Every Oscar season you wait for something to come along and surprise you, whether it's a presumed frontrunner falling on its face-- a la Nine or Amelia in recent years-- or something nobody expected much from coming along and blowing everyone away. That second one is much rarer, because awards buzz is a carefully calibrated, analyzed thing, and by the time October comes around it's hard not to at least get a sense of what could be a big contender.
But I was genuinely surprised on Saturday when I caught the new James Bond film Skyfall and saw what I honestly believe could be an Oscar nominee (you can read my full write-up on it here). No Bond movie has has ever been nominated for Best Picture, and I'm not naive enough to assume that Skyfall can be the one to break the trend. But I think they should at least try, and certainly aim for some other nominations, including a campaign for Javier Bardem as the villain Silva or even Judi Dench as M, playing a bigger role in the franchise than ever before and hitting some remarkable emotional moments. There are also plenty of previous Oscar winners working behind the scenes who deserve attention, from Roger Deakins's jaw-dropping cinematography to Thomas Newman's playful, perfect score. Sam Mendes does terrific work as director, but Best Director is such a competitive category that I'm not even going to get my hopes up there.
I'm not the only person wild about Skyfall-- opening in less than two weeks in the UK, it's already got plenty of rave reviews, and lots of people saying it's not just good for a Bond film; it's just plain good. Everybody knows that good reviews never translate directly into awards nominations, specifically when they're raves for an action movie; Mendes has said he was inspired by Christopher Nolan's Batman movies on how to make a large-scale movie that matters, and Nolan's movies have fared famously poorly with Academy voters. But I do think Skyfall deserves consideration across the board this season, and when it opens and inevitably becomes a massive hit, the pieces may start coming together to make that happen.
I saw one other awards hopeful over the weekend, Robert Zemeckis's Flight, which closed the New York Film Festival on Sunday. It has exactly the powerhouse Denzel Washington performance we were hoping for, and ought to assure him a fifth nomination. The film itself is a little shakier, though very powerful in parts, and it doesn't have any other performances that really shine next to Denzel-- John Goodman racks up another performance, after Argo, that's terrific but too small to really stand out. I liked Flight a lot-- you can read my review here-- and it seems likely to have the same role in awards season that Cast Away did 12 years ago, with nominations for the lead actor and maybe something for the technical component. Regardless, it's good to have Robert Zemeckis back out of motion-capture filmmaking and making movies that star people again.
This week's new wide releases are pretty fallow for awards talk, with Paranormal Activity 4 and Alex Cross taking over, but Sundance hit The Sessions is coming out in limited release, and bringing with it even more talk about lead actors John Hawkes and Helen Hunt. There's also the surreal French film Holy Motors, which I adored and will hopefully have time to write about this week. It's got one of the year's best performances from Denis Levant, who plays 7 different characters over the course of the film. Don't expect to see it anywhere near the Academy Awards, but hopefully some other critics will be singing its praises by year's end.
Now, on to the charts, where my high hopes for Skyfall are duly reflected.
I've kept in Flight as Still In The Running, because you never know how a serious adult drama can surprise you, and bumped Skyfall up to the same category, since I recognize it's a tough sell for a Bond movie as Best Picture. Argo is as close as they come to Mortal Lock, but it still seems a little soon for those kinds of bold pronouncements, so I'm holding off.
Robert Zemeckis has been bumped down to Outside Chance, since I don't think Flight will be quite that big, and this is a tough, tough year. Sam Mendes remains an Outside Chance as well.
We've now got a full group of five Likely Contenders for Best Actor, with Washington getting the expected bump up and everyone else holding firm. While it feels like The Master is disappearing a month after its September release, it's far to early to count it out in the acting categories. And this week's release of The Sessions should keep John Hawkes firmly in the competition as well. Only when Hitchcock premieres at the AFI Fest in November-- and anyone finally gets a look at Les Miserables-- will we start seeing just how tough this competition will be.
It seems that Fox Searchlight is still committed to campaigning Helen Hunt as Best Supporting Actress for The Sessions, but I think it's time to call bullshit and bump her up to lead. She's got a huge part in the movie and she's earning great reviews for it; the fact that she's a previous Best Actress winner ought to ensure people can see that way. I'm including Hunt as Best Actress until any other kinds of awards-giving bodies declare her as Supporting, and even then I might not budge-- after all, Kate Winslet was being campaigned as Supporting for The Reader and she won the whole damn Best Actress statue that year.
I've removed John Goodman for Flight, for the aforementioned reason that his part is fairly small, as well as the actors from Seven Psychopaths in light of that movie's small opening (and most of its praise being for director/writer Martin McDonagh). And Javier Bardem has been added in Still In The Running for Skyfall--he's still the movie's best shot at a nomination beyond the technical ones, but it's still likely to be a tough road.
With Helen Hunt presumably bumped up to Best Actress, who really knows what might happen here, with not a whole lot of heavyweights that we've seen so far. As with most years, there's a ton of potential for a surprise here. Who might jump in and run away with it all?
Staff Writer at CinemaBlend
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Thank you for signing up to CinemaBlend. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.