Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009 Oscar Predictions, Best Picture & Director

Here's something that may surprise some of you. Learning over the last month that The Human Factor, Eastwood's once Untitled Nelson Mandela Picture, was not a biopic but a sports drama of sorts with biopic ready characters (Nelson Mandela and World Cup star Francois Pienaar) did not deter my prediction that Oscar will love it.

<-- poster concept art by Raats

The inspirational sports film is a regular staple of the multiplex. Most of them come and go with nary an Oscar blip. It's kind of the ugly stepchild within the family of stories Oscar really loves, the true story period piece. I expect this is because everyone thinks of these films as a formulaic paint-by-numbers subgenre that doesn't require artistry so much as predictable story beats, swelling music and one recognizable manly star (Quaid, Washington, McConaughey... take your pick). Every once in a while, though, this overly populated genre does attract Academy eyeballs (Chariots of Fire, Seabiscuit, Hoosiers) and if there's any pairing that comes with automatic prestige cred and appealing "important!" political background, it'd have to be Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman mixed with Nelson Mandela and South Africa.

It's guesswork. Maybe it'll be too light for the Academy.

Nothing is really screaming "sure thing" this year: Public Enemies is coming out in the summer and its digitally shot (an Oscar no-no), James Cameron's Avatar might be a thrilling and revolutionary behemoth but it's also sci-fi (definitely an Oscar no-no), Green Zone has the pull of both Damon and Paul Greengrass but it's also Iraq-concerned and so far that's been a turnoff for audiences/Oscar, Shutter Island might impress audiences but will it impress Oscar (I have some doubts), The Lovely Bones is based on a beloved novel but will Jackson pad the story too much, weighing it down?, Nine is the year's starriest picture but it's based on a superior film (I'm guessing. But it's a safe sort of guess, right, Federico Fellini being > than Rob Marshall... duh!) which could easily turn people against it. Nine's Oscar prospects... gah! Its strengths are its weaknesses are its strengths. The head spins.

Theoretically all this uncertainty should make the Oscar race more interesting in 2009. At least until December when we all be begin whining that it's entirely too predictable!

For my predictions, I'm going with four high profile pictures with a nice spread of release dates and studios, plus one small wonder people seem enthused about already, An Education. The 1960s London set story is based on a biographical essay by Lynn Barber. She seems amused by the changes they've made to her life. Many others seem amused by the whole film.


Also Posted: best director (I'm taking a big risk here) and the index of all predictions -- you can see how well I generally do with my predictions this far in advance on this overall chart. The plan is to wrap up with the remaining techs tomorrow. But now, EASTER celebrations with friends await! Must eat green blue eggs and ham. And a Chocolate Jesus. yum yum.


Rafael said...

well, "Slumdog" certainly won BP as far as I remember (so old news for oscar...) and it was shot in digital, so was Benjamin Button. I guess this trend of film > digital is coming to an end...

Liv. said...

well, the one's i'm most looking forward to from your list are Nine, Avatar, Away We Go, and Taking Woodstock. however, the movies i like never win oscars so maybe if i stop talking about them, they'll have a fair chance.

Marshall said...

I don't think it's called THE HUMAN FACTOR anymore, unless it's changed back? The book is called PLAYING THE ENEMY, which is kind of dreadful.

Alex Constantin said...

The Lovely Bones
Shutter Island
Where the Wild Things Are (wild card, fantasy sh!t, if Lord made it and Being JM was close... why not)

runner-up: Precious.

Nat, how can you include Nine in the Top 5, but without any acting nomination? :) come on. that would't happen.

Jim T said...

Nate, your predictions are the same as mine (for best pic) except for Public Enemies. I think Shutter Island will be the 5th nominee.

What I don't understand is the general Nine sceptisism. Am I the only one who thinks it will be great for sure? I mean, Marshall's job is to take a great musical and make it a great film using A-list stars. Is it that difficult?

Alex Constantin said...

for Best Director, I'm going with:

Peter Jackson
Martin Scorsese
James Cameron
AG Inarritu
Rob Marshall

I'm not buying Eastwood and Public Enemies does look a bit too digital for major categories (though the 2nd trailer is much better)

Alex F said...

Wow looking over your top 10, I just realized that except for Avatar I'm as excited about this year's potential Oscar nominees as I was about last year's...which is to say, not very. On paper it seems kind of ho-hum.

I'm hoping of course that there's an actual gem in there rather than just satisfying/competent films. We'll see. Being an Iraq movie with a no name cast (I love Renner!), I'm sure the Hurt Locker won't land anywhere near Oscar, but as of now it's one of the movies I'm most looking forward to...okay right behind Terminator Salvation.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping for a lot of surprises this year because these all look pretty uninspiring. You never know, though. I'm sure a lot of these will be good, but nothing gets my heart racing. I live in hope that this will change the as we begin to see and hear more about them.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Not sure about An Education going that far. I think the reviews were good, but BP worthy?

Arkaan said...

