OFF THE CARPET: From the horse’s mouth

Posted by · 7:47 am · January 12th, 2009

Kate Winslet at the 66th Annual Golden Globe AwardsThe last two weeks have been a leaf blower to the debris an awards season can accumulate.  Individuals with some real say in the ultimate Oscar picture have finally gone on the record, painting a rather clear picture of the industry’s favorite films of 2008.

But before diving into the realities of the various guild announcements, it is probably worth touching upon the gleeful diversions of the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Awards.

These are the two culminating critics soirees, capping off the annual critical kudos sprint through December and early January.  Both proudly declare themselves Oscar harbingers but only one seems to find itself decided from a critical mindset (even if that mindset is still warped by pegging a zeitgeist).  The other is, as always, a drunken time amongst industry friends that goes its own way.

But dare I say it, this year the HFPA may have actually raised the bar for the Academy.  After years of embarrassing nominations announcements and sometimes bewildering winner choices, the group awarded a slate of contenders last night that stuck out as noble and, shockingly, novel.

Can the Academy’s membership reach out to Mickey Rourke and meet him half way like he has clearly done this season to an industry that has shunned him for so many years?  Can they find a way to spread the kudos love while an inevitable “Slumdog” sweep pushes through the evening of February 22?

Moreover, can AMPAS have the balls to follow in the HFPA’s footsteps with a double win for Kate Winslet, arguably deserving this year and a move that would be inarguable as a hell of an apology for years of Oscar losses?  The actress joined Sigourney Weaver last night as one of only two actresses to win a pair of Golden Globe awards for film performances in one evening.  Your move, Oscar.

Three of the acting categories are absolutely up in the air, arenas rife with the potential for fresh thinking or a complete upset.  And a number of craft categories are an open field, waiting to be defined to a membership that needs definition when it comes to the winners’ ballot.  You can sense phase II taking shape before it even gets here.

Danny Boyle at the 14th Annual Critics\' Choice AwardsBut the past two weeks have given some indication.  All of the major guilds — SAG, PGA, WGA and DGA — have spoken up with their list of the year’s best, and the consensus is the same five you’ve seen in the sidebar for a month-and-a-half.  And though we were handing the Oscar to “Slumdog Millionaire” way back on November 25, an unpopular opinion at the time to say the least, that possibility has become an inevitability unheard of since “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and that includes last year’s ultimately expected victory for “No Country for Old Men.”

But smart people know this is a two-tiered exercise, and phase II is a different game altogether.  This is when a studio like Warner Bros. can switch on the afterburners and really pull the rug out from under a hard-working Fox Searchlight team.  When talented artists find their publicity groove and charm the pants off an industry begging for it.  When Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke can run out of steam and allow for an old-timer like Clint Eastwood or Frank Langella to slip in the back door.

It’s a funny game.

If “Slumdog” is the clear industry favorite (nods from SAG, WGA, PGA, DGA, ADG and CAS), “The Curious case of Benjamin Button” is shaping up to be the nominations leader and a tech giant.  But shut-outs at the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, however irrelevant, are nonetheless intriguing.  The film is shaping up as an also-ran despite strong box office and industry respect.  An anomaly.

“The Dark Knight” has planted flag after flag at the guilds, yet seems as vulnerable as ever.  Despite passion’s effect on that rash tendency to “exhale” after a guild outpouring such as this, one can’t help but consider the effect a massive actor’s branch could still have on a film like “Doubt,” campaigning stronger than ever.  And what of “WALL-E,” ineligible in each of the major guild award races for various reasons yet still the most critically acclaimed film of the year?  That passion surely stretches into the AMPAS membership in some way.

And let’s not forget the true indie that could, Fox Searchlight’s other stab at Best Picture glory and a film the studio has been serious about from the outset: Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.”  Popping up on a number of AMPAS shortlists and guild announcements this week, the film clearly owns a place on any list of Best Picture hopefuls, no matter how cut-and-dry the race seems to be.

Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoBut the strangest whispers I’ve heard concern Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino,” opening wide over the weekend to exceptional box office and, some say, the real threat to “The Dark Knight”‘s shifty #5 spot at the moment.  The guilds haven’t necessarily reflected that, but then again, they didn’t reflect much on “Letters from Iwo Jima” either.

Such is the season, twisting with excitement even in the apparent grip of inevitability.  In 10 days, we’re all going to reload and take aim one more time.  What will the target look like then?  Who will be the Tommy Lee Jones to add unexpected flavor to the mixture.  Who will be the gasp-inducing “Dreamgirls” snub?  Or will it all go “according to plan?”

I don’t know if it’s just me, but this is the first season in some time that has become more exciting the closer we get to the nominations announcement.  In a year packed with disappointment and leaving at least this viewer for wanting, it’s one of the little things to be cherished.

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28 responses so far

  • 1 1-12-2009 at 7:56 am

    Henry said...

    From the horse’s mouth? Who are you calling a horse face?!

  • 2 1-12-2009 at 8:19 am

    Ben M. said...

    My guess is that there is still six likely contenders: the five that have been showing up constantly and Wall-E (all six grabbed ACE noms this morning as well). Rev Road and the Reader are pretty much completely gone and I think Doubt, The Wrestler, and Gran Torino are the others that could crash the party, with Eastwood or Aronofsky probably grabbing the lone director slot.

    Interesting about Gran Torino’s box office, it is too late to have much impact with the nominations but I think it will give a boost to Eastwood’s chances to win and if the noms were just a couple of weeks later the film would have a good shot at a BP nom.

  • 3 1-12-2009 at 8:33 am

    Bart Smith said...

    I’ve always felt that THE DARK KNIGHT was pretty vulnerable, if for no other reason than the way the Oscars tabulate nominations. I could see it being on the most ballots, but not getting enough first place votes to finish in the top five.

  • 4 1-12-2009 at 8:44 am

    WhiplashWilli said...

    Didn’t Sigourney Weaver follow up her double Globe-win with a double Oscar nomination for the same performances – and a double loss in both categories? Not exactly a lucky precursor then, is it?

  • 5 1-12-2009 at 8:48 am

    John Foote said...

    The Globes came of age this year, actually did what they say they do, which is honor the best achievements in film for the year — the critics groups can say what they want, the great predictor of the Oscar has always been the Globes, like it or not — Kris, you asked the question that demands answering — will the Academy have the guts to do what the HFPA did this year? I doubt it…but I hope so — I am not of the mind “Slumdog Milliomnaire” is the best film of the year but it was thrilling to see the little picture win because we so need these little pictures….this year the Globes were not a joke…

  • 6 1-12-2009 at 9:22 am

    sally p. said...

    If Kate Winslet is nominated for those two awards, she will win supporting. The Academy will not give her both. The battle for Best Actress will be between Anne Hathaway & Meryl Streep. The best indicator will be which actress wins Best Actress at the Sag Awards.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Hathaway & Streep tie for Best Actress at the Oscars. It is so damn close, and they are both worthy. Streep is one of the most beloved actress, but Hathaway has won more critics awards (for Best Actress) than any American Actress from last year. This is the most exciting award race for actresses in years- maybe since the 70’s (so many beloved lead & supporting female performances competing). This year has so many potential upsets for the actress catagories.

  • 7 1-12-2009 at 9:36 am

    Cheeseman said...

    I still see Sally Hawkins (not Melissa Leo) in the top five. Hard to ignore award after award.

  • 8 1-12-2009 at 10:43 am

    D said...

    Bart Smith,

    Of course the Dark Knight is vulnerable. Even if it was the best movie ever made it would be vulnerable simply because of its genre and the prejudice that exists against said genre. It’s not the best movie ever made of course. But it is better than Slumdog Millionaire in my opinion. The Wrestler is the best of the year that I’ve seen.

  • 9 1-12-2009 at 11:02 am

    Lane said...

    It’s a funny world we live in.

  • 10 1-12-2009 at 11:22 am

    BurmaShave said...

