Location: Los Angeles, California

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Best Picture Race

Just needed to get my thoughts out there on what I've seen, what I've heard, and what outcome I predict for the major Best Pic contenders. In alphabetical order:

Australia - It just started screening today and responses have been all over the board. It seems like the movie may be too uneven -- supposedly some moments really work while other parts are cringe-inducing. So, it's probably not getting in for Best Pic, but it'll score a ton of tech noms.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Many people's frontrunner. The first press screening is tomorrow. I don't know when I'll get to see it, but as impressive as the film looks, there's something off-putting about it too. I'm not quite confident all the facial CGI used to make Pitt age in reverse will convince me, and ever since Fincher switched to using HD cameras, his compositions have looked washed out and unrealistic. Still, much promise here. For now, I'll say it makes it into the Big 5, but it'll be interesting to see the reaction from Thursday's screening.

The Dark Knight - It baffles me that people are still hesitant to predict The Dark Knight for Best Picture. It's in. I'm confident in saying that. The movie is too big, too acclaimed, and (most importantly) has made way too much money to be ignored. And Christopher Nolan is well respected in the industry. Expect Best Pic, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (which Ledger is most likely winning), as well as 3 to 5 tech nods.

Doubt - I'm seeing this tomorrow night. Will update at that time.

Frost/Nixon - It's a very strong, very competently made film with an admirable turn from Frank Langella. But, I'm not sure it has the muscle to go the distance. It comes off as a fascinating and relevant film, but also as a slight film, and I think people want "big" right now.

Gran Torino - Who knows? Never bet against Eastwood, who seems to be on the same wavelength as many Academy voters. Still, the film's trailer makes me shakes my head. I don't think much more than an acting nomination for Eastwood is happening here, but I could be quite wrong.

Milk - The current frontrunner from my point of view. I'm seeing it next week, so I can't say for certain yet, but it's a genuine crowd-pleaser from what I've heard. And the passage of Proposition 8 only galvanizes the support for the movie and its message. I'd say it's in, pending further notice.

The Reader - Starts screening next week (I'll see it on Wed). Could be a strong contender. Kate Winslet definitely is, as always. But will the fact that the film was rushed to make its December release date be visibly apparent?

Revolutionary Road - Hearing mixed things from screenings, but more positive energy than negative. Could very well break into the Big 5, but for now I think it'll just miss.

Slumdog Millionaire - It's in. People are falling in love with it. I don't see it winning, but you never know.

WALL-E - Deserves to be considered a player for Best Pic, but the Academy is not in the business of nominating animated films for the top prize. Unless Australia, Button, Doubt, Gran Torino, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road all flop, I don't see WALL-E breaking the trend.

The Wrestler - Excellent movie, but the praise will all go to Mickey Rourke's dazzling performance. As with Frost/Nixon, the film feels a bit too slight to enter the big race, but it wouldn't be a shock if Darren Aronofsky was nominated by his peers.


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