Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oscar Charts, Round 4: Five Days To Go

I'm amazed at what a crap shoot it's all become. It seemed like it would be an incredibly competitive Best Picture race from the start, then Avatar came along and pounded its blue CGI chest...but then The Hurt Locker won 99% of the pre-Oscar awards...and now people are floating the idea of an Inglourious Basterds upset! Now we are back to square one...maybe not quite that far, but none of us can be so sure of our predictions...not even Tom O'Neil.

And what of the stories that are floating around as we barrel down the home stretch (ballots must be returned by today)? Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier sending out e-mails to Academy members bad-mouthing Avatar...Hollywood mafioso Harvey Weinstein proclaiming that a Basterds win is already locked...Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino throwing lavish schmoozing parties to woo voter support...and the reports that Hurt Locker isn't an accurate depiction of soldiers in combat, and that the film is in fact a damaging portrayal. Bottom line on all these stories: they are all, for the most part, absolute crap. Chartier's e-mail was a mistake on the embattled producer's part, but the note wasn't distributed to so many Academy members that it would even make a difference, nor are his words all that inflammatory (Avatar is a big, blue money-making behemoth...anything false about that statement?). Weinstein, as always, is a bloviating producer monster, and he's out to grab those Oscars as voraciously as any studio head. It would be unfortunate, in my opinion, if he's able to massage Academy members into voting Basterds, but good for him if he does...it would be a move tantamount to his unlikely Shakespeare in Love win back in '98...maybe even bigger in light of the fact that it would simultaneously be defeating the year's unmatched critical darling and the highest-grossing film of all-time. The schmoozing parties are held all the time...no big deal. And as for Hurt Locker's accuracy or lack thereof: most of the naysayers have already been debunked months ago, and regardless, Kathryn Bigelow's film is not intended as an incisive look at military minutiae, but an incisive look into the soldier's soul...military minutiae is merely the backdrop.

Completed ballots will arrive today. Counting will begin tomorrow. Five days until this suddenly contentious season will come to an end. Most of our questions will be answered by Sunday night. Then it will be back to the movies, and isn't that the point of all this...the movies?

Of course, soon enough we will be handicapping next year's Oscar race, so enjoy the movies while you can.

This week's charts...

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Avatar
3. Inglourious Basterds
4.  Up in the Air
5. Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire
6. The Blind Side
7. An Education
District 9
A Serious Man

Note: I'm not parting with The Hurt Locker just yet, nor am I so convinced by all this Inglourious Basterds rumor-mongering that I think it is suddenly a favorite, let alone that it would simultaneously leap over top of both Locker and Avatar. Who knows...maybe that will somehow change over the course of the next five days, but it's unlikely. However, there are clearly three films left in major contention: Locker, Avatar, and Basterds.

The weighted voting system might come into play, and if it does, it seems to me that Avatar would be the first film out. A lot of people think it should be awarded a first-place vote for its innovation and history-making technology...and history-making box-office. But it's hard to imagine, if voters don't think it deserves a first-place vote, that they would place it second or third. For many, Avatar is a love-it-or-hate-it type of experience. And yet it could garner enough first place votes to give it a substantial BP lead before the second and third place votes come into play. Hurt Locker and Basterds are less polarizing, and my guess is that Locker is the least polarizing, given the fact that it has been, very simply, the year's most widely praised film.

The rest of the major categories after the jump...

1. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
2. James Cameron, Avatar
3. Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
4. Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
5. Lee Daniels, Precious
Note: At this point, Bigelow seems like a lock, even if her film somehow gets up-ended in the Best Picture race. Hers to lose.

1. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
2. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
3. Carey Mulligan, An Education
4. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
5. Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Note: At this point it seems like the mood is absolutely right for a Bullock win. Streep is still in the running, and there is a tiny group trying to sell the notion that Carey Mulligan is a possible spoiler (would be wonderful, but I don't think so), but Bullock is front and center in the public eye. Seems like an inevitability.

1. Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
2. Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
3. George Clooney, Up in the Air
4. Colin Firth, A Single Man
5. Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Note: Bridges and Bridges. Obvious and over. But the interesting movement is Hurt Locker's Renner, who is the most likely upset candidate of the group, since literally no one else has done any sort of campaigning after feeling -- correctly -- the inevitability of the Bridges win. But Renner's been out there talking...doing his job to help the film, and in so doing he will help himself a little, too. And his performance is the film's anchor. He will likely still settle for second, though.

1. Mo'Nique, Precious
2. Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
3. Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
4. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
5. Penelope Cruz, Nine
Note: Uh, let me think...um...let's see...maybe it's possible that...uh...GIMME A BREAK!

1. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
2. Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
3. Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
4. Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
5. Matt Damon, Invictus

Note: It's a Bingo.

1. Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
2. Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
3. Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy, Up
4. Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
5. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man

Note: Sticking with Boal, come hell or high water. Might be dumb against Tarantino, especially in light of this recent hub-bub about a Basterds BP upset, but if Boal's screenplay was good enough to top QT at the Writer's Guild Awards, I will stick with it here. And let's face it: it's a better script!

1. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
2. Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Rocher, In the Loop
3. Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
4. Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9
5. JNick Hornby, An Education

Note: Up in the Air. The sleeper is In the Loop, which many get an undeniable kick out of, but the profundity of Reitman and Turner's work will win out fairly easily.

Coming up for the weekend: we will make final predictions in every category and offer a few last words about the awards season as we enter the industry's Holiday Weekend.

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