Amanda Mae Meyncke October 29, 2009
There’s no denying it’s been a strange year for movies. I’ve yet to see anything that felt like an obvious Academy favorite, and with the stunning announcement that there will be 10 Best Picture nominations instead of the usual five, speculation has been fierce as to who will make the cut. With Public Enemies failing to delight audiences as much as was predicted earlier this year, and Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life put on hold until 2010, the race remains wide open with a few notable front-runners.
Likely Nominated but Not Winning
A Serious Man, the latest entry from Oscar darlings the Coen brothers, features mostly no-name actors, and after their last few big-budget, star-driven vehicles, it feels much like someone proposed a bet that they couldn’t make a movie without all the conventional trappings. Betting against the Coens might seem risky, but after the bleakly pathetic Burn After Reading, it’s a little safer.
Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker was received in an overwhelmingly positive light by critics. The film follows an elite group of explosives experts in 2004 Iraq, and though Americans have been skittish about going to see films focused on the war in the Middle East, The Hurt Locker was decidedly different as audiences and critics alike approved.
Inglourious Basterds will go down in the film history books as a mature work from a well-known director drunk on cinema and hopelessly addicted to culture. The film is a complicated tale of war and retribution set in a fictional World War II, and stars Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz (who will almost certainly receive a Best Actor award), and a whole host of other bastards. Quentin Tarantino discovered a way to kill as many people as he wanted without a single word being raised against him, though the results are surprisingly uncomfortable.
Avatar has potential for a nomination as one of the most highly hyped films of the year, and James Cameron‘s first true feature film in the running since a little 1997 award winner called Titanic. While the photorealistic CGI images may turn some people off to the film, the majority of press so far has been excited and eager since the project was announced.
Continuing the literary trend, Precious looks uncomfortable enough to be taken seriously. Featuring performances by Mariah Carey and Mo’Nique, it is based on a 1996 novel by Sapphire, championed by tastemakers Tyler Perry and Oprah. The story revolves around a young teen caught up in a cycle of abuse, poverty, and incest. Though it fared well at Sundance, one can’t help but imagine the late release date has something to do with an Oscar bid.
With the noticeable snubs for Wall-E and Ratatouille in past years, it would seem pure animation prejudice if Up were to be kept out of the running. Though the Academy Awards have often failed to reflect popular opinion, critical acclaim and the will of the people coincide in this high-flying Pixar feature.
The Serious Contenders
Peter Jackson helms The Lovely Bones, and this long-awaited adaptation from the best-selling novel has the all-star cast and serious high drama that seems necessary to win Best Picture. Mark Wahlberg stars alongside the lovely Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, and Stanley Tucci in the horrific tale of a young girl’s murder and the subsequent trauma her family must face in the wake of her absence as she watches over them from heaven. The novel is dark and dreary, and the film can only improve with imaginative visuals what was a complicated tale.
Bright Star could be in the running; superstar director Jane Campion has brought us a sweet subtle tale of first love. Bright Star explores the little-known relationship between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), and if the film isn’t nominated for Best Picture, then Abbie Cornish will certainly garner a Best Actress nod. With her strong yet demure portrayal of the young Brawne, Cornish puts the gilding on this elegant time capsule which will certainly become the new standard of all that a good period piece should be. The film is the most beautiful of the year, offering up images so pristine they elicited an audible gasp from the audience.
Nine has the kind of big brassy appeal and big-name actors necessary to catch the eyes of Academy members come voting time. Even the fact that it’s a musical can’t hurt too badly, considering the success of Chicago. The list of stars is impressive: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, and Judi Dench, just to name a few. Nine is based on the Fellini film 8 1/2, and given the warm feelings associated with that titan of cinema and the massive star power of those involved with the film, Nine is sure to please even the most wary of Academy voters.
Clint Eastwood can do no wrong as a director, and with so many nominations in recent years it’s not too far off to assume that Invictus is on the short list for the 2010 Academy Awards. Invictus is a look at post-apartheid Africa under the eye of Nelson Mandela and stars Matt Damon as well as Morgan Freeman. One of Eastwood’s finest attributes is his unpredictability, moving in and out of genres and time periods with absolute ease.
All in all, it’s too early to call the winner! November and December will come and go, and by the end of the year a clear winner should emerge victorious. For now, my money is on the big-budgeted Nine.
Categories: No CategoriesTags: Academy awards, Bright star, Invictus, Nine, The lovely bones