Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oscar Predictions... 4 Months Out

1. "Atonement"
2. "No Country for Old Men"
3. "Charlie Wilson's War"
4. "Into the Wild"
5. "There Will Be Blood"

I'm feeling this category is on the verge of a massive shake-up. At the moment, I'd say the only true "lock" is "Atonement," and everything else is fairly shaky. Some may question "Atonement's" status as well, but I can assure you it's exactly the sort of thing AMPAS is going to eat up with a spoon.

"No Country for Old Men" is playing very strongly, and unlike most prognosticators, I don't think its supposedly "anticlimactic" conclusion will jar Academy voters enough to taint their view of the rest of the film. Then again, I'm surprised its ending is dividing audiences as much as it, so maybe I'm not the best authority on the subject.

"Charlie Wilson's War" hasn't been seen yet, and already has people gunning for it, so it'll have to be as great as its screenplay to place here. "Into the Wild" is beloved by most who've seen it, but it hasn't gotten the kind of box office traction it really needs; I have a feeling it'll hang on anyway, but it's definitely on the edge right now.

"There Will Be Blood" finally screened to some major press this past week, and reaction, while largely positive, has made the film sound significantly stranger and more divisive than early word indicated. The new, second trailer released last week-- while making me more excited for the film than ever-- seems to serve as confirmation that it may officially be too weird to be an awards movie. I'm still going to keep it in my five for now-- three or four reviews isn't enough to completely sway me-- but it's seeming more and more likely that the film is going to be too extravagantly odd and ambitious for the largely septuagenarian Academy. In all honesty, I don't think it has a chance to be nominated, despite my excitement, it's just a placeholder for me right now.

Bubbling below my five picks are "Sweeney Todd" and "Juno." "Sweeney" has just begun to screen, and word is very good so far, but we'll have to wait till more substantial eyes than the typical Burton-worshipping fanboys see it before we can really judge its Oscar potential. It seems everyone that has seen "Juno" just adores it, but it's also supposedly extremely "hip" and young-skewing, so I'll wait until I get a look at it and see how oldie-accessible it is before bumping it into my 5.

"American Gangster," "Michael Clayton," "The Savages" and "The Kite Runner" are also very much in the game, but as of right now I'm not feeling them so much. "Gangster's" just not good enough and I think voters will agree; "Clayton" seems to be universally liked, but I haven't heard one person express any love for it; "Savages"'s themes could play very well with the Academy, but apparently Fox Searchlight is devoting all their energy to "Juno,"and "Kite Runner"is supposedly playing very, very well to a certain type of audience, but I just have a feeling about it...

1. Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
2. Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
3. James McAvoy, "Atonement"
4. Tom Hanks, "Charlie Wilson's War"
5. George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"

Day-Lewis can be relied on to give an amazing performance regardless of what he does, and all seers of "Blood" have praised his Daniel Plainview to the roof. Regardless of potential singing ability, I've said it before and I'll say it again-- if Depp pulls off Sweeney's emotional complexity/disturbance, it'll be something amazing, and possibly win him his first Oscar. McAvoy's terrific in "Atonement," and after being overlooked for his work in "Last King of Scotland," the star-in-the-making should get recognized this year. Again, no one has seen "Charlie Wilson" yet, but it's been a good long while since golden boy Hanks has gotten a nomination, and a headlining, Oscar b ait project with his character's name in the title sure seems like a good shot. "Clayton's" sticking around buzz-wise, and people just plain like Clooney-- no one more than I-- and the title-character-rule certainly applies here as well.

1. Laura Linney, "The Savages"
2. Ellen Page, "Juno"
3. Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
4. Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
5. Helena Bonham-Carter, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Christie doesn't have much of a campaign established as of yet, but I think people's goodwill towards her and the strength of the performance will get her in there. Cotillard has lingered in audiences' memories, and celebrity-impersonation performances always resonate. Page is headlining the movie that everyone seems to love, and Oscar loves to champion new talent whenever they can. Bonham-Carter is the iffiest one here, and will have to really do justice to Mrs. Lovett to get in, but as of right now, it's a pretty weak category and I think she'll snag a nom.

