OFF THE CARPET: Time to flex

Posted by · 10:51 am · December 6th, 2010

All of the cards (save for the elusive James L. Brooks title “How Do You Know,” which few seem to be expecting much from at this stage — a commodity in Oscar season, actually) are on the table.

The critics are beginning to speak up with their faves (likely to be “The Social Network” after “The Social Network” after “The Social Network”) and the working (and voting) industry is just now getting its first look at many of the films that have been stirring conversation throughout the festival season via DVDs and Academy screenings. They’ll make their voices heard with guild nominations throughout January. But now is not the time to show weakness.

The thoroughbreds of the season remain “The King’s Speech” and the aforementioned “The Social Network.” I’m confidant “True Grit” will soon join their ranks, while “The Kids Are All Right” could be fairly considered in that group as well. And “Toy Story 3” is riding sentiment like a champ (with even more campaign strategy to come).

“The Town” is the only other film that I know has registered in a big way with Academy types (and it’s laid back campaign approach feels like the right call). “The Fighter” screened for AMPAS this weekend and is receiving media attention at just the right time. I think it will soon prove itself to be a formidable contender in the race, if it hasn’t already.

“Inception” is going to do well on the critics’ circuit and will have enough support across the various crafts branches to solidify its place, but after that, weakness begins to show itself.

“127 Hours” is trickling along at the box office, limping toward $10 million, trying to stir word of mouth in a platform release. “Black Swan,” meanwhile, is doing fantastic limited release box office but, from what I hear, didn’t fully register at the Academy screening this weekend (though that’s one person’s perspective on things, mind you).

“Winter’s Bone” was always going to need the boost of critics’ kudos to re-insinuate itself into the race. Independent film award recognition was always a given, and so far so good on that front, but it’s going to need a leg up as we push through December. Ditto “Another Year,” which has the added benefit of opening this month (and the press that comes with that), as well as “Blue Valentine,” which was shafted by the Indie Spirits but could make the best out of the NC-17 rating controversy.

Paramount is turning up the heat as much as it can on “Shutter Island,” maintaining a foothold despite its longshot status, while “The Way Back” is at the mercy of an emaciated P&A budget. And screeners will not be the best way to see the film.

So I think we’re looking at those seven films for the final two slots in the Best Picture line-up. Unless Brooks and Sony want to stop playing hide and seek and show us a real winner, of course.

Or are things as locked down? Probably. After all, at least 70% of the line-up was pegged at this point last year. All that was left to be seen was whether “Nine” and “Invictus” would fall away (they did). “The Lovely Bones” was beginning to look like a lost cause and “The Blind Side” was coming on strong. “Avatar” still had not screened for the vast majority of media (December 10 was the day), but most were beginning to hear positive things out of HFPA screenings.

On the whole, I’d say eight, maybe even nine (as there were some “A Serious Man” holdouts) of the eventual 10 Best Picture nominees were fairly agreed upon by mid-December last year. So take a snapshot and maybe we’ll be having a similar discussion next year.

For now, though, it’s probably best to sit back and let the December precursors point the way.  As such, there will be no Off the Carpet column next week. In its place, my year-end wrap-up piece featuring the top 10 list (which will be exclusively revealed first via Friday’s Oscar Talk podcast).

The Contenders section was updated over the weekend and the sidebar predictions reflect those changes.

[Photos: Warner Bros. Pictures, Roadside Attractions, Fox Searchlight Pictures]

→ 42 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Off the Carpet

42 responses so far

  • 1 12-06-2010 at 11:33 am

    Graysmith said...

    Putting The Town in for Best Film Editing at the expense of The King’s Speech seems like an oversight, at least if you consider The King’s Speech a potential Best Picture winner. No Best Picture in the last 30 years has won the big prize without being nominated for Best Film Editing.

    That obviously doesn’t mean it can’t happen again, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on it.

  • 2 12-06-2010 at 11:35 am

    Maxim said...

    It could also mean that The King’s Speech won’t mean Best Picture, Gray.

  • 3 12-06-2010 at 12:12 pm

    Fitz said...

    I’m hoping Shutter Island keeps its foothold in the race. It’s just as good as any of the other films mentioned above.

  • 4 12-06-2010 at 12:32 pm

    James C said...

    Cool to see Shutter Island still in the discussion. Film holds up much better on repeated viewings.

  • 5 12-06-2010 at 12:41 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Graysmith: Brokeback Mountain was not nominated for Editing.

  • 6 12-06-2010 at 12:42 pm

    Graysmith said...

    Brokeback Mountain didn’t win Best Picture.

  • 7 12-06-2010 at 12:44 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I don’t think there’s much to that stat, to be perfectly honest. Just the way it’s panned out.

    That said, TKS could easily get an editing nod. I’m not “betting” on anything in December.

  • 8 12-06-2010 at 12:49 pm

    Daniel said...

    Exit Through the Gift Shop(!) Did you like the film Kris?

  • 9 12-06-2010 at 12:54 pm

    Hans said...

    If The Town and 127 Hours continue on the mini-trajectories we’re starting to see, then I could very well see Ben Affleck picking up a director nod.

  • 10 12-06-2010 at 12:54 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    I know it didn’t win, but the way you worded your statement sounded like Best Picture contender. My mad, guess I misread that.

  • 11 12-06-2010 at 12:57 pm

    Graysmith said...


    Fair enough, I just thought I’d point it out seeing as there is 30 years of precedent for it.

  • 12 12-06-2010 at 1:02 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Makes sense. The trend follows. I’m still thinking TSN has more traction sometimes. I wonder if we are still basing our prediction on TKS winning on the old AMPAS of the 90s. They haven’t gone with a safe, typical AMPAS choice in quite some time.

    The Return of the King
    Million Dollar Baby
    The Departed
    No Country for Old Men
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Hurt Locker

    I wouldn’t call any of those (except maybe MDB) very typical AMPAS choices.

  • 13 12-06-2010 at 1:12 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It’s an old stat brought up every year. I get it. I just don’t know that it’s indicative of more than simply a trend, really.

    Kevin: Another point being made consistently lately. It’s possible.

  • 14 12-06-2010 at 1:17 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Ironically, I still have TKS as my predicted winner, but Fincher as winning director. I think Scott Rudin is really going to push hard for it, so we shall see. But TSN was always going to be the critics award darling, as it’s the most critically acclaimed live action film of the year. Call me crazy, but I sense The Kids Are All Right falling by the wayside lately.

  • 15 12-06-2010 at 1:24 pm

    Hans said...

    Frankly, I’ve never been convinced of The King’s Speech, to be honest. Haven’t seen it, of course, but it always just struck me as a Milk or The Queen type picture, an excellent film ticking off all the right boxes but just lacking the ultimate “oomph” that’ll carry it through to the win.

  • 16 12-06-2010 at 1:24 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    kevin: You sense wrong.

  • 17 12-06-2010 at 1:33 pm

    Patriotsfan said...

    James C: I totally agree. I really liked Shutter Island after the first time I saw it in theaters, but it moved up to a whole other level after I rented it and saw it for a second time. I would love to see it get a Best Picture nomination, but I think it is going to fall a little short.

  • 18 12-06-2010 at 2:09 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    The lack of mentions for TKAAR on any top ten lists so far has me concerned. I’ve also been hearing whispers of people reacting negatively lately now that they’ve seen the film on home video. Mostly regarding the lack of any ral sympathetic character, and how the film is just one awkward moment after another. I’m merely reporting the kinds of things I’m hearing, but you might be hearing different things, so who knows. I know the film was a critical darling at release, but I’m hearing the buzz swing in the other direction as of late is all.

  • 19 12-06-2010 at 2:13 pm

    BrianA said...

    I know it’s a long shot, but I think Rabbit Hole may still be in play for Best Picture.

  • 20 12-06-2010 at 2:21 pm

    ann said...

    It really sad that christopher Nolan will not win, I feel he deserves it more then any nominee that will be nominated. I’m starting to feel like he will be treated similar to speilberg and martin scorsese as he will win an oscar late in his career. And if his movies are always going to be this though-proving and complex he might never win an oscar.

  • 21 12-06-2010 at 2:27 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    im pretty surprised 127 hours is still strong in your predictions, i see it fading in the next few months drasticly. Especially boyle

  • 22 12-06-2010 at 2:32 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Rabbit Hole is certainly a possibility. I should have mentioned it.

