In Contention columnist Gerard Kennedy and I gabbed all things Oscar last night online, and while we don't do the podcast thing around these parts, the transcript is below for your perusal regardless. We talked reactions to the various precursor awards so far, projected some thoughts on tomorrow's Golden Globes announcement as well as the usual Oscar pondering. Interspersed throughout are both Gerard's and my predictions for the Hollywood Foreign Press nominations. We'll try this again next week with Oscarwatch editor Sasha Stone, once we've all had a chance to digest the HFPA announcement and what it means in the grand scheme of things. It's lengthy, but I think it turned out well. Enjoy!
KRISTOPHER TAPLEY: So I’m sorry we didn’t get to this earlier this morning, but I needed to catch up on some sleep…badly. And then I woke up to a boring BFCA announcement.
GERARD KENNEDY: Yeah, the BFCA was so...BFCA-ish.
KT: So what’ve we got? We have a boat load of critics announcements in the span of, like, four days. The Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Broadcast Film Critics have all weighed in, following the National Board of Review’s announcement last week.
GK: It certainly has been a total immersion, though it’s starting out more varied than last year or the year before that.
KT: I think it is varied, yeah, but at the same time there’s a little consensus across the board. For starters, “Babel,” “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Little Miss Sunshine” are the only films on all three top ten lists released so far (NBR, BFCA and AFI). That is interesting, given that none of them are considered locked in for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, by and large. “Letters” still has its holdouts, but I think those prognosticative detractors will come around soon enough.
GK: That’s particularly true for “Babel” and “Little Miss Sunshine”; both of those will struggle for nominations.
KT: I think we’ll see both pop up on the Golden Globes announcement Thursday, too, which will continue to prove a case for each film.
GK: Absolutely. They also seem likely candidates for the double bill of SAG Ensemble and WGA nods (especially “Sunshine”). “Letters” is in a better position, but I still wouldn’t call it a “lock.” I find that to be a very overused term.
KT: I think we’ve whittled the real contenders down quicker than last year. It seems like a pretty solid list of seven right now.
KT: Last year, the HFPA were out on their own limb, lending credence to a lot of different contenders, “A History of Violence” for one.
GK: Last year the HFPA really did shake things up. Then the guilds brought us back down to earth. I must say I’m very curious to see what the Best Picture – Drama nominees are. “United 93” doesn't seem like their film; if it manages to score in spite of this, I suspect it will be difficult to stop.
KT: True, though I feel that is a film bound for critical notice. And critics love what they love. That doesn't always transfer to Oscar. I’m reminded of Peter Sarsgaard in “Shattered Glass”: notices across the board and then seemingly locked in after the HFPA nominated him. But the HFPA are press, even if they're oddly Oscar-predictive press.
GK: If Paul Greengrass manages a DGA nod, the film will be impossible to rule out. But Globe attention would keep it on people’s lips.
KT: Absolutely. And I guess it’s tied with “Letters from Iwo Jima” for most Best Picture wins so far. Michael Moses, Tony Angellotti and the Universal crew have their picture painted for them now.
KT: They had high hopes for “The Good Shepherd,” which has admittedly Academy-like sensibilities throughout, but it just wasn’t to be. “Children of Men” isn’t as challenging as most might think, but it’s being singled out for techs – your department, Gerard – more than anything else. So I think very soon, we’ll begin to see an onslaught of “United 93” marketing.
KT: But they need a more interesting visual strategy. The whole FYC campaign has been kind of a snooze so far, with the "Children of Men” ads being much more fetching
GK: The “Children of Men” ads have certainly been the strong point of Universal’s campaign thus far. “United 93” has been dull and very heavy-handed (even by campaign standards). They need to highlight Greengrass himself and the film’s visual juxtaposition as far as I’m concerned, not its “importance.”
KT: I’ve had my theories on what to do with that ad campaign myself, but I suppose there are a million different ways to get there. But I do think they need to concentrate it as a film of importance. However, running long lists of adjectives used to describe the film in reviews with no catching imagery just isn’t getting that job done. That said, this is how a typical Universal campaign swings: lots of vague, sweeping stuff initially, and then more and more to the point as the season progresses.
GK: I could see that making for an effective campaign when all is said and done. Regardless, it's certainly an interesting film to watch throughout the season.
KT: Agreed. I think a real selling point could come for it if SAG nominates the ensemble.
KT: Which would be trippy for me, as I used to know one of the peripheral cast members. Trieste Dunn, the girl with the headphones.
GK: Haha, really?
KT: She dated a friend of mine in college, and was actually in a short film another friend of mine directed, which I edited my sophomore year.
GK: I see.
KT: And I’ve officially taken us WAY off track. Let’s talk about the Globes. What do you expect in the way of surprise?
GK: Hans Zimmer immediately pops to mind. Though given their love for him, that shouldn’t really be considered a surprise.
GK: One of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Ryan Gosling, Peter O’Toole, Will Smith and Forest Whitaker will be left out of Best Actor in a Drama. With the possible exception of Watanabe, that person will have a difficult time recovering.
KT: It could be Watanabe that misses, but I think it might be Gosling, if only because of the fact that, out of that list of folks, he’s not a star. And, as we all know, the HFPA are “Starfuckers,” if you will.
KT: DiCaprio is a conundrum.
GK: Even if he misses out with AMPAS, the HFPA will go for him.
KT: I agree. I get the feeling this wishy-washy campaign for his performance in “The Departed” is going to leave him out to dry for Oscar. And oddly enough, I would expect to seem him nominated for “Blood Diamond” at the Globes before “The Departed” (and understand, I think his work in Scorsese’s film is his best to date).
GK: I could see that.
KT: Maybe he could split there and Gosling will get in after all, which is what I think could affect the Academy's decision.
GK: I could definitely see that.
BEST ACTOR - DRAMA PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Leonardo DiCaprio - “The Departed,” Ryan Gosling, Peter O’Toole, Will Smith, Forest Whitaker (alternates: Michael Sheen, Ken Watanabe)
TAPLEY: Leonardo DiCaprio - “Blood Diamond,” Peter O’Toole, Will Smith, Ken Watanabe, Forest Whitaker (alternates: Ryan Gosling, Edward Norton - “The Painted Veil”)
GK: I also feel that “Little Children” could be a somewhat surprising Best Picture nominee come Thursday morning.
KT: That’s a very American movie, though. I guess it could certainly happen.
GK: It seems like the sort of thing they might go for when the AMPAS doesn’t.
KT: Sure. As does “Blood Diamond.”
GK: Which would be an embarrassment for all time. But with “Letters,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Dreamgirls” out of the race, the drama category becomes more open.
GK: I see “The Queen,” “Babel” and “The Departed” as good bets there, but after that, it becomes more difficult.
KT: I’m thinking “Babel,” “The Queen,” “The Departed,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and one of the 9/11 films. “The Painted Veil” could slip in. In fact, I think Edward Norton could slip into the Best Actor – Drama race, given his trio of exceptional performances this year.
GK: I expect Naomi Watts and Alexandre Desplat to show up Thursday, so more wouldn’t surprise me.
BEST PICTURE - DRAMA PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: “Babel,” “The Departed,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “The Queen,” “United 93” (alternates: “Little Children,” “World Trade Center”)
TAPLEY: “Babel,” “Bobby” “The Departed,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “The Queen” (alternates: “Blood Diamond,” “World Trade Center”)
GK: The category I am most curious to see what the Globes do with is Best Supporting Actress.
KT: Oh, sure. That’s all over the place.
GK: It is incredibly open, and with Abigail Breslin and Catherine O’Hara (whose presence in the precursors has really surprised me) off in lead, it becomes even more interesting.
KT: Is Jennifer Hudson off in lead as well?
GK: Not according to Tom O’Neil, though he’s been wrong before.
KT: Well, you know who COULD turn up and surprise is Brittany Murphy.
GK: That wouldn’t surprise me at all. It seems like the sort of thing the HFPA would like to do.
KT: And if “World Trade Center” is a Best Picture nominee, Maggie Gyllenhaal could get in. Vera Farmiga as well. Lots of possibilities.
GK: The reason we have all these possibilities, however, is because the category is so open; normally, that’s not the case.
KT: I feel like Jennifer Hudson could surprisingly fall into the lead category. It seems awfully Zeta-Jones-ish.
GK: I’m kind of doubtful about both “Babel” ladies; it doesn’t feel right.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Adriana Barraza, Cate Blanchett - “Notes on a Scandal,” Maggie Gyllenhaal - “World Trade Center,” Jennifer Hudson, Rinko Kikuchi (alternates: Emma Thompson, Vera Farmiga)
TAPLEY: Adriana Barraza, Cate Blanchett - “Notes on a Scandal,” Maggie Gyllenhaal- “World Trade Center,” Jennifer Hudson, Emma Thompson (alternates: Vera Farmiga, Rinko Kikuchi)
GK: Best Supporting Actor, on the other hand, seemingly has a great deal of strong contenders.
