Is Inception A Lock To Win An Oscar? Keep Dreaming

Around this time two years ago everyone got themselves all worked up with speculation that The Dark Knight might break the Oscar barrier, get nominated for Best Picture and Best Director and Best Supporting Actor and every other award, and prove once and for all that genre films, especially superhero films, were Real Art as recognized by the Academy. All this resulted in a whole lot of disappointment come January, when Heath Ledger got his expected nomination (and went on to win), but The Dark Knight was otherwise shunted off to the technical categories, a familiar ghetto for blockbuster genre films when the stuffy Academy assumes all they have to offer are giant 'splosions.

And here we are again with Inception, another Christopher Nolan movie earning rave reviews and a fanatical fanbase, nearly all whom would probably give it every Oscar right now given the chance. There are a few things that will likely be working in Inception's favor as it goes cautiously into awards season, the expanded 10-movie Best Picture category chief among them, but even though Inception currently sits at #3 on IMDB's top 250, the Academy is a much, much tougher bunch to figure out. Below is a rundown of the 14 Oscars Inception could conceivably be nominated for, and the very few it's likely to win. I'm going to be the bearer of bad news for Inception fans who are already rooting for a sweep, but hey, it's still early in the year-- every other Oscar bait remaining could tank, and Inception could be reigning supreme come December. As with everything Oscar-related, you just never know.


Why it can get nominated: The Academy's decision to expand Best Picture to 10 films in 2009 wasn't technically a response to The Dark Knight getting shut out… but it may as well have been. They made the move in order to include more mainstream films, and by letting in District 9 and Avatar last year, they proved they're open to genre blockbusters. Two years ago Best Picture seemed like a longshot for The Dark Knight, but now it's one of the nominations Inception is most likely to get.

Why it won't win: It's still a genre picture, and there are enough critical voices coming out against it that the Academy will feel OK picking something more highbrow/arty/actually better instead. If Avatar couldn't get it, neither can Inception.

Chance of a nomination: 100%

Chance of a win: 20%


Why it can get nominated: Even detractors of Inception recognize Christopher Nolan's formidable skill behind the camera, and he's established such a consistent track record in the last decade that he could practically be considered a genre unto himself. With another superhero movie on the docket now might be a good time to reward him for original vision and for directing a whole bunch of classy actors.

Why it won't win: Same problem for the movie itself: it's a genre thing. Granted, he's the likeliest winner at this point in the year-- he would even beat Scorsese for Shutter Island if it came down to that-- but there are plenty of other names coming down the pipe later this year that seem likely to steal all the thunder.

Chance of a nomination: 70%

Chance of a win: 25%


Why it can get nominated: The Academy loves Leonardo DiCaprio, having nominated him for three Oscars so far, and he's the emotional heart and soul of a movie without much more time for human characters. People who have been awaiting his big grown-up role may have finally found it.

Why it won't win: Even the biggest Inception fans would never trumpet the acting as a selling point, and Oscar likes acting winners to dominate their films entirely.

Chance of a nomination: 30%

Chance of a win: 5%


Why it can get nominated: Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy or Joseph Gordon-Levitt could all stand a chance here as important elements of a big movie that gives them all moments to shine...

Why it won't win:… but none save Murphy have a big "Oscar moment," and all would rely on some huge groundswell of support for Inception to sweep them in. As we've previously discussed, the Academy tends to gingerly embrace genre movies rather than give them full-on bear hugs.

Chance of a nomination: 5%

Chance of a win: 0%


Why it could get nominated: Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page are both former nominees/winners, and Cotillard damn near made it into this category last year for Nine, a much weaker movie that you might argue gave her much less to do. The supporting women, particularly Cotillard, have meatier emotional roles than the supporting men.

Why it won't win: Again, Inception is not an actor's movie, and both actresses will have their time at the awards yet again.

Chance of a nomination: 10% (15% for Cotillard)

Chance of a win: 5%


Why it could get nominated: Nolan and his brother Jonathan scored one of those curveball nominations in this category for Memento, and Inception is possibly even more flashy and impressive. This could be an even more likely nomination than Best Picture, given how friendly this category is to twisty, out-there stories.

Why it could win: They like crazy stories, and this one is a doozy. A screenplay win could be an odd consolation prize for losing Best Picture. But again, not knowing what else is coming, it's nearly impossible to predict-- and Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right is a formidable contender.

Chance of a nomination: 100%

Chance of a win: 70%


Why it could get nominated: Wally Pfister made it in here for The Dark Knight, and his work on Inception is frequently more emotional and more flat-out gorgeous, which the Academy always loves.

Why it could win: Pfister, like Nolan, has provided consistent excellence over the years, and now could be a good time to reward him for filming scenes that are literally impossible. But the movie relies so heavily on CGI that some hard-core camera dudes might discount Pfister's contribution. it's not fair, but it could happen.

Chance of a nomination: 90%

Chance of a win: 45%


Why it could get nominated: Hans Zimmer has been nominated for popcorn films twice in the last decade, Gladiator and Sherlock Holmes, and his work on Inception has been widely praised-- and is also very distinctive, which might even be more important.

Why it won't win: The most distinctive element is a single crashing chord, which might not go over all that well with more traditional Academy members. But it really depends on how the competition shakes out to see where this might fall.

Chance of a nomination: 75%

Chance of a win: 40%


Why it could get nominated: Take your pick of the stunning sets, from Saito's dream house to the rotating hallway. There's a lot of CGI in this movie but many of the most impressive settings are handmade, and it shows.

Why it could win: This prize almost always goes to period films, but Avatar won last year, proving that a sci-fi film that's clearly well-crafted can be more impressive than the 10th new version of The Globe theater.

Chance of a nomination: 80%

Chance of a win: 50%


Why it could get nominated: Good looking suits, and lots of 'em. Bonus points for Mal's sculpted, sequiny dress.

Why it won't win: It almost always takes something flashier than that to win this prize, and you can bet there's a costume drama coming down the line this year to step up to the plate.

Chance of a nomination: 50%

Chance of a win: 5%


Why it could get nominated: It's possibly the only flashier element of the film than the visual effects; Lee Smith's cutting between the different levels during the heist is one of the more astonishing parts of the entire movie. It actually manages to leave the audience breathless… with the power of editing.

Why it could win: Unless a beloved war movie or a musical shows up between now and then, Smith seems like one of the likeliest winners from Inception.

Chance of a nomination: 100%

Chance of a win: 90%


Why it could get nominated: There's about 2 minutes worth of some impressive aging effects in the first scene….

Why it won't win:….but that's pretty much it.

Chance of a nomination: 10%

Chance of a win: 0%


Why it could get nominated: Bear in mind these are two separate categories that I lump together because they are often identical and, as a layperson, I don't really know the difference between them. But the sound effects of Inception overall are both intricate and impressive in the way they link the multiple worlds and create sound effects for things that don't exist.

Why it could win: The two categories sometimes split up to reward two different films, but Inception has a good shot at at least one simply for creating believable soundscapes for impossible worlds.

Chance of a nomination (in either category): 90%

Chance of a win (in either category): 80%


Why it could get nominated: There's so much going on, and so many practical effects paired with CGI, that this seems like another of Inception's few slam-dunk nominations.

Why it could win: Do you think sometime more visually impressive will come out this year? Me neither-- but never assume until it's all over.

Chance of a nomination: 95%

Chance of a win: 85%

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend