Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all
It’s always more fun to imagine things that haven’t happened yet, isn’t it? There are no limits to our expectations. We can foist all of our hopes and dreams onto a contender and while that dream is alive, hope springs eternal. But sooner or later reality comes knocking. And when reality sets in, suddenly there are less questions, more resignation and a lot less enthusiasm.
I was surprised to see this Best Picture chart by Movie City News’ head Guru, David Poland, rank several sight unseen Best Picture contenders. In the number one spot he has True Grit. It’s the number one film and the one no one has seen. It’s easy to imagine a Best Picture frontrunner when it’s all still on the page. But right now, there is no THERE there. And right below The Social Network, which he has ranked at number 4, he has The Fighter, another sight unseen contender.
If all goes well these two films will be in the Best Picture race. If I had to write down ten contenders I would include them also. So I’m not really criticizing Poland’s choice (other than having The Social Network at number 4 which, frankly, only helps the movie) but we should all remember that we’re talking about a mirage at this point.
A mirage is a beautiful thing, as long as it doesn’t lift expectations so high the film can’t possibly match them. That is the worry, which is why I don’t put movies I haven’t seen in the number one spot. I learned my lesson a couple of years back with Munich and Dreamgirls. You actively do harm to the film if you put those kind of expectations on it before it has had a chance to be seen. It has to be the reverse. You see a movie and you think it might have the stuff to win. Otherwise it’s just dumb luck.
Poland’s next most likely contenders include How Do You Know (Everything You’ve Got), Love and Other Drugs and way beneath THOSE is Another Year. Unless something goes terribly wrong, Another Year, should be one of the Best Pic ten. How could it not be?
The very very last contender is Peter Weir’s The Way Back. We’re talking lower than The Tempest. Pause and think that one through. It’s an epic (cough- Master and Commander – cough) and is directed by Peter Weir. It has so much going for it Oscar-wise – and if you think it isn’t that good it sure as hell belongs higher than Poland has put it, mainly because it’s BEEN SEEN ALREADY.
Poland needs to put True Grit at the top because he can’t see any film he thinks will or can win. But my philosophy on the Oscar race is always start with the things you know. So, what do we know so far? Not a lot, that’s the truth. And maybe in the end it will be proved than we knew nothing the whole way through. But the strongest contenders of 2010 are (based on reviews — and my own admitted bias after having seen them):
The Social Network — that kind of heat you don’t ignore, not if you watch this race. Key ingredients to an Oscar winner intact: brilliant writing, directing and acting.
The King’s Speech – it hasn’t opened yet but two audience awards and standing ovations? Tech categories ensures a high nomination count, maybe the highest, Firth will likely be the frontrunner to win.
Inception – the only film so far that has been called a masterpiece, even if it made the New York film critics bristle.
127 Hours – may very well be a masterpiece. We’ll know in ten years. James Franco, a lock.
The Kids Are All Right – in the DNA of 2010 already, defines an era, co-written by, directed by and starring WOMEN!
Toy Story 3 – Another Pixar slam dunk. The highest grossing film of 2010 so far. Harry Potter will probably top it but still…
Winter’s Bone – the other female written and directed – one of the best reviewed films of 2010, and one of the best.
Another Year – the best reviewed film out of Cannes and it’s Mike FRICKING Leigh.
And then we start working back to the bigger questions.
We’ve Got HIGH HOPES:
True Grit – looks great from the trailers. The Coens rarely disappoint and especially when they’re working on this kind of scale.
The Fighter – also looks really good. Looks really great, in fact. Acting, writing and directing all look solid.
Black Swan – Made a major splash at the festivals – directed by a visionary, features Natalie Portman as one of the strongest Best Actress contenders — but we’re still not sure where it will land yet.
The Blind Side Slot:
The Town – a crowdpleaser and leading contender for the Blind Side slot. What it has going for it more than anything is that regular people love it — moreover, it has a huge ensemble. Actors make up the majority of the Academy and The Town is an actor’s movie. You heard it here first.
Secretariat – Not counting it out yet — good reviews, maybe has box office legs.
The Well Respected Director Who Won’t Be Ignored, Dan
Hereafter – yes, it’s a contender. Reviews aren’t everything. In fact, much of the time they don’t mean squat in terms of Oscar voters. They are industry peers, not critics, not bloggers. Hereafter’s story has not been told and it won’t be told by a handful of critics and bloggers.
The Way Back – it’s been seen but it’s still an untold story – it is PETER WEIR, however and deserves serious consideration.
Shutter Island – Marty and Leo together again – usually produces a Best Pic nominee but it needs support from other voting bodies.
Smaller films that need an extra push:
Made in Dagenham
Never Let Me Go
And then there is potential crossover stuff — How to Train Your Dragon for Best Picture consideration (it could happen!), Inside Job or Waiting for Superman making the leap from documentary.
It is wide open still, but a clearer picture is beginning to take shape. I do have to take issue with David Poland’s closing line, where he writes “It may not be as fresh or unexpected as some years…” There he would be wrong. Already it’s feeling fresh and unexpected (are we talking about Oscar movies or feminine hygiene products?) to me. This has been an incredible year for movies, as far as I’m concerned.