KT: Well, given the group, we know Brad Pitt will show up. I’m surprised, still, that he missed with the BFCA. But I suppose they knew they’d have him at a table with “The Departed”’s inclusion.
GK: Definitely. I was surprised, too. Especially for Adam Beach being “Flags of Our Fathers”’s only nomination. But I’ve always had this suspicion (before the BFCA nod) that the HFPA would look to Ben Affleck.
KT: That’s definitely possible. Focus has done a nice job of keeping that film on the radar, sending out single, solid, letter-sized cards of each actor and a big "For Your Consideration" across the top. They’ve come separately, too, so another one shows up in the mail every other day. Very smart.
GK: Focus knows how to run a campaign; they just don’t have the films this year.
KT: They’ve got a new Oscar strategist this year, too. But regardless, I think this category might be all over the map. I actually expect Mark Wahlberg to show up here. I’d personally love to see Kazunari Ninomiya show up, but it won’t happen.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt (alternates: Steve Carell, Djimon Hounsou)
TAPLEY: Ben Affleck, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt, Mark Wahlberg (alternates: Alan Arkin, Djimon Hounsou)
GK: You know, the fact that the BFCA only nominated five women for Best Actress is...telling...as far as I’m concerned.
KT: Telling indeed. They’re stretching hard to be THE Oscar prognosticators of the world. Maybe they should work for the Oscar sites!
KT: I think Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz and Kate Winslet are pretty solid in the drama category at the Globes. With Naomi Watts or late-starter Sienna Miller taking the last spot.
KT: Word has it the group hated “Factory Girl” but loved Miller.
GK: They clearly loved The Weinstein Company last year, and used to love Miramax back in the day, as well.
KT: Yeah. And who didn’t?
GK: HFPA even more so: more nods for “Gangs of New York,” “Kill Bill,” “Cold Mountain,” etc.
BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet (alternates: Sienna Miller, Cate Blanchett – “The Good German”)
TAPLEY: Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet (alternates: Sienna Miller, Cate Blanchett – “The Good German”)
KT: Well the comedy category for the ladies is tricky. Meryl Streep is in there. Annette Bening is likely. I guess Beyoncé Knowles looks good, but…whatever. Actually, that’s exactly what she does in “Dreamgirls”: “looks good.”
GK: Bening, Abigail Breslin, Knowles, Streep and Renée Zellweger, I reckon. With Catherine O’Hara and Toni Collette as alternates.
KT: Zellweger. I don’t know. “Miss Potter” sure is a brick.
BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY or MUSICAL PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Annette Bening, Abigail Breslin, Beyoncé Knowles, Meryl Streep, Renée Zellweger (alternates: Catherine O’Hara, Toni Collette)
TAPLEY: Annette Bening, Abigail Breslin, Beyoncé Knowles, Catherine O’Hara, Meryl Streep (alternates: Jennifer Aniston - “The Break-Up,” Renée Zellweger)
KT: Comedy gents? Mr. Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen, seems secure (which I finally saw the film yesterday). Aaron Eckhart is on the map. Jamie Foxx (starfuckers).
GK: This year will be a test for how much they love Johnny Depp.
KT: I don’t know, I think Depp is out of the mix.
GK: Major star, major hit.
KT: True, but been there, done that.
GK: That didn’t stop them with Bridget Jones.
KT: Touché. Well, hopefully Greg Kinnear can slip in. And Will Ferrell from “Stranger than Fiction,” though he also has “Talladega Nights” out there. A very fun film.
BEST ACTOR - COMEDY or MUSICAL PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Sacha Baron Cohen, Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Will Ferrell – “Stranger than Fiction,” Jamie Foxx (alternates: Greg Kinnear, Will Ferrell – “Talladega Nights”)
TAPLEY: Sacha Baron Cohen, Aaron Eckhart, Will Ferrell - “Stranger than Fiction,” Jamie Foxx, Greg Kinnear (alternates: Will Ferrell - “Talladega Nights,” Vince Vaughn)
KT: You know, this is the group that gave Robert Altman the award the year he was SUPPOSED to win the Oscar, in 2001, for “Gosford Park.” I keep wondering what kind of tribute we’ll see get paid “A Prairie Home Comapnion”’s way. Maybe a surprise Best Picture – Comedy/Musical nomination?
