Oscar season starts with the movies. Ideally, those movies are released throughout the year and are then honored at year’s end with a plethora of awards, with the Oscars being the end of the race. We’ve been through the film festivals, where Up in the Air, Precious, A Single Man, A Serious Man found their stride. But where Bright Star, Creation and countless others stumbled. District 9 and Avatar were “discovered” at Comic-Con, giving the geek fest prominence for the first time where Oscar is concerned. Both also hit with critics and audiences. There were films that opened the old fashioned way, making them popular and well-reviewed without the aid of tastemakers – Up and Star Trek. And now, there are successes only the Oscar race proper can lift to the top of the pile.
The Oscar race proper are the groups that validate contenders finally and triumphantly. The biggest one is the DGA. How the DGA goes tomorrow is going to dictate, mostly, how this race will go. The WGA is also a validator. And of course, the Ace Eddie, still a powerful indicator of industry might; it’s been around almost as long, give or take, as the DGA.
What is happening with District 9 right now is bonafide Oscar heat, especially if Neill Blomkamp is nominated tomorrow for a DGA. They are rare but they do happen: one film rises from the pile at the end of the year when many thought it was down for the count. What District 9 has is great writing, great directing, a satisfying sit and mostly great reviews. Here’s the thing though: District 9’s heat is about to be dampened because the two big award shows coming up pretty much ignored the movie except in one key way: Screenplay.
Avatar’s weakness (supposedly) will be District 9’s advantage: the writing. It all starts there. So far, District 9 has hit the Golden Globes for Screenplay, the Critics Choice for Screenplay, the Scripter for Screenplay. That shows me that this film has across the board respect for its story. A Best Picture nod, along with director and script, seems like an easy call to make. Even if Blomkamp doesn’t show up tomorrow (which he probably will), the Academy might nominate him for Director.
What’s interesting to me is how, then, the two big awards shows, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice will have to do the Best Picture dance without District 9 in the mix, and whether or not that will have any impact at all on the film’s heat.
The Golden Globes matter because they are on TV and everyone watches them. Contenders stand up on stage and give speeches – a great speech can often mean that voters feel like they really know a person and then they begin to root for them. Charm, humility, tears.
A heads up on history in the making. When Kathryn Bigelow gets up to accept the prize for Best Director it will be a significant moment in this race. It will be the kind of moment that changes the tone, at least for a time.
This end of the second act is where films really hit their stride, or whether they are simply along for the ride. I tried not to rhyme but what the hell. Nobody’s perfect.
I am sure right about now there are a great many folks grateful that the upcoming Globes and the BFCA could slow down the District 9 train enough for them to catch up.
As of now, District 9 is a formidable competitor in the adapted screenplay race — that makes it squarely in competition with Up in the Air and Precious, mainly. The WGA will help decide which adaptation voters are inclined to vote for.