James Cameron for Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels for Precious
Jason Reitman for Up in the Air
This category seems to break down into three categories as regards the chance each has of winning the prize. In the last category, essentially the no-hopers, are Lee Daniels and Jason Reitman. Reitman is the kind of director who will consistently struggle to win this prize as his skill comes through his ability to manage performance and tone rather than anything visually spectacular or inventive. Up in the Air is a pristine film with some well-composed images, but it’s script and performance-driven, similar to Juno and Thank You for Smoking. He deserves plaudits, but they won’t be sufficient for the prize. Lee Daniels has promise as an inventive director, but too many choices fall flat in Precious and he won’t win.
It would seem to me that the awards season should be used to reward the best films, the best performances in terms of the measurable quality of the product put out rather than the popularity of the nominees. The Golden Globes, as if edging, as my podcast colleague Tommy suggested today, towards becoming a glorified version of the MTV Movie Awards, has this year chosen to nearly-exclusively reward the popular choices.
I have no real problem with James Cameron getting best director; Avatar is an incredible achievement from a technical standpoint. But to reward that film, a confused hodgepodge of political allegory, predictable plot and stock characters, the prize for the best picture seems ridiculous. It is a huge milestone for technical filmmaking, but when put into 2D and playing on television screens across the land after its DVD release, the massive problems with the story and characters will become increasingly clear. To suggest other winners could easily be written off as me just griping that my favourite films didn’t win, but I don’t think many could deny that the success of the vision of The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds far, far surpasses that of Avatar as a piece of storytelling.
Outside of that, witness the prize handed to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side, a mawkish TV movie-style sleeper hit, beating the nuanced skill of Carey Mulligan in An Education. Witness The Hangover, winner of Best Musical/Comedy, rewarded for managing to convince an entire audience that it was funny despite having only one good performance and then three douchebags, one terrible cameo and one borderline-racist gangster. It was a weak category, but at least (500) Days of Summer spoke to a sense of truth and actually could fit into being both comedy and musical.
There should be some sense of duty for awards that, rather than pander to bringing in the largest possible audience for the truly pointless televising of the ceremony, they should seek to reward those filmmakers that have made films which, even if they failed to connect with audiences, have something to say beyond ‘see how fucking cool this looks!’
Reading the most recent issue of Time, there was a brief note during its Oscar predictions on the comparable box-office totals for The Hurt Locker and Avatar.
The first, an essentially apolitical Iraq war movie which explores the psyche of those addicted to conflict, made a total of $12m at the US box-office. That’s a total of $12m over its entire run in the US.
The second, James Cameron’s uber-blockbuster and undoubtedly a treatise on either environmentalism or, pertinently, the imperialist ambitions of the US in the Middle East, has made that per day. Yes, it’s total box-office in the US so far is around $400m, meaning an average of $12m per day.
So, two points. First, any suggestion that movies about Iraq cannot work isn’t quite true, they just have to be 3D and wrapped in Pantheistic theory. Second, isn’t it slightly depressing that a film which seeks so desperately to understand something about the human condition is trounced so heartily by a bloated, arrogant but visually impressive film. An on-mass example of someone fleeing towards the shiny goods instead of the quality produce.
It would seem that, given that the two are emerging as the key contenders for the Oscars this year, that the Academy has an opportunity either to reward hollow commercialism with a mixed message, or vital independent filmmaking in which the ‘message’ is eschewed in favour of probing the mind of those at the heart of our generation’s conflict.
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.
Our brand new writer, Chris Inman, has not only provided the world with his top five movies of 2009, he now furnishes you lucky people with his top twenty movies of the decade. A couple of controversial more recent choices are included and should be debated immediately, but otherwise it’s a bloody strong list that will definitely find one followers amongst the existing MOD clan who will thoroughly agree with the winner.
Onwards then, and look our for more articles to come from Chris in the very near future as he kicks off his tenure with us in earnest.
Time to have a little guess again at which films could be nominated for Oscars in a couple of months time, just entirely based on hype and vague attempts to understand the predictable nature of the Academy. So, for debate and conjecture’s stake, enjoy these predictions for the Oscar nominations in 2010, post jump. Continue reading →
McG has given a revealing interview to Film Journal in which he discusses the involvement of James Cameron in Terminator: Salvation, his own chops as a director and what lies ahead for the franchise under his control.
Commenting on his relationship with James Cameron over the making of the film, he describes a meeting between the two during which mutual ground was established, noting a joke between the two that Cameron would reserve the right to dislike Terminator: Salvation and that McG would reserve the same right to hate Avatar.
