Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Early Oscar Contenders Part Two: The Likely Contenders & The Dark Horses

At last, part two of my early overview of what we are likely to see at the Academy Awards in 2012, from a Best Picture perspective alone. Hit the jump to see the movies I see as "Likely Contenders" and "Dark Horses". Of course because we are guaranteed to see anything from 5 to 10 nominees next year, the nominees are that much harder to predict. Oh, and be sure to read Part One if you haven't already...

The Likely Contenders

J Edgar

Why the hell is this one not under the "Sure Bets" list? When I posted the trailer a while ago, I mentioned that Clint Eastwood + Leonardo DiCaprio + True Story + Epic Scope + Tricky Accent + Aging = Oscar. In fact, one or two more elements could be added to the list (such as suppressed homosexuality and an Oscar winning screenwriter). But then came this tweet from Kris Tapley (Incontention): "If what I heard is true, strike J. Edgar from your Best Picture guesses. I know, big shock." Steve Pond from The Wrap concurred.

So, until we hear more, we should assume that J Edgar is not all it makes out to be. That does pretty much coincide with the fact that Clint Eastwood has not been on such a great run in the last few years, directing a string of disappointments. I'm not saying bad, I'm saying they did not live up to expectations. It's not surprising though: the man is a little too prolific for an octogenarian. He has directed no less than 8 films in the last 7 years! That's 8 films since Million Dollar Baby, which feels like yesterday. Maybe the old bugger should slow down. I think then he would be able to bring the best out of the movies he chooses to direct.

It reminds me of something Quentin Tarantino said once that rings true (just like everything he says):

"You can lie about a lot of things," he says, "but your filmography doesn't lie. It's right there. And it doesn't give a shit about why you did it. It doesn't give a shit about what was happening that year in your life, or that gal you were married to. Ten years after the fact, your movies are all created fuckin' equal. And if you go through their filmographies, directors don't get better. Especially when they've had a serious twenty- or thirty-year career. It's not like they're waiting for their last five years to make that out-and-out masterpiece. They get worse."

The interviewer actually went on to assume that Tarantino was probably referring to directors like Clint Eastwood and Francis Ford Coppola (even though Tarantino refused to say it).

The genius continues:

"There are directors who don't know how to stop working. Maybe they thought of themselves as artists at one time, but now they're just directors, and they're going out and getting a job. And they live beyond their fuckin' means, anyway, so they can't stop working." … "When you gotta go out and make a movie to pay for the kid's private school and for the three ex-wives, don't talk to me about your artistry. It's their job. It's not my job. It's my calling." … "I don't want to have to watch the movie I made to pay for my pool."

Amen. Head over to GQ and read the interview. It's awesome, and I'm glad I found it again.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I've already written a massive amount on this film, so to see that go here. Because it is such a well known book, and because David Fincher is involved, this one cannot be ignored. Oh, and it looks awesome. The one thing counting against it though is the fact that it may be a little too dark for Academy sensibilities. As I said in the last post, the Academy generally prefers lighter fare. That being said, I think it has a good shot at being nominated for best picture. Other possibilities include a best actress nod for Rooney Mara, original score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (they won the Oscar in their last attempt for The Social Network), cinematography for Jeff Cronenweth (what we've seen to date has been amazing) and of course directing for Fincher.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Thomas Alfredson's English language debut and his follow up to the unbelievably awesome Let The Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has played at some of the major film festivals to stellar reviews. Furthermore, it looks to be a tight and classy adaption of a best selling spy novel by John Le Carre, it's British (the Academy loves all things British), the performance of Gary Oldman has made him widely favoured for the best actor Oscar, and he is supported by a male cast that is impossible to match.

So is this the year that the Academy will seek to honour an old favourite - the spy genre? Most pundits have Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on their radar, so I'm pretty sure it will be nominated. But, I think we will only be able to tell once it is released (in December) and more critics get to see it. Because of its "stock standard" premise, I think it may be tricky to get real buzz going. It's almost like a film needs some extra element that lets people notice it before others. True stories help. A little controversy helps. Box office helps. I think for this one, the major helper will be Gary Oldman's performance. Will that be enough? I hope so.

The Ides of March

Here we go. Political drama, George Clooney (not only acting, but directing too), Ryan Gosling (who is shit hot at the moment), Philip Seymour Hoffman (a regular awards player), based on a famous play and strong reviews make this one a contender. With that in mind, one would think that The Ides of March should be on the Sure Bets list. So why not? I don't know, the reviews weren't that great. And it doesn't seem to have that "something extra" I referred to above. But then again, Dave Karger at Entertainment Weekly had the following to say: "if you ask me, we now have the first sure-thing Best Picture nominee on our hands."

