Monday, 9 November 2009

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? Yes. Let's.

This may end up being a little long, but we're all grown-ups.

It's the beginning of November. In the States this signifies the beginning of the Oscar season, in real and expensive terms. I thought I might just run my mouth off a little about what I think sits where in terms of this particular awards ceremony, in order that those participating in workplace sweeps and the like can start their planning. I'm only going to go over some of the major categories right now, because... that's what I'm going to do. It's worth bearing in mind that, due to my lack of media pass and living on the other side of the Atlantic, I haven't actually seen many of these movies yet. This is all based on what is being said in various forms from around the world. And I'm going to link to a trailer wherever I can. Because trailers are pretty.

First up, let's kick off with some supporting players, shall we?

Best Supporting Actress

The only name that really rings in this category right now is Mo'Nique for the cumbersomely titled Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire. She's been hot favourite for this category literally all year, since she snaffled a Special Jury Prize for her performance at Sundance. From what I've been hearing, every single notice for this film is ranting and raving to the high heavens about her performance. There has been talk lately of the fact that she's not doing any promotion for the film, which traditionally has hurt people in a campaigning sense, and there have been whispers of diva-style antics. But fuck it. If the performance is even half as good as what I'm expecting, she'll be a shoe-in. I think this film is actually going to be hard to kill in a backlash, and she along with it, but we'll get to that. At the moment, I'm putting her as the actress to beat. And that's probably going to be an impossible feat.

Also-rans would include Julianne Moore for her role in Tom Ford's debut A Single Man; any one of all the girls in Rob Marshall's Nine, though my personal hopeful is Judi Dench because she is actually my god; and Maggie Gyllenhaal (be still my beating heart) for Crazy Heart now that it is getting a release. Some people are bigging up Anna Kendrick for Up In The Air, but I'll get to that film later.

Best Supporting Actor

I'm throwing Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds and Matt Damon for the unseen (by anyone) Invictus at the top of my list. Waltz for obvious reasons. Everyone's talking about this performance, and have been for months. He's not as strong a lock as Mo'Nique in her respective category, but he's still probably the one to beat. Damon... look, I've never been a major Matt Damon fan. But there's something about him this year, the props he's getting for this (where I think, if the film turns out all right, should at least net him a nom) and that he received for The Informant!, which actually bombed a little at the box office and will probably not pan out to a second lead actor nod (after that which he received for Good Will Hunting back in the day.) This is a film by Clint Eastwood, about a major recent historical figure, with allegorical ties to the current American administration (both black, both reconciling a country, both trying to make up for past wrongs etc) with Morgan Freeman in the lead - I think it will be a formidable contender, and the trailer looks fantastic.

Also-rans: Christopher Plummer for The Last Station (why can't I find a trailer! Waaah!), which I'm not really feeling, especially since it feels a little like category fraud, though that didn't stop the Winslet win last year. Not that I'm complaining about Kate Winslet winning - I think she's incredible. But still. Where were we? Oh yes. Anthony Mackie for The Hurt Locker because I don't think anything can kill that film and he'll pull through with ground support.

Best Actress

This category is a little all over the place. Gabourey Sidibe is hot right now for Precious, but I think she will have to content herself with a nomination. Come on - she's a non-actor who, granted, may be pulling off a stunning turn, but until people actually know that she can indeed act in anything else, they're not going to give her a naked gold man to play with. Carey Mulligan is running hot for An Education, but she's very young... Helen Mirren is getting attention for the aforementioned The Last Station, but she just won one and this isn't The Queen. People are talking Meryl (of course) for It's Complicated or Julie & Julia, htough probably the former. There is also still lingering sentiment for Abbie Cornish for Bright Star. None of these, however, are slam dunks. I think Mulligan and Sidibe can count themselves in for a nod, but that's about it. I'm not willing to speculate any further until I've seen some more.

Best Actor

It kind of looks same-old, same-old in here, a kind of Best Of of the last forty years. With Crazy Heart being pushed into this season, Jeff Bridges seems to have overnight solidified himself as the front runner, almost four decades after his first nomination. He's never won the man, so I'll pay it. Plus, his performance is meant to be extraordinary, meaning he can get this deservedly and not be forever talked about like Michael Caine - a career-achievement award wearing the plaque of a Best Performance award. He looks set to beat Colin Firth for A Single Man, for which he won the Volpi Cup in Venice and has been receiving a lot of notice for. George Clooney is looking like a nominee again for Up In The Air - who would have thought he'd be such an Oscar darling when we were drooling over him on E.R.? I think Daniel Day Lewis may make a showing with Nine, Morgan Freeman may turn up with Invictus, Damon may turn up with The Informant!, I think Jeremy Renner will turn up with The Hurt Locker. This is a mighty strong category this year, with a lot of product still to come. I think it's Bridges' trophy to lose at the moment, however.

