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We’re starting a new feature here. Each week (roughly), the Grouches will tackle a different question. Have a question you want to seen in (virtual) print? E-mail us! goldengrouchesATgmailDOTcom. This week’s installment: What do you think are Inception’s Oscar chances (and why)?

Jared

I think Inception has a pretty clear path to some technical nods and will turn a good chunk of those into wins, most likely.  Sound and Visual Effects have lately been reserved for summer blockbusters, but we really saw most of the contenders there (e.g. Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia) underperform.  The film, undeniably, was visually stunning, so Art Direction and Cinematography nominations seem probable.  And will make up for the lack of Directing and Picture nominations.  Obviously we have a long way to go, and the movie could very well make the cut if some contenders fail.  But I see two major stumbling blocks.  First, the movie felt very cold.  I was unable to get into any of the characters and left with a detached feeling.  And I don’t think I was alone.  Looking over recent history, the Academy tends to favor films that tap into emotion, even if sometimes a bit maudlin.  Second, I understand the argument that the move to ten nominees was a direct response to The Dark Knight‘s snub and the Academy loves itself some makeup awards.  But I see a group that has a demonstrated opposition to Nolan’s films.  Other than writing, which I think is the award for which he’ll have to settle.

Brian

I agree with Jared about the techinical nods, but disagree that Inception has any shot at writing or directing or picture nominations. The highest up the prestige ladder that I see Inception going is a cinematography nom, maybe even a win, for many of those stunning shots Jared referred to. And while I enjoyed the Hans Zimmer score, if his stronger (and frightening) work for Dark Knight can be disqualified for “too many collaborators“, then there is no way his unfairly-maligned work on Inception gets recognized for borrowing from “Nom, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”

At this point it is hard to separate critical and public acclaim from Academy politics, mostly because the latter hasn’t really geared up yet. Anecdotally and going by Rotten Tomato scores, I’m of the opinion that Dark Knight was more broadly appreciated by critics and viewers alike. I don’t recall nearly as much ridicule of Dark Knight as I’ve heard of Inception (misplaced or not, it’s out there — and not just because its Christopher Nolan.) For that reason, I see it whiffing on script, directing, and picture nominations as well. I know the Academy loves their make-up awards, but those go to stalwarts of the industry, not relative newcomers — foreign ones at that. And also — much like how The Aviator was supposed to be Scorsese’s “make-up” win, people saw it and were underwhelmed. That just wasn’t his “one.” I don’t think Inception is Nolan’s.

Nobody in Inception can come close to matching Heath Ledger’s Joker, and that’s before his tragic death raised the likeliness of Oscar appreciation. I’m interested to hear if our other two grouches see any possible acting nominations — because I don’t see them at all.

John

These summer movies are so hard to call for Best Picture. Last year I felt certain about Up and Inglourious Basterds being in the mix at this time of the year. It’s much harder for Toy Story 3 and Inception. My brain tells me both are in – easily – but my gut says something isn’t quite right. I keep thinking Inception didn’t have the same sort of cultural impact that last year’s big summer Oscar films had, but the $250 million and counting in the bank begs to differ.

I guess it comes down to this, or at least this is what my brain tells me: if District 9 can make it into Best Picture there’s no way Inception doesn’t, too. And in this case I think Christopher Noan helps. Not so much as a makeup nomination but because the kerfluffle around The Dark Knight‘s snub will give some voters enough pause to reconsider a nod for the film. Furthermore, there isn’t the same sort of populist groundswell forming that demands a nomination for Inception the way it did for Dark Knight, which I think ultimately resulted in a backlash from Academy members. Again, the profile is District 9 (with twice the box office receipts).

Then of course it’ll do well in all the tech categories, including Score. But I think Leo is the only one with a chance at an acting nomination and only if it has momentum during awards season. And if Leo gets a nod, then Nolan’s getting one for everything he can: Director, Original Screenplay, Picture and Inception is vying for Best Picture.

Adam

I wasn’t planning on answering this. Then I thought I might just rip on the rest of yours instead of answering. After reading all of yours, I really couldn’t do anything else.

I’m glad I had the e-mail addresses attached to them because they all seem to be the same…

1.) Inception not as loved/good as Dark Knight
2.) Academy loves “makeup” awards.
3.) Not as many people liked Inception/ more people whined about it, so probably won’t get Best Picture
4.) Will be nominated for and probably win some of the technical categories

But I guess there are some differences…

  • Jared doesn’t like to make a decision so he makes sure to hedge his bets and say it has a chance in all categories, but gives reasons it may fail.
  • Brian makes sure to have at least 3 shout-outs (Zimmer, Scorsese, Ledger) to ensure people know he is a connoisseur…he doesn’t just watch movies, he studies them.
  • John puts as many movie & movie history references as possible to make sure people know he watches movies and is smart (or at least smarter than Brian).
  • Adam acts the coward by waiting until everyone has gone before him, making cuts at everything they say, and never providing his own opinion for them to disagree with or ridicule.

Questions all of this raises…

  1. Is this a post? Who knows?
  2. Is it helpful to the “Question of the Week”? Absolutely not.
  3. Have I entertained my fellow Grouches? Do I give a fuck?

Oh, and Nolan is spelled with an “l” in the middle.

Because the Grouches are addicted to all forms of entertainment and the accompanying self-celebratory awards shows, we’ve done Emmy picks. You can find them here.

Yikes, it seems that I do this later and later each year. But you can’t rush quality.

So therefore I’m going to rush this a bit. It’s time to reset the site for 2010 but we cannot move forward til I weigh in with my top ten. It’s in the bylaws.

I thought 2009 was a great year for movies and a huge improvement over 2008. The trend seemed to have been fewer great movies each year but more good ones. I’d say that reversed in 2009; plenty of great movies but a smaller collection of merely pretty good ones.

1. Avatar

Say what you will about Dancing With Smurfs, but Avatar creates a world, gives it rules, and sticks to them. It’s a stunning visual achievement with a plot full of heart. Truly epic. I loved this movie.

2. In the Loop

Intensely hilarious, spectacularly vulgar, and cleverly satirical. Government was never so funny. I loved this movie.

3. The Informant!

Winner of Matt Damon of the Year! A simply delightful film that had me giggling and smiling throughout. I loved this movie.

4. Zombieland

Pure, balls out fun. Very clever, very funny, and very entertaining. I loved this movie.

5. An Education

It’s hard to say what I liked best about this film because everything is so right. A simple story with a powerful impact and an astonishing performance from Carey Mulligan. I loved this movie.

6. Up

Hilarious, heart-warming, touching. I loved this movie.

7. Summer Hours

It’s a film with themes and not much else. It’s kind of hard to make it sound appealing: a French matriarch dies and her three dispersed children try to figure out what to do with her estate. I dug its exploration of modern family dynamics. It also takes an interesting look at how we ascribe value to objects and how those values change over time, particularly as we move through our lives and beyond. I’m not talented enough to make it sound interesting but believe me it’s totally fascinating. I loved this movie.

8. Up in the Air

A slice of modern times and an effective look at the disconnected way we live our lives. Effective in characterization and atmosphere more than plot with terrific performances from George Clooney and Vera Farmiga.

9. I Love You, Man

Not as vulgar or spleen-splittingly funny than some of its Apatow produced brethren, but I think it’s a little more loony and genuinely heartfelt. I also know a guy just like the Paul Rudd character so it makes me laugh and laugh.

10. Julie & Julia

The 2009 surprise for me. Just utterly charming. I think it works so well for me because I was able to relate to the Julie character, easing the disparity between the two women’s stories that most people felt.

Some honorable mentions of films that I thought did something special:

Two films that I thought for sure were going to be on this list before I actually wrote it out and found out how many movies I really liked. Moon shows how a fantastic story and a terrific performance can succeed even on a small scale. A sci-fi thriller that will hang around in your head for quite some time. That Sam Rockwell Oscar campaign really should have received some traction… The Invention of Lying takes an interesting premise that could have followed the same path of a half dozen Jim Carrey movies (a man in a world where lies have not been invented!) and takes it in an entirely unexpected direction. Who thought it would turn into a treatise on religion? I found it thought-provoking and funny even if the premise gets stretched a bit by the end.

The Cove, the Oscar winning documentary, looks at a dolphin slaughter that occurs in Japan. For me, the success hinges not on the exposure of the slaughter itself, but the story of that exposure. The lengths these filmmakers go to in order to get their footage rivals any heist film… I know I’ve noted the aspects I dislike about World’s Greatest Dad, but the parts that work are just astonishing. The places this film goes are haunting and memorable… And finally, The Hangover, which made me cry with laughter.

Onwards to Oscar season 2010!

A little late posting this, sorry.  But it is time to start getting serious about 2010!  Lots of good stuff on the way from your humble Grouches.  Starting with our initial top fives.

Adam

Inception
From Paris With Love
She’s Out of My League
Iron Man 2
The A-Team

Brian

Toy Story 3
Inception
Kick-Ass
The Kids Are All Right
Iron Man 2

Jared

Inception
She’s Out of My League
Hot Tub Time Machine
How to Train Your Dragon
Iron Man 2

John

Inception
Kick-Ass
Toy Story 3
Hot Tub Time Machine
How to Train Your Dragon

John did a really great job organizing all of our posts on last year’s Oscars into a handy web page.  You should check it out!  You can find it here, or you can click at the link at the top of the webpage, just below our awesome logo.

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