December 9, 2008

"Buzz" Goes the Oscar Bee - Some Theories...

Already? It's already time to start with the Oscar picks? I wait for the big day all year long, and here I am almost oblivious to the fact that it's less than 100 days away.

Getafilm is not the place to come for your awards coverage, but that doesn't mean I'm not obsessed with the Oscar ceremony, which I watch with the reverence of a monk. I don't watch it to celebrate the celebrities and the winners, but to commemorate the last year in film, which of course corresponds in many ways to the last year in my life.

Anyway, I don't cover the awards here, but there are many people who do, namely at Awards Daily, Cinematic Passions, Fataculture, From the Front Row, Inside the Gold, Living in Cinema and Strange Culture. And of course the Carpetbagger, In Contention, and The Envelope. Those are the spots where I'll be checking in over the next few months.

But in the meantime, and in the spirit of the loud buzz that is emanating from Hollywood since Thanksgiving, I have some general Oscar theories that I consider each year:

1.) A one word title is a significant advantage in the Best Picture race.

Since 2000, three Best Picture winners have had one word titles: Gladiator, Chicago, and Crash. Additional nominees since then include Chocolat, Seabiscuit, Ray, Capote, Juno, and more:

Considering this, keep an eye this year on Che, Changeling, Ballast, Doubt, Milk, Valkyrie, Hunger, and Australia. I'll also add these: WALL-E, Frost/Nixon, Happy-Go-Lucky, and W. They may not technically be one word, but close enough, right?

2.) The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) loves Clint Eastwood - like LOVES him.

Dig this: in three out of the last five years, Eastwood has been nominated for both Best Director and Best Picture. Both awards, three times since 2003! He even pulled a Best Actor nomination during that stretch, for Million Dollar Baby in 2004.

What does that mean this year? Gran Torino has to be considered a dark horse, if not a front-runner, for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. Barring some public relations disaster in the next two months, I could literally see it winning all three of those. Eastwood knows exactly how to play Oscar politics. He knows when and how to release his films, and he's treated like a king in Hollywood. Never count him out.

3.) Kate Winslet has to win an Oscar at some point...right?

The woman is one of the greatest actresses of her generation, having been nominated for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress five times in the last twelve years. She just turned 33 years old. Are you kidding me?

This year, she is the only A-lister to have two possible Best Picture nominations in the race: The Reader, and Revolutionary Road, the more likely favorite that reteams her with Leonardo DiCaprio, 10 years removed from their career-making work in Titanic.

It's possible that she'll be nominated against herself for work in both of these movies, and if she still loses - wow.

Hmm, I thought I had some more but I can't remember them now. This is really the first time I've started to seriously consider next year's winners, so maybe they'll come back to me as the race kicks into high gear.

Do you have any annual Oscar theories?


  1. I love your one word Oscar theory. So true. I think the one word give voters the illusion that the film is a big package defined by one word. It's, like, profound... or something.

    My theory - though it's not anything new - is that Cate Blanchett gets an automatic nomination no matter what she does. She's more of a sure thing nominee than Winslet. I mean, she got nominated for her Bob Dylan impersonation!!! That was hilarious. I can't wait for her to put on a fat suit one day and get nominated for that.

  2. My biggest theory - both for nominees and for eventual winners - is to pay attention to the guilds (specifically acting, directing, writing). More and more their choices are aligning with what happens on Oscar night, because for the most part, the members of the guilds are the same people voting for the Oscars.

  3. We'll see if the one word title theory holds true this year, Fox. Had Changeling and Australia been better movies, it literally could have been a five for five (Doubt, Milk, Che, Changeling, Australia - or some combination like that).

    Cate Blanchett - yes sir. She'll be in there, as will Pitt, DiCaprio, and Penn - all three of whom are at the point in their career where almost every role can lead to a possible nomination.

