Todd," "The Savages"


-Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
-Mike Nichols, "Charlie Wilson's War"
-Sean Penn, "Into the Wild"
-Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
-Joe Wright, "Atonement"

Strong possibilities:
Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd;" Paul Haggis, "In the Valley of Elah;" Ridley Scott, "American Gangster;" Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages"


-Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
-Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd"
-Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"
-James McAvoy, "Atonement"
-Joaquin Phoenix, "Reservation Road"

Strong possibilities: Denzel Washington, "American Gangster;" George Clooney, "Michael Clayton;" John Cusack, "Grace is Gone;" Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Savages;" Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"


-Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
-Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
-Marion Cotillard, "La Vie En Rose"
-Laura Linney, "The Savages"
-Ellen Page, "Juno"

I subbed in Page for Nicole Kidman based on how positively "Juno" has been received and every single rave has mentioned Page. The category loves nominating breakout roles as well as ones in warm-hearted crowd-pleasers. On the other hand, "Margot at the Wedding" has been proclaimed even by its fans as intensely unlikable and full of self-absorbed characters. Now that doesn't diminish Kidman's performance, but Oscar will take a young likable ingenue over a past winner playing an unlikable twat anyday. I still think "The Savages" could be a secret weapon for Searchlight come December, but at the least, it should get Linney her third nomination for her already much-praised work in it. The shakiest nominee is, believe it or not, Blanchett, given the film's chilly reception, but I still think the much-beloved actress revisiting the role that made her a star will be too much for voters to resist.
Strong possibilities: Keira Knightley, "Atonement;" Nicole Kidman, "Margot at the Wedding;" Amy Adams, "Enchanted;" Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart;" Jodie Foster, "The Brave One"


-Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
-Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
-Paul Dano, "There Will Be Blood"
-Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
-Hal Holbook, "Into the Wild"

Strong possibilities: Mark Ruffalo, "Reservation Road;" Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton;" Philip Bosco, "The Savages"


-Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
-Helena Bonham Carter, "Sweeney Todd"
-Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Margot at the Wedding"
-Vanessa Redgrave, "Atonement"
-Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
I was considering Sarandon here for a while given "Elah's" momentary heat, but I'm counting on a total "Atonement" lovefest so I think both Ronan and Redgrave will get in here, even though Redgrave supposedly has little more than an extended cameo.
Strong Possibilities: Susan Sarandon, "In the Valley of Elah;" Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"

-"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
-"I'm Not There"
-"The Savages"
Strong Possibilities: "Once," "Margot at the Wedding"


-"Into the Wild"
-"Charlie Wilson's War"
-"No Country for Old Men"
-"There Will Be Blood"

Strong Possibilities: "American Gangster;" "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford;" "In the Valley of Elah;" "Sweeney Todd"


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