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.
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.
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
George Clooney for Up in the Air
Colin Firth for A Single Man
Morgan Freeman for Invictus
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
This one feels like it’s been complicated in recent weeks, too. I still don’t think Jeremy Renner will have the momentum to take the prize and I would be shocked if Clooney wins, even though I would cite Up in the Air as his finest performance. He should also, as argued by Stephanie Zacharek, be rewarded for his great role in Fantastic Mr Fox, but unfortunately that film, like Clooney, will go home empty-handed.
Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman for The Messenger
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen for A Serious Man
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson for Up
Having taken home the BAFTA, it would seem that The Hurt Locker has positioned itself for a potential clean sweep at the Oscars this year. The film has garnered almost uniformly excellent reviews and its meagre box-office take appears to have had little impact on its chances come Awards season. To get it out of the way at the start, this is going to be the Iraq film to compete for the awards, to The Messenger will have to put up with being the year’s second-best semi-apolitical Iraq movie.
Mauro Fiore for Avatar
Bruno Delbonnel for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Barry Ackroyd for The Hurt Locker
Robert Richardson for Inglourious Basterds
Christian Berger for The White Ribbon
I have a slight problem in this category as I’ve been debating whether Avatar should really be eligible for a cinematography prize given that everything being filmed has been created. There has always, to me, seemed a need for the cinematography prize to be handed out on the basis of the photographer having captured what is tangibly in front of him. I’ve come around to the idea, however, as Avatar’s spectacular look is achieved, if not through literally filming the world of Pandora, through the advice and guidance that the cinematographer would have given. This advice will have contributed to the immersive nature of the film and, so, I’ll happily accept and applaud Fiore’s nomination.
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.
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.
Just for the sake of my own sanity and desperate need to have these written somewhere, I give you my favourite forty-two films of the past decade. There are at least fifty-six other films I would like to put onto a list, but I think I need to forcefully prevent any more decade-based listmaking as quickly as possible. So beneath is the top ten list, along with a sentence or two on each film and then thirty-two, out-of-list-order, films which I had to include.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 trailer for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker has hit the internet and the people are abuzz. It is a pretty terrific trailer which gets across the kind of intensity you would expect from a film about a bomb-defusement marine, played by Jeremy Renner, and the psychological impact this kind of work has on those around him. I’m feeling pretty good about this one, although I don’t think it will break the Iraq movie box-office issues which have plagued the mini-genre thus far.