  • 23 12-06-2010 at 2:53 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I take Kris’ word that TKAAR is still in play for major stuff come February. But I will also back-up Kevin K.’s statement – in so much that – regular viewers (non-AMPAS) are not responding to it as well as may be assumed.

    I mentioned this elsewhere last week: I have not encountered one person (friend, family, co-worker, acquaintance) who liked TKAAR. It’s just not playing well with average movie-watching folk. Again, this is my view; from my own experience in asking around.

    But I maintain what Kris says, AMPAS may very well say, “so what, the critics and us love it”.

  • 24 12-06-2010 at 2:57 pm

    cineJAB said...

    I really don’t see how Black Swan’s only recognition will be Best Actress. I’ll shout my praises of that film from the highest mountain tops. Also Inception has the game changer credibility to really win Best Picture. The Social Network is feeling more and more like this year’s Up in the Air, and The King’s Speech (though I’ve yet to see it) doesn’t seem fresh enough in comparison to what the academy has gone for lately.
    my ten:
    1. Inception
    2. Black Swan
    3. True Grit
    4. The King’s Speech
    5. The Social Network
    6. Toy Story 3
    7. Winter’s Bone
    8. 127 Hours
    9. The Town
    10. The Kids Are All Right

  • 25 12-06-2010 at 3:07 pm

    Mr. F said...

    I seriously hope that Alexandre Desplat doesn’t get nominated for The King’s Speech. It’s a nice score, but it’s nothing compared to what he did on The Ghost Writer, which might be his best score, and Harry Potter. Hell, even his Tamara Drewe score is more creative and pleasing to the ear.

  • 26 12-06-2010 at 3:16 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    I guess I haven’t heard anything on what the reaction out of AMPAS screenings of TKAAR have been. Is word good? I honestly haven’t heard anything. I’ve heard Academy members praising The Town, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Inception, Winter’s Bone, and 127 Hours. No word yet as far as I know on TKAAR, True Grit, Toy Story 3, and a couple others. Did the screening of The Fighter go well?

  • 27 12-06-2010 at 3:27 pm

    Ivan said...

    Winter´s Bone has more best picture chances than Another Year, it fits perfect the truly indie spot ala Precious.

    Best Picture
    Best Actress/Jennifer Lawrence
    Best Supporting Actor/John Hawkes
    Best Adapted Screenplay

  • 28 12-06-2010 at 3:29 pm

    cineJAB said...

    i’m really curious how reactions from an academy screening are measured. Do members walk out of the screening shouting “I LOVED THAT ONE THEREFORE EVERYONE IN THE ACADEMY LOVED IT” or “THAT IS AN AWFUL FILM I THINK SO NO ONE IN THE ACADEMY LIKED IT” because that’s the way it seems sometimes. I know when I walk out of a movie, i talk about it…but someone watching me probably wouldn’t be able to tell if I liked it or not…unless it’s Black Swan or Inception, which I walked out of screaming “I LOVED THAT MOVIE!”

  • 29 12-06-2010 at 3:51 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    cineJab, you have a point there. If someone didn’t like a movie at a screening, there tends to be this psychic audience connection phenomenon. A lot of times, people tend to exaggerate on crowd reactions at screenings as a more generalized reflection of their own feelings towards the film. But as Kris pointed out a few months ago, the best reaction he ever heard from an AMPAS screening was Casino Royale, and look how that turned out. But last year District 9 received a standing ovation from what I heard and we were all skeptical of its chances until it was announced as one of the ten nominees, as well as for Screenplay, Editing, and VFX. So who knows how these screenings relate to nominations sometimes.

  • 30 12-06-2010 at 4:11 pm

    JJ1 said...

    You hear what you hear and you believe what you believe. Kris said reaction was quiet after one Black Swan screening; and I now have doubts about it’s chances. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  • 31 12-06-2010 at 4:13 pm

    Graysmith said...

    One thing I’m curious about is why Get Low isn’t a possibility for more than just Duvall. I tragically haven’t seen it yet, so maybe I’d “get it” if I had.. But it got great reviews, it did well at the box office, it’s got a lead performance that’s likely to be nominated, and it just seems like a film the Academy would enjoy.. And yet, outside of Duvall I haven’t heard anyone suggesting it has much of any chances for anything else.. Why not a screenplay nomination, or even Best Picture? Is it so obviously just a Best Actor thing and nothing else?

