In last week's column I pegged The Social Network as the new frontrunner in the Oscar race, and everything that's happened since has only further confirmed the theory. First of all the movie is a modest hit, making $23 million in its opening weekend, but almost more importantly it has been the center of an enormous media blitz, from articles on the film's power to divide generations to its supposed misogyny to even Aaron Sorkin's appearance on The View. It's the only movie anyone is talking about, to the point that poor Let Me In was crushed by it opening weekend, and to the point that even my parents are calling me wondering if it lives up to the hype.
We've learned in many Oscar season past that building up a giant head of steam this early in the season is no guarantee of success, and as Kris Tapley smartly pointed out in a recent In Contention column, there are plenty of big contenders coming down the line-- particularly the Coens' True Grit-- that are just waiting for their chance to topple The Social Network. For the time being, though, it's the 800-pound gorilla, the movie nobody can stop talking about and the one about which we're not asking if it will win Oscars, but what kind and how many.
The hype hasn't died down nearly enough on this film to properly assess its chances any better than I did last week, and with nothing else popping up this weekend to take its place-- sorry, Life As We Know It, I'll consider the three potential contenders I saw in the last week. Well, really it's only two contenders, and one gloriously bad turkey.
The Tempest. You can read my New York Film Festival review for the gory details, but suffice it to say The Tempest is a big ol' disasterpiece, messy and over-the-top in pretty much all the worst ways. With such a crowded Best Actress field already there's pretty much no chance for Helen Mirren, but somehow I actually wouldn't rule out some technical prizes-- costume designer Sandy Powell already has three statues to her name, including one last year for The Young Victoria, and the production design has some impressive moments as well. If it sneaks into the techs, though, it'll be more one of those left-field surprises than a powerful contender, so don't worry too much.
Fair Game. I feel pretty unmoved by the whole thing, a political thriller made with precision but a kind of emptiness by Doug Liman, but plenty of other critics disagree with me, so I might be on the outside here. Still, Fair Game doesn't feel like any kind of Best Picture contender, and its best chance would probably be Naomi Watts, who is predictably good (though never really great) as wronged CIA spy Valerie Plame. Yes, perennial Oscar winner Sean Penn is good as the supporting role of Plame's husband Joe Wilson, but the character is kind of obnoxious and so similar to Penn's real-life liberal politics that it was a turn-off for me, and almost definitely would be for the Academy. I'm sifting this one generally to the bottom of the pile for now.
Another Year. Plenty of Oscar pundits have had Mike Leigh's lovely, moving film on the Best Picture 10 ever since its Cannes debut, but while I really liked the movie, I wonder if something so low-key and deliberately anti-dramatic can hit with the Academy, who tend to want movies to put it all out there. Lesley Manville, on the other hand, should be well-positioned for a Best Actress nomination for her hilarious, tragic character of Mary, and given that Leigh has previously snagged four Original Screenplay nods and two for Director, he could easily find his way into both categories again. I'll keep an eye on the Best Picture prospects-- huge critical love and reasonable arthouse grosses could boost its chances-- but it seems to be right on the cusp right now.
In other news Awards Daily reports that Peter Weir's The Way Back has been confirmed for an awards-qualifying run later this year, which means it could shake up the race quite significantly. I haven't changed the charts to reflect this, both because buzz from Telluride was that the film might be a tough sell, and it's kind of hard to gauge the movie's impact at the moment. Maye more next week.
As for the rest of the charts, pretty much the only shifting comes from having seen Another Year and from the sadly terrible box office performance of Let Me In (better luck next time to everyone involved). This week I see Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, though I don't know how much perspective on the race that will give me, since the Academy loves Eastwood ten times more than I could ever hope to. I'm also hoping to get a look at Secretariat at some point, since there are still plenty of people out there who believe it can be a Blind Side-style contender. I'm more skeptical, but I probably ought to see for myself, don't you think?
The Tempest and Let Me In have been removed from contention, but otherwise nothing has changed here. I promise I'm going to add Inception into the Mortal Locks sometime soon, but I guess I'm waiting for one other big contender-- Hereafter, maybe?-- to stumble before I feel 100% confident doing it. And I'm tempted to put True Grit in there sight unseen, because jeez have those trailers been amazing.
