August is almost half over, and back-to-school sales are in full swing, and guys are preparing for their fantasy football drafts. That can only mean that it’s time to start thinking about who will win this year’s Oscar.
For those who are new, I’m an Oscar geek of the highest order, have been since I was ten. It mixes my love of movies with my love of sports, and I’m generally pretty good at predicting. Last year I posted a list of ten films and four of them got nominated for Best Picture (didn’t count on Juno–I don’t think I had heard of it at this time last year). Most of the fall releases are slotted for release, and at least one picture already released has a chance at a nomination. In alphabetical order:
Australia (Baz Luhrmann): Luhrmann does Out of Africa down under, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Sounds like it will have spectacular photography and will also be a frightful bore, but also seems Academy-friendly.
Changeling (Clint Eastwood): Never count out Clint, but which film? He also has Gran Torino scheduled to come out this year. I’ll go with this one, which is period (set in the twenties, a woman comes to believe her returned kidnapped child is not hers) which the Academy has a soft spot for. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Eastwood pulls a Soderbergh and gets two nods.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher): This film is on a lot of Oscar-watchers lists, but I’m not so sure. Fincher is no Academy favorite–total nominations for Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac? Two. Based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, so has some literary snob appeal, and nature of story–a man aging backwards–may provide high-profile acting style points for Brad Pitt.
The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan): The stratospheric box office has made this film impossible to ignore in the Best Picture category, but I’m still dubious. Sasha Stone pointed out that four out of the five all-time top grossers have been nominated, but that’s incorrect (she’s assuming Dark Knight will get nominated). It’s really only three: Titanic, Star Wars, and E.T. (Shrek II missed the cut). All of these films are completely different in tone and have a different contextual place in time, and it’s a pretty piddling sample (the next several BO kings were not nominated for Best Picture). But only a fool would leave DK off a shortlist.
Doubt (John Patrick Shanley): Adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning play about pedophilia at a Catholic school, this film screams prestige, with a cast including Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Sure to get acting nominations, but who knows if it’s too stagey to get Best Picture nod. Only one film based on a Pulitzer-winning play has won the Oscar: Driving Miss Daisy
Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard): Sounds fascinating, even if it is directed by the equivalent to white bread. Behind the scenes at the interviews David Frost did with disgraced Tricky Dick in the mid-seventies, with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella. The latter seems a solid bet for Best Actor, as the Academy loves people who play real people.
Milk (Gus Van Sant): More real people, only far less known than Nixon. All about groundbreaking San Francisco city councilman Harvey Milk, who was gunned down by a nut who got off because of the “Twinkie defense.” Question here, aside from quality, is the gay issue, as the Academy is still grappling with it. Sean Penn seems a good bet for another Best Actor nomination.
Revolutionary Road (Sam Mendes). Englishman Mendes takes another look at the oppressiveness of American suburbia (this time in the fifties) and reteams Titanic stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Another picture that has a prestigious appearance, who knows if it will be any good.
The Road (John Hillcoat): A lot of Oscar soothsayers aren’t giving this film much of a chance, but I have a feeling about it. I’m not saying it will win (my god if it did it would be two Cormac McCarthy adaptations in a row) but if it’s as impactful as the novel I think it will turn some heads. A very simple story about a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic America, it is directed by Aussie Hillcoat, who made a very good picture called The Proposition.
The Soloist (Joe Wright): Sounds horrible to me, a retooling of Shine except this time the pianist is a homeless man (Jamie Foxx). I will probably hate it, but the Academy seems to lap this stuff up. Robert Downey Jr. is in it, and if it hits big he will just absolutely own 2008.
Other films that are mentioned include Soderbergh’s Che, but a release date is not fixed and I don’t know how they’d deal with two films. There’s also Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, Edward Zwick’s Defiance, Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies and Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna.