Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Picture

VIRTUAL LOCKS

  • The Social Network
  • The King’s Speech
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • True Grit

Before the PGAs, The Social Network had won everything.  Now it is has just won almost everything.  It could mean we are seeing the start of the inevitable front-runner backlash, but that’s a discussion for after nominations.  When word of The King’s Speech first arrived, you could hear lots of collective groaning about Oscar bait and how the Academy is a complete sucker for anything to do with British royalty.  Two funny things, though: pretty much everyone actually likes the film, and it really isn’t Oscar baity at all.  Speaking of unlikely Oscar movies, how about a ballerina horror film likely to pull down $100 million at the box office?  Black Swan pulled off the trick.  The Fighter, led by a strong cast, seemed to peak at the right time, nomination-wise, and should continue the Academy’s love affair with boxing movies.  One of the few movies released prior to Oscar season likely to get an Oscar love in major categories, Inception pretty much speaks for itself.  A vast, cold, scifi/psychological epic, it is completely unlike traditional Oscar movies and yet so obviously one.  Perhaps the easiest prediction, before any of these movies had been seen, was that Joel and Ethan Coen remaking a classic western would be a best picture nominee.  But hey, they still had to follow through on the thing, and by all accounts, True Grit does so.

LIKELY IN

  • Toy Story 3
  • The Kids Are All Right

Metacritic has Toy Story 3 has the second-best reviewed wide release of 2010, as does imdb (to different movies, interestingly enough).  So clearly lots and lots of people really like this film.  Up‘s nomination last year showed that the move to ten best picture nominees allowed the Academy to be OK with nominating an animated film for the big prize, so there’s no real reason it should miss.  I’ve heard a couple people theorize that The Kids Are All Right‘s spot is in danger.  I certainly don’t know enough to dispute that, I’m just a little hard-pressed to see how it could miss when its rivals appear to be indier and/or not having the support from at least one acting nomination, like this one.

LAST TWO IN

  • Winter’s Bone
  • The Town

I have this (completely unfounded, I’m sure) feeling that a lot of the love for Winter’s Bone comes from Hollywood patting itself on the back for supporting indie movies and wanting to show they are totally OK with films taking place in America’s backwoods.  I’m not sure if anyone really loved The Town, but undoubtedly many people liked it, so I’m wondering if its broad appeal could lead it to nab the final slot for the big prize.

FIRST ALTERNATE

  • 127 Hours

Most predictions you’ll read have the prior two films and 127 Hours in a battle for the final two spots.  This one was directed by recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle and features a likely Oscar-nominated performance by Oscar co-host James Franco.  So it certainly has a legit chance.  I just happen to think it peaked a little too early and that it wasn’t quite compelling enough to hold up.

DARK HORSES

  • Blue Valentine
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Shutter Island
  • Another Year
  • The Way Back
  • Biutiful
  • How to Train Your Dragon

If voters want to get indie and perhaps prove a point, they may turn to Blue Valentine.  The Ghost Writer connected with a good number of people, and the Academy wasn’t afraid with The Pianist to give awards to Polanski.  I’m still confused at why Shutter Island, a Martin Scorsese film that grossed over $100 million domestically isn’t making a bigger play here.  I’ve prattled on a number of times about the Academy’s love for Mike Leigh, the logic certainly applies to Another Year.  I’m not sure if The Way  Back isn’t good or is a victim of a poor release strategy, but it was supposed to be a contender and then it wasn’t, for reasons still unclear.  John says Biutiful and How to Train Your Dragon are dark horses, and he is smarter than I am.

SHOULDA BEEN A CONTENDER

  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Please Give
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