As we are prone to do, it feels like to kick-off the Oscar buzz season as awards from major film festivals begin to roll in and the ceremony approaches. I realise that this may feel like the kind of wishing-life-away feeling that it given as you walk into shops in mid-September and see Christmas stock out all over the place, but these will get more frequent as we get closer and can begin to actually predict what could win. This is more to provide an interesting gauge of how buzz works, how it changes and how wrong we could well end up being by the time the awards come around.
So, just for the big few categories, here’s what seems like it’s going to cause a stir this year:
Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones (trailer here) and Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (trailer here), both major players from very early in the process, both seem fairly set to make the top category. Up in the Air is undoubtedly more solid right now, given the solid reviews coming out of Telluride and TIFF (though with a couple of doubters). The Lovely Bones hasn’t been seen yet and could well struggle to meet expectations, both those for a Peter Jackson film and for the fans of the book.
Given the ten places in the category this year though, both are probably going to make it. The Hurt Locker has so much buzz and incredible reviews that it will surely take a spot, along with Pixar’s Up and Rob Marshall’s Nine (trailer). The former would have been overlooked in the past, given it is animated, but Nine might well have made the five due to Marshall’s Oscar history and the presence of so many superb actors. This time around, Up’s excellent reviews will be enough to secure a top nod, while Nine will surely just stroll into a ten, unless it’s a disaster.
Previously, smaller films like Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (trailer), A Serious Man (trailer here) and Bright Star (trailer) may have been left aside, but all should feel confident about making it in. Precious, especially, seems to be making Slumdog-like strides towards the prize, given it’s backing by Oprah and its win of the top prize in Toronto.
Invictus, the new one from Clint Eastwood, could suffer owing to potential accent problems, though a trailer should confirm or ease those fears.
The likes of Inglourious Basterds and Public Enemies, both of which disappointed me, have probably had too many mixed reactions to make it, same with something like Broken Embraces from Pedro Almodovar and Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story (trailer). Almodovar is nowhere near as divisive as Moore, or Tarantino and Mann, but his film has just lost out on nominations for the Spanish Oscars.
An unknown quantity like Where the Wild Things Are (trailer) could capture imaginations and make a drive for the prize, though it seems unlikely it would win even if a nomination is forthcoming. The other dark horse which few have seen and which comes with a number of delay issues is The Road (trailer), the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Don’t discount the Palme d’Or winner from Michael Haneke, A White Ribbon (trailer), which is reportedly among his absolute best. You’d have to imagine that at least one foreign language film will have to make those top ten. Also, though the release date still doesn’t seem set, Terence Malick’s Tree of Life could make some waves.
Just for the shit of it, here’s a predicted 10 which can stand as an example of how wrong/how much incredible foresight we sometimes have:
Up in the Air – The Lovely Bones – Nine – The Hurt Locker – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire – Up – A White Ribbon – Where the Wild Things Are – The Road – A Serious Man
Much of this will depend on where the Best Picture nods go, but the only two I think are shoe-ins right now are Jason Reitman for Up in the Air and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Both are coming in to the season with incredible buzz, especially Bigelow given her lack of praise in the past for a number of superlative cult movies. Reitman maybe shouldn’t have got the nomination for Juno a couple of year’s back, but Up in the Air may provide an opportunity for the Academy to reward what seems like a very deserving effort.
Peter Jackson is a definite maybe, but only if The Lovely Bones hits its hype mark. Same deal with Rob Marshall for Nine. Lee Daniels for Precious will have to have an incredible season of buzz to drive him into the directing category, especially given the others competing for what will probably be the fifth place for the new guy.
Lone Scherfig, director of An Education (trailer), could end up competing with Daniels should the Academy seeks to reward women this year, same deal for previous nominee Jane Campion. Her Bright Star could well help her into the category should the performance from Abbie Cornish get the praise many believe it deserves.
Keep a strong eye out for Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino, though both seem unlikely to get in this year. Same deal for Michael Mann with Public Enemies and for Neill Blomkamp for District 9, likely to be a fan favourite but not really a strong enough effort to beat out other contenders.
Spike Jonze is a possible for Where the Wild Things Are, as are the Coens for A Serious Man and Pete Docter and Bob Petersen for Up. The most likely other, from my view, will be Michael Haneke for A White Ribbon, though I’m not sure he will have the juice to make it over the final hurdle.
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) – Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) – Rob Marshall (Nine) – Joel & Ethan Coen (A Serious Man) – Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones)
Things open up somewhat here, given the unknown quantities likely to compete. Johnny Depp got some early buzz for playing Dillinger in Public Enemies, but it’s not a great performance for the film and you would hope that this would be taken into account. George Clooney seems a likely bet for Up in the Air, as does Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus. You would really hope that Jeremy Renner must get a nod for The Hurt Locker, along with a reportedly amazing performance by Michael Stuhlberg in A Serious Man.
One to seriously look out for though, Colin Firth in Tom Ford’s debut A Single Man (trailer). Apparently he’s a complete revelation and last week won the acting prize in Venice. It’s possible, given the strength of the wider field, that a number of lesser known talent could be in with a shout. The most notable would be Ben Whishaw for Bright Star, some good buzz for which could end up securing it a handful of nods. Another possible is Sam Rockwell, superb in a one-man show in Moon.
There is a possibility that Daniel Day-Lewis, given that he’s in a film, may slip in with a nomination for Nine. Good buzz and a clutch of other nominations for the film could provide it with a good deal of juice to get him in. Viggo Mortensen for The Road will also depend on the buzz that film ends up grabbing.
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) – Morgan Freeman (Invictus) – Michael Stuhlberg (A Serious Man) – Colin Firth (A Single Man) – George Clooney (Up in the Air)
As has been the case for quite some time now, the most interesting categories of the Oscars are split across the two supporting acting sections, the cinematographers and the leading actress nods. Yet again, quite a selection of potential nominees are rearing their heads and about ten have got a fair shout. Meryl Streep, in Day-Lewis-esque fashion, will probably get nominated and, as usual, thoroughly deserves it for her performance as Julia Child in Julie & Julia. You also have heavyweights Hilary Swank and Penelope Cruz in contention, respectively for Amelia and Broken Embraces. The former could well end up getting snubbed due to the seeming disinterest in her movie, and the latter is coming in on a stream of so-so buzz for Broken Embraces, though she is so ridiculously beautiful in the film that she may well end up getting in purely on her presence.
The less established names could end up competing for those four other places alongside Meryl. Gabourey Sidibe for Precious is getter massive praise of her performance, though could struggle in the run-up given the small nature of the movie. The most powerful potential is Carey Mulligan for An Education, apparently a performance for the ages which makes her both a very likely nominee and maybe frontrunner at present.
Saorise Ronan for The Lovely Bones may well manage to get in, but that will gain rely on the buzz for the movie. Abbie Cornish is a definite possible for Bright Star, again relying on the buzz.
A real dark horse could be Charlotte Gainsbourg for Antichrist, an amazing performance in a very difficult, very confrontational film. Also keep eyes out for Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel, though that film has garnered very little buzz, along with Tilda Swinton in Julia and, way out there shot, Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer.
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) – Carey Mulligan (An Education) – Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) – Saorise Ronan (The Lovely Bones) -Penelope Cruz (Broken Embraces)