Part Two of the Oscar Roundtable:
Damien Bona: Inside Oscar, 10th Anniversary Edition and Inside Oscar 2
Mark Harris: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood
Susan Wloszczyna: USA Today
Erik Childress: The Oscar Eye, Cinematical
Edward Douglas: Coming Soon
Pete Hammond:, Notes on a Season, LA Times
Ryan Adams:, Awards Daily
Steve Pond: The Odds, The Wrap
Craig Kennedy: Living in Cinema
Peter Knegt:, Indiewire
Brad Brevet:, Rope of Silicon
Scott Feinberg:, And the Winner Is
3. Do you feel like the Oscar race is already sewn up, at the end of November, or do you see some dramatic changes coming in the next few weeks
Bona: Hell no, it’s just starting up in earnest. Which means we are entering the silly season where some bloggers and Oscar prognosticators will revise their predictions on a daily basis, depending on what just won the National Board of Review, L.A. Film Critics, NY Film Critics, Boston Film Critics . . . Southeast Film Critics, Texas Film Critics, etc. etc. awards. But over the course of the next three months, there will be dramatic shifts in the races because unexpected twists are always in the offing ‚Äì a box-office sleeper here, a little-known actress camping out in L.A. during awards season there. And even if a film scores highly with reviewers, if it‚Äôs a box-office dog, the Academy (other than the Writers) will likely treat it with disdain.
Harris: Sewn up? No way! Oscar history is full of winners whose momentum started late‚ÄîI‚Äôm thinking of Adrien Brody, in fact of all the Pianist wins, but there are plenty of other examples. Right now, we‚Äôre just at the end of Phase One: Noisemaking. Phase Two‚Äîten-best lists, critics‚Äô awards, and Guild prizes‚Äîis just starting (and no, I don‚Äôt count the Golden Satellites). And Phase Three‚Äîthe actual Oscar nominations and everything after‚Äîhas an appealing way of obliterating all the false juggernauts and backlashes-to-the-backlashes and other nonsense that often defines Phases One and Two. Especially this year, when the Oscar calendar is a bit more drawn out, it‚Äôs too early to declare any race over. The only certainty is that we will all have to listen to more preposterous horseshit about how Mo‚ÄôNique ‚Äúisn‚Äôt working hard enough for it‚Äù until she does work hard enough for it at which point she will doubtless be accused of trying too hard. I hope she rounds up all the haters and drops a big-ass TV set on them
Wloszczyna: Dramatic changes? No. Sewn up? Not really. Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker and Precious are pretty much neck and neck to me. If Up in the Air scores as highly with the public as it has with critics, that might push it over the top.
Childress: While its easy to come up with 3 or even 4 potential locks per category, there are too many wild cards to sew everything up. Critics awards help thin the herd and surprise winners can then lead
to third act nominees. Plus no one has seen Avatar yet and you can’t dismiss it as a contender until its screened at the very least.
Douglas: I think most of the nominees are already sewn up… unlike past years, I don’t think we have any frontrunners in the acting categories and those who are already making predictions and assumptions about what might win are really jumping the gun. We’ve seen far too many years where there were last minute surprises and changes… things like Dreamgirls and Dark Knight being omitted and maybe the Top 10 will prevent that from happening but it’s also making people go a little nuts by expecting movies that aren’t very good to get in, just because they’ve had strong box office showings.
Hammond: As I said in Number 2 I think the potential is there for a longshot. I don’t think it’s sewn up at all and I wouldn’t want to be the film that peaked in November. This is a very fluid year. We need not only to SEE the year end films (and I have except Avatar) but we need to see how they do. The big question is where is the big MO (not Mo’nique) when Oscar voters get those ballots in their hands. It may not be where it is today, and I’m not even sure where it is today. It’s an odd duck year.
Pond: Of course it‚Äôs not sewn up. We may know most of the players at this point, but we really don‚Äôt know how the game will play out, or what voters will be thinking in late January and especially in early March.
Kennedy: I don’t think there will be any dramatic changes in what the prognosticators are saying. There will be some adjustments as more people see and talk about the last few films to get their moments in the sun, but I don’t think there’s anything waiting around the corner that will surprise people. Having said that, I don’t think the prognosticators have it buttoned up. Collectively they’ll be wrong about something. There will be a significant exclusion perceived as a snub simply because the know-it-alls thought they knew it all or there will be a surprise inclusion that rang the academy’s bell but flew in under the radar. I think with 10 nominees this is twice as likely to happen.
Knegt: It certainly feels sewn up, but doesn’t it always? A lot can happen in December, even it seems like all we have left is that final “Avatar”ian question mark. The only thing that makes me question much of a game change is that this year’s once biggest question marks, “Invictus,” “Nine,” “The Lovely Bones,” aren’t question marks anymore, and they have exactly turned into exclamation marks either. None of them seem strong enough to make plays at winning any of the major awards, though again, it’s too soon to truly tell.
