OFF THE CARPET: Stuck in the middle with…what?

Posted by · 6:23 pm · June 29th, 2008

Since we’ve finally reached the midway point of 2008, it seemed as good a time as any to post the first “Off the Carpet” column since our year in advance take over four months ago.

First and foremost, I’m in a unique situation this year.  Being in London since mid-May, I’ve found myself looking from the outside in on a lot of projects.  The UK generally has later release dates, meaning later press screenings.  And so, films like “WALL-E” and “The Dark Knight,” I won’t be commenting on them (and, therefore, won’t have an educated viewpoint on their Oscar prospects) until I’m back in the States in three weeks.

In a lot of ways, it’s just like the old days (for those who remember the old, clunky Oscar Central stuff, or perhaps the sporadic columns at Oscarwatch (now Awards Daily).  I’m back in the position of fan first, commentator second in some areas, and it’s been a bit of a thrill, I have to say.  Especially in a year of Bat-hype nearly approaching the hysteria of the summer of 1989.

But with that in mind, I also humbly recall that my Oscar-guessing mind was in a slightly better place back then, removed from the fray, having the true instincts of an observer on which to depend.  But all of that is beside the point.  The real question is, right now, half way through the year, which films have even laid a claim for film awards attention in the brutal season that will be here before we know it?

The most apparent example is, ironically, the newest release of the year: Walt Disney/Pixar’s “WALL-E.”  A certified hit with the critical community (though it’s a community always forgiving of animated fare, oddly enough), the film is dazzling audiences in the states as you read these words.  Some are claiming it, without hesitiation, to be the greatest endeavor out of Pixar to date, and that’s no small feat from a company that has produced an octet of beloved modern classics.  The “m” word has even been tossed around with reckless abandon.

But this happens frequently enough for us to remain unconvinced of major Oscar success, no?  After all, despite Disney’s greatest efforts to remind voters last year that “Ratatouille” was the best reviewed film of the year (and indeed, at the time, it was), the membership still couldn’t allow for an animated film in Best Picture’s coveted five.  And that might have been the best shot for the genre since “Beauty and the Beast” 17 years ago, and certainly since “Shrek” in 2001.

Lest we forget, however, that “Ratatouille” managed five nods all together last year — no frail showing.  The film came in right behind Best Picture nominees “Atonement” (7), “Michael Clayton” (7), “No Country for Old Men” (8) and “There Will Be Blood” (8) for total nominations.  And at this point, “WALL-E” seems all but assured four tips of the AMPAS hat.  I’m still a bit fuzzy on it’s screenplay potential, which would be the fifth mention (given the lack of considerable dialogue).  But admittedly, I need to see the film.

There are other films worth mentioning in this space, however…

Or are there?  Truth be told, I’m having a bit of a difficult time coming up with a satisfying number.  “In Bruges” had a decent critical showing and plenty of devoted fans.  An original screenplay nomination for Martin McDonagh would be a real possibility had the film been platformed through the fall.  But that February release date is hurting.  Focus will have it’s hands tied with “Milk” and maybe “Coraline” later in the year.

“The Visitor,” Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed “The Station Agent” is probably the most critically acclaimed live action film of the year.  But is Overture Films ready to dive in with the big fish?  Do they have the capital to back the sort of campaign they’d need to push the effort into screenplay contention and to make voters pay attention to Richard Jenkins’ performance?

A few documentaries have landed and made a splash this year, though one of them, the sensational “Taxi to the Dark Side,” went before the AMPAS committee last year and walked away with the award already.  Can Fox Searchlight spin “Young @ Heart” into a contender?  Or could the Academy itself prove to be young at heart, simultaneously tapping back into that Marty sentiment for a positive “Shine a Light” showing?  Best in show from those films eligible in the category this year seems to be “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”  But Errol Morris’s “Standard Operating Procedure” has its supporters as well.

And there’s always “Son of Rambow,” a Sundance favorite that has a lot of passion in the Paramount Vantage camp.  Personally, I couldn’t find the pulse.

The big player so far is, of course, the highest grossing film of the year (and likely to remain as much): “Iron Man.”

It promises to be a tech giant, perhaps even crossing the boundary from the effects categories and into some other arenas (doubtful, I’d say).  But it says a lot that half way through the year, the film that leaps to everyone’s mind when sussing out the best of what we’ve seen is a comic book adaptation.

Oh, and let’s not forget that other comic adaptation right around the corner.  Who knows what kind of mark it will make on the film awards landscape of 2008?

I think it’s safe to say that this year has been relatively quiet for Oscar contenders thus far.  The season is, once again, back-loaded with prestige content from studios hoping to garner kudos and the dollars they inevitably yield.  We’re left, as always, hoping that the glut holds a fair share of valuable product in store, but we learn every year that disappointments lurk.

Just once can’t the studios just get the junk over with early on?  We should be so lucky.  Though with that in mind, one awards show already has it’s categories plump with possibilities.  We can certainly count on “The Happening” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” showing up at the Razzies with bells on.

With that I come the the month’s updated charts.  But two notes before hand: despite my teasing the notion that Heath Ledger could be a contender in the lead actor category for a performance that is knocking critics dead, I’ve kept him in the supporting ranks for now.  We’ll see.  Also, I’ve knocked “Che” out of the charts and the predictions int he sidebar altogether.  The vibe is that the film simply may not see the light of day this year.  It remains noted in the contenders section for now, but things aren’t looking good.

The rest, of course, you can read in the nutshells.  Enjoy:

Main Category Charts
Technical Category Charts
The Contenders
Oscar Prediction Archives

What film released so far do you thin has the most Oscar potential?  Tell us in the new poll!




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34 responses so far

  • 1 6-30-2008 at 12:35 am

    Brian Kinsley said...

    I can’t see Indy getting any Razzie noms (not with that RT score and $300m).

    I can’t really see Iron Man getting any Oscar noms either.

  • 2 6-30-2008 at 3:13 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Any? Visual effects and sound categories are virtually assured (look at the names on board).

  • 3 6-30-2008 at 3:58 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Iron Man could indeed get some tech-love but nothing more. I don’t think In Bruges really stands a chance, like you said, it’s difficult to find real devotion to it aside from it being a load of fun.

    Don’t you think Happy Go Lucky will pull it through? It’s dropped in the Actress cat in your charts.

    And I seriously distrust that Defiance movie. I think it’ll be a stinker á la Blood Diamond but with great performances that can get nommed.

    So what else? uhm, oh yes where was The Visitor screened at? You were mentioning it was the best live-action feature of the year this far.

  • 4 6-30-2008 at 4:16 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I thought Son of Rambow was pretty dreadful, actually – I can’t see it landing in any awards derby whatsoever, not least because it wasn’t greatly beloved here in the UK.

    In Bruges and Happy-Go-Lucky are the only films I’ve seen so far that deserve main category consideration – but they’re admittedly long shots. I’ll be cheerleading for Martin McDonagh and Sally Hawkins all year.

  • 5 6-30-2008 at 4:17 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I should qualify that statement by adding that I’m only seeing The Visitor tomorrow.

  • 6 6-30-2008 at 4:21 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    No Jon, I said it was the most “critically acclaimed” live action film of the year.

    As for “Happy-Go-Lucky,” I think it may creep into Best Actress and screenplay (I’ve seen it and think it’s a fine film), but I kept the list at U.S. releases thus far. Otherwise, yeah, it’d be on here for sure.

  • 7 6-30-2008 at 9:08 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    No sound nods for Cloverfield? It pretty much defined the film.

  • 8 6-30-2008 at 9:24 am

    Proman said...

    Philip Glass signed up for both “Doubt” and “The Other Man”. I see some of Oscar potential here.

  • 9 6-30-2008 at 9:32 am

    Josh said...

    My favorite movie of the year was Snow Angels. I think it is an absolute masterpiece. Does David Gordon Green have any shot at a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination? I am cautiously optimistic because of the release of The Pineapple Express. It will probably be a huge box office and critical success which could put some attention on Snow Angels and boost it’s DVD sales.

  • 10 6-30-2008 at 11:33 am

    R.M. said...

    Ratatouille third in nominations after No Country and There Will Be Blood? Are people already forgetting Atonement by now…?

  • 11 6-30-2008 at 11:34 am

    R.M. said...

    And Michael Clayton, for that matter?

  • 12 6-30-2008 at 11:36 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Ooph, thanks R.M. The older one gets…

  • 13 6-30-2008 at 11:39 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Jon: I would have “Cloverfield” in the sound fields (and was championing its hopes for those nods right after I saw it in January), but the names behind the effort are also on “Defiance” and “Indiana Jones,” both more likely. So I had to drop it in the end.

  • 14 6-30-2008 at 11:49 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Ah, good one about those names Kris. I always seem to forget digging thát deep into it.

  • 15 6-30-2008 at 12:14 pm

    Mr. Gittes said...

    In Bruges is my favorite movie of the year so far. Colin Farrell deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance.

    Is it House of Lies or Body of Lies?

  • 16 6-30-2008 at 12:36 pm

    Joseph said...

    “WALL·E” is set for 6 nominations, the most of any PIXAR film yet.

