Oscar 2011 Forecast: Pick a Number Between Five and Ten

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Once again the approach of autumn means that Oscar season is about to heat up, as the theaters start playing “serious” films. This season has some obvious candidates, but I have a feeling that this might be a year like 2008, when Slumdog Millionaire came out of nowhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if my list of ten below doesn’t even contain the eventual winner.

The most interesting about this year is that, for the first time, no one know how many nominees for Best Picture there will be. All we know is that there will somewhere between five and ten. In the Kremlinology involved in deciphering the motivation for these rule changes, one can be a little perplexed. If the absence of The Dark Knight in 2008 occasioned the expansion of the nominees from five to ten, what film made the powers-that-be dial it back?

Some have speculated it was The Blind Side, but that particular film was nominated two years ago, not last year, so if it is the culprit it was a slow reaction. I’m thinking that one of last year’s nominees–maybe Winter’s Bone, which was a worthy nominee–had a paltry amount of votes. Now, any film that doesn’t get at least five percent won’t be nominated, thus eliminating the chance that a film could be nominated with only one vote.

The Blind Side was really the only WTF? movie that was nominated over the two-year ten-nominee period. I liked some more than others, but it didn’t lead to any major embarrassments. I have a feeling that this winnowing process will hurt some films, like Winter’s Bone and A Serious Man, that deserve to be nominated. We’ll see.

And now, my highly unscientific, arbitrary, and clueless list of ten films that seem to stand a good chance at getting nominated. And I’ll also make a guess at how many films end up getting nominated: 7. It’s my lucky number.

Carnage (Roman Polanski, December): Adaptation of the play God of Carnage, with the God edited out presumably for the sensitive American audience. Polanski is a hot button, but this seems like it good be very good, and it has Christoph Waltz playing someone who isn’t a villain, which will be a nice stretch. Also with Kate Winslet, known Oscar favorite.

Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, Sept. 9); Trailers look promising, great cast, classy director, and a squirm-in-your-seat subject matter. This is the kind of genre film that the expansion seems to have helped out.

The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nov. 23): I love Payne (not pain–I’m not a masochist), and teaming him with George Clooney seems like good Oscar bait. Payne scored an Oscar nominations for Sideways, so it’s not unprecedented.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Stephen Daldry, December): Daldry has made three movies, he’s been nominated for Best Director three times. The last two were also Best Picture nominees. That could either mean he has momentum, or he’s do for a let-down. I’m betting on the former, given that this is a 9/11 film.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, Dec. 21): Sure to be a box-office smash, and with the Fincher imprimatur should get oohs and aahs from critics. This has a chance to be the one film of the lot that celebrates commerce over art…

The Help (Tate Taylor, Aug. 10)…or it could be The Help, which has sparked debate amongst intellectuals and has also managed to be a big hit. It is a middlebrow examination of a complex issue, which is right up Oscar’s alley. If there were ten nominees, it would be a sure nominee.

The Ides of March (George Clooney, Oct. 2): Clooney could be seeing double-duty in this category. This one is a political drama, which is sure to titillate liberal Hollywood.  Clooney is not guarantee, though–remember Leatherheads?

J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood, November) Like Charlie Brown with the football, I keep putting Clint Eastwood down on my list, though he hasn’t hit Oscar gold since Letters From Iwo Jima. A biopic of J. Edgar Hoover with Leonardo DiCaprio seems just the ticket to get Clint back to the Kodak Theater.

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, May 20): Like Eastwood, Allen hasn’t had a chance to refuse attending an Oscars in a while (he was last nominated for Match Point). Given that this was a critical and box office success (his greatest box office success ever), combined with the frisson of his return to favor, makes it film a potential nominee. It will certainly be nominated for Best Original Screenplay, where he’s been nominated more than twenty times.

War Horse (Steven Spielberg, Dec. 28) This has got to be the front runner right now, a gooey adaptation of a novel and play about a boy and his horse, set against the backdrop of World War I. It’s period, it’s sentimental, it’s Spielberg. I should add that Spielberg has only been nominated as Best Director once in the last thirteen years (for Munich).

Other possibilities, in no particular order: Hugo (Martin Scorsese), We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe), Tree of Life (Terence Malick), Young Adult (Jason Reitman), Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd–and Meryl Streep’s shot at a third Oscar), Moneyball (Bennett Miller),  and The Artist (Michel Hazanivicius–a silent movie).

Let the games begin!

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

15 responses »

  1. Contagion? No way. At all.

    How do you know War Horse is gooey? Are you expressing some Wells-level bias on this one?

    No Win Win love?

    Why is Dragon Tattoo going to celebrate commerce over art? What do you mean?

  2. I don’t know that War Horse is gooey, but it is Spielberg, who made War of the Worlds gooey.

    Win Win? In your words, No way. At all.

    I suspect, and certainly don’t know, that Dragon Tattoo will be the kind of movie the executives like because it makes a lot of money, but really isn’t that good.

  3. “Wells-level bias?” Isn’t the burden of proof on Spielberg to show that his movie about a boy and his horse isn’t gooey? And why wouldn’t it be gooey? It’s about a boy and his horse.

    “A biopic of [Nelson Mandela] with [Morgan Freeman] seems just the ticket to get Clint back to the Kodak Theater.” Alas.

  4. GOOD BETS:
    Midnight in Paris
    The Iron Lady
    The Artist
    J Edgar
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part II
    Beginners
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
    War Horse
    The Help

    OTHERS:
    A Dangerous Method
    The Descendants
    The Ides of March
    Tree of Life
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    My Week With Marilyn

    I’ll go with 7 nominations

    I’d love to see Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous get nominated. Would tickle me in all the right ways.

  5. The Harry Potter movie is intriguing. No Harry Potter has ever won an Oscar, and they’ve only been nominated for handful of technical awards. Will there be a sentiment to nominate this last one, as a kind of tip of the cap for the billions they’ve made and the cultural phenomenon it created? Could be.

  6. They started the 10 nominations thing to be able to nominate popular movies to get people to watch. Even if they don’t use up the full 10, it would be silly to leave out Potter, and I say this as someone who hasn’t seen a single Potter film.

  7. No Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? Oldman at least is likely to get nominated.

    I’d put Drive as a dark horse, as well.

  8. I found the commercials for Moneyball a lot more compelling when I thought Money Talks was a Cinderellla song. Don’t get me wrong – AC/DC is a million times better and I don’t even like Cinderella that much, but I loved the idea of a big studio film using some 80’s hair rock.

  9. After seeing Moneyball, I would put in the top ten, in fact I think it’s pretty much a lock right now, and Brad Pitt is a cinch for Best Actor nomination. Review tomorrow.

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