Usually they are just a group of scores on a chart, but this week the Gurus of Gold did something a little different – they had an essay portion. I did not get mine in in time so mine is blank – but I will offer it up here at the end of the piece in case you’re interested.
Meanwhile, here are a few quotes:
I think the Best Picture race is appearing more fluid because of the uncertainty of how the preferential balloting will affect certain films. Still no matter how many times I come up with an alternative premise that tries to make the race interesting and suspenseful I then talk to a handful of Oscar voters who tell me they are voting for The Hurt Locker. Go figure. No other changes in the acting races. They appear locked as far as I can see although the actress race has gotten more aggressive but will it help? We’ll see. It’s Bullock’s to lose at this point.
It‚Äôs hard to imagine anything dive-bombing Christoph Waltz and Mo‚ÄôNique‚Äôs Oscar chances. Sandra Bullock is not a lock to beat Meryl Streep. Many older Academy members are rooting for Hollywood‚Äôs most-nominated actress, who hasn‚Äôt won an Oscar since 1983‚Äôs Sophie‚Äôs Choice. And The Hurt Locker‚Äòs Jeremy Renner, who actually played the piano and sang on The View, is challenging veteran Jeff Bridges, whose singing in Crazy Heart not only makes the movie, but should win him his first Oscar. Does Renner have a shot? Most folks didn‚Äôt call Adrien Brody‚Äôs win for The Pianist. But it‚Äôs Bridges‚Äô turn.
As for best picture and director, it‚Äôs Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker all the way. The trick is to convince people that Avatar isn‚Äôt just a great technological achievement but a movie to be taken seriously. That‚Äôs why I wonder: if Academy members vote for The Hurt Locker for best picture, wouldn‚Äôt they consider giving Cameron best director? Who else could have accomplished what he did on Avatar? It‚Äôs a director‚Äôs achievement. If it‚Äôs a popularity contest, self-effacing Bigelow wins against her egoistic ex-mate. But the Academy didn‚Äôt ‚Äúlike‚Äù Cameron last time, when Titanic won 11 Oscars. The major difference: Oscar voters took historic romantic period epic Titanic more seriously than tree-hugging sci-fi Avatar.
And mine (which I reworked a little):
What has changed is that we are entering the second phase of the Oscar race. Not many people seem to notice that there was a date extension, which means that there are a few weeks with ballots outstanding. This is very different from the past several years when there wasn’t any time to mull over the frontrunners. That means there will be more careful consideration of the contenders. Avatar has been seriously hurt by not winning the DGA or the PGA, or having any SAG nominations — heading into the Oscar race with no acting nor writing nominations means that it is weakest at the heart of the voting academy, where actors kind of rule. This change took place, it feels like, because of the momentum put forth by Cameron’s winning the Golden Globe. Voters after that in the various races seemed to go, “hold on a minute, THAT is the best film of 2009?” At the same time, though Avatar has become the highest earner, the week that ballots went out its position dipped to one behind Dear John. Had it remained in a dominant spot throughout these next few weeks it still might not have been enough.
What has changed, though, ultimately, is not a question we can answer because none of us have ever been through a ten-picture race. What is exciting is that anything is possible and no one should be surprised if a film not expected to win turns up in the number one spot, like Up or Precious, or even Inglourious Basterds. For me the miracle of this race, the truly surprising thing about it so far, is how well a small film written off by almost everyone (one that continues to be written off) keeps winning despite its box office returns. On the one hand, this could be seen as an anti-Cameron vote, on the other hand, wow.
The Oscar race is usually about the team who played it best. But this year it feels like it’s actually about the movie. That means that, perhaps, Hollywood might not be ready just yet to give up their nuts and bolts filmmaking and embrace the brave new world of computer-generated worlds and emotion-capture actors. And yet, maybe they are. We won’t know until that final envelope is opened.¬†¬† It’s a true cliffhanger.