OFF THE CARPET: 2008, a year in advance

Posted by · 3:20 pm · February 26th, 2008

Another year, another set of wins…and another look ahead at what’s in store NEXT year.

It’s never too late to take a long gander at what we might see dominating the film awards landscape in 365 days, and with that in mind, I’ve been doing my usual mulling over the possibilities for a few weeks to put together the sadly thorough examination of the 2008-09 award season that follows. Let’s get into it. There are some major considerations to take into account. right off the top.

Like Leonardo DiCaprio, for instance, who is set to be the entertainer of the year. With performances in “Body of Lies” (Ridley Scott) and “Revolutionary Road” (Sam Mendes), DiCaprio is working with a duo of awards-proven talent this year. Perhaps that will work against him, much like it did in 2006, and no major Oscar success will come knocking. But we’ll wait until we see the performances. Each of them could be enticing.

This year’s Best Picture Oscar victor Scott Rudin is back again, by the way, with “Revolutionary Road,” recently inherited by Paramount Vantage and probably one of the true “frontrunners” this far out that we could put our finger on. The only other film in Vantage’s arsenal is Edward Zwick’s “Defiance,” which could simply be a commercial success, but might find its way to multiple nods like “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond” in recent years.

Elsewhere, if we’re really going to play the “frontrunner game,” it looks like Universal Pictures is in the driver’s seat once again, this time with Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon.” Does anyone think that Frank Langella isn’t likely headed for Oscar glory as Richard Nixon here? Meanwhile, Uni has Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” (awards fodder for lead actress Angelina Jolie, if nothing else) and a little flick called “The Express,” which could pull some sentiment here and there.

The next juggernaut to watch out for has to be DreamWorks’ “The Soloist,” from “Atonement” helmer Joe Wright. Word has it that Jamie Foxx has dropped a lot of weight to play a Juliard trained musician with dreams of performing at L.A.’s Disney Concert Hall, while Robert Downey, Jr. will support as LA Times columnist Steve Lopez. Watch out.

But also in the Paramount wheelhouse is David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” from a script that I know for a fact Eric Roth is quite proud of and, frankly, is giving me some strange vibes. This could be a GIANT in the awards season, with Brad Pitt starring and Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton in the periphery. And it could be a weeper, too.

The Weinstein Company has two shots at making their first stab at major Oscar success with Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader,” starring Kate Winslet (also set to have a great year), and Anthony Minghella’s “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” which might offer a great role for Jill Scott. I’d bank on the former, if anything

And speaking of Kidman, there is always Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia,” 20th Century Fox’s first true shot at considerable awards success in quite some time. An epic set in the outback, this could be one to watch across the board. Hugh Jackman also stars.

Focus Features has Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” a Harvey Milk biopic starring Sean Penn that may or may not prove too “artsy” for the Academy’s taste, while New Line will have high hopes for Ed Harris’ western “Appaloosa,” starring Harris and this year’s Best Actor nominee Viggo Mortensen. I’m personally looking forward to that one.

Then, of course, there are the blockbusters to consider. The top two daddies look to be “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” part of a franchise that’s always good for sound, score and design categories, and “The Dark Knight,” which could offer one of the most daring performances of the year from the late Heath Ledger (as the Joker). Supporting Actor honors could await him posthumously. Other tent poles to watch in various craft categories are Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man,” Fox’s “The Incredible Hulk,” and the Wachowskis brothers’ “Speed Racer.

And a final note on the indies. It seems Miramax Films, this year’s big winner with “No Country for Old Men,” has John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” and Fernando Mereilles’ “Blindness” on the slate, with the former looking like the real pic to watch. Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz will burn up the screen in “The Dying Animal,” which might be good for performance categories, while Ryan Murphy will give it another go with his adaptation, “Dirty Tricks.” And don’t forget Sundance sensation “Hamlet 2,” which was acquired by Focus Features.

Oh, and speaking of Focus Features…I don’t yet know what to make of Steven Soderbergh’s Che Guevera duo, “The Argentine” and “Guerrilla,” but they’re worth keeping an eye on. Benicio Del Toro has to be considered someone to watch for a lead actor berth in one or the other. And the studio also has this year’s golden boys on the slate with the Coen brothers’ “Burn After Reading,” starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt (another performer with a big year ahead of him).

So there we have it. A first stab at surveying the land ahead. It’s not as in-depth as usual, but it’ll do for now. So many things can and, certainly, will change that I’d prefer not drive myself crazy. Nevertheless, I have laid out my first set of prediction charts in all categories and present them to you now. But, mind you, they are to be taken with the biggest grain of salt imaginable. The only film from last year’s year-in-advance column to survive until the end was “Michael Clayton.” Meanwhile, films like “Charlie Wilson’s War” and “Reservation Road” were considered great bets

You see how this works?

So, enjoy the charts and the fallout coverage of the 2007-08 season. We’ll be wrapping things up here within the week and, before long, it’ll be time to do this whole song and dance all…over…again. For now, here’s what I’m thinking:

Main Category Charts
Technical Category Charts
The Contenders (by category)
Year in Advance Winner Predictions

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