All eyes on left field

Posted by · 11:15 am · January 21st, 2009

Josh Brolin in WThe nominations announcement is, oh, 18 hours away (yeah, we count minutes at this stage).  Even though I’m well on the record as being a prognosticative pussy this year, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re in for our share of surprises.  I doubt I’m alone.

You can go back over Oscar history and write a whole book on the nominations that blind-sided everyone.  Sometimes the contender in question might have popped up briefly during the season, though they were forgotten in due time.  Other times, they simply manifested from thin air and smacked Oscar watchers in the face.  But they’re always there, lingering, waiting to plant that seed of doubt in the viewer the next year.  And the year after that.

It’s enough to pull your hair out.

Earlier today, John posted an interesting thought about Benicio Del Toro’s chances in the lead actor category, which followed a recent musing on Woody Allen’s chances as a lone director nominee.  This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about.

So with that in mind, I’ve collected a brief list of four contenders that I legitimately think could pop up tomorrow and join that lineage.  Some of them are certainly more plausible than others, but none of them, I feel, are terribly out of bounds.  I don’t have the cojones to predict them, of course.  But this is what I’m thinking.

(By the way, if I DO happen to change any of my predictions at the last minute tonight, I’ll be sure to offer a post indicating as much.)

My thoughts on the left field…

Cate Blanchett, Best Actress, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
I should just get this out of the way at the top.  I remain shocked, as I have all season, that I need to chalk this performance up in a “left-field surprise” vein, but the truth remains, the only nomination of substance Cate Blanchett has received this year for her brilliant work in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was a BFCA tip of the hat.  That’s a mighty big tip of the hat, mind you, but nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if she still has a finger hold on the race.  Probably not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.  She’s found considerable support with AMPAS in the past and she’s coming off a year that saw her double-dipped without a win.

Josh Brolin, Best Actor, “W.”
This is probably the most likely of my left-field spotlights, and I have nothing to back that up with other than gut instinct.  I think there is a flimsy Best Actor slot right now, one I’m expecting to be filled by Richard Jenkins.  Others say Brad Pitt.  A precious few say Leonardo DiCaprio.  But Josh Brolin is coming off a banner year in 2007 and though he’s pretty much assured a supporting actor nomination for “Milk,” I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he was tapped on the other shoulder for his solid portrait of our FORMER Commander-in-Chief.  Then again, that might be yesterday’s news to voters ready to move forward in Obama’s America.

Ari Folman, Best Director, “Waltz with Bashir”
All assumptions are that “WALL-E” is an industry favorite despite an understandably weak showing with the major guilds.  Understandable, that is, because the film wasn’t eligible for DGA, WGA or, really, SAG, while the PGA had a separate category for animated films.  That’s all well and good, but I’ve heard as much enthusiasm for Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” as I have Pixar’s cute little robot.  This thing is getting Best Picture votes, folks.  So what about a truly extraordinary shocker?  Ari Folman popping up in the Best Director category, perhaps?  No one saw Fernando Meirelles coming in 2003.  Of course, a surprise screenplay nomination fo “Bashir” would make more sense, but I thought I’d tip-toe further out onto the limb.

“Gomorrah,” Best Adapted Screenplay
This isn’t the most original of considerations since Guy went ahead and stole my thunder earlier this week by predicting the damn thing, but nevertheless, Roberto Saviano, Matteo Garrone and their stable of writers cranked out a hell of a screenplay this year, one derived from a dense piece of non-fiction.  Cannes champ “The Class” is also a possibility, but “Gomorrah” had something of a screenplay campaign early on.  Sadly, the film was nixed by the foreign language film committee, but it is still eligible elsewhere, and as Guy has pointed out, there tends to be an off-the-wall adapted screenplay contender in the mix every year.

What left-field possibilities are you considering?  Tell us in the comments section below!

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70 responses so far

  • 1 1-21-2009 at 1:10 pm

    Jeremy said...


    Interesting thought. It seems like there could be a circular thing going on with comedic/mainstream performances. Downey Jr. will probably get in for “Tropic Thunder”, but he could split his own vote because of “Iron Man”, but now Tom Cruise won’t get in for “Tropic Thunder” because votes for that movie will go to Downey Jr., and if Downey Jr. is getting Supporting Actor votes for a comedy then Brad Pitt won’t get them for “Burn After Reading”, but even if he did Pitt might wind up splitting his own vote with “Benjamin Button”, so … my head is spinning.

  • 2 1-21-2009 at 1:26 pm

    William said...

    I think Michelle Williams is going to get in before Cate Blanchett in a good but not amazing performance. Leo DiCaprio is getting in too (I hope), and Clint Eastwood is “snubbed” for ‘Gran Torino’ which is an ok film overall but with bad performances, including Eastwood. Would the performance be garnering any buzz if some other old actor was in it? No because it pretty much falls flat. Also, what time will the announcements be made in east coast time?

  • 3 1-21-2009 at 1:28 pm

    Micahel C. said...

    Jonathan Demme for Best Director. Remember Mike Leigh got in for Vera Drake which also had little buzz outside the Best Actress Race.

  • 4 1-21-2009 at 1:29 pm

    William said...

    Michael I would love that, and if ‘Rachel’ got in for Best Pic, Best Actress, Supporting Actress (For Rosemarie DeWitt AND Debra Winger), and Best Supporting Actor. Definitely one of the best of the year and chock full of stunning performances.

  • 5 1-21-2009 at 1:30 pm

    Zan said...