    Why would we want the Academy to follow in the Globes retarded double win? April Wheeler is a legendary performance and one of the best of Winslet’s career, but why should she be given Best Supporting Actress for the lead role in a bad film? Especially over Cruz, Davis or Tomei? Get real. She’s young, and she isn’t owed any kind of apology.

  • 11 1-12-2009 at 11:43 am

    Casey Fiore said...

    how do mickey and kate move down a notch after winning globes?

  • 12 1-12-2009 at 11:48 am

    Kyle said...

    Gutsy choices? “Gutsy” here is a really subjective term. How can the GGs be seen as gutsy when all their winners (with the small exception of Colin Farell due to the Globes inclusion of comedy) are names that have been popping up constantly and incessantly? Rourke has won several awards, and has gotten probably the most rave reviews of any actor this year, except perhaps Sean Penn. Ditto with Sally Hawkins.

    Kate Winslet winning twice is only a ballsy and “great” move if the viewer so happened to really like those performances. If someone thought they were average (and they are several who did), then they might say that the Globes messed up and the wrong people won, some might even call the Globes double win shameful.

    Not a single nomination and win came out of the blue last night, and with the hundred or so critic and award groups, how could they really? Don’t mean to “go off”, but it just seems that people’s views of awards shows are simply reflections on their preferences. In other words, the Academy raelly embarassed themselves by voting Crash their Best Picture winner of 2005, unless of course you really liked the movie, and then it was a ballsy middle finger to the rest of the world.

  • 13 1-12-2009 at 11:50 am

    jake said...

    did sigourney weaver win for both working girl and gorillas in the mist? I thought she only one best supporting actress and became the first person in oscar history to lose twice.

    Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate winslet should win best actor and actress for giving the performances of the year and for the years of nominations and great performances. It’s time to pay up Oscar.

  • 14 1-12-2009 at 12:10 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I actually updated the charts Saturday night, Casey, but the Globes actually don’t affect the nominations process since ballots are due now, pretty much, and most voters mail them back immediately upon receiving them. The buzz that really matters is the buzz from last week and the week before.

    jake: Yep, she won for both, although the lead win was a bullshit three-way tie with Jodie Foster and Shirley MacLaine.

  • 15 1-12-2009 at 12:28 pm

    Patrick F said...

    Kris, is there any prescient for an actor getting shut out at the Globes and SAG and winning the oscar?

  • 16 1-12-2009 at 12:32 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Patrick F., how do you mean shut out? Not even nominated?

  • 17 1-12-2009 at 12:33 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Ah dumb question, reading back I see what you mean.

  • 18 1-12-2009 at 12:54 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Patrick: Not sure. But “Gran Torino” came on late, so I don’t think precedent matters for Clint.

  • 19 1-12-2009 at 12:55 pm

    Ben M. said...

    Patrick, Marcia Gay Harden won without globe or SAG noms.

  • 20 1-12-2009 at 2:06 pm

    Silencio said...

    I’m personally hoping the academy nominates Kate Winslet for lead in The Reader. And then that she wins.

  • 21 1-12-2009 at 2:35 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I still can’t fathom any argument for Winslet as a lead in “The Reader,” but whatever. The screams of category fraud have become a pet peeve of mine all season long.

  • 22 1-12-2009 at 5:48 pm

    Roger said...

    Hey, Does anyone think that there’s any chance For colin Farrell to get a Surprise Nod at the Oscars? I know he has been Complety ignored so far and he only get to the Globes cause of the Comedy Categories, but still he is somehow deserving… IS there any chance?

  • 23 1-13-2009 at 1:18 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Sadly, Roger, I don’t think so. Hardly the kind of performance the Academy would go for in any circumstances, least of all in such a crowded race. But hey, let’s enjoy the Globe win.

  • 24 1-13-2009 at 11:09 am

    Commentator said...

    I have a feeling WALL-E might still sneak in (we don’t know how well it would have done at the guilds, and members frustrated that they could not vote for it at the Guilds will be more likely to put it down in the BP race) but the 5 locks are pretty obvious.