The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
The expansion of the category has had some impact on the talk around the Oscars, mostly negative. It would appear that you could easily eliminate five films from the top category as being also-rans, if still good films. Where last year it would have served mostly just to allow The Dark Knight its nomination and sate the anger of so many over-hyped fanboys/girls, this year it felt as though the Academy was just reaching further to grab films from all corners, as if to indicate that they are not scared of honouring ‘popular’ films. The fact that they have never really done this and the actual small films almost always get screwed, that was left to the side of the discussion.
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for District 9
Nick Hornby for An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci and Tony Roche for In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air
There was at least a degree of surprise at the BAFTAs this year that it wasn’t one of the English nominees that took home this prize. After all, An Education managed to garner eight nominations overall and ended up walking home with little in return from the one place it would have felt most favoured. I’ve never been a big supporter of that film – it’s beautifully acted but the construction ends up feeling rushed and gives the film a slightness which undermines the acting – but, even with that known, I don’t think Nick Hornby has any chance of going home with this.
Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street investment house, is reportedly harbouring plans to make its ‘Hollywood Stock Exchange’ fake money spread-betting game a reality, offering investors the opportunity to make real-money bets on the financial performance of films.
Though the concerns around this are far beyond the movie world – insider trading likelihood, expanding the volume of risky products at market etc. – this could likely have some serious consequences for the quality of movies that come out of Hollywood.
Studios are already overly-focused on money-making in the films they release. This is not necessarily a negative; movie-making is a business and all movies, all of them, are not made with the aim of losing money. But the skewed view which has been fostered in Hollywood is that bigger is better or, more expensive is better. Blockbusters like Transformers 2 and Avatar, and before them the superhero and comic book adaptations, have become the central currency of Hollywood.
Audiences have been conditioned not to see films because of the talent behind them, but because of what the film is about. This has driven the growth of the wide universe of films based on existing properties (superhit children’s books, superhero comics) and has caused nothing but problems for the auteur-based projects out there. Even when you see an anomalous hit (Inglourious Basterds and District 9), this seems to have almost no influence on what kind of movies are coming out of Hollywood. They continue to operate on the assumption that the more money you spend, on production and marketing, the more money you will make at the box-office.
It’s hard to argue that this isn’t normally the case, though the reason that these films do so well is never down to the quality of the product. The behemoth summer releases are scattered across the season in a bid to make sure that, essentially, there is no other choice for the passive movie-goer. When they turn up at the cinema looking to see a film, there is a good chance that Transformers will be on in five of the twenty screens at their local multiplex and probably starting every half-hour or so. What we snobby critics and cinephiles would describe at the ‘worthy’ releases get relegated to sparse showings at inhospitable times of the day, or are just ejected from multiplexes altogether, meaning that casual watchers, those who really drive up box-office, don’t see them through a combination of inconvenience and ignorance.
Should this Cantor plan come into play – and any improvement in the economic environment and return of confidence to investment markets would make this almost inevitable, if only in germ form at first – it would surely only encourage studios to focus on huge movies, placing all their available energy into the tentpole releases so as to make them as profitable as possible. There is a chance that this could well mean that studios take more notice of aspects like script, character and direction if they do this, therefore maximising the change of turning a profit. But the incredible success of Avatar, for all its qualities, would, I venture, communicate to studios that big and simple is the best way to go. Unfortunately, the component they would fail to note would be James Cameron (or, The Talent) which is what actually turned the film into something special and successful. Chuck a journeyman behind the camera and Avatar would have fallen into the annals of flop history.
In addition, making a spread-betting market for movies would instantly shift the business aspects further to the centre of investor thought, meaning that any concerns over the quality of movies would become further sidelined (check out this Raw Story article on the news). Through neat trickery, brokers would be able to shift enough money around that even bad or unsuccessful movies become profitable, something which would remove that consideration in the minds of executives to make films, you know, ‘good’.
This is all conjecture at this point. It could well be that studios will become more cautious with budgets and spread marketing spend across their properties to achieve profit from all releases. The drop in production budgets could well have the influence that so many wanted District 9 to have this past year in making directors have to improvise and get creative due to constraints in what they can do. Plus, spreading around marketing budgets would give many independent films a significant boost in the amount of money they have to promote themselves. It’s possible that this could be a hugely positive move for the quality of output in Hollywood.
