Friday, January 04, 2008

Oscar Predictions... 2 and a half weeks out (01/04/08)

Okay, I haven't posted Oscar predictions for nearly two months and there's a reason for that: this race is fucking crazy. Movies emerge as sure bets and then become 'no ways' seemingly days later (see: "Sweeney Todd," no one else is). In all honesty, I still don't have much of an idea how things are going to go down, even after the BFCA, Golden Globe and SAG nominations. But at least now we have a slight idea of some people's thoughts, even if we still don't really know what it all means. Here's my best guess at the major categories at the moment, and I'm amazed how unsure I am about all of this less than 3 weeks away from the nominations.


1. "No Country for Old Men"
2. "Juno"
3. "Into the Wild"
4. "There Will Be Blood"

5. "Atonement"

6. "Michael Clayton"
7. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
8. "The Great Debaters"
9. "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
10. "American Gangster"

Amazingly enough, a movie I love, "No Country," has developed as the far-and-away frontrunner. I don't how it happened, but a truly awesome, challenging flick that happens to be my favorite movie of the year, has emerged as the leading Best Picture candidate. It's the critical favorite, has Best Picture prizes up the wazoo and SAG embraced it in a big way. It's in. "Atonement" didn't quite burst out of the gate with as much fervor as expected, but it led the Globes and still, anyone who's seen the movie, does it or does it not play like an Oscar movie? I like it, with reservations, but I really think it's going to be in the high 5, though it's far from locked-in. In fact, given its complete SAG shutout and a general perception of disappointment, it might be the most vulnerable of the five I'm predicting.

"Juno," as un-Oscar-y as it may be, seems to be charming the shit out of people. In its first semi-wide weekend last week, it made huge bank (it'll have $50 million by Sunday, making $100 million seem like an eventual certainty), so it's already the big moneymaker nominee, on top of filling the single "light" or "comedy" slot. Not to mention, everybody fucking loves this thing. The elderly folks love it, the hipsters love it, it's an across the board charmer. It's slight, but I think we're looking at a contender. Some people seemed to be convinced of this months ago, but I've only just come around.

Y'know it's funny... even after it opened in September and didn't build up much momentum, I stuck by "Into the Wild" as a Best Picture contender. I did. It wasn't until after months and months of no momentum that I started to think "Hmm... maybe not so much." Literally days later, it led the BFCA nominations, and then last week it got SAG nominations for Best Ensemble, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. That's pretty strong support. Something still feels slightly not right about it for me to confidently predict it as a nominee, but predict it again I shall. Hell, Kris Tapley ( just predicted it to WIN the Oscar for Best Picture. In this year, I could actually see it. But we'll see.

Well, well, "There Will Be Blood." When I first saw it at a screening a month ago, I fell instantly in love and wanted to immediately watch it twice more, but also thought immediately "not a chance in hell is the out-of-touch Academy going to dig this at all." And I still have my doubts. But, opening a week and a half ago, it got dozens of reviews that used the word 'masterpiece,' it set a box office record for 2007 for per-screen average, it's winning more Best Picture prizes as the days go by, and it has the benefit of being THE movie everyone's talking about right as Oscar ballots are arriving. I wouldn't be surprised at all if it still ends being too odd and confounding for AMPAS, but I have a feeling it might be surging at just the right time. I have a feeling this is exactly why Paramount Vantage planned months ago for it to be the last film of 2007 out of the gate.

Alas, as quickly as "Sweeney" gained the heat, it lost it just as quickly. Mere weeks after it was first glimpsed and its excellence was confirmed, it "disappointed" at the box office and gained the appearance of a failure (even if it hasn't expanded past 1,500 screens yet). I still could maybe see "Michael Clayton" surfacing and ending up in the 5 instead of one of the latter 3, but I still have a tough time envisioning it as a Best Picture contender. I really haven't heard one person herald it as "great;" the universal sentiment seems to be "solid." Say what you want about the films talked up above, but they all have some pocket of ardent supporters.