  • 32 12-06-2010 at 4:17 pm

    JJ1 said...

    good point, Graysmith.

    I saw it, enjoyed it, and I could see a Murray/Spacek/Costume pop-up if it’s going well with AMPAS; however quietly.

  • 33 12-06-2010 at 6:37 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    I wonder if How to Train Your Dragon could get into contention somehow. Is that a pipe dream?

  • 34 12-06-2010 at 8:24 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Taking “127 Hours” out of Adapted seems strange to me.

  • 35 12-06-2010 at 9:25 pm

    The InSneider said...

    I’ve always questioned the strength of TKAAR. It’s a solid B+ movie. Not sure why it has received all this attention. It’s not like Cholodenko’s other work did. Is it just Bening? No one saw Mother and Child. Why does this movie have such a high profile? Is it just Focus? That’s a testament to their marketing dept… movie is good but hardly “great.”

  • 36 12-07-2010 at 3:55 am

    Glenn said...

    Ivan, except “Precious” was a genuine pop culture moment (didn’t Gabourey Sidibe host SNL? The Mo’Nique train certainly helped) and ended up making $47mil. Plus it had Lionsgate behind it and a marketing campaign that had people talking (those posters!)

    “Winter’s Bone” has received great notices from the critics, but it’s early release stopped it from becoming a cause célèbre at the box office (compare it’s $21,000 opening weekend theatre average to the $104,000 average that “Precious” made) and eventually only made $6.2mil.

    The last BP nominee to make that little was, I think, “Letters from Iwo Jima” and that was a freakin’ Clint Eastwood move.

    “Winter’s Bone” is definitely looking good at the moment for a BP slot, I agree, since I doubt they’ll find trouble in getting Academy members to watch their screeners (unlike, say “Animal Kingdom”), but don’t compare it to something like “Precious” (would we be taking it seriously as a contender in a field of 5, or would it be another “Frozen River” situation?) I think the only way an actor like John Hawkes can get in is with a movement. Like, say, Amy Ryan or Richard Jenkins or – hopefully – Jacki Weaver. If enough people stand up and said “NOMINATE HIM!” then maybe they would, but can you see mainstream awards bodies nominating him over the likes of the current major contenders. I’d love to see it happen, but I honestly don’t see how.

    InSneider, you must be mad to not see the link between “TKAAR” being a high profile film with nominatability and the fact that LGBT rights have been in the news pretty much constantly for 18 months now. It has pop culture cache.

    Are we ready for Ben Affleck to be a two-time Screenplay nominee?

  • 37 12-07-2010 at 5:38 am

    JJ1 said...

    I think TKAAR benefits from being the first non-animated movie that got astounding reviews of 2010. It rode that wave/acknoweldgement into the Oscar season.

    I still think there are 2-3 slots open in the BP race. And I think outsiders like ‘Shutter Island’ and ‘Ghost Writer’ have a shot; however minimal.

  • 38 12-08-2010 at 2:44 pm

    MovieMan said...

    I am probably the only person left unmoved by “Another Year.” That movie goes nowhere interesting and does nothing beyond giving us a great performance from Lesley Manville. No catharsis. You’d think something was bound to happen in that movie.

    Same thing happened with “Happy-Go-Lucky” actually.

  • 39 12-09-2010 at 1:36 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    @JJ1: I think WB (June) fits that bill moreso than TKAAR (July).

    Am I the only person who is skeptical of True Grit getting as many nominations as predicted?

  • 40 12-09-2010 at 1:53 pm

    Maxim said...

    “Am I the only person who is skeptical of True Grit getting as many nominations as predicted?”

    I wouldn’t bet against the Coens, neither artistically nor the amount of respect they have at this point in their career.

    Plus the movie looks good across the board.

  • 41 12-09-2010 at 2:05 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    I agree that it looks good. And it’s less about the Coens and more about Damon. I’m just not sure. It’s partially wishful thinking, since he got that unwarranted nomination last year, so I hope he gets snubbed this year to balance it out. I probably won’t be so lucky.

    I’m also not convinced they’ll get both Directing and Writing nominations. Writing feels pretty certain, but I feel like the slots are likely filled, barring some unfortunate repeated snubs.

  • 42 12-09-2010 at 2:06 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    The Directing* slots, I mean. We’ll see though how the rest of the season plays out.