1. Nine's a good stagework, but that doesn't mean it'll translate to the screen.

2. As good as the cast is on paper, are they actually well cast in the roles? I'm thinking of Cruz, Cotilard, Hudson and Day-Lewis in general (and Kidman, but I forgot she was in the movie. Sorry).

3. Rob Marshall couldn't do well by an acclaimed, popular book with a good cast. I'd say Nine's no guarantee.

4. That said, if it does get nominated, I would be floored if it didn't get an acting nod or two.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it's between Nine and Mandela. And somebody can tell me if a film named Temple Grandin will be released in theaters? Stars Claire Danes and Julia Ormond, and the plot of imdb says: "A biopic of Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who has become one of top scientists in humane livestock handling" Hummm Oscar?

Mariposa said...

Talking about Oscars predictions: on the Oscars Red Carpet, Miley Cyrus said her Hannah Montana: The Movie role is mature and she hopes the members of the academy recognize it... Hmmmz, that sounds very plausible.

Janice said...

I heard an interview on National Public Radio with Temple Gradin once - brilliant woman, amazing story. I'd definitely jump to see that one, if done right it could be amazing - or completely ho-hum (fascinating lives don't always translate well to film, as we all know.)

Cinesnatch said...

I applaud your predictions Nathaniel. There isn't one that screams out "sure thing!" So, for that, I applaud you.

Cinesnatch said...

Hey Nat, how have you been on your year-in-advance predictions on Best Picture anyway? I can't seem to find them on your blog.

RC said...

Interesting thoughts and predicts. I am very excited about the prospects of this years film spread and the variety of performances, films, and styles we will be seeing.



Vince on the index page of predictions it gives you my year in advance score for every year.

For Best Picture it's

2008 -2 of 5
2007 -3 of 5
2006 -0 of 5
2005 -2 of 5
2004 - 1 of 5
2003 - 2 of 5
2002 - 1 of 5
2001 - 0 of 5

for zee record.

richard said...

nate, i LOVE your site. but can we be clear on one thing?:

Memoirs of a Geisha is not a classic. (i assume you're referring to the Rob Marshall film?) it's not even good. in fact it's widely considered to be LAME. so comparisons between it and Nine can only help Nine.

while i'm not optimistic about the quality of Nine (one of my favorite musicals ever), due to some miscasting, i doubt anyone could do it better than Marshall. (except perhaps Mike Nichols, but that ship has sailed.)


richard oh dear... did i mistype something? I HATE Memoirs of a Geisha

the classic Nine may have trouble being compared to is 8 1/2 which is the film that inspired its very existence.

mariposa that is hilarious.


richard I see what you're referring to. It read weird. So I've clarified. It was meant to be two separate thoughts.

Each line is a different strength or weakness.

I removed the word "classic" for the classic I'm referring to which is "8 1/2"

should be clear now.

I hate Memoirs of a Geisha

arkaan i agree on Nine. I wish I had pushed Judi Dench into the supporting list. But I really wanted to include Sigourney Weaver. I like making brave calls ;)

LisaV said...

Suggest the fifth film slot should be "_______: Did Not See That Coming" in perpetua.

Rooting for Taking Woodstock and Avatar though. Imelda! 2009 MUST be great, after blase Oscar08 season.

Unknown said...

Am I the only person who's bullish on this "Creation" thing? Earlier it seemed this was the year of Darwin and Lincoln; do we think that'll dissipate by Oscar time?

head_wizard said...

Glad you have such confidence in An Education I am thinking that could be a great smaller film this year.

reassurance said...

Kate Hudson is a HUGE con.

Anonymous said...

I think people are under estimating "500 Days of Summer." It could be the quirky Fox Searchlight pic of the year. Maybe the summer release is what's killing it.

G. Morvis said...

I've already started a Where the Wild Things Are for Best Picture group on Facebook. ha. said...

love the wild card-ing for avatar and parnassus. Surprised by absence of 'tree of life'. it seems more accessible than new world, and both penn and pitt are in with oscar. it's also called 'tree of life', for chrissakes. along with 'the human factor', that sounds like a summation of what oscar is into.

if 'the road' gets a good critical reception, it could do really well given cormac mccarthy. viggo, and oprah love. i also wouldn't discount 'up in the air' given the clooney factor, and reitman's post-juno status.

thanks for the predictions, nat. a joyous moment in my web-surfing day.

Kurtis O said...

God, I hope "The Lovely Bones" film is better than the book. I know it's beloved, but I was terribly bored by Alice Sebold's tedious and pretentious domestic details. But - dare I say it - the bones(!) of the story are strong, and I can't wait to see how Jackson visualizes heaven.

I'm perhaps most anticipating "Precious"/"Push"/"Whatever," which boasts the most dramtically intriguing synopsis I've heard in ages: illiterate girl from the gritty ghetto is sexually abused by her mother, pregnant with her father's child for the second time, has HIV and still (!) finds hope. Yea, I MUST see that.

Glenn said...

