Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oscar Predictions? Not Again!

I've decided that updating Oscar predictions immediately prior to the week of abundant critics awards and Globe mania is foolish. So I'm not going to revise until December 13th. Normally I would do it because when it comes to awards season, I am something of a masochist. I always want it even when it hurts.
  • If awards season was an empty pool, I would dive in anyway.
  • If awards season was a vampire, I would eschew turtlenecks and garlic and crosses.
  • If awards season was a slasher flick, I would follow trails of blood into dark rooms asking "who's there?"
  • If awards season was a stack of sugary sweets and I were diabetic, I would...
Well you get the picture. I would venture to guess that most mentally balanced people are interested in the Oscars only when films or performers they love are in play. Not me. I care about the whole even when I don't care a whit about the parts... which is probably going to be the case this year. Almost every film likely to be left standing on nomination morning is a somewhat underwhelming experience (for me) -- hence so many "B"s in my grades.

Benjamin Button -a true technical marvel but (for me) not an emotional bullseye
Slumdog Millionaire -exciting to watch but not (for me) all that interesting
Revolutionary Road -very handsome and well acted but (for me) a little too "easy" Ooh, repressed people in pristine suburbia in the 1950s. You don't say! When it comes to stories about homogenized repression I much prefer these stories told with either abundant layers and subtlety (Mad Men) or great stylization (Far From Heaven) on account of it's been done hundreds of times before. That said, Leo & Kate are smashing (and not just each other's self-esteem)
Frost/Nixon -entertaining and well acted but also lacks a certain heft... is this because I am too young to bring anything to the table that's not there in the movie? I rarely get to say that I'm "too young" anymore so I enjoyed typing that last sentence quite a lot. Mmmm, yes I did.
Doubt -a great(ish) play but definitely not a great movie... too much overkill in the telling: tilted cameras, thunderclaps, you name it... tricks! tricks! tricks! Calm down Mr. Shanley, your actors know what they're doing)

If you've been reading you'll know that I'm rooting for Milk which will make it and also a bunch of movies that probably won't even if I suspect they'll have pockets of devoted fandom within the AMPAS voting body: WALL•E, Rachel Getting Married and The Wrestler. I'm even rooting for The Dark Knight which I don't particularly love but here's the thing: If you hand me two Oscar candidates that are essentially the same ballpark of quality... say, Revolutionary Road and Dark Knight for an semi-random example: I will almost always side with the non-baity genre film to be included in the mix. It's important for the Oscars --and by extension any group involved in awards and recognition -- to not operate on auto-pilot. The award is called "Best Picture" not "Best Dramatic True Story or Period Piece". And if more voters understood that then Rachel Getting Married and WALL•E would be major players this year, now wouldn't they?

In other news: I think I'll collect interesting year in review / online top ten top ten lists again this year. On account of interesting (for me... maybe you, too?)


Robert said...

I maintain with 100% certainty that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will not be nominated. This prediction has drawn the eire of many people and I say "bring 'em on"

... really this is the equivalent of me trying to start a bar fight to spice up a boring evening. Oscar race this year... meh

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, you sound down about the season .. just a little
I think the blogging got started so early and got so heated ( sounds like a Presidential campaign we just had ) that expectations went through the ceiling and nothing could produce what we all expected. I know some of the movies have been OK, but nothing great... yet!

Anonymous said...

I like you reasoning behind TDK against RR. Very interesting change of pace.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think the earth shattering US election has made the oscar race less interesting.

The most interesting thing to me about this year's race is that I can't for the life of me figure out which one or two films are the critical faves. In 2007, they were clearly THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. In 2005, to me it was A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. In 2002, it was FAR FROM HEAVEN. I don't know what it is this year. Slumdog? Benjamin Button? Revolutionary Road? It feels like it should be WALLE or THE DARK KNIGHT, but will critics really be that adventurous (and isn't it a shame that honoring them would be considered so?)

RJ said...

I'm really interested to see how these critics' prizes fall. At this point, I really don't there are any CLEAR favorites.

WHICH makes me more and more certain that Kate Winslet is going to win an Oscar this year. I don't know if it will be leading or supporting, but I'd bet it will happen.

And I think Milk will win Best Picture. I mean, it really couldn't have come in a more . . . timely year.

My completely random bets: Milk, either Gus Van Sant or David Fincher, Sean Penn, and Josh Brolin (Michael Shannon dark horse).