1. The Coen Brothers, "No Country for Old Men"
2. Sean Penn, "Into the Wild"
3. Joe Wright, "Atonement"
4. Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
5. Tim Burton, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

6. Julian Schnabel
7. Sidney Lumet
8. Jason Reitman
9. Tony Gilroy
10. Ben Affleck

For the first four, I think the direction is such an important element of why people who like the films like the films, that if the movies get nominated, they should too. However, with "Juno," I think people tend to overlook Reitman's sure directorial hand and instead focus on the dialogue and the performances. So, even if "Juno" does get a Best Picture nomination, Reitman's Director slot will likely go to someone like Tim Burton, Julian Schnabel, or maybe even Sidney Lumet. Even "Sweeney's" detractors seem to agree that it's Burton at his finest, most restrained and careful. Is that enough to earn him his first Oscar nomination? It'll be a close one if it happens, but it certainly could. Meanwhile, Schnabel's showy, arty direction of "Diving Bell" has gotten jizzed on all over the place and could just as easily get in. Sentiment could also go the way of Lumet, acknowledging the length and substance of his career, and throw a bone in the direction of the way-under-appreciated-awards-wise "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."


1. Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
2. George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
3. Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
4. Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"
5. Ryan Gosling, "Lars and the Real Girl"

6. James McAvoy, "Atonement"
7. Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"
8. Denzel Washington, "American Gangster"
9. Frank Langella, "Starting Out in the Evening"
10. Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"

Daniel Day-Lewis. Going to be nominated. Going to win. One of the great performances of all time. End of story. George Clooney; really strong, is a virtual lock. He's been recognized all season, and I love the man more than life itself, so that's just fine with me. The last three are a little bit shakier. Johnny Depp missed out on the SAG nomination, which is, admittedly, a pretty big deal. However, word is that most SAG members just hadn't gotten around to seeing "Sweeney," which, if true, does make sense, since they usually love Depp no matter how good or lousy he is, and he's certainly not lousy here. Oscar also seems consistently determined to make up for past Depp snubs, so I'm sure his strong (and singing) work here will make its way into the big 5. Then again, the material could maybe put off the Academy. But I doubt it.

As for the last two, Viggo Mortensen and Ryan Gosling were my two favorite performances this year that I swore would be completely ignored. Viggo's amazingly internal performance as a Russian mobster and Gosling's endearing, awkward introvert were both roles I swore would be forgotten, but amazingly enough, they both racked up SAG, Golden Globe and BFCA nominations, which usually means an Oscar nomination is soon to follow. It still seems too good to be true, and probably is, but as of right now, I'm going with it and predicting such an unlikely and wonderful thing to happen: my three favorite leading male performances of the year all getting Oscar nominated.

As for Emile Hirsch, I seem to be the one person who thought the movie was very good but the leading performance was nothing special. However, he did receive BFCA and SAG nominations, and the film got strong support from both organizations. I still think he'll miss out, even if the film gets in, but I seem to be alone on this. If any of the above actors gets snubbed, I think good ole awesome James McAvoy could get in for his really great performance in the really underwhelming "Atonement." The problem is, no one is really talking about him at all, and the lack of buzz will probably hurt. That said, if not enough people bothered to watch "Lars and the Real Girl" or "Sweeney Todd" or "Eastern Promises," he has a great great chance. This is probably the most exciting the Best Actor category has been in years; I could easily see 3 of my 5 predictions not making it in.


1. Ellen Page, "Juno"
2. Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
3. Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
4. Angelina Jolie, "A Mighty Heart"
5. Laura Linney, "The Savages"

6. Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"

7. Amy Adams, "Enchanted"
8. Jodie Foster, "The Brave One"
9. Keira Knightley, "Atonement"
10. Helena Bonham-Carter, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

The front-runner baton keeps getting tossed around from Ellen Page to Marion Cotillard to Julie Christie. Right now, I could see any of the three taking the win, and all three can count on nominations. Much to my surprise, Angelina Jolie's Oscar baiting has paid off and she seems sure for a nom after a season full of racking up nominations. I'm sorry, that sounded bitchy. I actually like the performance, just not the "Nooooooooo!" moment. It was the second most shameless moment of Oscar-baiting this year, right after Reese Witherspoon's "Just tell me he's okaaaaaaaaaaay!" But I'm getting off topic. The last, fifth slot is going to be the most interesting.

