Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Race for the Prize: Festival Fallout - 9/16/08



This year, perhaps more than any in recent memory, has taught us not to prognosticate these Oscar proceedings too early, and certainly not before the big September festivals. With a lack of hyped studio pictures, this year both TIFF and Venice left a number of independent contenders in their respective wakes, with a few bonafide locks thrown in for good measure. A number of still unseen films have unleashed their trailers since the last RftP column as well, which we will use as guides for potential movers and shakers. I will break down individual categories, seeing as how we are now knee deep in the season. (Contenders ranked in order of likelihood of nomination)

-Best Picture-

Roaring out of the festival circuit was Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, provoking seriously strong reactions and universal praise. Outside of The Wrestler, it has made the biggest waves over the last couple of weeks. Will it's lack of big names hurt it's chances? Maybe, but if it pulls the heart strings as strongly as some say, it will be hard for the Academy to resist. The Soloist trailer dropped last week, and while I was slightly underwhelmed, it looks just sappy and middle-of-the-road enough to retain it's front runner status. And I'm not fully buying into the knee jerk reactions to the 20 minutes of Benjamin Button that was previewed a couple weeks back. It moves down slightly, but I still expect great things. Beyond that, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino remains the big question mark of the season. This could turn out to be a Million Dollar Baby surprise or a total anomaly. Time will tell. For now though, it's Clint, so it has very good shot (to say nothing of Changeling).

Predicted Nominees:
The Soloist
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire (NEW)

Five on the Fringe:
Changeling
Revolutionary Road
Australia
Gran Torino (NEW)
The Wrestler (NEW)

Dropped Out:
The Dark Knight
The Road
Defiance


-Best Director-

Danny Boyle and Darren Arofnosky were obviously the two biggest beneficiaries of this year's TIFF, while the top three spots seem more secure by the day. Revolutionary Road could go either way for any number of it's hopefuls, so I remain slightly skeptical of it's chances. And then there's Clint.

Predicted Nominees:
Gus Van Sant - Milk

Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Joe Wright - The Soloist
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire (NEW)

Five on the Fringe:
Darren Arofnosky - The Wrestler (NEW)
Baz Luhrmann - Australia
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino (or Changeling)
Sam Mendes - Revolutionary Road

Dropped Out:
Edward Zwick - Defiance
John Hillcoat - The Road


-Best Actor-

The talk of TIFF this year was undoubtedly the comeback performance of one Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. He catapults to the top of the pile of potential nominees, while in a category switch-up, Robert Downey Jr. has now taken his co-star Jame Foxx's spot in the lead acting race. And I hold fast in my belief that if enough people see Che, then Benicio will make it in.

Predicted Nominees:
Micky Rourke - The Wrestler (NEW)
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - The Soloist (NEW)
Benicio Del Toro - Che (NEW)

Five on the Fringe:
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino
Viggo Mortensen - The Road
Leonardo DiCaprio - Revolutionary Road
Michael Sheen - Frost/Nixon

Dropped Out:
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Daniel Craig - Defiance
Jamie Foxx - The Soloist


-Best Actress-

Kristin Scott Thomas was met with raves for her work in I've Loved You So Long (filling what many are calling the Marion Cottilard slot), while Anne Hathaway was (to a lesser extent) met with much admiration. They both push forward. Jolie stands firm at the top, and judging by the trailer, she could be the one to beat. Streep seems virtually locked as well after that great Doubt trailer hit the net last week.

Predicted Nominees:
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas - I've Loved You So Long
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky

Five on the Fringe:
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Nicole Kidman - Australia
Kate Beckinsale - Nothing But the Truth
Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy (NEW)

Dropped Out:
Cate Blanchett - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


-Best Supporting Actor-

With Jamie Foxx jumping categories to supporting, it seems as if he may be looking a Collateral-type situation with a big supporting role in The Soloist. Phil Hoffman has made a leap into the fray as well with the release of the Doubt trailer. And on a personal level, I can't wait to see what Christian McKay does as a young Orson Welles in Me and Orson Welles.

Predicted Nominees:
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Jamie Foxx - The Soloist
Kodi-Smit McPhee - The Road
Phillip Seymor Hoffman - Doubt (NEW)
James Franco - Milk (NEW)

Five on the Fringe:
Michael Shannon - Relotionary Road
Christian McKay - Me and Orson Welles (NEW)
Russell Crowe - Body of Lies
Eddie Marsden - Happy-Go-Lucky
Liev Shreiber - Defiance

Dropped Out:
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Alan Alda - Nothing But the Truth
Robert Downey Jr. - The Soloist


-Best Supporting Actress-

Mickey Rourke wasn't the only performance in The Wrestler to make waves. Marissa Tomei has earn the biggest round of applause of her career for her supporting role as well. Perhaps she will land a nod after being criminally snubbed last year. Penelope Cruz remains the one to beat however.

Predicted Nominees:
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Marissa Tomei - The Wrestler (NEW)
Tarji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Viola Davis - Doubt
Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married (NEW)

Five on the Fringe:
Catherine Keener - The Soloist
Vera Farmiga - Nothing but the Truth
Elizabeth Banks - W
Esla Zylberstein - I've Loved You So Long (NEW)
Kathy Bates - Revolutionary Road

Dropped Out:
Amy Adams - Doubt
Rachel Weisz - The Brothers Bloom


-Best Original Screenplay-

Some movement here, but these 10 names seem pretty strong at the moment. Close your eyes and pick 5.

Predicted Nominees:

Milk
The Soloist
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Happy-Go-Lucky
Rachel Getting Married

Five on the Fringe:
I've Loved You So Long (NEW)
Synecdoche, New York

Changeling
The Visitor
Gran Torino (NEW)


Dropped Out:
Wall-E
Nothing but the Truth


-Best Adapted Screenplay-

Again, Slumdog Millionaire gains ground, while The Reader sits as one of the biggest dark horses of the season in many categories. For now though, I'll give it some love here.

Predicted Nominees:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Slumdog Millionaire (NEW)
The Road
Doubt


Five on the Fringe:
Revolutionary Road
Defiance
The Dark Knight
The Reader (NEW)
Body of Lies (NEW)

Dropped Out:
Brothers
Miracle at St. Anna
Towelhead


-Best Animated Film-

These three should stay the same from here on out.

Predicted Nominees:

Wall-E
Kung-Fu Panda
Waltz With Bashir

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