I really don't know how actress is gonna go, but I think Winslet for supporting actress. She plays a Nazi, after all.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts:

* Maybe Slumdog Millionaire is the new Fox Searchlight hit and especially if Patel takes Hoffman's place (For me, Hoffman is not a solid bet like many people thinks) place.

* If The Curious Case of B. B. likes to almost everyone. I predict 10 or more Oscars Nominations (Including Pciture, Directing, Actor, Actress and Supp actress)

* Maybe Rourke is not a lock after all. If The AMPAS needs to choose between Rourke and Eastwood...

* Milk has better chances for victory in BEst Pciture. That's more accesible that Brokeback Mountain.

* Kate Winslet could be nominated for only ONE film NOT BOTH. I predict "The Reader" for her victory

* Good step for The Dark Knight

* Like I said since September, Melissa Leo (Maybe she's this year's Sally Kirkland) has better chances for being nominated instead Richard Jenkins. Maybe the lineup will be: Blanchett, Hathaway, Leo, Streep and Scott Thomas, with Jolie, Winslet and Hawkins in the running

Anonymous said...

You are forgetting THE READER!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

it is kates yr i dont see blanchett or scott thomas nommed i see jolie definitely why is she so low down then streep,then winslet,then hathaway then hawkins for a bright spot a la renee in 2001.

Anonymous said...


If you want another film you can get passionate in a year with underwhelming Oscar bait, I'd urge you to seek out "Silent Light." Easily the year's best film, in my opinion. I think it can easily make a dent in some Film Bitch categories. I don't know anyone who has seen it and didn't at least find it interesting. Unfortunately, it had the shoddiest of theatrical runs (one week in NYC) but I think it's getting a run at the Film Forum. It's poised to become one of the greatest overlooked films of the decade.


Bernardo said...

I agree on Silent Light. I saw it last year where it had a ridiculously short and limited theatrical run in Mexico City. Awesome film!

Anonymous said...

You make a great point about RR vs. TDK. While I love many "baity" films I also love to root for the "underdog" (one of the reasons that I wasn't too pissed when Crash won). But, I don't think TDK should be nominated- I liked it alot, but not enough.

And that pic is too cute!

Anonymous said...

Silent Light is just painful.

Bernardo said...

Has anyone stopped to think about GG Comedy? It's completely empty!

- Could Vicky Cristina Barcelona get a slight boost in the race by winning the Globe?
- If Rachel getting Married goes Comedy, then the GG is very probable, hence boosting it up for Oscar.
- If it wasn't for that dreadful Animated Feature category, WALL·E would be the winner...and would have a fair chance of getting Oscar nominated.
- I cringe at the idea of Sex & the City and especially Mamma Mia! getting nominated... Mamma Mia! looks very probable...

Bernardo said...

I'm also looking at everything like this:

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. Milk
3. Benjamin Button

BIG CONTENDERS (though any of these could end up in the Top 5... their order is constantly changing)
4. Frost/Nixon
5. The Reader
6. Gran Torino
7. The Dark Knight
8. Revolutionary Road
9. Doubt

10. The Wrestler
11. Rachel getting Married
12. WALL·E
13. Australia
14. Defiance

15. Changeling
16. The Visitor
17. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
18. Frozen River

adam k. said...

Bernardo, I just did a whole post about GG comedy here.

Rachel is going drama. So is W.

It IS pretty empty, but it might actually be more interesting as a result. You don't have the usual 2 or so oscar hopefuls in each category, so it's basically wide open. There could be room for some real surprises...

I personally think Hawkins will win actress and her film will win picture. Actor's crazy, though. I can't really see anyone winning (Josh Brolin was the frontrunner before he got switched out).

My best guess for the actor win is Dustin Hoffman, simply because we haven't seen the film yet, and he has the potential to be great.

Hayden said...

I can't see anything shaking Rachel Getting Married from my top slot. If there were any justice it'd be collecting noms for Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress (DeWitt), Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Sound Mixing. With more than a few wins scattered about.

Anonymous said...

Despite all the buzz for Benjamin Button, i dont think it will get any nods in the acting categories. I prefer Leo, Hathaway, Thomas, Winslet and Streep in the best actress. This wont be Jolie's year either.

I'm specially rooting for Wall-E in Best Picture and Original Screenplay, and The Dark Knight in Best Picture too.

Anonymous said...

streep is toast - mediocre review in "Newsweek." winslet will win BA in "The Reader" - even though it may be somewhat supporting. Kidman won BA for a supporting role. all "doubt" reivews make mentions of streep's attempts to fill cherry jones shoes. streep's gotta quit taking EVERY decent role for gals 50+....share the wealth a little honey. this is now the era of obama.