    Everyone has pretty much said what I’ve been thinking, but how about–WHAM! Sam Rockwell for “Snow Angels.” Talk about left field.

    A top five performance of the year in my book.

  • 6 1-21-2009 at 1:39 pm

    JC said...

    “Also, what time will the announcements be made in east coast time?”


  • 7 1-21-2009 at 1:40 pm

    William said...

    Thanks JC!

  • 8 1-21-2009 at 1:42 pm

    Nicolas Mancuso said...

    To JC and Bryan:

    I’ve watched the nomination announcements live the last two years. Both times on NBC — the “Today” show cuts to the press conference and then they interview Dave Karger from EW and a couple of nominees/surprise snubees.

  • 9 1-21-2009 at 1:52 pm

    Bill M. said...

    I feel Tropic Thunder is going to more love than just Robert Downey. Makeup is the category it could get in. Or even Sound Effects Editing (if the category hits 5 nominees) with some good explosions in the jungles & the heavy shooting.

  • 10 1-21-2009 at 1:56 pm

    JC said...

    “Thanks JC!”

    You’re very welcome, sir.


    The Today show it will be. Thanks.

    Moving on, whatever happens tomorrow, I hope we can all be mature about it. For instance, a lot of folks here would like TDK to be nominated for Picture and Director, but I see very few, if any, acting arrogant about it, assuming it’s a sure thing. I mean, some folks certainly aren’t a fan of it (no film is going to appeal to everyone), but they should at least be able to recognize that it’s got that rare combination of huge critical acclaim and commercial success, which obviously makes it a contender in any year. And if a film you love doesn’t make one of the lists, there’s no need to single out TDK as the one that took its spot, when it could just as easily have been any of the others.

    I rather like this place, and hope it doesn’t devolve into something resembling the imdb posting boards tomorrow.

    Cheers. :)

  • 11 1-21-2009 at 3:04 pm

    John K said...

    This morning, I was giving a pedantic speech to my friend about how the nominations were probably going to turn out tomorrow. I got to Best Actor, and I talked about how Penn, Rourke, Eastwood, and Langella were locks. And then when I got to the shifty fifth spot, I started to wonder why exactly Brolin wasn’t considered the favorite. I think I’ll actually go on record – what little that means – and predict the damn thing.

  • 12 1-21-2009 at 3:13 pm

    Aaron said...

    I would definitely hop on the bandwaggon for Brad Pitt for supporting actor–Burn After Reading. He got a BAFTA nom and the film has surprisingly been pretty well present during the awards season with the NBR mention, the Golden Globes and the Writers Guild nomination.

    Michelle Williams would also be a good surprise in Actress, along with Cate Blanchett.

    And, mark my words, Frieda Pinto has a good shot (IMO) for supporting actress. If the Academy goes ga-ga for this film (which is likely), I wouldn’t be surprised to see her come in and knock out Amy Adams or Taraji P. Henson. It’s not a deserving nomination–she hardly does anything in the movie–but she’s a substantial part, and she’s a drop-dead gorgeous up-and-coming star.

  • 13 1-21-2009 at 4:13 pm

    Michael Rogers said...

    – Cate Blanchett or Michelle Williams for best actress
    – Australia for best picture
    – Curious Case of Benjamin Button snubbed in Best Pic but Fincher still get Director nod

    I’m so crazy!

  • 14 1-21-2009 at 4:19 pm

    Ivan said...

    Dev Patel for leading actor
    Michael Shannon for supporting
    Sally Hawkins for leading actress
    Rosemarie DeWitt for supporting
    Darren Aronofsky for Director
    The Reader for Motion Picture
    In Bruges for or. screenplay
    Let the One Right In for adapted
    Tear my Heart Out/Mexico for Foreign
    Sex and the City for Original Song
    Iron Man for Film Editing
    The Dark Knight for Costume Design

  • 15 1-21-2009 at 5:44 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    @ Michael Rogers

    “Australia” for best picture? Have you seen the movie?

  • 16 1-21-2009 at 5:45 pm

    Adam Smith said...

    JM: I loved The Reader, so you’re not alone.

    Also, if predicting The Reader is considered left-field, then I have a legit left-field choice in my official predictions. I’ve got nothing to lose by going with my gut on this.

    Ivan: I don’t think Sally Hawkins is a left-field choice. If she’s not in the top 5, she’s definitely at least in the top 7.

  • 17 1-21-2009 at 6:35 pm

    Michael Rogers said...

    @ Frank Lee

    Sure have, liked it. I think people were too quick to jump all over it and I wish there were more films like it.

    Two sentiments that I think I maybe, just maybe, share with some members of the academy. This was left field predictions, remember?

  • 18 1-21-2009 at 7:17 pm

    Ben M. said...

    One thing I could wonder is if they could possible follow the globes and give dual supporting actor nods to Tropic Thunder (Cruise probably has as much screentime as Rudy Dee did last year for what it’s worth).

    Also with the Waltz with Bashir love how about if it gets BP, FL, and animated nods (too bad it was ruled ineligible for doc or that could be crazy with it having all top feature nods) or if both Wall-E and Waltz got in and we had two animated features fighting it out, I know it’s very likely not happening but that would be something to see.

  • 19 1-21-2009 at 7:51 pm

    Glenn said...

    I’m going with Kate Winslet getting in for Lead Actress for “The Reader”, “Cadillac Records” in Costume Design, 5/5 correlation between Picture, Director and Editing. How sad (about the latter, obvs). Those are pretty much the only “left field” choices I’m making. Everything else seems to be falling directly into line with the status quo.