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.”
It’s officially that time of year. Actually, I won’t lie about the fact that I’m showing up a bit late to the party. Some of my fellow prognosticators laid out their first set of predictions the day after the last Oscars closed the curtain, or at least when a few contenders began to emerge during the course of the summer. However, I have been plagued by indecision, distaste over the last event’s disappointments and general fatigue, overall. Yet, it’s time to lift the veil and get back to what I’m good at. It’s time to get down to business.
Where to begin? Everything written up to and including now should be considered speculation or strong theory, at best. However, before we dive too deep into what we haven’t even seen, yet, there have definitely been a few films already released that might have a decent run at the gold.
Perhaps the first big contender to emerge in the Best Picture race is “Midnight in Paris.” While Woody Allen has made far better films, this is certainly both an original and different pass for him. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easily the highest grossing film he’s ever made. Voters might enjoy seeing his mighty return to the Best Picture category for the first time in 25 years and could use this film as a platform to do it. I’m personally not buying into that logic, quite yet.
However, while “Midnight in Paris” seems like a long shot, another film seems almost assured to go all the way. That, movie is “The Help,” and it is a piece of cinema that the Academy will likely eat up with a spoon. Even if it somehow falls out of Best Picture contention, one should already consider Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to be surefire contenders. But the film is burning through the box office and leaving audiences with a sweet taste in their mouths. This is the type of phenomenon that can easily survive all the way to the heart of the awards season.
Aside from Best Picture contenders, the summer has produced its usual slew of blockbusters that will have their way with the technical awards. Expect both “Transformers 3” and “Super 8” to sweep nominations in Best Sound, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. While I never bought into the brief debate over “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” and its Best Picture status, I’d guess that the franchise’s last hurrah will make stabs for several awards including Best Art Direction and Cinematography. Finally, perhaps the strongest lock for a nomination and perhaps the win is this season’s biggest surprise, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and it’s extraordinary CG effects.
Now that we’ve gone through what we know, it’s time to move on to what’s important: what we don’t. A handful of question marks remain hovering above many titles. However, several films have emerged as being close to sure things as possible. Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” has been on radar screens for a while now, but after the trailer hit the web a few months ago, expectations have exploded. Based on a Tony Award-winning play, the film must pack a powerful story, while the visuals look absolutely astounding. If the film is as good as it is expected, a clean-sweep is not out of the cards. Yet, voters may feel like holding off of awarding Spielberg again with his next film, “Lincoln” finally getting the go-ahead for next year.
Both of George Clooney’s vehicles, “The Descendants” in which he stars and “The Ides of March” which he also co-wrote and directed, seem primed for glory. The last time Clooney took to the director’s chair with a serious topic, the film earned 6 nominations. His new feature also bolsters a stellar cast and very relevant subject matter. Meanwhile, “The Descendants” features what seems to be fantastic, heartfelt story written and directed by Alexander Payne, who appears to be at the peak of his career and possibly primed for Oscar glory. Both films have issued trailers that tease strong potential for taking home the grand prize.
Ironically, the film that has, by far, the strongest pedigree is the one that we have seen the least from. Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” has all of the chops of a Best Picture winner. It’s a biopic that shines a light on the little-known aspects of its subject. It has a solid cast including Leonardo DiCaprio (who might finally be poised to win his first Oscar), Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer and Judi Dench. It’s a period piece, sure to be flush with lavish costumes and set dressings. Yet, most of all, it has Clint Eastwood, who has reached a point in his career in which it’s almost unlikely for him not to be the frontrunner for Best Director. Of all films this year, this one seems to have the most potential. Now all we need is a glimpse of it.
After those four principle films, any number of possibilities could round out the final spots. There’s Roman Polanski’s character study, “Carnage,” Tomas Alfredson’s thriller, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” Lynn Ramsay’s vicious drama “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” and Bennett Miller’s baseball biopic “Moneyball.” Not to mention the period piece, “A Dangerous Method,” centering on the rivalry between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. David Cronenberg has been passed over a lot for Oscar. Could this finally be his vehicle that will take him to his first Best Director nomination? We’ll see.
Meanwhile, two movies stand with a fog of uncertainty around them due to their subject matter. The Cannes smash hit “The Artist,” is the first mainstream silent film to be released in, well, nearly a century. While undoubtedly phenomenal, it’s unclear whether the Academy will embrace such a curveball of a narrative and stylistic choice.
Then there is the hugely anticipated “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” remake. Some say that it will be too brutal,grisly and depressing for the Academy. In its defense, I must point attention to “The Silence of the Lambs” which defied odd to be come the first horror movie to ever win Best Picture, twenty years ago. Others will believe that the Oscars won’t go for an American remake of such a recently released foreign film. Yet again, I must refer to the “The Departed” which remade an Asian film only four years after the original’s release. A lot of factors weigh against it, but I believe that David Fincher will not only pull off the film, but carry enough guilt over from last year’s outrageous snub to take the movie all the way.
Well, I’ve gone on for quite a bit so I’ll leave my discussion of this year’s acting contenders for another piece. Below, I have my full list of predictions which I will try to update at least once every month until nominations are announced. Remember that these are just speculation, but take heed that I’ve still put a lot of thought into them.
Enjoy the rest after the jump or view them under the prediction tab, here.
