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Last week might have been a bad week to pick for kicking off Oscar coverage, not because of a lack of things to talk about, but because there's not much to report that's changed since then. One movie once thought of as an Oscar contender, Amelia, has opened and failed miserably with both critics and moviegoers. But I had seen Amelia by the time I wrote last week's column, which is why Hilary Swank and the film were both sitting pretty far away from the strong contenders.
So the only thing remotely Oscar-related that's happened in the last week is the announcement that Ricky Gervais will be hosting the Golden Globes, which doesn't affect the race at all, just the likelihood that people will pay attention to the awards. What does that leave us to talk about then? Well, there's a lot to explore with the movies that have come out thus far this year, and based on the comments I got on last week's piece, there's one movie already in release that you guys want to talk about badly: Inglourious Basterds.
Last week I ranked it as "Still in the Running" for Best Picture, right next to titles like Julie & Julia and The Road (and, er, Amelia), though I'm much more optimistic about the chances of Christoph Waltz being nominated as Best Supporting Actor (there's pretty much no way he won't get in). And even though the only other nominations I see possible in the main categories are supporting actress for either Melanie Laurent (maybe) or Diane Kruger (probably not), there are a lot of other places I can see IB fitting in-- Best Original Screenplay for Quentin Tarantino seems pretty possible (he won it for Pulp Fiction, remember), Best Costume or Makeup for those gorgeous period costumes, and who knows, maybe Best Editing, though that category usually gets taken up with action movies or whatever the Best Picture flavor of the week is.
Before you accuse of me of hating on your favorite movie, bear in mind that Inglourious Basterds is likely to wind up my list of the best of the year. I'm just doing my best, as with all these predictions, to figure out what the Academy-- a notoriously capricious, weird, and old-fashioned bunch-- will shine their light upon at the end of the year. And Inglourious Basterds, despite largely overwhelming critical praise, will find a lot of detractors offended by the violence or the historical revisionism, or even people sick of Tarantino and his smarty-pants style. It's not the same climate as Pulp Fiction anymore, with some new whiz kid coming out of the indie world and creating a sensation. Tarantino is established now, and whether or not it's true, he has a lot more to prove.
So while Christoph Waltz has his nomination locked up-- his performance is stunning no matter what you think about the rest of the film, and the field is weak overall-- the rest of Basterds has a lot of work to do. The Weinstein Company has committed to a serious awards push, with plans to send out a massive amount of screener DVDs and campaign for just about anyone imaginable, and it's been proven time and time again that money can go a long way toward a nomination. Plus, as more and more awards favorites either pull an Amelia or debut with a whimper rather than a bang (Bright Star, A Serious Man), Basterds' popularity with audiences may linger even longer with voters.
I'm actually moving Basterds up a notch on the list, having thought about it a little here, and sending Amelia to the back. Other small changes have been made in various categories and noted here and there. Next week we'll take a look at the screenplays, both original and adapted, and see what else has changed in the meantime. See you then!
As I noted, I'm basically discounting Amelia and moving up Basterds a bit, but everything else is staying basically the same. Nothing has come out that merits a change.
Despite the likelihood that Basterds may make it into the Best Picture Top 10, there's still only room for 5 directors, and I have a hard time seeing Tarantino make it in past some other stronger competitors. A big Weinstein campaign, though. could change things. Nothing has changed in this category this week.
I moved Swank into the "Outside Chance" category and replaced her with Michelle Pfeiffer, only because out of all of the women hovering out on the fringe, she seems the likeliest to make it in. Also watch out for some potential changes here-- Cotillard may wind up in supporting for Nine, while Vera Farmiga of Up in the Air could make a shift to lead.
As mentioned, Christoph Waltz is the only guarantee at this point, though Peter Sarsgaard confirmed that he was jumping into the race last week, which adds a little extra competition. Otherwise, though, things are very, very dead here.
The main story about Mo'nique lately has been about reported diva-like behavior in the process of promoting Precious and those are the kinds of reports that can really, really damage chances for a nomination. While it's still impossible to see her not getting nominated, continued bad buzz could really shake this category up.
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