Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Oscars race reaches the release stage

Pretty much as soon as the Academy Awards hands out the Best Picture award, the talk turns to the next and which film might win the big one. Heck this year, so bored was I with the nominees that even before the ceremony that awarded the Best Picture to… (yeah like me you have probably already forgotten*) I was writing about next year’s race.

And if you are someone who likes talk of the Oscars the best place to find yourself on the interwebs is They have narrowed the race down to the top 31 most likely Best Picture films, and a similar number in all other categories. These guys take their Oscar tipping very seriously.

The past few years has seen the Oscars decline greatly in importance, mostly because the films that have won the big prize have been small – either in budget or in scope. This doesn’t mean they’re bad – No Country for Old Men is excellent, but it’s not “big”. It’s not what you think when you think of Hollywood aiming for a Best Picture.

But this year does not seem to be the year of the little independent film that took on Hollywood and won it all. This year looks like being one for Hollywood to win by doing what no other place can do (or afford to do).

Today I saw the first of the films likely to be in the running (Argo), and given we’ve now reached the point where the favourites are beginning to be released, in anticipation of what I think is going to be a couple magic movie months, here’s a run down of the top picks.


It is a historical pictures (well 1979-1980), and concerns the Iranian Hostage crisis – specifically what has become known the “Canadian Caper” involving six embassy staff who escaped before being taken hostage.

It’s directed by Ben Affleck and it is very very good.

There’s a bit of a “controversy” because the film downplays the work of the Canadian Government and embassy staff and instead overplays (perhaps0 the work of the CIA). I don’t get too worked up about films that are “based on a true story” not being 100% true. That’s the difference between a film and a documentary. Heck The Great Escape makes up or distorts just about everything (especially that involving the Americans) and that is still one of my all-time favourite film. Of recent time, The King’s Speech got a lot wrong, so too did The Social Network (probably more wrong) and it didn’t hurt their chances come Oscar time.

Argo is not only very dramatic, it also has a lot of humour in it.

Currently  Gold Derby has it as the front runner, but I think mostly that is because of the top 5 favourites, it’s the only one to have been released.

A guarantee to be nominated. Lock in Affleck for a director’s nominees as well – and maybe even Best Actor – though less likely.


I have loved this musical since I first heard the soundtrack in 1989 – which was before I saw it on the stage. I’ve read the book (and geez, it is a long read – Victor Hugo likes to go off on tangents) – bawled my eyes out when Eponine died in the book, even though I knew it was coming. I mean here’s how it happens:

She let her head fall back upon Marius' knees; her lids fluttered, and then she was motionless. He thought that the sad soul had left her. But then , when he thought it was all over, she slowly opened her eyes that were now deep with the shadow of death, and said to him in a voice so sweet that it seemed already to come from another world:

“And then, do you know, Monsieur Marius, I believe I was a little in love with you."

She tired to smile, and died.

I love the music – know it off by heart. And so when I heard that it was being made into a film my thoughts echoed that which was left in a comment on a webpage below some early gossip about the cast: “Please be good”.

The decision by the director Tom Hooper (of The King’s Speech) to film the songs live and not have the actors mime is a great one. It means I suspect the soundtrack won’t sound at all like a Broadway cast recording, but I think the effect on screen will be much the better for it.

If it IS good – it is a dead cert for nominees aplenty. A new song has even been written so that it can be eligible for Best Song (none of the “old songs” are eligible – they did the same when they turned Evita into a film and that song – “You Must Love Me” won Best Song).

If it IS good Tom Hooper will be getting a nominee as well, so too Anne Hathaway (GoldDerby already has her paying odds of 23/10 to win Best Supporting Actress for playing Fantine). Hugh Jackman is likely to also get his first nomination because the lead role of Jean Valjean is so crucial that if he isn’t up to it then the whole film will crumble. Russell Crowe as Javert has probably had most fans of the musical worried (mostly because I doubt many of them are also fans of his singing with his band 30 Odd Foot of Grunt). But whatever you say about Crowe, the bloke can act, and I think the role fits him well. Philip Seymour Hoffman though is the short priced favourite for the Best Supporting Actor award for his work in The Master.