Hayden said...

Streep's still in. She's been nominated for much, much worse. It's the role, it's the piece, it's the ensemble. I don't think she has much of a chance at winning (though I've said the award is Winslet's for a long time) but I'd bet on a nomination.

Anonymous said...

Is that an "Iron Man" poster I see before me?


ha ha it is. the photo is meant to merely represent some possible oscar nominees in a whole range of categories ;)

Kurtis O said...

I thoroughly enjoyed "Doubt." These "tricks" you speak of did not bother me. I think it's surely one of the year's best -- a showcase of GREAT acting. If Cherry Jones and the stage version are indeed better, I want my ticket NOW. "Doubt" is one of the few films of 2008 I wanted to see again the second the credits rolled.

Anonymous said...

I know that I'm still excited about this Oscar season. This is the time of year where all the films that I've waited to see are finally getting released, and I'm hoping for the best. You can't get masterpieces every year. I can't wait for "Doubt", "Frost/Nixon", "Slumdog", "Milk", "Revolutionary Road", "Benjamin Button," and others. I'm ready to start solving this Oscar puzzle now.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy : you've got to come into the real world... Streep has been at this business for over 30 years and is really coming into her own as a STAR these past few years... she spent most of her career doing roles that she was excellent in, but made little or no money.
She is NOT taking roles from other actresses... she is being offered the cream of the crop because she has proven herself over the years. She could have done so much better careerwise, but she chose first to be a mother , then an actress, and now a star and an actress. No other female actress has had a career such as hers. More power to her!!!!

The Pretentious Know it All said...

The fact that the Academy is poised to severely let down "Rachel Getting Married" really irks my nerves. It's easily best picture material, and by a director with whom they're already acquainted. What's not clicking here?


the know nothing it must be that a) it's about women b) the media is very complicit in keeping the best picture focus on december releases even when they don't thrill people c)it's about women d) it is weirdly divisive. there's a whole swath of critics who hate it which is just so weird since it's so good but like BILL IRWIN said in my podcast 'it's a rorscach'

Glenn Dunks said...

I remember at the start of the year Nathaniel was saying he would find an A grade film if it meant watching way more movies than usual (or something along those lines) and he hasn't found that A grade film, which is a shame. I haven't had one yet, either.

I reckon a lot of critics groups will give the prize to Slumdog Millionare.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I really respect the fact that Roger Ebert seems to have gotten behind "Rachel Getting Married." Though it looks like he's not doing a traditional top ten this year, he gave the film four stars, loved it and it's definitely the type of film I can see sitting very high on his top ten list. As horrible as this sounds, "Rachel Getting Married" needed more kisses from other male critics in high places.
But for once, I wish that Ebert would call out a good film like "Rachel Getting Married" AND recognize films like "Slumdog" as good, but not great and rather facile. His choosing of "Juno," "Crash," and "Million Dollar Baby" as best films of their respective years almost underwrites the fact that he's a man of good taste, for the most part.

Simone said...

I'll know on Jan 22nd if I will bother watching this year's Oscars telecast. Besides being a huge supporter of a movie people don't want to waste time prognosticating on, I do want TDK to do very well. Some films, based on their plot synopsis, just don't interest me personally and the favortism that they are getting are a bit of a turn off. I know Oscars are bought for the most part, but it couldn't be more obvious this year.

So again, we'll see, but otherwise, I'll stand on the sideline reading the Oscar predictions of others.

Guy Lodge said...

I certainly didn't hate "Rachel Getting Married," but I have a hard time summoning up any passion for it either.

I was entertained -- if never all that moved -- for 130 minutes, but two months later, I can't remember very much about the film, except for the Winger-bitchslap scene that was (for me) its biggest miscalculation.

So if it's divisive, put me in the middle.

Janice said...

//Jimmy : you've got to come into the real world... Streep has been at this business for over 30 years and is really coming into her own as a STAR these past few years... she spent most of her career doing roles that she was excellent in, but made little or no money... She could have done so much better careerwise, but she chose first to be a mother , then an actress, and now a star and an actress. No other female actress has had a career such as hers. More power to her!!!!//

Rick, that's not how I remember it. Growing up in 1970's and '80's I recall that her star began to rise with the general public in the late '70's (Holocost, the Deer Hunter - this after establishing herself on the stage), then in the early '80's she was on the cover of Life and lauded widely - almost worshipped, really, as the best actress of her generation. Sophie's Choice, The French Lieutenant's Woman, etc etc - her films weren't necessarily blockbusters but her name was certainly as widely known amongst the public as Sally Field, Jessica Lange, Debra Winger, etc.

