The Early Oscar Race: The Contenders

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It’s never too early, is it? First, let me get something off my chest. Do you notice the zero, and I mean, ZERO, Oscar buzz on Cinderella Man? Sure, the “For Your Consideration” banners are flying high, but no one is actually talking about it. Can a movie that good actually get snubbed because its star has a bad temper? Is that even possible? This all got me thinking and truth be told, there isn’t a whole lot of Oscar buzz in general. Sure there’s a little noise being generated from some online entertainment writers desperate for something to talk about (ahem), but other than that…nada.

Yet the official award season is looming and no matter how weak a year it may be (and Jesus H. is it weak!), the fun always starts with the guessing of who will be nominated and who won’t. That’s phase one. Phase two: Overreact when the Academy dare deny the apple of your eye a nomination. Phase three: Bitterly mock the whole enterprise when the awards are handed out in March, declaring you will never, ever again watch the Oscars. Then, repeat. Well, for shits and giggles I am continuing the cycle of torment and putting forth my predictions for Best Picture nominees before the award season starts for real.

Out of the five, the first three spots seem like no-brainers. First is December’s Munich: Spielberg. Israel. Terrorists…at the buzzer… SCORE! Then there’s Memoirs of a Geisha: Spielberg. Asia-love. Popular book. Finally, Brokeback Mountain: Word is tremendous. Only a completely tanked box office, a very real possibility given the gay cowboy movie label, will stop it. This movie needs audience support, but I’m betting it will get just enough.

I’m thinking the fourth spot goes political. That means it comes down to Syriana versus Good Night and Good Luck or as I like to call it Clooney v. Clooney. If Syriana is as good as it looks, critical accolades will propel it past inevitably poor box office returns (kind of like 1999’s The Insider). The same could probably be said for what’s, so far, the year’s best reviewed film, the excellent Good Night, and Good Luck., but it just ain’t sexy enough me thinks. Winner: Syriana

Here is where it gets ugly. There’s just no telling with some brutal match-ups in store. Walk The Line (a.k.a. Ray! Part Deux) versus Capote. Both are well-received. Both films’ leads seam to have their nominations locked up. Unless Walk The Line makes a bundle, Capote is more likely to sneak in. Advantage: Capote

Rent versus The Producers. Hollywood loves a musical. I haven’t seen Rent on stage, but I did see that “Everyone Has AIDS!” number in Team America. Word on both is positive, but I think the bigger moneymaker will determine who has a fighter’s chance. Advantage: The Producers.

King Kong versus the ghost of Lord Of The Rings. We all know it’s going to rock, but can it be a truly great film too? Advantage: LOTR

The Constant Gardener versus A History of Violence: Both are critically revered but it feels like The Constant Gardener has faded more than Cronenberg’s film. Advantage: History of Violence.

The New World versus Match Point. Helmed by two eccentric directors whose movies couldn’t be any more different. Something tells me no matter how intense New Line markets The New World (and by intense I mean misleading the audience into thinking it’s an action-adventure film), it will struggle to find an audience the way The Thin Red Line did. Woody Allen already has an audience niche, especially if he makes a good film. Advantage: Match Point.

Jarhead is Jar-dead thanks to some dumb-ass critics. Ditto that as far as Elizabethtown is concerned. I refuse to believe Casanova is a real possibility. Crash was fun to talk about for a while, but it will have to make do with a screenplay nomination. I hear Breakfast on Pluto is fantastic, but it would need the Miramax marketing machine circa mid-to-late 90s. The Libertine may have Depp but it doesn’t seem to have the goods. Of course there are others (Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Tsotsi etc..) not to mention that movie from out of nowhere that takes everyone by surprise.

In the end, though, Cinderella Man will be nominated Best Picture. To get that fifth slot Crowe will slam Capote’s face in with a typewriter, give The Producers AIDS, snap Viggo’s neck and machine-gun through Woody Allen’s glasses a la Mo Green. Cinderella Man released in the winter, it is a mortal lock, maybe even a lock to win given the critical and audience reaction. Russell Crowe would have to murder a hotel bellboy, rape the guy’s wife and snap a poodle’s neck on live television to have prevented Academy adoration. Okay, two poodles. And those nominations would have sealed at least $100 mil at the box office. My point is, if you are going to release it in the summer, and the film underperforms, you’ve GOT to re-release the fucker in December. But this is a weak year, so they’ll get away with it.

In case I’m wrong, I’m picking a safety. Word is Match Point is Allen’s best film in years. That may not be saying a whole lot but there’s been some “better than Bullets Over Broadway” talk and the way I see it, Hollywood has been aching for him to make a really good movie again. Watch out.

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Weekend: Sep. 27, 2018, Sep. 30, 2018

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