All you need to know about the film is in the trailer. If you like it, then you’ll be lining up to see it come Boxing Day; if not, not. (For myself I’ve probably watched it about 20 times)


Here’s Steven Spielberg's list of films since he made Saving Private Ryan in 1997:

  1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  2. Minority Report (2002)
  3. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
  4. The Terminal (2004)
  5. War of the Worlds (2005)
  6. Munich (2005)
  7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  8. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
  9. War Horse (2011)

Now it’s a nice enough list. Some nice work, a couple stinkers, no smash hits, no big time awards winners. Certainly nothing that would make you think THIS GUY is the THE GUY. He’s no longer the Spielberg of the 1980s and 1990s, where every film was an event. Sure War Horse got nominated for Best Picture last year, but no one gave it any chance of winning – and more to the point Spielberg wasn’t nominated for Best Director. So when it was announced that he was directing a movie based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” it at least made you think he was aiming high – something he hasn’t done for a long time.

But what really got the excitement buzzing was when it was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis would be playing Lincoln.

And pretty much from that moment Day-Lewis has been the favourite to win Best Actor. The first “teaser trailer” didn’t really grab me. Having Day-Lewis recite the Gettysburg Address over a bit of war footage had me feeling like Spielberg might be going too much onto the mawkish side of his films. But the second trailer hits all the right buttons, and certainly has you thinking Day-Lewis best get his acceptance speech prepared (if he bothers to turn up).

The early word is also for Tommy Lee Jones to be in the running for Supporting Actor for his role as Thaddeus Stevens. Jones can chew scenery like the best of them so it will be interesting to see if his performance is a showcase of him being acting, or actually a good acting performance.

Given the topic, if this is any good, lock it in for a feast of awards. My only worry remains to see if Spielberg is willing to show darkness to Lincoln’s character. If it’s a hagiography it’ll be a waste:


GoldDerby currently has this film sitting third in favouritism for Best Picture. Australians won’t get to see it till January 31, so we’ll be judging it only on the basis of its trailer.

To me it strikes me as the type of film that often sneaks into the running – is likely to pick up a win or nominee at the Golden Globes – probably in the comedy section at which point everyone wonders why it was considered a comedy.

Because Robert de Niro isn’t playing a parody of Robert de Niro he is apparently up for Oscar talk as well for Best Supporting Actor (which could be a really hot field).

It seems to me a bit like The Descendants or The Kids are Alright or Up in the Air. It’s a film that’ll make the running but won’t win – and certainly not given the big hitters in play this year. I think this year is a year for big subjects and big films. The wonderful movie about a guy dealing with a breakdown and lots of quirky love will come up short, instead look for it to get a few acting nominations and possibly an award for screenplay:


Speaking of big subject, here’s Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to surprise winner The Hurt Locker, dealing with the capture of Osama bin Laden.

Green lit and written in double quick time. It’s another one, which given its subject matter, only needs to be very good to get a nomination. But given The Hurt Locker won only 3 years ago it’ll need to be amazing for it to win. It has Joel Edgerton in it, so the Aussie connection will help it do good business here (whenever it does get released – imdb doesn’t have a date listed for us yet):


This and “Cloud Atlas” take this year’s prize for filming the “unfilmable novel”. The novel is one of the most loved of recent times, so if director Ang Lee stuff this up the reaction will be ugly. Based on the trailer, no one is thinking he has stuffed it up.

Hard to think it will win. It seems a bit for “fantasy/arty” for that. It would need amazing reviews. Cloud Atlas for example has been met with very middling reviews, so it can forget any Oscar glory, whereas the early review for The Life of Pi are pretty glowing (currently sitting on 94% on the Rotten Tomatoes Index).

