So it has come to that time of year where all the serious films are starting to pop up at the cinema (especially in America), hoping to nab the goldmine that is a Best Picture Nomination at the Oscars. Its also time for everyone across the internet to start speculating wildly about what might be nominated, and what might win.
Its going to be a tough year for predictors at the moment. With no clear cut favourite, any of five of ten or eleven films could make the cut. Usually at this stage there is at least one film which everyone knows will make it for one reason or another – but this year, as we’ll see there are pros and cons to each of the potential winners.
Of course this should make the build up a hell of a lot more fun. Since the Crash/Brokeback Mountain shocker a few years ago, it seems now everyone is back on a knife-edge when the ceremony rolls around. Nothing feels like a safe bet anymore. Not even the biggest film of the year.
There is little doubt of the shadow that The Dark Knight has cast over 2008. The biggest box-office film of the year (except for in the UK, where it was outsold by Mamma Mia! of all things) would have been huge even were it not for the passing of its co-star Heath Ledger, but after his tragic death, the whole world seemed to go a little bit crazy (The Dark Knight held the #1 spot on imdb.com briefly after release) and there was little doubt what would gross the most this year.
Not that Oscar is primarily worried by such things as Box-Office gross. But as with Titanic, there might be a feeling in the Academy that if The Dark Knight is nominated then viewing figures of the ceremony would skyrocket (after last years dull show, it’d at least shake things up). The trouble the Academy is going to have is that however it is dressed up (a lot of people talking about it as a crime thriller), it is still a comic-book movie. Not the sort of thing they would want to touch usually. They bowed to public pressure eventually by honouring the third Lord of the Rings though, so maybe they will here.
Elsewhere, most of the names in the awards tombola are yet to arrive. Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle (Sunshine, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later among others) has arrived a little early stateside to incredibly positive reviews, meaning its an early frontrunner for a nomination. The story of a street urchin who enters Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to attract a girl he knows watches the show, Slumdog should prove to be a crowd favourite that seems to tick the Academy’s boxes.
Changeling is another one already in cinemas, but it has received disappointingly mixed reviews stateside. The Academy loves Clint, but they might feel its time to honour him for his acting (his “last role” in Gran Torino is also in the mix). Angelina Jolie should pick up a nomination here for her revelatory performance.
Ron Howard’s new one Frost/Nixon should garner a few nominations. An adaptation of a wildly popular stage play, it tells the story of the meeting of the fallen British journalist and the even further fallen post-Watergate president. It’s kept the same cast as the play, so assuming it doesn’t look too stagey, should be in with a good chance. Frank Langella is looking a strong bet for Best Actor too.
Australia by auteur Baz Luhrmann was my pick for Oscar gold this year, with its epic look and feel, a director the Academy does like, and a starry cast with the chance for some revelatory turns it looked a shoe-in. The film has been hampered with bad press in the last week or so though after Fox spoiled the film for everyone by announcing they were changing the ending. No spoilers here, but if you look it up you can find it easily enough. Will the Academy be put off by the studio interference?
Revolutionary Road could be a good bet for a nomination too. Billed as a reteaming of Titanic duo Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio, the adaptation of Richard Yates classic novel takes apart the myth of Suburbia – much like American Beauty, which won Oscars for Revolutionary Road director Sam Mendes.
The Wrestler is an odd one. Darren Aronofsky’s latest is being billed as a comeback for Mickey Rourke, which should be enough to see him nominated in the actor stakes. Whether it gets a Best Picture nomination or not will depend on how seriously the Academy takes a film about wrestling. I think they might need convincing.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a popular choice, seeing a reteam of Brad Pitt and David Fincher. The story of a man who ages backwards, it might just come down to whether the Academy thinks its too cutesy or weird. It has been getting mixed press from the festivals, suggesting it isn’t as good as it sounds on paper. The Academy might feel it’s a good chance to give Fincher a nod though, as all his previous work wasn’t really Academy material.
Milk is another front runner, by cult director Gus Van Saant. There is no getting away from the reason this might not get nominated, gayness. With Brokeback Mountain they proved they would nominate a film about homosexuality, but that was about coming to terms with something that was difficult – and even that divided the Academy. Milk has the theme of gay pride. One fears that unfortunately, this might be too much for the conservative Academy. Let us hope not.
Lastly, Valkyrie. Its an interesting one, on paper it looks like Oscar gold, Bryan Singer, Tom Cruise, and a heroic film about taking down Hitler. The press snipes towards the film however have been nasty. Mostly of course this is aimed at The Cruiser, who has committed the sin of believing in something that most of us don’t. I actually think the film looks really good. But whether the negativity will put of the Academy, I don’t know. Perhaps what The Cruiser needs to do is take a couple of years doing nothing and then star in a film like this and present it as his “comeback”, the Academy love that shit.