Interesting that you should exclude Sherfig from the Director top five and yet her film is in the top 5 when she seems exactly like the kind of female director they would actually pay attention to. She's foreign, her movie isn't from a genre that men are automatically assumed of being able to do better and she's not well known outside of arthouse circles.

Plus, can you imagine the outcry if her film is nominated and she isn't? It wouldn't merely be a case of "Did the movie direct itself?"

But, then again, I am predicting both Scherfig (a woman) and Lee Daniels (a black man) and I'm not quite sure the Academy can handle that just yet.


Glenn... you're right that foreign women are more likely. BUT. as I stated on the page it's the type of film that the director doesn't always get credit for. I can't believe how many reviews are built around Nick Hornby who wrote the screenplay.

Glenn said...

I would've said that too, but then my mind goes to Jason Reitman and how that overtly writer/actor movie got a surprising director nomination.

john said...

Seriously guys, i think we should actually all be aware of Judi Dench. I think its a really strong possiblity that she will get nominated and could even win again, Weinstein did 'help' her win a decade ago for a small amount of screentime, and he could still do it now. The fact that she will probably never win the lead may also help her win her 2nd, thus she joining the group of women with the most BSA Oscars.

marshall the bear said...

The Academy loves to reward a musical perf once in a while :

2003 : Zeta-Jones in Chicago
2007 : Hudson in Dreamgirls

so yeah :

2009 : Dench in Nine, y'all

Unknown said...

I think the year-long frontrunner is The Human Factor, the films to watch out are Avatar, Nine, Taking Woodstock and The Lovely Bones, the dark horse is Agora and my favorite "incognita" is Camino's reception in the USA. It could sneak at Screenplay, Director and female performers quite easily if it becomes a critic circle's hit. Even thought the subject matter might result in a big NO in the midwest specially.

Unknown said...

... and Public Enemies... no way. I may eat my words, but from the trailer, it has a certain feel of "The Untouchables" redux that hurts it a lot. Specially 'cause those are huge shoes to fill. I'm considering P.E. only for technicals and maybe, maybe, Depp nom'd if the year is extremely weak, which I don't think will be in the lead actor cathegory


jesus --- than who are you suggesting in lead actor. Cause the year looks really weak to me there this early.

Unknown said...

It is so early - there is only 1 category I even feel safe in guessing at -

Best Animated Feature:

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Sellick is due after Nightmare, and the others are Pixar and Miyazaki.

Unless this is one of those magical years with 5 nominees


Matt, i think it will be. Early reports suggests that there will be enough movies this year for 5 nominees.

brendon said...

i really do think that the road with viggo mortenson has a very good chance. if it is anything like the book it will be great and viggo will definately win best actor....finally

Marlowe said...

I read "Playing the Enemy", the basis for"The Human Factor", and I think it's far less a sports film than the examples listed. I know nothing about rugby and I didn't have a hard time getting into it.

Unknown said...

I just question this being a year with five nominees in animated films becuase it seems like some years there has been enough films - but for certain reasons not enough of them were submitted to bring about the 5 nominees ... but who knows - I guess the question will be are there 2 more films that will be worthy of being nominated (assuming Up and Ponyo are as good as I am assuming)

Oh, and I am calling it right now - Best Animated Film 2009 - Pixar's mini-streak ends and Miyazaki wins another Oscar.

Anonymous said...

Where are the rest of your predictions?


good question

No Bad Movies said...

I am not a fan of musicals. I don't hate them, they just aren't my favorite genre in film. But not going with my heart and going with straight common sense, because I have been predicting Oscar's now for 17 years now with a 71% accuracy rate, I'm feeling for Nine in a big way. I like Nathanial's analogies on the pros and cons, but if any movie that is released in 2009 that screams Oscar, it's Nine.
My analogies ? There are many. Oscar likes a good musical. Another is this production is littered full of past Oscar winners and nominees. You are going to have arguibly one of the best actors in this era making his debut singing ( see Johnny Depp )and the production was thouroghly rehearsed for sheer confidance in the performances.
I believe locks will be for picture, actor, supporting actor, adapted screenplay, cinematograpgy ( by winner Dion Beebe )editing, art direction, costume design, sound editing, original score and song.
As for Public Enemies, I feel it too much of a popcorn flick for a Best Picture nominee. Not that it won't be an entertaining, good movie, just not Oscar-ish. And for Lovely Bones... Mark Wahlberg is the male lead is all I have to say about that. Can you believe Ryan Gosling was originally attached but Jackson asked of him off the project because he gained weight for the role.

My Oscar five is...

The Informant
Shutter Island
Clint Eastwood project ( could recieve backlash though )


An Education
The Last Station
The Road

Still way early though.

Jim Dorey said...

AVATAR = Best Picture
James Cameron = Best Director

Period. Forget SciFi is an Oscar no-no. Look at STAR WARS! AVATAR is very bit as groundbreaking as it was in its day so be prepared.

Hollywood will never be the same again post-AVATAR.