Best Director

This year has been touted as the year of the woman in film. Kathryn Bigelow is hot here for The Hurt Locker. Jane Campion has cooled somewhat but is still a possibility for Bright Star, though not a strong one. Lone Scherfig is looking likely for An Education. So that's three, which is a fair number. Lee Daniels has to be thought of for Precious, but it actually wouldn't surprise me if he didn't get it. There's a bit of a backlash against him personally for kind of taking the credit for the direction of Monster's Ball (which he produced) and for just generally appearing to think that he is god. So he might drop out of the race, probably controversially. I don't think you can count James Cameron out for Avatar. If the film is actually any good, I think it will redefine a number of these categories. And obviously Clint Eastwood for Invictus. If Eastwood is working, he'll get nominated these days. There are a number of other strong contenders, but I think it will look like being amongst these people at the moment, with one or two being replaced by any number of others. So let's leave it at this until it clears up, shall we? Yes. Lets.

Best Picture

This is the biggie, and now the hardest to make any sort of call in, as they have widened it to ten nominees. I'm just going to run through a few that I think will be in, and maybe a couple of others.

Precious is a gimme. Seriously. If this film doesn't end up in contention I'll buy a hat, and then eat it. (Please note that I reserve the right to not actually buy a hat, or eat it. But I don't think it will come to that.) It's the only film to ever win the Audience Award at Sundance and Toronto. It's an Important Film. It's a black film. It's backed by Oprah. It is receiving kudos from around the world. And it opened over the weekend to an estimated USD$100,000 per screen on 18 screens, the highest screen average for any film playing on over 6 screens, ever. This film is going to be big. While most people whose opinions I've heard say that it's a hard slog of a film, and that going into second viewings they have trepidation, winning those two big audience awards says that, difficult though it may be, it is pushing buttons with viewers.

The Hurt Locker is more than likely going to hit home here. Most critics are calling it the film of the year. It is at a disadvantage because it was an early release, though it is not unprecedented for a film to hit cinemas in the States early and go on to major glory - just look at The Silence of the Lambs. I don't think it will manage to trump any major awards, really, but I think it will heavily feature.

Up In The Air will probably feature. I don't know what I'm thinking about this film. I think the widening of the field to ten nominees will pretty much assure it a place, but there's something about the trailer... it all looks to easy. People are loving it from festival appearances, and Clooney is on the campaign trail and well liked so that won't hurt its chances, but for me, he kind of looks like George Clooney in it. There must be something bubbling under the surface, but it's just not ringing with me. I liked Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking as a debut, I really liked Juno as an entertaining piece of cinema, and this is meant to be much bigger, better, deeper, metaphorical, all that stuff without doing away with the entertainment aspect. People have been comparing Reitman prematurely to someone like Billy Wilder. The must be something to this film, but I'm just not gagging for it like so many others seem to be. It looks like the kind of film I'll go and see, really enjoy, and then forget about when it comes to crafting a best of 2009 list. This is totally judging a book by its cover, but there you go. That's my feeling. If there is going to be one major upset this year, it wouldn't surprise me if this is it. I don't think it will be, however. I think it's a nominee lock in this category. But don't expect it to be lifting the trophy.

Invictus. It's Clint Eastwood. It's Morgan Freeman. It's political. It's everything they want it to be. Unless the film is a pile of crap, expect it to show up here. If it's good, I'd even be calling it a shot at a Precious upset. There's really not much more to say about this one.

Up is going to be the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. Deal with it. It won't win, but there you go.

Avatar - it's too early to call for sure. But, like I said earlier, you can't count Cameron out of the race. Remember Titanic? The movie we all love to slag off? It's still one of the highest grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation, it's still one of only three films to win 11 Oscars. He's a powerhouse of blockbusters, and the Academy will want to show that they appreciated diversity, even if it means saying hello to a major CGI film from the director of Terminator. This is groundbreaking stuff. If the film works thematically, expect it to be here.

Nine? Maybe. It'll depend on how it plays. A Serious Man? I'm not an enormous fan of the Coen Brothers, but a lot of people are. It could show up here. It's not going to pull a No Country For Old Men, however. The Lovely Bones? Again, don't count Peter Jackson out, but it is WAY too early to tell. Anticipation runs from white hot to totally cold. An Education will probably pull through because of the bigger list. But really, I think the major contenders here are Precious, The Hurt Locker, probably Up In The Air, probably Invictus, and that's about it.

I know I haven't seen it yet, and I am totally aware of the lukewarm critical and commercial receipt it is getting, but I really want to call Where The Wild Things Are a contender. It's easily my most anticipated film of the year. And if that isn't just one of the best trailers ever... But I don't think it will be. I'm DYING to see it, and I can't believe I have to wait another MONTH to see it when it has been out for WEEKS in the States and it is a HIGHLY ANTICIPATED MOVIE that they really should be releasing DAY AND DATE across the globe. But there you go.

So they're my major thoughts right now. It will of course change over time, and I'll probably update bit by bit as I get around to seeing the films mentioned. But it's a bit of an overview of what you should be watching out for should you be interested in all this jazz.

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