The only one of these three buzzy titles I hadn't predicted back in April was Toy Story 3. Who could have forseen a third film in a franchise being that blissfully embraced? It's possible that voters will figure Pixar is amply rewarded and look at other live action movies but given the lack of strong competitors that 2010 has offered, it's looking good for the big show for now.
Bear in mind that the rankings are a mix of hunches, buzz, Oscar history factors, personal feelings, reviews and more. They are strictly for entertainment/predictive purposes and predictions should never be confused with statements about quality. As you all know, both horrible and great films get nominations every year. This year, for example, the ghastly eyesore Alice in Wonderland is probably looking at a few nods through its sheer excess. (Sometimes AMPAS confuses "Most" with "Best".)
A good chunk of the remaining slots each year are filled with whichever pleasant mediocrities can muster up temporary enthusiasm in precursor bodies and actual Oscar ballot holders.
In the charts and on the individual pages, you'll see major gains for the Danny Boyle/James Franco true story survival drama 127 Hours (now confirmed for a 2010 release) and the Cannes approved Another Year (Oscar has been known to warm to Mike Leigh). The saddest switch is this pundit's (temporary?) loss of faith in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, if only because I remember so vividly what happened and what didn't happen when it came to The New World's release. That nightmare has been resurrected in the wake of the Apparition troubles. Malick's The New World was a jaw droppingly beautiful visual experience and it couldn't even muster up a handful of technical nominations? Insanity. Nothing's a done deal with Oscar until all the deals are done.
As for Inception, the movie on everyone's lips this week, people need to calm down. It was a good Oscar bet before release and it still is. The mix of absolute boosters, passionate detractors and even a few opinions somewhere in the middle like mine -- I liked it but I wouldn't ever dream of calling it a masterpiece -- is totally normal for any big hyped release, though people may be behaving as if this has never happened before... or only once before in 2008. But we'll get to that in a second.
Nevertheless, Inception has several crucial Oscar plus factors going for it such as
- Due? The general perception that Chris Nolan is due for a nod. That's out there, thickly felt in the pop culture air and that sure does matter.
- The "Make Up" situation. Many feel that The Dark Knight was not properly rewarded. This has always struck me as odd but I'm the odd man out. It did win more nominations than most films ever come near and even a couple of actual statues so, for the superhero genre or for sequels in general, it was practically Titanic huge with Oscar. But then facts never deter people from personal feelings.
- Auteurial and technical ambition in spades. This will go a long way with at least a handful of Oscar branches. Just about the only place that Inception hasn't a prayer is in the acting categories since the characters are paper thin, and sci-fi epics have a difficult time getting the actor's branch excited. Just about the only time it ever happens is when someone is just so fantastic that nobody would deign deny their accomplishment (think Sigourney Weaver's immortal Aliens performance).