OFF THE CARPET: Remember the movies (but maybe not these final predictions)

Posted by · 9:35 am · January 24th, 2011

Two weeks ago, one of our readers, KevinK, asked the following question for Oscar Talk:

What do you think of the atmosphere that comes out of this late stage of the awards season?  I think the atmosphere is really toxic and really flies in the face of what we all care about in the first place: a love of film.

We didn’t get to it on the air.  So I saved it.  Then Thursday, Guy touched on some profound textures in his final pre-nod column.  It was one of his best, a sound consideration of the posterity of an awards season above its pageantry.

The Yin and Yang of things is what struck me.  To Kevin’s point, the environment around these films is more and more enhanced or diminished by steadily increasing media attention — this outlet being no exception.  He went on to note a well-regarded critic’s perceived change of heart on one of last year’s front-running contenders due to its consistent registration during the season, as if a virginal opinion had been sullied by the air of competition and acclaim.

And it happens, I think.  The awards season, more intense every year, warps perception, no question about it.  It builds hopes and douses them, never providing a level playing ground, and it can come to define efforts more than their singular artistic identities.  But at least it means well.

To Guy’s point, the season is a chance.  So it can be an appropriate time for unbridled passion and endorsement to ring loud, because the stakes can be so high (whether you know it at the time or not).

Of course, like in any stage of a career, it remains up to the talent involved how to best utilize the attention and artistic fortune Oscar may grant.  The spotlight can be much more crucial than a bump in offers and pay.  It can be validation in the form of revelation, in the eyes of audiences and the industry alike.

Not to put words into anyone’s mouth, but if I were to boil both perceptions (which share the same thoughtful heart, I think) to an essence, I’d say Guy is arguing for a reason to care about all of this, while Kevin is arguing for a reason not to care.  If you don’t care enough, great work stays buried.  If you care too much, great work is smothered.

What a dichotomy.  And if you were to ask me which side of that line (which, admittedly, I’ve conjured out of thin air by parsing two interesting arguments) I’d fall on, I’d say: “Don’t care.”

Maybe it’s a perspective as in flux as anything else, but that’s how I feel this year.  Because when I look at the movies in the thick of this Oscar hunt, I’m rather surprised at the consistency of quality.  It’s fully subjective, naturally, but as I look to the sidebar and my final set of predictions, I’m struck by how difficult it is to argue with, like, 95% of the slate.  That’s unique, to say the least…for me.

This season has become, behind the scenes, as dramatic as any other.  There is no shortage of money, ego and passion and the stakes, as always, are high.  But as neck-deep in the competitive frenzy as I’ve been these last five months, I’ve always had something in the back of my mind, something that hasn’t really made its way through the punditry and analysis and commentary: “Damn, these are some good movies.”

And they are.  The five frontrunners — “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” — are all such quality competitors to be debating in an Oscar season it’s unreal.  The next tier down, all top-notch pieces of work — and still not totally representative of the year for me, as barely half my top 10 seems to be legitimately in the hunt for any Oscar notice at all.  But I like just about everything in play this year, so why haven’t I spent energy on that?

“Why” indeed.  Maybe I finally figured out what 2010 was all about for me after all: missing the commendable forest for the competitive trees…one more time.

If you hadn’t heard, the Oscar nominations are to be announced tomorrow morning.  Lots of hard work will pay off or it won’t.  More DVDs will ultimately be sold.  More egos will be stroked.  But the films will still be the films.  They’ll still have to speak for themselves.  And nothing Tom Sherak or Mo’Nique says tomorrow will change that.

THAT, I think, is the real truth, however naive it might sound.  After so many presentations throughout the circuit, it’s another group of people with an opinion on the matter.  Well…so are you.

I’ve run a fine-tooth comb through every category in the Contenders section and come up with my final nomination predictions.  There is expanded commentary for each field and, as always, all changes are reflected in the sidebar to the right (including all 24 categories).  It’s possible I’ll spaz out and make some last minute adjustments tonight.  If I do, I’ll let you know.  I’ve found it’s usually best to settle and walk away from the table, though.

After tomorrow, we await the winners.  And on that, I have to say I’m feeling a little more interested in things after the PGA tossed a wrench into the works and upset the apple cart.  After being hammered into a position of defeat, not just by the awards circuit, but by endless, shrieking rhetoric, it’s nice to see that my abandoned guns might — MIGHT — have been worth sticking to.

You can check out Gerard’s final guesses (with alternates) here and Guy’s here.  I have a similar page here.  On to the nominations.

My best to your favorites.

[Photos: Getty Images, Producers Distribution Agency]

→ 22 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Off the Carpet

22 responses so far

  • 1 1-24-2011 at 9:49 am

    Dylan said...

    It’s interesting how Julianne Moore hadn’t shown up in any precursors (for the most part) nor in anyone’s predictions, and then now suddenly people are predicting her. What changed?

  • 2 1-24-2011 at 9:52 am

    Dylan said...

    Oh, I see that you explained it in the Contenders section now.

  • 3 1-24-2011 at 10:03 am

    Free said...

    Wow, great set of predictions. They mirror mine quite a bit, actually. Really unsure who fills that last slot in Best Actress, though:

  • 4 1-24-2011 at 10:10 am

    Patriotsfan said...

    For anyone interested, you can see my predictions by clicking the link:

    I was glad to see you now have Scott Pilgrim nominated for Visual Effects. It’s a small nomination, but I would be happy to see it nominated for something.

  • 5 1-24-2011 at 10:24 am

    Maxim said...

    I don’t know where best to put this question but thinking about that Best Original Score Category again, could we all be underestimating Biutiful” and composer Gustavo Santaolalla?