In Australia of course, we’ll have to wait – it opens here on New Years Day:


Already released. The hopes for the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film, loosely, sort-of-based-on L Ron Hubbard and the start of Scientology, were high. And as usual with his films reviews are mostly positive, but also with a few “Yeah, no, not for me thanks” reviews. The expectation is for acting awards rather than the big one. But given lead actor Joaquin Phoenix just called the Oscar race “total bullshit”, he’s probably not helping his chances to beat Day-Lewis (who probably thinks it’s all bullshit as well).


Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Django Unchained, looks like it’s trying to do for slavery what Inglorious Basterds did for the Jews of WWII.

Here’s Tarantino’s films since Pulp Fiction became the unofficial “Greatest Move of All-time for Generation X”:

  1. Four Rooms (1995) (segment "The Man From Hollywood")
  2. Jackie Brown (1997)
  3. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
  4. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
  5. Grindhouse (2007) (segment "Death Proof")
  6. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

I’m gonna say it – a waste of nearly 2 decades. Sure he does violence as good as anyone. But they’re all throwaway films. I loved Kill Bill: Vol1 (Vol 2 I found a bit meh), but nothing here suggests the promise of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan and David Fincher might have come on the scene after him, but they’ve all gone well past him. I can’t see this getting much Oscar love, and given only one film of his since Pulp Fiction – Inglorious Basterds – has earned over $100m in the USA, I doubt it’ll even be much of a hit. The trailer looks to be almost derivative of a Coen Brothers film. He has his fans, and his genre, but personally I’d like to see him tackle the real (and present) world to see if he has anything to say.

Wes Anderson also has his niche and his audience (and his actors). Moonrise Kingdom looks very much like the same as his previous films – all with the quirky Wes Anderson metre and rhyme and production. The trailer lets you know all you need to know. If you loved The Royal Tenenbaums you’ll be up for this one. Ed Norton stars in this. 12 or 13 years ago you would have expected Norton to have at least one if not a couple Oscars under his belt. Instead he remains the most over-rated actor in Hollywood. A bloke who hasn’t done anything worth remembering this century. Back in 1999 after doing Fight Club and American History X I would have thought he’d find himself in something like Lincoln instead he’s in a Wes Anderson movie – movies that are great for actors because they don’t have to act – they play, they ham, and they over-act.

Like Django Unchained it might get nominated for Best Picture if no other “little film” comes out of the blue to knock this out.


Seriously Peter Jackson – you need three movies to tell this little tale? That’s just lazy and greedy.

There are other films in the running – Flight, Anna Karenina, Beast of the Southern Wild, Hitchcock, Amour – some even suggest Skyfall, given The Dark Knight Rises hasn’t received the type of reviews that saw The Dark Knight considered an Oscar chance, but it looks very much like the race baring any surprise hits to be between the top 7 here.

The latest Matt Damon film, Promised Land, which is directed by Gus Van Sant is about fracking and has an Oscar date limited release of late December (before going wide in early January) so clearly they’re hoping for the Oscars. If it is any good, it is a topic that might just get some attention. Some “smaller films” that might sneak in include “A Late Quartet” – the trailer certainly has “serious Oscar worthy film” vibe about it, and it has a great cast:

Speaking of great casts, there’s also Dustin Hoffmann’s first time effort as a director “Quartet”, which had it been released in any of the recent years might have a bit more of a chance – it looks quite charming, but again I think too light in a year that I suspect is going to value capital D Drama:


There’s also “The Impossible” about a family caught in the Indonesian tsunami. It;s abased on a true story for added emotional heft. It stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, and the trailer is pretty impressive. It doesn’t scream Oscar for me, but it’s another I’ll be eagerly lining up to see (24th January here):

But with over a dozen or so “Oscar wannabe” movies to be released in the next couple months it at least looks like a good one for those who love it when Hollywood does what Hollywood does well.

* The 2011 Best Picture winner was The Artist.


David said...

The tsunami movie starring Naomi Watts is actually set in Thailand not Indonesia.

Greg Jericho said...

Yep, but I was referring to the tsunami which began in Indonesia after the earthquake near Sumatra, and thus "the Indonesian tsunami"