Reader Nick (no, not this Nick) brings up an interesting point. In most years something that looks like a sure bet in the picture category crumbles on nomination morning --he writes:
"Cold Mountain last year. Black Hawk Down in 2001. Almost Famous in 2000. Malkovich in 99. Truman Show in 98, Amistad in 97, etc.... [edited for length] ...one of the "sure bets" goes down and inevitably headlines the snubs discussion of all the bewildered daytime talk show hosts. It's an absurd logic, I know, but it's airtight.
It has to be one of the racehorses. No one'll be talking about Hotel Rwanda getting "snubbed" after all since it's an underdog anyway. And Ray, I think, is riding the coattails of Foxx anyway, so its omission also won't really be an attention-getter. So keep Ray and Rwanda on the list and look at the rest."
So, Nick's contention is actually that Sideways and Finding Neverland are the vulnerable ones. Sideways because Payne's films have not been embraced by the Academy even when expected to be (see: About Schmidt) and Neverland because of well, because...
In Nick's case this is not wishful thinking, though it is in mine. I would love for it to be Neverland that takes the plunge.
Nick goes on to say:
"Neverland wasn't that bad. It's just less cynical than 90% of the work of the more "serious" directors. Back in the old days there were a lot of great directors who made great, if borderline saccharine, films. Frank Capra, Norman Jewison, Stanley Kramer. These and Marc Forster are all far better filmmakers than Lasse Hallstrom as your comparison suggests."
I really don't have anything against sentimental films (though many readers think I do). I think Babe deserved its nomination in 1995. I love some of Capra's films (not all). Etc... I just need them to be good, potent, and memorable and I don't think Neverland accomplishes any of those tasks. And neither do I think that Hallstrom is an irredeemable director. I thought Gilbert Grape was good, for example. It's just his Oscar stuff that has made me cringe.
I don't think Neverland will see a snub on Tuesday morning. The snubs I most fear for those who seem locked up are:
Annette Bening -Being Julia
Paul Giamatti -Sideways
Clive Owen -Closer