Of course, the actual problems with this lie in the risk profile of such investments, so whether the quality of films coming out of Hollywood will rise or fall will be of little concern to financial regulatory authorities. Still, worth a thought as to whether a shift in the financial model of Hollywood could prove good or bad for the industry, because heaven knows the current model is resolutely failing to promote everything equally and has skewed the focus from art to business.
You can read a full list of nominations here, but I thought it best just to note a few little aberrations and nice surprises which the Academy threw our way this year.
- The Blind Side for Best Picture – I don’t know how, why or for what reason this has happened, but awards boards and ceremonies are becoming increasingly too interested in rewarding the most popular rather than the quanitifiably ‘best’ films of the year. How this syrup-fest slice of mawkish shit has managed to score a few nods, I really don’t know. This nomination does give hope however to all those Hallmark/Lifetime movies about retarded children in inner-city schools or single mothers dealing with cancer that they could one day make the leap up.
- District 9 for Best Picture – Rewarding a film which was not only popular, but broke all the present rules of blockbuster filmmaking – intelligent plotting, no on wearing catsuits and made on a budget which didn’t allow egomaniacal directorial masturbation. Blomkamp strikes on for all the people out there convinced that summers can be better.
- Lee Daniels, Best Director for Precious – Not that Precious isn’t specifically well-directed, but there seems a much better argument to have Neill Blomkamp in there for District 9 given his handling of his material. Some of the decisions in Precious make the film play a little flat, which means that some of what should be the most powerful scenes lose much of their intended force.
- Penelope Cruz for Nine – Yes, she is the only person that comes out of the film with real dignity left intact. No, this does not mean she should be rewarded over Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds. Julianne Moore in A Single Man and Rosamund Pike in An Education would also have been more deserving.
- No Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – A film which not only should have been given a nod in the expanded animation category, but also for its sparkling script. Probably one which many Academy members failed to see on the same terms as a film like Up which, my opinion only, it is just as successful as.
- An Education for Best Adapted Screenplay – The characterisations are not what made An Education a decent film. That is a movie saved from flat direction and a weak script by great acting, so the script getting a nomination, over the wonder that is Where the Wild Things Are, is a travesty.
- In the Loop for Best Adapted Screenplay – A fantastic, completely deserved nomination for a film which has some great performances but, like The Thick of It, is driven by the foul-mouthed poetry of the script.
- Avatar nine, but no script – Avatar gets nine nominations in all the right places. Undoubtedly a breathtaking cinema experience, I’ll allow its Best Picture nod. But the Academy had the sense only to reward Cameron’s direction in the upper categories, meaning that it rightly competes to take home, deservedly, every technical nod it can be given.
- Nine for Hurt Locker, Eight for Inglourious Basterds – I’ve had a short-term turnaround in Inglourious Basterds, a film I didn’t enjoy in first watch, liked more on second and now fucking love. Eight nods is right. The Hurt Locker, the only film from the past year considered for my Best of Decade list, is a deserved recipient of nine nominations, with the script and Bigelow’s direction the most likely places for it to be triumphant.
Though I could gripe immediately with a bunch of the nominations given, I’m going to give the first part only of this over to the minor grips I have with the BAFTA nominations, announced this morning (and here in full via Empire Magazine).
The leading nominees, each with eight, are Avatar, The Hurt Locker and An Education. The overrating of An Education, at the expense of better British films like In the Loop and Fish Tank, is a little irritating, but the acting is so strong in the film that it seems to have elevated everything around it, including the nominated script by Nick Hornby and the nominated directing by Lone Scherfig. Avatar’s eight is mostly taken up with technical nods, which is entirely fair, but its picture nod, over Inglourious Basterds and Up, is predictable but wrong. Obviously, for those who read or listen to anything I say or write, know that I wholly agree with all The Hurt Locker nods, with my only desire to see much more attention given to Anthony Mackie in the supporting categories.
As with the Golden Globes, I can’t possibly pass this opportunity up to criticise the nomination of The Hangover for script, specifically given it is just a slightly adjusted take on Dude, Where’s My Car?. On personal taste, I probably wouldn’t have sought to reward the script for An Education, but kudos for adding District 9 which, despite a host of action movie tropes peppered throughout, is a much smarter film that the credit given would suggest.