    I know there’s been very little awards attention given to this score and the movie has been underseen, but, the brunch really loves the guy so… could he be someone that’s been overlooked all along?

  • 6 1-24-2011 at 10:34 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I feel like there are two notes in the thing. Probably being unfair, but really, I could remember tunes from Brokeback and Babel at least. I can’t remember anything from Biutiful. And I’m not aware of a concentrated push for the score.

    But who knows? Again, it was the toughest category for me and I settled on fairly safe bets.

  • 7 1-24-2011 at 10:40 am

    Sertan said...


    It is interesting to see that all three of you put David Russell in your top five Directors, instead of Coen Brothers. Guy did not even put them as his alternative! I think the other four directors are lock, and the fifth one is still up in the air! It will be exciting to see who will get the fifth slot!

  • 8 1-24-2011 at 10:46 am

    Maxim said...

    I understand where you are coming from and, oddly enough, this is sort of why I asked. Santaolalla is just such an odd case, where it seems like he is being acknowledged foremost for his sparsity. The most memorable music (to me) in Babel wasn’t new and the rest was pretty sparse sounding. But I guess you are right, at least the movie had music you could remember, which it sounds like Biutiful doesn’t (I haven’t seen it yet). I guess the combination of that and the lower profile would make the difference.

  • 9 1-24-2011 at 10:50 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    If “sparse” scores, I expect it to be Rahman.

  • 10 1-24-2011 at 10:52 am

    Maxim said...

    I wholeheartedly agree with that asessment.

  • 11 1-24-2011 at 11:00 am

    tdr said...

    I’m really looking forward to see where Bardem’s chips stack up. Will he get in or not? I hope he does.
    By the way, as a side note, for me the biggest surprise/ I can’t believe they got it right nomination would be:
    Vincent Cassel. Mesrine. Best Actor.

  • 12 1-24-2011 at 11:06 am

    Cordy said...

    Thank you Kris for an article truly about the quality of all the mvoies in the hunt. I usually find myself struggling to see a lot of the movies by this time of year, mainly due to lack of interest or perceived enthusiasm for them. But this year I have seen almost all of the top 11 (it is nice having a smaller number) at least twice, and pretty much all the contenders in general.

    It is a season where I go see movies by myself as usual, and then get excited to drag friends with me to see it again. It’s nice to have not only films that I like, but also films that I know other people will enjoy, as showing a great movie to someone for me is almost as great as seeing it for the first time myself. If anything this year proves the uselesness of the 10 though, as we could have a top 5 with all $100m+ grosses

  • 13 1-24-2011 at 11:10 am

    Colin Walsh said...

    “My best to your favorites”

    That was a nice touch Kris.

  • 14 1-24-2011 at 11:37 am

    americanrequeim said...

    ultimately i felt it was a weak year for film. 2009 had a bunch of B+ works throughout the year while there really were few great films in 2010. HOWEVER, the 10 that are predicted are all pretty great films so i have to agree, its as if the right movies made the cut and got the attention this year. I would have liked to see shutter island get more attention and tangld have a shot at best picture and im still waiting to see another year, blue valentine and the way back. Lets hope the oscars get it right. The box offices of these films seem s to make the oscars feel quite relevant this year

  • 15 1-24-2011 at 11:40 am

    Jeremy said...

    Full analysis of my predictions here:

    Kris, weirdly enough, I tend to agree with you on four of the five (or nine of 10 for Best Picture) for each category. Here are the differences:

    Picture: Winter’s Bone over The Town.
    Director: Coen Brothers over David O. Russell
    Actor: Ryan Gosling over Robert Duvall (wishful thinking?)
    Actress: Michelle Williams over Julianne Moore
    Supporting Actor: John Hawkes over Jeremy Renner
    Supporting Actress: Jacki Weaver over Lesley Manville
    Original Screenplay: Another Year over The Fighter
    Adapted Screenplay: Same for all five.

  • 16 1-24-2011 at 12:49 pm

    Princess of Peace said...

    Ha Ha!! Bardem and Cassell would be great! They are both so much better than a few of the so called locks for best actor.

  • 17 1-24-2011 at 1:53 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Kris, your 4 acting category predictions match mine perfectly. If I had to pick what I think would be the 6th in each category, they’d be:

    Actor – Bardem
    Actress – Williams
    S. Actor – Damon
    S. Actress – Hershey

  • 18 1-24-2011 at 2:01 pm

    Squasher88 said...

    You are so right Kris, we really have some good films this year. 2010 was really outstanding.

  • 19 1-24-2011 at 2:52 pm

    Kevin K. said...

    Thank you for addressing my query Kris. It really is something I think should be looked at, as the vitriol people throw at films during awards season is ridiculous. There’s backlash, and there’s turning a film into a punching bag. Often times, people end up doing the latter for no real reason other than to be the loudest voice on the internet. In any case, to me, this has been the strongest year for films since 2007, and I had a really hard time narrowing it down to a top ten. My ten lined up a little more with oscars than yours Kris, but ultimately, like I always say, haters gonna hate. Just gotta keep loving what you love and never apologize for it.

  • 20 1-24-2011 at 5:37 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    FYI, I might be changing my foreign film picks. I don’t have a single one of the executive committee-saved films in my picks and that would be a first (considering the recent history).

  • 21 1-24-2011 at 6:11 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I just want to say, tomorrow is a huge day. Though it’s often exhausting, I have thoroughly enjoyed phase 1 (so to speak) of Oscar guessing this season. And though I’m ready for phase 2, I’m sad that a major portion of the guessing game will be over. Thanks Kris for all you do!