State of the Race, Feb '09 Edition


This is the first post here at Cine-O-Rama, where I aim to discuss not just the movies in all their stages of development, but especially those films which are considered in contention at the biggest awards ceremony in the business: the Oscars. We'll traverse the landscape of the festival circuits, the critic circles and the box office to assess each of the films, their importance and their innovations; and recall films from the past which have stood the test of time.

Ripped straight from my personal blog, with some added flourishes:

Taking a cue from Kris Tapley at In Contention, I'm very quickly going to run through who I believe are the current major forces in the upcoming Oscar race in '10. Quite a long ways to go before that point, but then isn't it the best feeling when you can say you called it ten months in advance? Besides, I've always found it interesting to see how films evolve over time and sustain changes in their consumption, and maybe we'll be able to see some surprises unfold right before our eyes as the year passes.

No pictures are standing out so deeply quite yet, which makes the whole ordeal even more sensitive and interesting since they're all on relatively equal footing, but I have my money on "Amelia" as a definite Actress contender for Hillary Swank - would be her third nom, with a win being three for three - which could play out either like "Boys Don't Cry" (only nommed for Actress) or "Million Dollar Baby" (which went all the way to Best Picture). If it hits its mark, she'll likely be up against her former director in the Best Picture category, Clint Eastwood from "Million Dollar", who will complete his Untitled Nelson Mandela project with Morgan Freeman later this year, who will likely go all the way to the Actor category. Eastwood is a darling with Oscar (though 2008 wasn't his year, apparently, since both "Changeling" and "Gran Torino" managed to get neglected except for Angelina Jolie's nom for the former) and this project has some deep history in it. I'm sure the old farts in the Academy will recall the global awareness of apartheid and Mandela's struggle against it in a way that they couldn't remember the Wineville Chicken Murders that were at the center of "Changeling."

Of course, with Eastwood back in top form with an ambitious and heavy project that'll really let him stretch his legs out, he's got to have the competition, and I think this may play out similarly to the year "The Departed" won, with Martin Scorsese this year giving us "Shutter Island," which sounds like a swashbuckler but is in fact a CIA flick with his old pal and very frequent collab Leonardo Dicaprio in the starring role. Got a taste of the FBI with "Departed" and decided to go one step further, I suppose. The premise sounds a bit too actiony and espionagy (are they words? on the internet, they are) not meditative or dramatic enough, but we'll see. In a game of Kevin Bacon's six degrees of separation, I think Paul Haggis, who was Eastwood's scripter for "Million Dollar Baby," may see his rival from a couple years ago rise again, with Ang Lee's next follow-up to "Brokeback Mountain" after "Lust, Caution" ("Brokeback" should've won Picture, I keep telling people) being "Taking Woodstock." A period flick about the undying and seminal concert, it might be appealing in a way that "Milk" and "Frost/Nixon" were last year if only because they hearken back to a very strangely American past and unearth some of the nuances of the times that we all have forgotten about. The Academy might be itching to give some love to Ang Lee in the Picture category after they relegated him to just Best Director the year "Crash" crashed the party and stole Picture. Yes, I'm bitter.

As a fan of "Chicago," I'd personally love to see Rob Marshall get back to the big stage with "Nine", which is an adaptation of the stage adaptation of Federico Fellini's "8 1/2," a marvelous black and white film. Marshall failed to make it there with "Memoirs of a Geisha" (which wasn't a bad film, just messy and politically incorrect with the casting), so he's probably focused on Big O with this one. Got an incredible cast, too, with recent winner Daniel Day-Lewis, and a good sliver of the actresses that were at the Oscars this year as the addressees to the noms - Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, not to mention other winners and noms Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Penelope Cruz (who finally got her dues last weekend). Lots of gorgeous women, Day-Lewis is a lucky bastard. I could easily see this be a huge hit with the supporting categories, but perhaps Day-Lewis will earn for himself yet another nomination and solidify his position near the top of the acting food chain.

But the real one to beat, I think, will be Peter Jackson's new film, the adaptation of "The Lovely Bones." Early word is already brewing, and the coffee that's being stirred smells good and bold. They at the studio and on the ground resist using the "O" word, of course, but media monkeys are throwing it around for them, including even my old professor Anne Thompson at Variety. Snippets, set pictures, all that have been decidedly infrequent and there's a lot of hush hushing from the actors in the film, so you know they know they've got something golden in their hands that they have to guard it from our prying eyes and hungry hands. Could be Jackson's grand return to family drama, and the natural progression from his previous "Heavenly Creatures", which is one of his absolute best works. He's new Hollywood royalty, new money to Eastwood's very very old money, and could very easily have the movie-to-beat for the entirety of the year.

Of course there are other films to watch, but as it stands, these are the ones I'd bet my money on. Though if you were a betting man (I'm not), you'd probably figure that now wouldn't be the time to bet, as the campaign has but barely started. Wait for some studio honchos to get big-headed or enter a momentary state of weakness and declare an early victory before putting up your dukes.

Others to watch for in all categories: Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale; Kevin MacDonald's "State of Play"; Jason Reitman (of "Juno") directing "Up in the Air" with George Clooney and Vera Farmiga; Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant"; Julie Taymor's (of "Across the Universe") "The Tempest" with a sex-reversal and Helen Mirren now in the lead role; Michelle Pfeiffer's period vehicle "Cheri" (does that sound odd to you?); the Alejando Gonzales Inarritu ("Babel") film "Biutiful" with Javier Bardem; Paul Greengrass of "United 93" with "Green Zone" and Matt Damon; James Cameron's long time-coming alien flick "Avatar"; and the Sundance hit "An Education" which may pull itself up to the ranks in some of the acting categories.

Keep those eyes... open (spoken like Patrick Bateman).

IMAGE taken from The NY Post

No comments:

Post a Comment