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OscarWatch – AFI Preview

On Sunday the American Film Institute will announce its awards. They have been giving out a top ten since the first year I began, now renamed That is significant to me because I know how each Oscar year went down, starting all the way back with Gladiator beating Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s easy to see what a stellar year last year was. And how, with ten slots for Best Picture, it really opened up the possibilities. For instance, if there were ten slots we might be daring to dream that Shame or We Need to Talk About Kevin or Tyrannosaur or Rise of the Planet of the Apes, or Harry Potter might get nominated. Now that we know there will be only as much as voters will put them at number one. Now we’re really dealing with a dumbed down scenario for Best Picture. Now we really do have to look at the films that will most likely hit at number one or number two or three and not films that have an outside shot at best. This is discouraging after the results from last year. Great from an Oscar watching perspective but probably lousy for the Academy somehow, as they try to keep the public’s interest in their albatross of a telecast.

Hint to Academy – you want to get people to watch your show? Nominate Harry Potter for Best Picture. See? Done.

Only three films that won Best Picture did not make it on the AFI’s lists. Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech were deemed international productions, I believe. It will be interesting to see if the Weinstein Co. can get The Artist in there as an American production — maybe that the film was filmed here that might make a difference; it is a French production company that made the film, however. The only film that was made in America by an American director that won Best Picture but didn’t land on the AFI’s list? The Departed. Martin Scorsese kept winning Director but most people thought the film too mainstream and genre-y to win. I have to note, because it is the single best memory of my years watching and chasing Oscar, I knew The Departed was going to win right after I saw it. That same instinct, alas, didn’t serve me so well last year.

Following my own predictions for how I think it might go, always a risky prospect to put those out before people have had a chance to vote – they then have a chance to look over your predictions and think YES or NO. But nonetheless, there are some titles I think are unavoidable. The AFI went for The Social Network and Benjamin Button but weirdly not Zodiac. They might like “safe” Fincher over “daring” Fincher so it’s possible they’ll shut out Dragon Tattoo. I’m gonna bet it makes the list. I can’t really say why yet, of course.

Of the films that stand out, two strong, beautifully made American productions — Bennett Miller’s Moneyball and Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. Both should find a spot on their list. War Horse will probably get in. Hugo. I’ll guess that The Artist makes the cut as it sweeps all of the early awards heading into Oscar season (it will handily win the Golden Globe, you just know it will).

But what “smaller” movies might get in? Might a movie like Rampart or We Need to Talk About Kevin sneak in there? Darker stories, darker themes about a darker America? Or will the uplift rule the day once again?

Either way, here is how I think it might go on Sunday.  I’m starting to think Tree of Life is indeed in play after all.  It just looks better and better as the year wears on.

The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Artist
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
War Horse
Tree of Life

Potential spoilers: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, The Ides of March, Drive.

And here is a look at their past.

Black Swan*
The Fighter*
The Kids Are All Right*
127 Hours*
The Social Network*
The Town
Toy Story 3*
True Grit*
Winter’s Bone*

The Hangover
The Hurt Locker+
The Messenger
A Serious Man*
A Single Man
Up in the Air*

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button*
The Dark Knight
Frozen River
Gran Torino
Iron Man
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
Knocked Up
Michael Clayton*
No Country for Old Men+
The Savages
There Will Be Blood*

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
The Devil Wears Prada
Half Nelson
Happy Feet
Inside Man
Letters from Iwo Jima*
Little Miss Sunshine*
United 93

AFI Top 10 Films of 2005
Brokeback Mountain*
The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Good Night, and Good Luck*
A History of Violence
King Kong
The Squid and the Whale

AFI Top 10 Films of 2004
The Aviator*
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Friday Night Lights
The Incredibles
Maria Full of Grace
Million Dollar Baby+
Spider-Man 2

AFI Top 10 Films of 2003
American Splendor
Finding Nemo
The Human Stain
In America
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King+
Lost in Translation*
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World*
Mystic River*

AFI Top 10 Films of 2002
About a Boy
About Schmidt
Antwone Fisher
Gangs of New York*
The Hours*
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers*
The Quiet American

AFI Top 10 Films of 2001
A Beautiful Mind+
Black Hawk Down
In the Bedroom*
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring*
The Man Who Wasn’t There
Monster’s Ball
Moulin Rouge*
Mulholland Drive

AFI Top 10 Films of 2000
Almost Famous
Before Night Falls
Best in Show
Erin Brockovich*
High Fidelity
Requiem for a Dream
Wonder Boys
You Can Count on Me

Read more: American Film Institute’s Top 10 Films of the Year —