Further to that, McG compares himself to Cameron in terms of the lack of films the latter had under his belt when he took on Aliens after Ridley Scott’s classic original. He says Cameron “went on to talk about how when he was making Aliens, everyone thought he was full of shit. Like ‘Who does this guy think he is, following Ridley Scott?’ Remember, he had only made a few films by that time”.
Encouragingly for the Terminator film though, McG acknowledged the view of him in the wider film world and goes on to talk about his desire to use practical effects in the new film.
On the perception of him:
“…if you look at my body of work, I fit into a box that’s not conducive to a great take on Terminator. So I can’t expect people to cut me any slack. But I know in my heart these are the films that are closest to me. I was raised on films like Terminator, Die Hard and The Road Warrior. I think intelligent action films represent the magic of movies at a very high level and I’m thrilled to throw my hat in the ring and be part of it. By now, I feel like I’ve pushed enough film through the camera to take this one responsibly and deliver. And with the help of Christian, Jonah and Stan, I think we’ve done it.”
On his use of practical special effects for the action in Terminator:
“I wanted all of the action based in reality with a respect for physics and I wanted it to have a tactile reality for the audience. That’s why we did so much practically, to really convey the difficulty of a world under duress. I didn’t want clean, shiny Logan’s Run Terminators. I wanted Children of Men/Mad Max Terminators.”
What has set things alight online however is his discussion of plans for future instalments in the series if he gets his way. On this, McG says:
“I strongly suspect the next movie is going to take place in a [pre-Judgment Day] 2011,” McG reveals. “John Connor is going to travel back in time and he’s going to have to galvanize the militaries of the world for an impending Skynet invasion. They’ve figured out time travel to the degree where they can send more than one naked entity. So you’re going to have hunter killers and transports and harvesters and everything arriving in our time and Connor fighting back with conventional military warfare, which I think is going to be fucking awesome. I also think he’s going to meet a scientist that’s going to look a lot like present-day Robert Patrick [who famously played the T-1000 in Terminator 2], talking about stem-cell research and how we can all live as idealized, younger versions of ourselves.”
Everything still sounds pretty encouraging for this at the moment and, after his warming desire to use practical effects over CGI and blue-screen, I can’t help but want this to succeed. The ideas all seem right, let’s just hope his execution is spot-on too.
Avatar, the 3D mega-project from James Cameron, was the subject of a profile in Time Magazine which, among a variety of other things about 3D cinema and its potential as the future of moviemaking, noting that Avatar’s budget has now soared beyond the $300m mark, likely making it the most expensive movie ever made.
Avatar has been a pet project of Cameron for a long time but I’m still a little wary of this potentially being the biggest flop in movie history.
I’m not fully convinced about 3D yet, especially given the inability of the majority of filmmakers who utilise the medium to eschew the use of gimmicks and tricks to show off the technology, rather than just making a great story. It’s a similar dichotomy to the one which exists in the relationship between Pixar and DreamWorks CGI animation. That did eventually turn around with Kung Fu Panda managing to tell a simple, non-pop-culture-referencing story from the DreamWorks studio which, while only matching the lesser works of Pixar, was still a hoot.
I have no doubt that films like Coraline will help to bring 3D into a more sophisticated balance with the basics of traditional storytelling, and perhaps Avatar will manage to do this to an even greater degree. But surely the infrastructure is not quite there yet to provide Avatar with the kind of space to make back $300m. Not enough 3D cinemas exist and, as I have been told from the past year, seeing 3D films outside of specialist exhibition houses can prove a migraine-inducing chore. It’s also, lest we forget, a science fiction film, and a wildly ambitious one at that. Cinema-goers may well be able to remember that this man brought them Titanic, but I’m not sure Cameron has the kind of commercial juice he’s going to need to make this one a giant hit and get the average cinema-goer to put down their prejudices and misgivings over certain genres.
I suppose that raises a question of whether it needs to be a hit. Avatar will, if nothing else, drive forward the development of new technology in the exhibition of movies and could well be among the most startling visual experiences viewers will ever have. But that doesn’t always mean box-office dollars and studios will rarely finance movies of similar ambition and ilk if the money didn’t role in the first time round. If Avatar fails, it could be a disaster for the filmmakers of the world who are seeking to further push the boundaries.
If not though, and from the descriptions given in the Time piece, this may well be among the most incredible filmic experience any of us ever undertake.