The acting sections are all pretty good. That said, I wouldn’t have given Alec Baldwin a nod for It’s Complicated due to Anthony Mackie’s great performance in The Hurt Locker, but Baldwin is good so not too much annoyance there. Also very good indeed to see Christian McKay nominated for his amazing performance in Me and Orson Welles. Also great nod for Anne-Marie Duff for supporting actress in Nowhere Boy. This seems like the only place where Mo’Nique just might not win for Precious, so Duff and the others could nick it.
It’s a decent enough selection from BAFTA. They are slightly over-praising, as most have, An Education and, as most haven’t, Coco Before Chanel. The nomination of Audrey Tautou over the incredible debut by Katie Jarvis is jarring, but sometimes you have to give concession to BAFTA’s predeliction for costume drama, no matter the costume. But nothing but praise should be given to the nods for The Hurt Locker and District 9, though you might wish that some of the better British films, notably Moon and In the Loop, were given a little more attention outside of nods in those Brit-focused categories.
I did predict a few little while ago, but much has changed in the interim and I feel it necessary to update my prediction season for the nominees, something I will do again in early February just before the nominations are announced.
The primary change is the fall of Nine, previously considered a shoe-in for most categories, which looks likely to win absolutely nothing outside of a possible couple of technicals. Add to that the rising popularity of Inglourious Basterds and the seemingly-unstoppable attention being given to The Hurt Locker, plus the apparently disastrous The Lovely Bones, and some things have to change.
Below then are my predictions for the top few categories, with some explanation as to why and, bold as it may be, my predictions for the likely winners in each category.
You can listen to us discussing these films at length on the podcast on the show, but please do check out the list below for perpetuity. Sam’s list is annotated and included below, Tom’s is not annotated and its right here. This just means you will have to check out the podcast to hear Tom’s viewpoints. So check out Sam’s choices after the jump, along with a few choice thoughts and honourable mentions. Enjoy!
So here’s Tommy’s list of the top ten films of 2009. No annotations, so you’ll just have to listen to the podcast to hear his thoughts. For just the list, jump in. Continue reading →
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: Continue reading →
Looks like George Clooney could end up directing the Hamdan vs Rumsfeld project, with Matt Damon starring.
Precious is beginning its Oscar buzz season with a win in Toronto.
Apparently Gavin Hood wouldn’t mind making a shitty Magneto movie too.
Jack Kirby’s estate has begun delivering copyright termination notices to a whole bunch folks, including Marvel and Disney, relating to characters the late creator was responsible for.
Five movies which make Film School Rejects hungry.
Declaration of Independence: The Ten Principles of Hybrid Distribution from Indiewire.
Johnny Depp is reportedly less interested in another Pirates movie without Dick Cook at the helm of Walt Disney Studios.
MTV has an exclusive excerpt from Kevin Smith’s SModcast book.
Henry Rollins voicing a Batman character? Fuck, yeah!!
Twitch has an interview with Guy Maddin at TIFF about Night Mayor.
Venice Golden Lion winner Lebanon has been purchased by Sony Pictures Classics.
District 9 has made it over to Nigeria.
So, in the wake of Transformers revenging the fallen all over our minds, we were in need of cooling down from the sheer anger and exhaustion felt in the studio. Though Sunshine Cleaning should have been a great example of an indie to bring us back onto home turf, it ended up an underwhelming experience. The eminently crushworthy pairing of Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, along with the solid Alan Arkin and roles for Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins Jr, just couldn’t quite drive us into anything beyond a tepid lack of satisfaction. Ideas involved were strong, but the execution was half-hearted, even if all of the above tried really hard to elevate the material. Continue reading →
The return of the Cooper! Jon Cooper comes back to the podcast to have a chat about Adventureland. Tom and Sam have a think about (500) Days of Summer and the gents all think about the YouTube rental model. They go on to reminisce about Hackers, praise Fish Tank to the hills and have a good ol’ natter about Supernatural. The conclusion sees Tom depart and Producer John step in to talk about music in movies.
Show notes coming in later post.