And so we must not ignore the awards potential here. I must say I'm not that excited. The best thing about The Ides of March for me so far has been the poster. This may be this year's frequently-nominated-but-boring-as-hell-nomination. In the last few years this accolade was bestowed upon The King's Speech (so shoot me, it was better than most in this category, but still the boringest this year), Frost/Nixon, The Queen, Good Night & Good Luck and Munich (two in one year, and Karger mentioned Ides as a contemporary equivalent of Good Night & Good Luck).

Okay, so maybe the Academy likes politics more than me. I want to be entertained, not educated. If you want to do both, give me something like Charlie Wilson's War or In The Loop. Whatever, I will probably end up loving The Ides of March.

Midnight In Paris

I actually watched this the other day and must admit - the buzz for this Woody Allen film is well deserved. Most people have been saying that it will be nominated because it has been his biggest box office success to date. But they overlook the fact that this is a fiendishly clever serenade to Paris, art, inspiration, creativity, love, wow this is not a review. Let me stop there. A review will be forthcoming in due course.

The problem with Midnight in Paris is that first, there is already another light hearted / tribute / French type contender: The Artist, which seems to be one of the favourites right now. Second, there are just too many contenders. These fantastic little films often get swallowed up by the rest and by the time the nominations are announced, you forget that it was even a contender.

The Tree of Life

Tricky one this: what does it have going for it? A great director, cast and performances, and of course the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year, that's what. And against it? It's polarizing, complicated, enigmatic, weird and it did not score very much at all in terms of box office dollars (13 million dollars on a budget of 32 million). Okay it made 54 million dollars world wide, but I think the Academy looks more at domestic performance. Moreover, the Palme d'Or doesn't necessarily mean anything Oscar-wise. It has been a very long time since a Palme d'Or winner also won Best Picture, and I think 2002 was the last time one of them was even nominated for Best Picture (The Piano). So, The Tree of Life probably belongs under the Dark Horses below, but I loved it and I cannot imagine that such an ambitious and beautiful film cannot score a nomination.

The Dark Horses

These films may sneak in for a nomination… either because the academy could surprise us by being less boring, or because the films themselves exceed expectations upon release. I won't write a lot on these, but if they start building some proper momentum I will give them more attention (from an awards perspective. that is).


The film I am most excited to see in 2011, directed by one of the most exciting young directors Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher Trilogy, Bronson, Valhalla Rising) and starring two of the most exciting upcoming movie stars (Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan), exciting TV stars (Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men) and exciting character actors (Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks), will not win best picture this year. Why? For that very reason: it's to exciting for the academy, too edgy, too violent and too cool. The title "cult classic" seems more likely than "Oscar winner". On the other hand, some pundits are including it in their lists. And critics have been raving. But no critic has ever won an Oscar.

Young Adult

It's very, very difficult to tell, because this movie has not been seen yet. On the one hand, it has the Oscar-popular combination of director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up In The Air), writer Diablo Cody (Juno) and actress Charlize Theron (Monster). Reitman has had such a good run with the academy of late, any new film by him cannot be ignored. On the other hand, we have the fact that maybe people will be tired of Reitman's style and Cody's quirky dialogue this year. Also, the film looks quite plainly comedic (from the trailer). If it doesn't add a little more substance - to make it go beyond just the quirky and funny (like teen pregnancy in Juno, in case you were wondering), the Academy will not bite. Based on the story alone, I think it could actually be quite heartbreaking, but we will have to wait and see.


Hugo is the first 3D film from the great Martin Scorsese. It has also been generating some good buzz (a rough cut was screen at the New York Film Festival the other day, the first time this has been done since Beauty and the Beast, which is in itself a good sign). But, it is essentially a family (children's) film and it would have to be spectacular to enter the best picture race. I'm not sure it's quite there.

We Bought A Zoo

Not much is known here, except that it's based on a book, is directed by Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) and stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. For that reason alone, it cannot be ignored. But it might also be total shit.

Take Shelter and Martha Marcy May Marlene

What about these two films? I have written about one of them before (here), so I don't want to say much again. They both look fantastic, but once again, possibly a little too edgy for the Academy's tastes. And they were popular back at Sundance already: can they be this year's Winter's Bone and carry that Sundance spirit all the way to the Oscars, more than a year later? I doubt it, but I won't be disappointed if they do.


I posted the trailer the other day, raving about how great this one looks. If the buzz continues (from the looks of that trailer alone, critics have loved it), it may crack the nod. Maybe it will be this year's Blue Valentine, which also started off with an NC-17 rating for strong nudity and sex. We'll see. Personally, I'm just hoping that Michael Fassbender gets in there for best actor.

And that's all on the Oscars for now. As news breaks on these movies and other possible candidates, I will post something. At this stage people are very much in the dark as to who's going to be sleeping next to happy tissues, and who will wake up next to sad tissues on the morning after the 2012 Academy Awards.

Lastly, I did not post trailers this time again. It's too much of a mission, and I have posted most of them before. So just google. Don't be lazy - they are all out there!

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