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
Love and Other Drugs
Made in Dagenham
Never Let Me Go
The Way Back
For Colored Girls
The Ghost Writer
How Do You Know?
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Matt Reeves is officially out here, and as Never Let Me Go continues to struggle in limited release, Mark Romanek gets demoted to an Outside Chance. It's starting to look like there will be a lot of familiar names from recent Best Director races here, including Fincher, Boyle, Leigh and the Coens, but if Darren Aronofsky or Christopher Nolan manage to snag their first-ever Best Director nods, it'll be worth a little familiarity. Finding out if that's possible is a long way off yet, though, so don't get too excited.
David Fincher, The Social Network
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
Clint Eastwood, Hereafter
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Tourist
Peter Weir, The Way Back
Ben Affleck, The Town
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Biuitiful
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole
Tyler Perry, For Colored Girls
Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
Mark Romanek, Never Let Me Go
Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island
Oliver Stone, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Edward Zwick, Love and Other Drugs
I wonder if they'll campaign Penn as Supporting for Fair Game, but given how unlikely the nomination is either way I won't worry much. For Broadbent, though, he doesn't stand a chance as Best Actor for Another Year, but may well sneak into the Supporting category if they fudge it a little (he is one of the film's three leads, but one of the least dynamic characters). If anyone at Sony Pictures Classics is listening, I've got an idea for you. Oh, and nothing here has changed-- still waiting on Jesse Eisenberg to pick up a critic's award or two, and with both Franco and Firth likely to suck up all the love, it still looks tricky for him.
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter
George Clooney, The American
Johnny Depp, The Tourist
Stephen Dorff, Somewhere
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
Aaron Johnson, Nowhere Boy
Ewan McGregor, Beginners
Jim Broadbent, Another Year
Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception
Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs
Sean Penn, Fair Game
Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack
Ben Stiller, Greenberg
No changes here, because it still looks like a six-way race between everyone in the top two categories except Moore, who will have to fight hard to be recognized along with her Kids Are All Right co-star Bening. Even though I've seen all seven performances I'm still totally stuck here, since they all strike me as worthy and their chances will come down to the imperceptible shifts in Oscar buzz. This is one we'll be watching closely in the coming weeks, I'm sure.
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Sally Hawkins, Made in Dagenham
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
Diane Lane, Secretariat
Hilary Swank, Conviction
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Reese Witherspoon, How Do You Know?
Helen Mirren, The Tempest
Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go
Gwyneth Paltrow, Country Strong
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Naomi Watts, Fair Game
Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
With Garfield and Timberlake still feeling like equally likely Social Network nominees, but no guarantee they'll both get in, it's still impossible to feel certain about anything here. And since I haven't seen anything in the last week with credibly competitive Best Supporting Actor performances (aside from the aforementioned Broadbent issue), I don't have much to add here. Carry on as usual.
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
Justin Timberlake, The Social Network
Ed Harris, The Way Back
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Bob Hoskins, Made in Dagenham
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Sam Rockwell, Conviction
Josh Brolin, True Grit
Vincent Cassel, Black Swan
Matt Damon, True Grit
Michael Douglas, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Colin Farrell, The Way Back
Armie Hammer, The Social Network
Dustin Hoffman, Barney's Version
John Malkovich, Secretariat
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I'm holding on hard to Kristin Scott Thomas as a likely contender for Nowhere Boy, but the buzz for that movie (coming this Friday) seems nonexistent, and I'm starting to worry. Meanwhile Hailee Steinfeld looks absolutely terrific in those True Grit trailers, and while it's crazy to back a performance absolutely no one has seen, I wouldn't be surprise if early "secret" buzz about the movie starts trickling out to slowly start the Oscar campaign. If True Grit is as good as it looks, teenager Steinfeld could be the fun newcomer success story of this Oscar season. Then again, I might be just wildly optimistic because the trailer looks so great. Take your pick.
Helena Bonham-Carter, The King's Speech
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Miranda Richardson, Made in Dagenham
Kristin Scott Thomas, Nowhere Boy
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Anne-Marie Duff, Nowhere Boy
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Rosamund Pike, Made in Dagenham
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Marion Cotillard, Inception
Elle Fanning, Somewhere
Rosamund Pike, Barney's Version
Saoirse Ronan, The Way Back
Sissy Spacek, Get Low
Mia Wasikowska, The Kids Are All Right