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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What if we *really* had to pick the Oscar nominees right now?

As Gawker’s Richard Rushfield reminds us, “September Is the Month to Make Bad Oscar Predictions”::

Over the next weeks Hollywood gets its first look at many of the Oscar heavyweights at the Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals. But that doesn’t hold back the pundits from weighing in today on who owns this race.

In his intro to the list, Guru-master David Poland cautions, “about half of the contenders haven’t been seen. Darts are flying in the dark. Some are hitting expected titles and others are real surprises.”

How then does the punditry deliver such judgments on films which may still be getting worked over in the cutting room? A combination of factors go into a Oscar savants’ calculations – first, as noted above, hitting certain tried and true notes (historic epic, biopic, Clint Eastwood directed) move a film straight onto the field, no questions asked. And then the pundits note the buzz from friends at the studios and in the marketing departments; what they are hearing about the film. One will note that Lovely Bones, which just on the basis of its provenance seemed to have the Best Picture crown locked up two years ago before it was ever shot, now falls surprisingly low on the Guru scale. Could there be some bad buzz flying about from those few on the inside who have seen the film?

I always find it hilarious myself, these late-summer Oscar predictions. I mean, I understand the impetus to look at an upcoming slate of fall films and see a Clint Eastwood movie and another movie based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel and a third starring Meryl Streep and just wrap up the Oscars then. But it’s not like those ultrapremature predictions are mostly accurate, with only occasional forays into fantasyland: they’re almost always entirely wrong.

So let’s turn it on its ear. Let’s imagine that some horrifc celluloid-eating virus invades from other planet and destroys every film that has not yet been released this year. So we’re left having to put together the Oscars from what’s been released up to and including today. What will the Best Picture be? Who will be Best Actor and Best Actress? Best Director? What will the song-and-dance numbers at winter’s ceremony consist of? And so on.

In other words: What if we really had to pick the Oscar nominees right now?

If you need a few reminders of what our options are, check out Wikipedia’s rundown of the year in film so far. Critic Mike D’Angelo keeps an amazingly comprehensive list of everything that releases commercially in New York City — his 2009 list is here. My 2009 ranking is here, but remember that it’s not comprehensive: I don’t see everything; it also includes films that haven’t opened yet, so watch out for that.

Be serious with it, or have fun.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Is Heath Ledger still eligible for Best Actor for The Dark Knight?

  • SaintAndy

    Best Actor for Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker (btw, where is your review, MaryAnn? If there is one thing to make you forget some of the terrible films you had to sit through lately –Final Destination or All about Steve come to mind – this is it). Or some kind of Oscar nod for The Hurt Locker ..it truly is a very good film.

    Could Meryl Streep be nominated again for Julie&Julia? Also, I think there should also be some nominations (although I have no idea in what category) for District 9 and UP! (ok, is there any way this is not going to win Best Animated film?) and also for Inglorious Basterds.

    You know, when you really look at that list, you realize there haven’t been that many decent films this year …Apart from Oscar contenders, what does the list of good films include? Mine has, apart from the ones mentioned above, Duplicity, State of Play, Coraline,The Class, Sunshine Cleaning, Star Trek, maybe The Soloist, The Brothers Bloom, Drag me to hell,Food Inc, Harry Potter – but this is a sequel, so it doesn’t really count, The cove and that’s about it so far.

    Fingers crossed for Coco avant Channel and Sherlock Holmes (for turning out well, not for being Oscar material).

  • doa766

    for best pic as of now:

    Inglorious Basterds
    District 9
    The Hurt Locker
    Star Trek
    State of Play
    Public Enemies

  • So far, the Best Picture nominees would have to be Up, Star Trek, and Inglourious Basterds. Critical buzz on Hurt Locker is pretty good: District 9 is a decent box office winner but would the Academy crowd deal with a movie that unsettling (not the violence, but the inhumane specism in it)? But since the artsy soul-searching movies usually come out after October, none of them have a shot to really win… they did bump the nominee count to 10 for Best Pic, right? Then those are at least getting nominated, which would be nice. Of the current releases, Basterds ought to win (but it’s too brutal and too audacious to actually win, even with the ballsiest ending in film history).

    Oddly enough, this could be a year in which Best Animated goes to one movie (Coraline) while another animated movie gets Best Picture (Up) so that both could be properly rewarded. I’d hate to think Coraline could or should lose, but Up is just too damn good. Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

    Despite the fact Basterds is supposed to be a guy-friendly war-is-hell flick, the women who starred in it deserve the Best Actress (Melanie Laurent as Shoshanna) and Best Supporting (Diane Kruger as von Hammersmark) awards. Laurent’s performance during the restaurant scene opposite Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) was sublime and painful to endure: that little sob and gasp she finally unleashes, whoa… Speaking of Landa, the fact they needed a guy who could speak four languages (German, French, English, Bastard) well is one factor for Waltz’ Best Supporting nod: the other is that the guy was the best Complete Monster in the film.

    Best Adapted Screenplay: Coraline
    Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker
    Best Director: Quentin Tarantino (yes, let’s go ahead and feed his ego, see if he explodes on-stage), otherwise Kathryn Bigelow
    Best Actor: Liam Neeson in Taken (yes it’s a simplistic revenge film, but Neeson giving that “I will find you” speech is too awesome to ignore)

    And now for the MTV categories:
    Balliest Film: the nominees are Taken, Crank: High Voltage, Star Trek (for blowing up Vulcan!), Inglorious Basterds, District 9.
    Best Kiss: wait, they have kissing scenes anymore?
    Best Song: the Love Theme From Drag Me To Hell

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