    – Best Animated Feature (locked up)
    – Best Sound Editing (likely a win)
    – Best Sound Mixing (very possibly a win)
    – Best Original Screenplay (I can definitely see it)
    – Best Original Score (Thomas Newman’s GORGEOUS work)
    – Best Original Song, “Down to Earth”

    It’s also the only2008 film I’ve seen. Hehe.

  • 17 6-30-2008 at 1:02 pm

    McAllister said...

    In Bruges deserves so much!!!!! I think if it has any shot at all, it’s going to be us internet bloggers to keep the buzz going and let it build “Little Miss Sunshine” style.

  • 18 6-30-2008 at 2:06 pm

    Joel said...

    Wow, lots to say.

    First, “WALL-E” deserves at least six nominations (Joseph, you’re right about that). It’s the best movie of the year (so far, at least).

    Also, call me crazy, but “Wanted” deserves recognition, as well. I saw it on Saturday, and at least a visual effects nod. I loved the film, and although it won’t be able to win anything else (nor will it be nominated either, I can tell you that), it deserves better than it’s getting. It’s a summer film that doesn’t feel bloated.

    I loved “Son of Rambow”. Got to see it at the AFI Dallas Film Fest. Got a standing ovation.

    I think “Iron Man” could surprise us. Kris, you say it won’t get any nods other than tech ones. I think Downey, Jr., could slip in, with a “Johnny Depp nomination”.

    You all know how I feel about Heath Ledger.

    I never saw “In Bruges”, but nearly every review I have read sang praises (with the exception of a middling one by James Berardinelli). I want to see the film badly, but I missed it in theaters.

    Also, “Incredible Hulk” may just get an F/X nod, as well, in my opinion.

  • 19 6-30-2008 at 2:56 pm

    Josh said...

    Is Adoration getting a 2008 release or are they going to push it back to 09?

  • 20 6-30-2008 at 3:15 pm

    jason said...

    as far as wall-e is concerned, i could definitely see it nabbing a best pic nom in what could be a weak year. heck, on your best pic list on the sidebar, i think milk is the only one that looks good enough on paper for say, last year or the year before.

    i would see wall-e getting a fifth slot best pic nod before a best screenplay nod. the time we’ll see an animated movie win best pic, though, is when the animated movie runs away with the screenplay award. wall-e won’t do it.

  • 21 6-30-2008 at 11:57 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    As far as I know, Josh, Adoration will be a 2008 release, but I highly doubt it will have any presence in awards season. A challenging arthouse work like that needs massive, unanimous critical support to get noticed by the Oscars (as with The Sweet Hereafter), and from its mixed reception at Cannes, Adoration doesn’t seem to have that.

  • 22 7-01-2008 at 12:01 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Hmm, a new press release states Body/House of Lies still as an Unnamed Ridley Scott Film. Weird.

    Anyhow, Downey Jr. won’t get a nod for Iron Man, he’s got two much more interesting roles coming up with The Soloist and Tropic Thunder. Besides, the lead section is already too crowded.

  • 23 7-01-2008 at 12:20 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I had heard they may be sticking with “Body of Lies,” but for now, the latest news is “House,” so until they figure it out, we’ll leave it at that.

  • 24 7-01-2008 at 10:30 am

    Christian Marquez said...

    I see you have Young @ Heart listed as a possible contender. I am
    pretty sure that the film is not eligible for an Oscar because it
    premiered on British television.

  • 25 7-01-2008 at 2:40 pm

    Josh said...

    Nothing But the Truth is now apparently a 2009 release. I had Beckinsale and Farmiga in my predictions. Looks like a lot of Yari Film Group’s stuff got pushed back to 09.

  • 26 7-01-2008 at 4:53 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Just according to IMDb. As far as I know, it’s still 2008.

  • 27 7-04-2008 at 9:39 am

    Josh said...

    Box Office Mojo has said it is 2009. I might be getting ahead of myself but if The Dark Knight is going to be as good as it is what about Maggie Gyllenhaal getting a Best Supporting Actress nomination? Honestly the Best Supporting Actress class doesn’t look that great right now and she might be the most acclaimed actress around to not get an Oscar nomination. I won’t predict it now but if the movie really blows up with the academy I could see it happening.

  • 28 7-04-2008 at 9:48 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Michael Clayton actually got 7 noms. Hard to believe, but true.

  • 29 7-04-2008 at 9:59 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Josh: From the filmmaker…NBTT is getting an Oscar qualifying run this year and they don’t know what IMDb is talking about.

  • 30 7-04-2008 at 10:12 am

    Josh said...

    Sweet. Ok thanks. Beckinsale and Farmiga are going back into my predictions now.

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