I'll admit, this week's Oscar Eye is delayed because I simply didn't want to deal with the deluge of awards news that's happened this week. Between announcements from a series of major critical groups, the nominations for the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards and the huge amount of press nearly every major nominee has been doing, it's a lot to keep up with, much less actually filter, process and translate for people like you guys, who I assume don't follow every inch of this the way I do. But with the week wrapping up (finally!) and no major award announcements due until the new year, it's time to look back and take stock of what's truly been an up-and-down week. Let's look at the major forces affecting things this week and the damage they caused.
The critic's groups. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced their winners, the New York Film Critics Circle on Monday, and various other smaller and regional groups (including mine, the New York Film Critics Online) announced around the same time. Though critics love nothing more than to argue with each other about everything, a somewhat astonishing consensus emerged around The Social Network, which took the Best Picture award from all the above-listed groups as well as the Boston Society of Film Critics. Everyone had expected the critics to reward David Fincher's film, but I'm not sure anyone expected there to be so much agreement, with no other film coming even close to rivaling the kind of attention The Social Network got.
Other big winners included Annette Bening, who picked up the Best Actress statue from the New York Film Critics Circle, Jacki Weaver getting the Supporting prize from the LA group, and Black Swan, which led the nomination tally for the Broadcast Film Critics Association and won three prizes from my NYFCO group, coming close to winning quite a few more. None of the critic's groups are seen as all that predictive of Oscar winners, but last year both LAFCA and the NYCC picked The Hurt Locker as their best picture-- one of the few times the two groups have agreed-- and we all know how that worked out for the film in the end.
The Golden Globes. The Globes, so famously silly and bought and paid for by the studios, were even more ridiculous to behold this year, with the Best Comedy/Musical category so weak that Burlesque and The Tourist-- movies hated by the few people who actually went to see them-- snagged nominations. It's hard to predict any trends in the nominations that actually matter, but I was perturbed by the total shut-out for True Grit, a film I love and still expect to be a somewhat significant player at the Oscars. There's also the fact that, like the critic's groups, the Globes had a lot of love for Black Swan, even including Mila Kunis for Best Supporting Actress. The weird, arty ballerina movie that everyone expected to be a tough sell isn't just a box office success in limited release, but is picking up attention from groups that could have easily ignored it. More on this in the next paragraph.
The SAG Awards. The Screen Actors Guild only nominates performances, which means it's possible to lead in the nominations with just 4 nods-- exactly what The Fighter and The King's Speech did. But actors make up the largest voting bloc in the Academy, and while the SAG voters are a small group and not necessarily representative, it's always telling to see what caught their eye-- SAG categories frequently match up with their Oscar counterparts. Seeing Black Swan up in the Best Ensemble slot is telling, given that the movie could easily be regarded as the Natalie Portman show and something like True Grit, The Town or even Inception was probably angling hard for that spot. Not only that, but they found room for Mila Kunis in Supporting Actress, leaving off the likes of Jacki Weaver (who got a major boost from the Globes) and Dianne Wiest of Rabbit Hole, whose campaign just won't take off no matter how hard I wish for it. Other pleasant surprises included John Hawkes making it in for Winter's Bone and Hailee Steinfeld getting in for True Grit-- putting her in supporting is still a sham, but she deserves a nomination one way or another so I'll take it.
Going into the holidays, it's mostly going to be box office and end-of-the-year lists to keep our eye on. The Fighter looks really, really strong as it goes from limited to wide release this weekend, while Black Swan will be trying to capitalize on its arthouse success by expanding to nearly 1000 screens. Given that the movies in wide release this weekend are generally disappointing, they probably won't have too much competition among people following all the awards season stuff, and will definitely benefit from the Golden Globe nods. Rabbit Hole is also opening in limited release, and maybe once people see it Dianne Wiest will start getting the attention she deserves?
Then next week, in time for Christmas, is that ever-present question mark True Grit. I'm still counting on it to do well, being rated PG-13 and marketed as an action-heavy Western (which it is), but hopefully critics will be as kind toward it as they have been so far. It might become my pet cause over the next few weeks, because Lord knows all my other favorites of the year, like The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right, don't really need the help.
OK, on to the charts, where there's actually a fair bit of change reflecting the Black Swan and The Fighter surge and my growing concerns about True Grit. We'll talk more next week!
I sense things like 127 Hours and even True Grit losing steam, but with 10 slots to fill out there's still not really anything to take their place. Rabbit Hole and Blue Valentine still feel a little too small to jump in there, while Another Year is lacking any kind of major campaign, and The Town would have needed some bigger attention from SAG or the Globes to get further into the conversation. If either of the above mentioned tiny indies start doing really well at the box office over the holidays, we might want to consider them jumping in. But otherwise the choices seem pretty settled for the moment-- which is generally the exact moment that things shift radically, so be prepared.
As The Fighter continues to gain accolades and attention all over the place, I'm forced to reconsider David O. Russell as a Best DIrector contender, while also recognizing that the Coen Brothers will be a tough sell as Best Director nominees even if True Grit does make it in to the Best Picture 10 (they did win not that long ago). So Russell is in and they're out, and it's also worth noting that the Globe nomination makes Aronofsky's position seem a lot stronger. Much to my relief, people are really loving Black Swan. Let's hope it stays that way.
The biggest change here is that I've added Halle Berry, whose Frankie and Alice is getting an under the radar release but still a fair bit of attention from people who have actually seen the film, and the Golden Globe nomination sure didn't hurt. The fact that the empty spot left by Bening in that lineup (she's in Comedy at the Globes) didn't go to Lesley Manville makes me more despondent about her chances, especially since SAG ignored her too. Sure it makes room for Michelle Williams, who is tremendous, but Manville deserves better than she's gotten so far.
It seems I was little more enthusiastic about Matt Damon than anyone else, since he hasn't factored into any critic's awards or nominations, not even the six-wide BFCA field. So, sheepishly, I'm backing away and putting my chips on Jeremy Renner instead, who score a SAG nod, has a lot of leftover love from his Best Actor nomination last year, and benefits from being in a hit movie. At least I can honestly say I like all these performances, and feeling confident that Christian Bale will win anyway, it's fun to watch the rest of the category shift beneath him.
Maybe the biggest revelation of the entire last week is Melissa Leo as a Mortal Lock for her role in The Fighter-- she's eaten up critic's awards like nobody else, she's an actress everybody love and gives a terrific performance to boot. I don't want to give up on Steinfeld as a Mortal Lock just yet, especially with the SAG nod to back her up, but I'm a little more concerned for the moment. As for Wiest, well, I guess it's time to admit defeat and hand her spot to Amy Adams. I've also swapped Mila Kunis for Barbara Hershey as the Black Swan actress to watch-- two nominations in a row this week speak for themselves.