    Good one, Hatter - I haven't paid as close attention to the guild choices, probably because the Golden Globes get all the attention in the run-up. I used to think the Globes had no influence on the Oscars, but increasingly I'm unsure if there is zero connection. I'd have to do an analysis. Either way, this year the Oscar ballots are due exactly one day after the Globes are awarded. Interesting...

  4. My only working theory when it comes to Oscars is that I don't actually know anything.

    I used to have a theory about the Best Documentary category - bet on the one about the holocaust - but it not longer applies since they updated the doc voting rules.

    Clint and Pixar lately have been locks in their respective categories, but I feel change is in the air this year. I think it's going to be an especially difficult year to predict with certainty.

    Because I didn't want to jinx it, I was blind to how obvious a win No Country was last year, but I'm not feeling a similar juggernaut this time around.

  5. I agree with Fox about Cate Blanchett - and you know who else always gets nominated? That Streep woman, and from the looks of the "Doubt" trailers, we can expect to see her among the nominees yet again this year.

  6. Funny that you mention The Globes, because as the years have passed, they have started to actually hold less and less relevance.

    They haven't predicted a best picture win for the last four years running. Not only that, but the secret is out that the so-called "Foreign Press" isn't much more than a fawning bunch of movie fans from around the world who happen to write every once in a while. They are dazzled by celebrity, which is why they ALWAYS tend to nominate the big names.

    Look to the Guilds good friend...more and more, they are getting it right!

  7. Ha. I too love the "single-word title" theory, and the observations on Eastwood and Winslet are probably correct.

    No profound theories here. I'm awful at guessing potential nominees, but pretty darn good at getting the winners right. (I'm also a wicked contender in March Madness pools – bettors beware.)

    I agree with Hatter that the Guilds will probably be the best tea leaves. The only other piece of information that I use when I fill out an Oscar pool ballot is that Oscar nominations/wins are susceptible to momentum (think Philip Seymour Hoffman and Helen Mirren in the last few years) and susceptible to taking themselves way too seriously and love to "make history" (Scorsese finally winning; last year's quartet of non-U.S. actors winning; Denzel Washington, Halle Barry, and Sidney Poitier in the same year; etc.).

    Oh, and in the last 20 years, the writing categories have almost become the de facto categories for "little movies that could but which we don't usually want to give Best Picture to" (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, Brokeback Mountain, Sideways, Lost in Translation, Gosford Park, Traffic, L.A. Confidential, Good Will Hunting, Fargo, Pulp Fiction). That's a barometer that's nowhere near perfect, of course, but it's a regular occurrence.

  8. I knew I could count on you all for some additional theories. I really update the post with some of these that you listed.

    Craig, I think the Holocaust documentaries have been replaced by Iraq War documentaries in recent years. In the last two years combined, I believe 6 of the 10 nominees were about Iraq. Pixar is a brilliant theory as well - haven't all but one or two won Best Animated Feature since they started the category? WALL-E has as much a shot a Best Picture this year as any other has as well. And Clint? Well considering he claims this is his last acting role, I would be surprised if they didn't throw him a bone for Best Actor.

    Definitely Streep, Pat. THE WOMAN HAS BEEN NOMINATED 14 TIMES. Doubt actually might have up to four acting nominees, depending on how it's received.

    Hatter, I have no illusions that the Globes are decided by anyone other than "a fawning bunch of movie fans from around the world who happen to write every once in a while", a description which, hilariously, sounds like it includes people like me.

    I only feel as if I've seen the Globes help with momentum, as T.S. describes. Some buzz leads to a Guild award leads to a Globe award and all of a sudden someone is a front-runner.

    In any case, the Guilds really SHOULD be the ones making the best choices - they know their individual crafts (though I'm sure handshakes and winks are part of those games as well).

    TS, I like the theory of the "Always Watch for a Package Deal" in the acting winners. It's totally true, like last year's "International Oscars".

    And the screenplay nod theory is probably right on as well. Does that mean that mean Best Screenplay (either one) is the second most prestigious award behind Best Picture? Guess so.