What happened then is debatable - it was reported in the media as "Meryl fatigue", that she was taking every good role, that she was in too many movies, her sometimes "theatrical" style (use of wigs and accents to disappear into a role) was considered uncinematic and a subject of derision, and she attempted to broaden her range, or rather the types of roles she was offered by doing big budget Hollywood films, generally with unhappy results (paging Nicole Kidman...)

I think there was also the fact that - and this is IMO - that she "Aged" and began to go into "middle age" (or at least she was no longer young) and the industry didn't really know what to do with her at that point because there are few roles for women between "starlet" and "old character actress" (that is changing now, I think, but slowly - there are still more roles for women of a certain age on TV than in the movies).

Now she's carved out a "new" niche for herself, and reminded us, like Dame Helen, that older can be sexy and dynamic, and we're all the better for it. So, I love Meryl, but she was a star BEFORE and she is a star again.

Anonymous said...

i just saw changeling and iagree nat it is jolie who lets the fil down she is never in the moment simply acting it,i was impressed with harner as the killer though,supp actor is interesting if you look beyond ledger.


yes it's true that Streep was a major star back in the late 70s early 80s. Kramer Vs Kramer, Deer Hunter, Out of Africa... these were all very big hits... even if it's hard now to imagine these types of film being blockbusters. The only downturn in her career was the 90s. It was spotty then. The media is now all obsessed with her prominence as a star but she's really only captured back what was initially hers. Which is really cool given her age.

there have been very few careers with as much longevity (1977-2008 and still going strong) but all careers have peaks and valleys

Anonymous said...

Janice: I cannot disagree with you, but you certainly miss my point...

THere is a difference between a movie Star and an actress .. and from right on Steep has always been considered an actress and NOT a movie star.

Stars are ones who are in the limelight and gossip columns all the time: Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, etc. Actresses are given to their craft... Streep was playing older characters ( Ironweed ) and such... with or without accents and "use of wigs" early on.

If you do your homework, you will also see she was not taking every role available .. she did about 1 picture a year!!!

And thank you, Nathaniel, for somewhat backing up my case.

Anonymous said...

90's was a lull period for her but for me she gave her best ever performance that decade in the bidges of madison county,i love her in that film,i watch her and see a real person not meryl streep,i wish eastwood had brought out the same magic in angelina.

Janice said...

//And thank you, Nathaniel, for somewhat backing up my case.//

That's funny, Rick, I was about to thank Nathaniel for backing up MY case/

You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to...

I can see your point (actress vs movie star) but it seemed to me at the time that she was that rarest combination - both movie star AND actress. (She was certainly a household name, her name was, for a time, a box office draw - those things certainly qualify as movie star in my book. I think the notion that there is an either/or does a disservice to those "stars" who actually also happen to be very good actors.)

And if you'll note, in my post I wrote //What happened then is debatable - it was reported in the media as "Meryl fatigue", that she was taking every good role, that she was in too many movies,//

"It was reported in the media" being the key term here, not "I personally believe/I think she was in too many movies." there's a difference. In any case, the media giveth, the media taketh away (and the sheep go along with what they are told) and then suddenly, the media giveth again as if they had suddenly discovered her existence with "Prada" when she's been working all along.

And I disagree with your definition of "movie star". Your definition works very well for the loose term of "celebrity" in the current internet/tabloid age, but I don't think anyone would argue that Will Smith is certainly a movie star, and his life is not filling up gossip columns, at least not very often. He is a "movie star" because people will go to see a film because he is in it, because he puts butts in seats. That was always the bottom line of "movie star", along with a certain intangible "something extra", a "star quality".


well my definition of "movie star" is more expansive than who can fill seats. If you use the box office as definition you lose some of the greatest stars of all time.

remember that people as epic as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had "box office poison" labels at one time or another.

and if you use the narrow definition of "box office" you completely lose just about every female actress post Kathleen Turner in the mid to late 80s (with the exception of only Jodie, Julia, Sandra and Meg I think) and that is a gross distortion of film history I would say.

Anonymous said...

hey Janice and Nat,

I just reread our blogs and I now think we are all saying somewhat the same thing... we just have it in our minds a little differently..

The true fact is that we aLL love Streep ...and that is a good thing and should keep us bonded.