Linney, in all her glory, is my pick here for right now. Though bereft of a "big moment," she's truly phenomenal in "The Savages," she's never won an Oscar, and a year without a clear front-runner may be her best shot. We shall see. My "riskiest" call here is not including Knightley... I know everyone seems to love her, but she's never been particularly good, her first nomination wasn't terribly deserved, and she's the definition of "nothing special" in "Atonement." That hasn't stopped people before, but still, I'm putting my foot down on this one; I've been wrong before..

1. Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
2. Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
3. Philip Seymour-Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
4. Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"
5. Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

If this ends up actually being the five nominated, it may work to Holbrook's advantage, since his is the only role that plays to viewer's hearts/emotions (Bardem's scary, Hoffman's witty, Wilkinson's crazy, Affleck's... awkward). I'm still hanging on to Affleck despite the film already disappearing from theaters and him seeming to have minimal support. I think his performances in "Jesse" and "Gone Baby Gone" will linger in peoples memories enough to add up to a nomination for the former.

Bardem is, and has always been, this category's biggest lock. It's a big, awesome, terrifying central performance that stays with you, and if the filmitself gains serious traction, he may even be your winner. Wilkinson is very strong in "Michael Clayton," but let's face it, if his showy performance gets nominated, it'll be due to this being a very weak year for this category. Still, people seem to really like it, and his nomination will depend largely on how the film plays throughout the rest of the season.

Based on "Charlie Wilson's War's" screenplay, Hoffman's character gets the juiciest dialogue in the movie and if he does the character justice (and really, when has he ever phoned in a performance?), it'll be something special. The one real change in this category since my last update is the removal of Paul Dano for "There Will Be Blood." While the performance has its fans, more than a couple people have already criticized him as weak and unable to hold his own with Day-Lewis (to be fair, who could?)-- it seems to be the one thing early reviews have agreed upon. While a few critics do not a consensus make, the fact that such rumblings are already out there does not bode well for Dano.

1. Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
2. Saorsie Ronan, "Atonement"
3. Vanessa Redgrave, "Atonement"
4. Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
5. Kelly MacDonald, "No Country for Old Men"

This category just sucks. The only one of these five that relatively assured her spot is Blanchett; even people who hate the film have been raving about her work as Bob Dylan. Ronan and Redgrave do fine jobs but will likely get in here due to "Atonement's" strong reception, and the gimmick of them both playing the same part at different ages. Also, Redgrave pulls up "Atonement's" big emotional caboose, while Ronan is supposedly the next big "it" kid (and future "Lovely Bones" rape victim), so the Academy will probably love including her in this historically kid-friendly category as her coming-out party.

People seem to really dislike "Margot at the Wedding," which will certainly hurt Jason Leigh; it's certainly possible that it's going to be consistently brought up how long she's been around, how good she's been, and how she's never been nominated,that it's eventually going to stick, but I'm starting to doubt it. A second viewing of "No Country" reminded me how phenomenal MacDonald is with such limited screentime, that I think she's going to stick in voters' minds.

Ryan, as an ill-fit, degenerate parent, is probably my favorite of these performances but I doubted her role (which really only features in the first 30 minutes and the last 5) would be considered "awards bait." But thankfully, Miramax is really pushing her-- a recent New York Times ad featured Ryan's name in virtually every critic pull-quote-- and she's working the circuit. If things keep going as they seem to be, she'll get a much-deserved nomination.

1. Joe Wright, "Atonement"
2. Joel and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
3. Sean Penn, "Into the Wild"
4. Mike Nichols, "Charlie Wilson's War"
5. Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

The first four match up with what I think the Best Picture nominees will be, with Wright being the new guy they'll want to acknowledge most. Burton, however, has never fared well with the Academy (he was only nominated for "Corpse Bride" for Best Animated Feature), and I think with "Sweeney," even if they don't nominate the film, they'll recognize the effort.


1. "Juno," Diablo Cody
2. "The Savages," Tamara Jenkins
3. "Before Devil Knows You're Dead," Kelly Masterson
4. "Michael Clayton," Tony Gilroy
5. "Ratatouille," Brad Bird

1. "No Country for Old Men," Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
2. "Atonement," Christopher Hampton
3. "Into the Wild," Sean Penn
4. "Charlie Wilson's War," Aaron Sorkin
5. "There Will Be Blood," Paul Thomas Anderson


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