Holding your place in the Oscar race, as I pointed out already, is a lot like saving your seat in a crowded theater. The seats are filling up fast. It’s a really difficult game, if you’re a publicist, trying to get the film in, or the actor in. There are things that make it even harder, and things that make it much easier.
It’s a good time to take some notice of those who linger on the fringe right now. As with all voting, the majority rules. It doesn’t matter what one or two, or even five people think — it matters what hundreds of people think. That is why the Oscar race is often easier to predict three to four out of five times per category; it takes time for someone to get into their groove and once they’re in the groove it’s hard to pop them out of it. It happens, for sure. Last year’s Precious screenplay win over Jason Reitman’s loss for Up in the Air is a great example of that.
What makes voters suddenly decide to go rogue and not play the hand they’re dealt? Because nobody knows anything. Not to overuse this metaphor, but it really is like predicting the weather. Sometimes your predictions will be right, but the skies have a mind of their own, and the unexpected flutter of a butterfly’s wings can alter the weather. We have a map, we have the signs. They might say it will be a clear day. “But sometimes, it rains.”
Therefore, there really isn’t a place for the “no way” at this stage of the game, and as I keep repeating, hope springs eternal. Why does it matter? Careers are made on Oscar wins. Power shifts in Hollywood and on some level, it is probably gratifying to have the admiration of your peers. Does it mean we can say what and who were best this year? No. For one thing, best is in the eye of the beholder. For another thing, we know that the Oscar race is a snapshot in time to reflect what was popular at that moment. We don’t have the luxury of waiting ten years to see if we were right: we have to lay down a vote. We vote for what moves us. We vote for what we admire. And maybe we vote for people and characters we “like.” Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for permanently altering the definition of that word.
We know who the major players are in the major categories because we’ve gone through them.¬†¬† We will have to reserve judgment on films we haven’t seen — and films that haven’t been seen at all by anyone. But we expect them to be good. We hope they are good.
It’s important to remember that even when you are making a list of potential nominees, one never falls so far outside the mainstream that there is virtually NO chance for a nomination. There has to be at least some hope there.
But who are the fringe dwellers? Whose nomination would really shake things up because they would be so unheard of? I submit the following:
Tilda Swinton – Lead for I Am Love. There is a bit of a grass roots campaign for Swinton, and stranger things have happened.¬†¬† Swinton is supposed to be great in the film, but like the bid for her last year for Julia, this feels so outside the realm of reality it’s hard to consider her. She is way on the outside, but she is also a previous Oscar winner. The film doesn’t have any buzz and there are at least ten other actresses who are in the consciousness. But it’s worth considering Swinton. Why? A better question might be, why not?
Olivia Williams – Supporting for Ghost Writer. Ghost Writer came quietly this year, but it was nonetheless pronounced one of the best films of the year by Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells, among others. The best performance in the film belongs to Williams, who plays the wife of the writer. What you see isn’t what you get with her character and she keeps you guessing throughout until everything falls into place. Oh, Roman Polanski. He knows how to make movies and The Ghost Writer is one of the best. Unfortunately for all involved, this was the right film at the wrong time.
John Hawkes – Supporting for Winter’s Bone. We’ve covered this already in the post about supporting actor, but Hawkes brings it and then some. Winter’s Bone is full of great performances by mostly unknown actors.¬† There is no question that if Hawkes was nominated, and people who have never heard of Winter’s Bone, actually watched the movie – they would understand the nomination.
Nicole Holofcener – Screenwriter for Please Give. This is a film that has also dropped off the radar. It is one of the few that is the work of an auteur. Holofcener joins Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance, Christopher Nolan for Inception, Mike Leigh with Another Year, Sofia Coppola with Somewhere, and even Jim Brooks for How Do You Know as some of the prominent, or fringe, writer/directors this year. Please Give is a wholly developed character study of the give and take between us. Giving doesn’t necessarily mean giving to the less fortunate. It is just as important to remember to give to those you love. Very well written script and would be a deserved nominee in that category – perhaps we’d be looking at three screenwriting nominees that were female.
Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet – Supporting Actress for Please Give. Amanda Peet seems to be getting most of the buzz for her funny performance as the bad sister. But Rebecca Hall is the one who caught my attention as the “good” sister. I liked them both and kind of wish the whole movie had been about them. I could dig the Catherine Keener storyline, but there was something slightly more compelling about Hall, Peet and their funny relationship with their grandmother.
David Michod Screenwriter for Animal Kingdom. It’s possible Jacki Weaver could end up being Animal Kingdom’s one nomination. We all know that the Oscar race can’t be full of obscure people and titles. But if you want to find a really well written, tight-as-a-drum script, this one is it. The film should be getting more acclaim than it has been. If there is one potential nomination it deserves, along with Weaver, it is for the writing. I think a directing star is on the rise with Michod. He is someone who is going places. We know that early works by great directors are often ignored. We look back at their work and we wonder how it was it didn’t get any recognition. That’s mostly due to what they followed it up with. I’m thinking Mean Streets, Reservoir Dogs, etc. Am I saying Michod is going to be on the level of Tarantino and Scorsese? Not saying that. But you never know. But you have to admit it is one hell of a debut.
Jim Broadbent – Supporting Actor for Another Year – it might seem kind of silly to point him out, but I have a slight worry that somehow Another Year is going to slip through the cracks. Even I keep forgetting it when I make the lists of what is in the front of the line. Some kindly reader usually pops in and reminds me, “what about another year?” What would we do without you readers to keep us on our toes? Broadbent is always good but usually he plays a much more emotionally crushed character. But here he is actually the comic relief. Another Year is full of so many richly drawn characters. There is no one like Mike Leigh out there making movies this good.
Jeremy Renner – Supporting Actor for The Town – I don’t know what will ultimately happen to The Town. I can say that it is the one film this year that is being driven by actual admiration of the public at large. That is nothing to sneeze at. It doesn’t have to have the critics if it makes enough money. More than the fact that it’s heading for $100 million before all is said and done, it’s also getting great word of mouth from regular folks. If they want to honor it with a Best Picture nomination, which would not be a bad idea, they might also put Renner in for giving yet another memorable performance.
Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine – Screenwriter – it’s crazy to think that Cianfrance could have worked this hard on this wonderful script and go completely unrecognized. Well, thanks to the MPAA’s stupid decision to give the film an NC-17, its Oscar prospects are suspect.
Leonardo DiCaprio – Best Actor for Inception or Shutter Island. Probably Leo will not get any recognition this year for either film.¬† But I think if I had to choose I’d go with Shutter Island. It’s a more difficult role and is one of the reasons Shutter Island succeeds as a film – even though some might say it doesn’t. It hinges entirely, like Inception does, on what’s going on inside DiCaprio’s head.
Get Low for Best Picture – the performances, the tone, the ultimate meaning all make Get Low one of 2010’s best. It might be “too small” to get recognized, and probably is, but it’s worth a mention.
So, how’s that for a whole lotta hyperbole? I’d like to hear from you the names you think might be fringe dwellers – not “for your consideration” picks, but nominees with a real chance at being remembered if enough people pay attention. Of course you could say that right now about every contender out there.
[Ryan offers his 2 cents for 2 cinematographers]:
Martin Ruhe for The American and Greig Fraser for Let Me In. The Cinematographers’ branch of the Academy are good about nominating DPs for movies that might fail to get much traction in other categories. They like recognize the famous names, but even the veterans must be taking notice of Ruhe and Fraser as impressive up-and-comers. In The American, Director Anton Corbijn grants Martin Ruhe the freedom to function as virtual co-director, unleashing Ruhe to use camerawork as an expressive storytelling device. Greig Fraser’s sinister use of light and color in Let Me In works our nerves in unsettling shots that remind me of Hitchcock’s tricky visual manipulations. Two of the most beautifully photographed movies of the year; would love to either one of them nominated.