  9. I have a theory about the Oscars, two actually: 1) that the awards go to the film that can make the most money from winning one, and 2) I don't give a rat's ass who wins because quality and award only go together by accident.

  10. Marilyn -- is number two theory or fact?

    I like how every year critics piss and moan about the Oscars, and then breathlessly cover them when they roll around. I'd have a theory about that but since my scientist days I don't do theories.

  11. I know that's true, Marilyn (and Rick, I would say #2 is a "factual opinion"...), but like I said, for me it's less about the awards and more about the idea of the Oscars as a video "yearbook". I guess I'm happy they're celebrating films at all, even if not all of the very best films.

  12. From the movies I've seen this year (which is way too many; I saw Spiderwick Chronicles for godsakes) I hope that the one historic Oscar trend that is broken is "We never award commercial summer successes." And I say that because, at this point, Walle and The Dark Knight are the two best (non-documentary) films (A word that is only appropriate when typed) made all year.

  13. I forgot to include the caveat that most of the movies with Oscar buzz (Other than Australia, which was repulsive in every possible way) have yet to premiere here in Mr. Getahun's home state.

  14. Well I just had an epic comment in place but my computer crashed. Needless to say, I was making the point that you've seen the WRONG movies this year, not too many movies: Vantage Point, Eagle Eye, Rambo, Funny Games, etc. Fortunately I didn't suffer through any of those with you.

    Then I was making a point about BP winners over the last 20 years, and how many of them were actually commercial and/or summer blockbusters:

    Rain Man (box office champ in '88)
    Dances With Wolves
    Unforgiven (released in August)
    Gump (released in July)
    Braveheart (released in May)
    Gladiator (released in May)
    The Return of the King

    So maybe it's been a few years (but even Crash was released in May, and Seabiscuit was I think in June), but I'd argue that the Academy picks commercial and/or summer blockbusters more than we realize.

    So I'd say both of them (TDK and WALL-E) have a shot at a nomination, though I would still be really surprised if either came away with the win.

  15. OK, let me revise my ignorant statement. Traditional summer movies seem to be completely shut out. Out of your well done list, only Gladiator passes the test of the movies I'm talking about. I'm talking about movies that weren't made with the name Oscar ever being mentioned; movies that were made to entertain people foremost with February accolades completely off the radar. And I feel like Walle and The Dark Knight pass that test. Movies like Forrest Gump and Braveheart were made with the intention of hearing "epic" and "Oscar-worthy" in their reviews. It should be mentioned that I just worked an 18-hour shit that ended with finding out that the Cheetah Girls' (whoever the Cage they are) tour bus smells like pot and numerous drug parphenalia was spotted.

  16. Aren't the Cheetah Girls little kids on the Disney Channel? That's nice. What was on their rider sheet?

    Alright I get what you’re saying about summer movies that aren’t made for Oscar, but I still argue that this year, TDK and WALL-E are two notable exceptions. TDK was getting Oscar buzz in January based on Ledger alone, and the buzz from early screenings included Best Picture discussions. And WALL-E, well like we’ve established, every Pixar movie is automatically included in the Oscar discussion as a favorite for Best Animated Feature – it’s only ever a question of which one will bust into the Best Picture race as well.

    At this point I’d almost rather see WALL-E in there than TDK. Sure I gave them both A’s, but even though I don’t have any TDK backlash, I’d kind of like to stick it to the ridiculous fanboys on IMDb who have forever solidified (the number of votes has made its place permanent) The Dark Knight as the 4th GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF CINEMA. Ridiculous, but that’s how its been over there since The Matrix began the complete ruination of what used to be a respectable list.

    It’s one thing for the Academy to recognize a commercial success, but this isn’t the People’s Choice awards, and voters who don’t give a nod to TDK for Best Picture don’t deserve to be slapped with a scarlet letter.


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