Oddly, weirdly, crazily enough, Cate Blanchett is getting nominated for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," the movie everybody hated, in addition to "I'm Not There." Even crazier, she's being consistently nominated for it, while Laura Linney's terrific performance in "The Savages" has gotten ZERO nominations. What the fuck is going on?!?!? But anyway. Strangely, it looks like Blanchett is going to get a nomination for "The Golden Age." I don't get it. And in turn, I refuse to accept it. I usually go with my gut instincts, and this year, le gut is telling me, despite a complete lack of any and all precursors, votes are going to discover Linney's wondrous turn late and she's going to be a surprise nominee. I don't know why. But, so there.

I think Amy Adams' charming perf in "Enchanted" could get in there, and as upset as I would be (it's just NOT a great performance), it'd be a bit more deserving/exciting than Blanchett raking in another nomination. I'm still crossing my fingers for Linney, or even Jodie Foster (giving a really good performance in a lameass movie), but I'm not holding my breath.


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

6. Tommy Lee Jones, "No Country for Old Men"
7. Paul Dano, "There Will Be Blood"
8. John Travolta, "Hairspray"
9. Max Von Sydow, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
10. Philip Bosco, "The Savages"

This probably is the five nominees, but it almost seems like too much of a unanimous consensus to hold. I still think there's a good chance of Tommy Lee Jones in "No Country" or maybe even Paul Dano showing up here if "Blood" gets strong enough support. This five just looks too perfect and predictable as is. But if I were a betting man, I'd say it'll be these five, the same five it's been for every award all season, and a very very solid five at that. Even if Casey is without a doubt a lead in "Jesse James," him, Bardem, Hoffman and Holbrook are all fantastic, and Wilkinson is very good. So if this is it, it'll be boring and predictable, but I'll be happy.


1. Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
2. Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
3. Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
4. Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
5. Kelly MacDonald, "No Country for Old Men"

6. Catherine Keener, "Into the Wild"
7. Vanessa Redgrave, "Atonement"
8. Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
9. Jennifer Garner, "Juno"
10. Leslie Mann, "Knocked Up"

Ryan, Blanchett and Swinton (deservedly) received Golden Globe, BFCA and SAG nominations, and I'd imagine all three can easily count on their names being announced on nomination morning. Ronan missed out on the SAG (as did everyone having anything to do with "Atonement"), but she seems to be impressing everyone else, including the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Broadcast Film Critics, enough that I think the young lass will eke out a nomination. Meanwhile , the BFCA and SAG both gave props to Keener's heretofore unappreciated turn in "Into the Wild."Literally no one has thrown any awards Kelly MacDonald's way for her few, but remarkably resonant, scenes in "No Country," but she's perhaps my one real "I have a hunch" prediction of the season. Each time I see "No Country," her final scene really sticks with me, and I just have a feeling that eventually she's going to pick up some traction with voters. I may be wrong, and instead her slot may go to yet another "we love her" nomination for Keener, but for right now, I'm going with the Scottish "Trainspotting" vet.


1. "Juno"
2. "Michael Clayton"
3. "Ratatouille"
4. "The Savages"
5. "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"

6. "Lars and the Real Girl"
7. "Knocked Up"
8. "Waitress"
9. "Once"
10. "I'm Not There"


1. "No Country for Old Men"
2. "Atonement"
3. "There Will Be Blood"
4. "Into the Wild"
5. "Gone Baby Gone"

6. "Charlie Wilson's War"
7. "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
8. "Away From Her"
9. "Zodiac"
10. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"


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