1. J. Edgar
2. War Horse
3. The Descendants
4. The Ides of March
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
6. The Artist
7. The Help
8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Alt 1: A Dangerous Method
Alt 2: Carnage
Let’s clear one thing up, right off of the bat:
No, this movie is not about dinosaurs.
Well, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about this potentially strong film. I had heard it’s title pop up every now and then, over the last year. Most prominently, the Sundance Film Festival issued it acting awards for both of its main stars, Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman, as well as Best Director for first-time helmer Paddy Considine.
It tells the story of a harsh Irish community where a woman seeks to remove herself from an abusive relationship. She ends up looking for comfort in the arms of the least-expected person, a mean-spirited, ill-tempered alcoholic, who happens to be seeking his own redemption for his rotten lifestyle.
Apparently, the film contains two off-the-chart amazing performances by Mullan and Colman. I haven’t seen Olivia in much of anything, but look forward to what kind of honesty she can bring to such a damaged character. Peter Mullan, on the other hand, is a long-time favorite of mine. He is both memorable and fantastic in the small roles he has played in films like “Braveheart,” “Trainspotting” and “Children of Men.” Here, he really gets an unusual chance to flex his dramatic muscle. Much like John Hawkes, last year, I hope Mullan is able to truly deliver in this film and be honored with an underdog Oscar nomination. There’s always hope.
Check out the new trailer, below:
As far as a great cast goes, there’s definitely not many upcoming films that rank higher than “Carnage,” directed by Roman Polanski and based on the Tony-Award winning play (which, when on Broadway, featured practically as good a cast as the film). It tells a very confined, yet immensely layered, story of two sets of parents dealing with repercussions of one’s child beats up the other’s.
While right at home on the stage, this is an ambitious project to see on the big screen, and so not because of a scale too large, but instead one incredibly small. The film takes place entirely in one apartment and sits on the shoulders of only, and I do mean only, four actors. Newly minted Oscar winners Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet play the parents of the offending child, while veteran performers Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly portray the guardians of the victim. What ensues has been called, by critics and audiences alike, some of the most poignantly funny comedy ever to grace the stage or, now, the cinema.
Aside from seeing these actors strut their stuff, I am most looking forward to seeing Roman Polanski directing such a small story, once again. Since the incredibly claustrophobic horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby,” the director has spent much of the last few decades on sprawling mysteries and epics. It will be nice to see him handle such a tightly wound little comedy with huge aspirations. If all works out well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Polanski net himself his sixth and seventh Oscar nominations (for directing as well as penning the script) as well as a nod for one performer, or perhaps even more.
Check out the new trailer, below:
With all of the sequels, remakes and reboots getting repeatedly funded by Hollywood these days, its very easy to say that movie-making has shifted into an unprecedented realm of unoriginality. In 99% of all cases I would whole-heartedly agree. The exception would be seeing one man’s name attached to the project and that name is Ridley Scott.
It’s been widely known for some time that Scott has chosen to direct a pseudo-prequel to his original sci fi classic “Alien” entitled: “Prometheus.” Now that said film is well into production, Scott has chosen to up the ante by announcing his involvement with a continuation of the original “Blade Runner” franchise, the film that more or less turned the director into a god for science fiction fans around the world.
The new film will be directed by Ridley for Alcon Entertainment (“Insomnia,” “The Book of Eli,” “The Blind Side,”). While no plot details have been released (or possibly even exist at all, at this point), the main word being tossed around the campfire is “follow-up,” which leaves this project quite mysterious. It could be a sequel, a prequel or some other form of tie-in that we can’t even imagine. One detail that has been confirmed is the non-involvement of Harrison Ford’s character of Rick Deckard. According to the producers, the film will not be a continuation of the original character’s story.
Some might argue Scott’s decision to mess around with his own work, which has since become a classic on many different levels. However, for me, there are several filmmakers with whom I have no problem placing my complete trust in. Sir Ridley is definitely one of them. Despite his obvious flops, his successes have made him one of the true film visionaries of the last half century. With him behind the controls, I fervently anticipate every step of this production and look forward to it’s completion, which according to sources, may not be for at least three years. Stay tuned for more info.
In the meantime, enjoy one of the greatest openings in film history:
I really do enjoy Entertainment Weekly’s periodic lists. Last year, they announced what they felt were the ten most undeserving Best Picture wins of all time and I offered my own up for comparison. Also, I’ve thought that their piece on the 25 most controversial films ever made is worth taking another look at every once in a while. Every year, I look forward to their categorical opinions on filmmaking.
Recently, they released a preview list of some of their most anticipated films of the upcoming Oscar season. The article features some exclusive photos and info that I haven’t come across for certain features. In particular, my excitement towards Clint Eastwood’s Hoover biopic “J. Edgar” has reached a fever pitch. News that Leonardo DiCaprio will be donning a large amount of prosthetic make up to portray the crime-buster in his later years is highly enticing.
EW hasn’t ranked their list, and I definitely can’t say that all of these look very appetizing (“Abduction”? Really?), but I’d say my top five from these selections would look like:
3. “J. Edgar”
2. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
1. “The Ides of March”
I will try to come out with a list of my own must-see list, soon. In the mean time, check out some of the new photos and tidbits over at EW’s official site, here.