I think there will definitely be changes in the race over the next month, but none of them will be particularly dramatic. There’s just nowhere for such drama to come from, unless “Avatar” becomes this massive critical and financial phenomenon. But there will be many little dramas. The buzz levels for films like “Precious,” “The Hurt Locker” or “Up In The Air” (at this point, the three films that seem to stand reasonable chances at winning the top prize), could fade, or accelerate further. The critic awards or Golden Globes or SAGs could surprise us with out-of-nowhere nominees that suddenly get heat, or bring back some buzz to films we thought had fallen off the radar (“Bright Star,” or Matt Damon’s performance in “The Informant!,” par example). But we definitely have most of the pieces of the puzzle at this point. We don’t quite know how they’re all going to fit together, and that’s what makes December an Oscar geek’s paradise… Nearly every day, the puzzle slowly comes together.
Brevet: It’s so hard to tell considering I live in Seattle and see everything a little later than everyone else. I don’t think it’s all sewn up, but I am getting the feeling there is about to become a strong surge of interest in Up In the Air and if it does well at the box-office it may be a done deal.
Feinberg: Far from it! At this time last year, it was pretty clear that “Slumdog Millionaire” would win best picture, Heath Ledger would win best supporting actor, and Penelope Cruz would win best supporting actress. As for now, I don’t think there is a clear favorite in any category. “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Up in the Air,” “Precious,” “Nine,” “Invictus,” and “An Education” are all conceivable winners, as are their directors. The same is true of lead actors Bridges, Clooney, Freeman, Firth, and Day-Lewis; lead actresses Mulligan, Streep, and Sidibe; and supporting actors Waltz, Plummer, and Tucci. The only category that has a clear favorite is supporting actress, where Mo’Nique would seem to be out front, but even that is far from locked up. It appears that we’ll have lots of surprises to look forward to over the weeks to come!
4. What film wins Best Picture of 2009?
Bona: Damned, if I know. But if someone gets answers this question successfully , it’s just a lucky guess. Objectively, it’s not likely, but I love the novel so I’ll go with a dark horse, A Single Man.
Harris: Beats me‚ÄîI still have a lot of movies to see. Which is something I recommend, by the way. Allow me a brief rant: This year, it distressed me to see presumptive Best Picture nominations bestowed on Avatar, Invictus, The Lovely Bones and Nine months before anybody saw them. When Oscar prognosticators hand out nominations that early, they‚Äôre basing their guesses purely on pedigree‚Äîwhich is exactly what studio marketing departments want them/you/me/us to do. The more hastily and emphatically we make our guesses without seeing the movies, the likelier we are to make those guesses that the studios want us to make, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by paving a path to the nominations for anything that looks like, you know, the kind of stuff that usually gets nominated. But what makes the Oscars exciting (to me, at least) is when something that ISN‚ÄôT typical Oscar material gets in. Like an Iraq war movie directed by a woman. Or a drama about an obese, barely literate black teenager. Or a cartoon about an old man. I prefer it when Oscar heat begins with the actual movie, not with a list of credits, a marketing campaign, and an awards-friendly release date.
Wloszczyna: Up in the Air
Childress: Up In The Air seems like a perfectly safe choice. It’s a very good film that’s going to have great word-of-mouth and do well at the box office. Journos can attach the idea of a struggling economy to the film’s plot to give it greater relevance.
Douglas: Sorry, I’m saving my thoughts on this for the CS readers… and only after I’ve seen everything which won’t be until mid-December.
Hammond: See number 3, but probably Up In The Air. Maybe. Not sure. Call me. We’ll talk.
Adams: Nine. Mingella and Tolkin’s screenplay surrounds the flashy showpieces with more absorbing troubled context than any musical since Cabaret. The original Guido has this to say about most of the competition: “Enough of symbolism and these escapist themes of purity and innocence.” If somehow the depth and wit on the page doesn’t make it to the screen then I hope The Hurt Locker brings the pain. It’s the only honestly fought battle I’ve seen among the top contenders.
Pond: Oh, hell. Didn‚Äôt I just say that I don‚Äôt know? ‚ÄúUp in the Air.‚Äù But don‚Äôt hold me to that.
Kennedy: And the Oscar goes to: Up in the Air.
Knegt: “Precious,” gets picture, and Bigelow gets director. But my confidence in that suggestion is fading.
Brevet: Right now I’m going with Up In the Air with Precious and The Hurt Locker right behind.
Feinberg: Either “Avatar” or “The Hurt Locker”… I think… right now