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The State of the Race: Can't Stop What's Coming

Summer is almost over.  Once August ticks over into September it’s all hands on deck.  The Oscar winning Best Picture will be something that’s been released from September through December.  There has been nothing released so far this year that can win.  Before we look at the winner, though, we have to look at the potential nominees.  Any Oscar watcher with an internet connection could spitball what films will probably be among those nominated for Best Pic.  The pile is even smaller this year because so few of the films we’ve seen are “Oscar movies.”

The Oscar race is at its most interesting when it honors films because they are just plain good movies – not because they are “Oscar movies.”  For all of the grief they get about nominating The Blind Side there is something to that choice that appeals to me because it shows an Academy with balls.  They were willing to pick a movie that was socially undesirable to the critics and the intellectuals.  The public loved the movie, of course.  And we could be seeing something similar going down with The Help, which is set to make a whole lot of bank.

And you know, in the end I’m not going to complain if a movie with a mostly female — and half of them black — gets into the Oscar race. It so rarely happens.  Ideally it would be a winning film, profitable AND be politically correct.  But barring that last part, winning and profitable might have to do.  Right now, one would have to strongly consider The Help for a Best Picture slot – the best reason for this is that there will likely be many women in the AMPAS who choose that as their favorite film of the year.  It seems secure for a SAG ensemble nod, too.  A big cast like that, the arms reach far and wide – lots of participants, lots of friends of friends.

The film that seems secure for a nomination from my perspective is the still-buzzing Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. It remaining the number one choice for a few hundred AMPAS members seems unlikely but there is no denying that so far, it is easily one of the best films of 2011.  Therefore, if they are doing their jobs right, they can’t ignore it.

The Help
Midnight in Paris
Tree of Life

These are the films that should be seriously considered for Best Picture.  Will any of them or all of them make it? It will depend on how the Big Oscar Movies do.  Out of the box, non-traditional options include:

Attack the Block – one of 2011’s very best films.  Fresh, interesting, radical, satisfying on every level — Attack of the Block is a genre horror film but it is so clever and perfectly executed, a smart Academy would nominate this movie and stay true to the notion that they are choosing the best of the year.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – yeah, if they were still choosing ten it’s possible this, the last of the Harry Potter films could finally be recognized.  It is another genre movie that could get ignored.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – let’s face it, only a really forward-thinking Academy would go in this direction.  They just never will. If the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis can’t praise the film without worrying about saving face, the Academy will never openly reward it.  There is always going to be The Blind Side to counter any argument about taste, but this film, even though it’s the best of the year so far (in my opinion) it will not be seriously considered for any film awards.

Films that I’ve seen but that haven’t been released yet that I think have a really good shot a Best Picture nomination include:

Drive
We Need to Talk About Kevin

What’s coming next is pretty much everything.  Telluride comes first, right at the beginning of September.  Here is a cheat sheet of the coming fests and what is showing where.

August 31 – September 10 – Venice Film Fest, the Lido, Venice Italy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Contagion
Wuthering Heights
Texas Killing Fields
The Ides of March
A Dangerous Method
4:44 Last Day on Earth
Killer Joe
The Moth Diaries (out of competition)

September 1 – 5 Telluride Film Festival, Colorado

Films – TBA

September 8 – 18 Toronto Film Fest, Toronto, Canada

Albert Nobbs
The Artist (seen at Cannes)
Anonymous
360
50/50
Coriolanus
The Descendents
Drive
A Dangerous Method
The Deep Blue Sea
Dark Horse
Edwin Boyd
Elles (Juliet Binoche)
The Eye of the Storm (Charlotte Rampling)
The Ides of March
Like Crazy
Moneyball
Melancholia (seen in Cannes)
Martha Macy May Marlene (seen in Cannes)
Machine Gun Preacher
Peace, Love and Misunderstanding (Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener)
The Skin I Live in
Take This Waltz
Tyrannasaur
Twixt
W.E.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Seen in Cannes)

September 30 – October 13 New York Film Festival

Carnage
My Week with Marilyn
A Dangerous Method

October 27 – November 4 Rome Film Festival

TBA

So, right now we know that several films aren’t scheduled for the festival circuit as far as I know.  I am also a little spaced out so I might be wrong here.  I know J. Edgar is skipping, and I’m fairly sure Dragon Tattoo and War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are thus far skipping, unless some or all of them make it into fests that haven’t yet been fully announced.  Toronto sometimes adds titles, right?  And Telluride, we still don’t know what’s going there.

This is the time when hope springs eternal.  We know nothing.  And every year we learn the same lessons and yet, we keep coming back.  Still, it’s hard not to get excited about what’s coming next.   The studios save their very best for the end of the year and we kneel down in gratitude with our mouths open ready to receive them.