GK: I could see that; it showed up in the Best Ensemble category in the BFCA nominations, which could also happen with the SAG.
KT: “Dreamgirls,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Borat” are solid gold.
GK: Indeed. “The Devil Wears Prada” is a probably a pretty good bet.
KT: Yes, and “Stranger than Fiction” could certainly get it.
GK: I’d say “Stranger than Fiction” vs. “Thank You for Smoking” is the likely battle for the last slot. Though “Prairie Home” wouldn’t shock me.
KT: I don’t think “Thank You for Smoking” has shown up enough to be a threat for Best Picture here. The film has had just one mention thus far, from the National Board of Review. I’m going with “Dreamgirls,” “Sunshine,” “Borat,” “Prada” and “Prairie Home,” putting Streep in a pickle as to which table she’ll sit at.
BEST PICTURE - COMEDY OR MUSICAL PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: “Borat,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Dreamgirls,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Thank You for Smoking” (alternates: “Stranger than Fiction,” “A Prairie Home Companion”)
TAPLEY: “Borat,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Dreamgirls,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “A Prairie Home Companion” (alternates: “For Your Consideration,” “Thank You for Smoking”)
KT: Finally, let’s talk about Best Director.
GK: I could see Stephen Frears missing out here, despite being on his way to DGA/Oscar nods and the BAFTA win.
KT: He is an international fave, though.
GK: Fair enough, though he isn’t a “celebrity director” like Scorsese or Eastwood.
GK: And Alejandro González Iñárritu could show up here as well.
KT: Yes, Iñárritu is possible. You know, Eastwood could show up twice and blow everyone’s minds.
GK: I was JUST in the process of typing “Eastwood getting two nods also would be a ‘surprise’ that wouldn’t really surprise me.”
KT: It surely could happen. And you know, their lone director nod is always odd. Last year it was Steven Spielberg.
GK: Alongside Peter Jackson.
KT: Yes (starfuckers).
GK: As I said, “celebrity director” ought not to be ruled out. Mel Gibson? (Just kidding).
KT: Who knows? Perhaps Robert Altman?
GK: That is possible. But they didn't have a lone director in '02, '03 or '04 so I wouldn't get too preoccupied over that.
KT: True enough. I guess they do have ten shots at getting their Best Director bill to lineup 100%. Well perhaps Altman gets in alongside his film. Now THAT would be interesting, and it would put “A Prairie Home Companion,” still one of the year’s best films, right back on the map.
GK: Yes it would. I hadn’t thought of that, actually.
BEST DIRECTOR PREDICTIONS
KENNEDY: Bill Condon, Clint Eastwood - “Letters from Iwo Jima”, Paul Greengrass, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Martin Scorsese (alternates: Stephen Frears, Clint Eastwood - “Flags of Our Fathers”)
TAPLEY: Robert Altman, Bill Condon, Clint Eastwood -“Letters from Iwo Jima”, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Martin Scorsese (alternates: Stephen Frears, Paul Greengrass)
KT: Well, regardless of how these things pan out Thursday, the season is off – and in a hurry!
GK: I know. Thursday will put people in a tizzy. It will calm down slightly over Christmas and New Year’s, but from the first week in January on, it will be not stop action for eight weeks.
KT: I’m on a jet plane to Hawaii March 1, so this season can’t wrap itself up soon enough!
GK: I can only imagine!
KT: But in any case, it’s been fun and spontaneous this last week.
KT: I’m happy to see Clint Eastwood jump into the fray with a film that is as valuable as “Letters from Iwo Jima,” because frankly, “Million Dollar Baby” quickly became the most overrated film of 2004 for me.
GK: “Million Dollar Baby” was certainly effective as far as I was concerned, but too clichéd for me to consider it “great.”
KT: True enough. Thankfully “Letters” lacks all semblance of the cliché and is a truly original piece of filmmaking. And I guess we’ll see if it can ride this wave to overtake the long-considered “frontrunner” of the Oscar season for the Best Picture trophy. That certainly seems to be the fight at the moment, “Dreamgirls” vs. “Letters.”
GK: I wonder if “Letters” could win without Clint winning as well? It would seem beyond cruel for Eastwood to beat Scorsese AGAIN. But hey…that’s AMPAS sometimes.
KT: Indeed it is. Well let’s pick it up between you and I after the New Year and see where we stand.
Be sure to check out Gerard’s “Tech Support” column every Thursday, right here at In Contention.