As I roll out my first predictions of the year, one of the best analysts in the awards industry asks an important question: will budget be a major indicator of this year’s Oscars? In recent years, the Academy has made a sizable shift away from awarding Best Picture to big budget studio films and giving credence to smaller projects with big themes and touching stories. “The King’s Speech,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Slumdog Millionaire” all had budgets of 15 million dollars or less. Quite a change from the days of “Lord of the Rings,” “Gladiator” and “Titanic,” which had a combined budget of nearly 400 million.
So now the question is will the Academy continue to show love for David in the fight against Goliath, and if they do, will the public continue to care about the Oscars at all? I do believe it’s healthy for low budget indies to get noticed by an organization like the Academy, for in turn, the public begins to open their eyes to them, as well. Yet, overall, I wouldn’t feel bad if the studios fought their way back into the fray, especially if they’re packing as much potential as they seem to be.
Hammond has written two pieces on the subject, outlining a heavy portion of this year’s contenders and mapping them out by studio. Here’s an excerpt about which company may have the strongest potential:
“Sony (Pictures) is a partner on Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tin Tin” as well, distributing internationally where the property is much better known. The studio has its own domestic animated entry this fall with “Arthur Christmas,” a holiday-themed ‘toon that I hear from at least one animation uber-expert could be a real spoiler in that race. We’ll see. On the live-action front, Sony is coming back strong with a slate of potential contenders to avenge its “Social Network” Best Picture loss, starting with “Network” director David Fincher’s apparently very intense English-language version of the Swedish phenomenon “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. That doesn’t get unveiled until Dec. 21. Sony’s three other hopefuls are all hitting the fall fest circuit beginning with the Venice fest opening of George Clooney’s political drama “The Ides of March” co-starring Ryan Gosling. Buzz is already major on this Oct. 7 release, and Clooney is an Academy darling (and just a few weeks later, he’s back starring in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants”). Brad Pitt, who has earned some Oscar talk earlier in the year for “The Tree of Life,” is back in the baseball yarn “Moneyball,” which debuts at Toronto and will try to overcome Oscar’s aversion to most things baseball. Soderbergh was originally to direct but came to a parting of the ways with Sony and “Capote”’s Bennett Miller took over. Finally there’s Roland Emmerich’s 17th century costume drama “Anonymous,” opening Oct. 28 but playing Toronto first. It already sounds like a front-runner for Costumes at least.”
Like myself and many other critics and bloggers have been saying, it really seems, and has seemed for a while that the Best Picture race has really come down to two horses: “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” However, insider Pete Hammond believes that David O’Russell’s “The Fighter” might be breaking its way into serious contention.
Here is an excerpt from his article over at Nikki Finke’s Deadline.com:
“It’s a great movie, it really is,” one major writer/director told me last night. An exec close to the film’s campaign says the studios are starting to hear this a lot and points out one director branch member who came up after the film and told her, “I think I’ve just seen the Best Picture of the year.” This exec says , “I know I should be drinking coffee but I am starting to drink my own Kool Aid. I think this thing is really starting to take off.”
While I definitely see Christian Bale becoming the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo is definitely gaining a lot of recognition, I don’t buy into this Best Picture logic. First of all, even though Mark Wahlberg isn’t just the new kid on the block anymore (no pun intended, but still kind of amusing), I don’t think he has the power or ability to lead role a film into a Best Picture win. Granted his only nomination came from the Best Picture winning film, “The Departed,” though it definitely helped to have Martin Scorsese behind it. Speaking of directors, David O’Russell is not the most-liked individual in Hollywood. Many have seen his tirades in the leaked Youtube videos of him practically throwing down with Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman, or heard the stories of getting into fistfights with George Clooney or putting producers into headlocks on the red-carpet. He is a publicity nightmare, and really kind of a jerk.
Finally, is it really possible that Oscar has not yet had its fill of boxing movies, for God’s sake. You’ve got one of the most overrated Best Picture winners of all time in “Rocky,” as well as a reasonably undeserving winner in “Million Dollar Baby.” In the meantime, amidst all that, you’ve got “Cinderella Man,” “Ali,” “The Hurricane,” and of course, “Raging Bull,” (the latter would have been enough for me). Is it really possible that Oscar has not yet had its fill of this often-melodramatic psuedo-sport genre and is this installment really good enough to be its standard bearer?
I refrain from believing so, but only time will tell.