Big weekend for me as far as the Oscars go, I finally saw War Horse at this past Sunday’s Q&A screening, but I am under a strict embargo until a few days before the film releases so I won’t be giving any personal comments or opinions on the film until later. But that doesn’t stop me from reading and relaying what others have written after New York and Los Angeles folks also saw it this weekend and aren’t being quite as clandestine.
Additionally, more screeners arrived allowing me time to watch Roman Polanksi‘s Carnage, a film I enjoyed enough to not watch once, but twice in a 36 hour period. I also saw Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo at the sneak screenings on Saturday, gave Drive a second look, watched Pariah for the first time (it’s quite good), just reviewed Tyrannosaur (read that here) and dug into documentaries such as We Were Here and the excellent Undefeated.
All in all, I think I watched 14 movies in the last week and I’m staring at a pile of screeners that isn’t getting any smaller and there are still more to see.
With that said, and looking at my upcoming schedule, I decided I’d begin the week by revisiting my predictions in the Best Picture category. After all, last week I saw Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Hugo, War Horse, We Bought a Zoo and Carnage, which certainly gives reason for movement.
First for War Horse. You can watch highlights from the Q&A chat with director Steven Spielberg that was simulcast this weekend right here and you can read the full transcript here. As for what people are saying, Kris Tapley at In Contention addresses whether or not it can win Best Picture saying, “It most certainly can. Will it? Well, we’ll have to see if the season is kind to it. Critics will be mixed on it, I imagine. It won’t get the boost of their awards circuit, but it won’t need it.” He was a bit more direct on Twitter adding, “Speaking for myself, I think it wins the lion’s share. Including pic/dir.”
Over at The Telegraph Joe Marino would likely agree with Tapley, offering a rave for the film calling it “genuine in its emotion, unflinching in its reality, epic in its grandiosity, effective in its performances, and imaginative in its storytelling.”
Pete Hammond continued the love writing, “What Spielberg has wrought is a stunning looking and highly emotional epic that is Hollywood moviemaking at its best, and seems likely to be the filmmaker’s most Academy-friendly work since his Oscar winners, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.”
Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeff Wells appears to be alone in his opinion of the film saying “there’s no way this thing wins the Best Picture Oscar” along with this final salvo: “War Horse is wonderful, beautiful and very touching…if you’re Joe Popcorn from Sandusky, Ohio or Altoona, Pennsylvania. Or if you feel a nostalgic affinity for ‘less edgy, more traditional’ films and can just roll with what War Horse is serving. I think it’s so shameless it’s almost a hoot, but that’s me.”
Taking these comments, putting them in a blender and seeing what comes out, it sounds a lot like what we were hearing with The King’s Speech last year. War Horse may fit the mold as the more traditional Oscar feature, an epic that sweeps up audiences with emotional highs, but leaves critics divided. Steve Pond at The Wrap addresses this notion head on asking, “How old-fashioned is the Academy these days?” Good question, and perhaps one The King’s Speech answered last year.
As for this update, I have dropped War Horse from #2 to #4 with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close still in #1 and remaining one of two major films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo being the other) yet to be seen. Just above War Horse at this time are current, in theater front-runners The Artist and The Descendants, which is to essentially say I’m dealing with a four-way log jam at this time, all with different qualities that could play on Academy emotions.
War Horse may be looked at as “old-fashioned”, but how old-fashioned is a Spielberg epic compared to a black-and-white silent film such as The Artist? How old-fashioned is the sentimentality that could be evoked from Stephen Daldry’s September 11th-related feature Extremely Loud? Of the bunch, The Descendants stands out as more of an outsider than the other four. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is undecided and I can only presume once Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hits we’ll have a true outsider.
As for other movement on the board, I have dropped Moneyball down to the #7 slot while moving Martin Scorsese’s Hugo to just below the bubble line at #8 with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Young Adult hot on its tail.
One big question mark I have is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a film that is extraordinarily slow to build, a technique that pays off in the end, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t begin to lose interest at certain points. The film, though, is impeccably crafted and acted, featuring a stellar cast and performances. The trouble is going to be getting over the pacing, something I personally had a hard time with.
I have also added two more films to the list, bringing my total number of contenders up to 25 with the addition of Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey (trailer to the right) and J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call.
Unless I’m mistaken, In the Land of Blood and Honey has only been seen by New York critics voting tomorrow for their awards so there is no opinion on it out there yet, but I watched Margin Call this weekend and it is quite good and deserves some recognition, which is why I’ve added it to the list even though I think it only stands the slimmest of chances at getting in. I do, however, see a good chance for Kevin Spacey in the Supporting Actor category and a chance for Chandor’s original screenplay, but more on those two categories later this week.
I also think it’s worth mentioning I will be addressing the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories later this week as I’ll be seeing Young Adult on Wednesday after which I can finally weigh in on Charlize Theron‘s performance personally as well as Patton Oswalt in the Supporting Actor category. I also need to move Carey Mulligan from the Best Actress category to Supporting for Shame as I recently received that screener and see how Fox Searchlight will be campaigning.
With those housekeeping notices out of the way, I have included my current predictions for Best Picture nominations below. I am still sticking to only seven nominees, though I came extremely close to eight, especially considering the love Hugo has received, leading me to believe it could end up #1 or #2 on several Academy ballots.
You can browse my full field of Best Picture predictions along with commentary right here