In Contention


OFF THE CARPET: Welcome to phase two

Posted by Kristopher Tapley · 9:10 am · January 26th, 2009

Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe nominations and all their ghastly reality are behind us.  The first two major guilds have spoken.  “Slumdog Millionaire” continues a long, slow (too slow for Searchlight) march toward Oscar, and ironically enough, the only film to win two awards at last night’s SAG ceremony was the one a lot of people were pissed got the shaft on Thursday.

Such is the season.

Phase two is a different game altogether.  Everyone has renewed life.  “Frost/Nixon” and “The Reader” are going to be happy to be there, while Focus and Paramount really think “Slumdog”‘s perch isn’t as water-tight as it could be.  Then again, that SAG ensemble victory had to burst one or two of thsoe balloons keeping their spirits afloat.

The races of interest to me are lead actor, where a truly deserving Mickey Rourke goes toe-to-toe with an inarguable Sean Penn (maybe a fight to both their deaths as Frank Langella tip-toes past them and nabs the big prize?) and Best Supporting Actress, suddenly there for the taking as Kate Winslet has vacated the field in favor of dashing the hopes of the leading ladies who were all set to duke it out.

Could Penelope Cruz (so dashing and sweet here in Santa Barbara last night) suddenly be the favorite once more?  Or is this just the moment Viola Davis has been waiting for?  Better yet, could Taraji P. Henson, probably the biggest charmer of the bunch, switch ont he after-burners and leave everyone in the dust?

Harvey Weinstein will be busy trying to extinguish that pesky film editing rule (that no film has won Best Pic without a nomination for editing since — anybody? — “Ordinary People” in 1980).  Ironic, since the proliferation of that “rule” in the media stems from a former member of Weinstein’s publicity flock who works hand-in-hand with the producer who took his film off “The Reader” in the first place.

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight“The Dark Knight”‘s eight nominations could yield just a single win, Heath Ledger’s inevitable (damn well better be inevitable) victory for Best Supporting Actor, or perhaps two if the Academy responds to Wally Pfister’s photography.

I’m hopping off the sound bandwagon in favor of “WALL-E”‘s chances as of late, but with one or both, the tally could be three or four for the Bat, approaching the eventual tally the night’s biggest winners, “Slumdog” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” will pull in.

And what will that say?

“The Reader,” for all it’s “passion” to make it into contention (since no one wants to think the nominations were clearly a vote AGAINST “The Dark Knight” more so than a vote FOR whichever film came in #5), is likely to walk away with a single win.  And is it even arguable that said win will result more from the always-a-bridesmaid nature of the contender than the actual role and/or performance?

“Frost/Nixon,” unless Frank Langella can stun in the lead actor field (certainly possible), will take nothing.  My guess is “WALL-E” takes Best Original Screenplay, leaving Sean Penn as the “Milk”‘s only hope for a victory.  But if Rourke shines, that could leave the film with nothing.

Funny how that works out, no?  And speaking of “WALL-E,” the same thing applies.  I see anywhere from three to five wins coming, maybe even a clean sweep if the membership gets froggy and goes for Thomas Newman’s score (giving him his first Oscar ever).

But keep on telling yourself the rest of the Best Picture field was really the source of the membership’s “passion.”

WALL-EThe race is all but over in the minds of most of us, though.  Bring on 2009.  Let’s see Michael Mann digging into the 1930s, together with Dante Spinotti once again.  Let’s see what Peter Jackson has to offer in the smaller, more intimate realm 15 years after “Heavenly Creatures.”  Show us you’ve still got it Marty.  Wow us once again, Mr. Cameron.  And prove me right, Mr. Greengrass, that you’re the most compelling filmmaker of your generation.

Let’s get on with it.

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35 responses so far

  • 1 1-26-2009 at 9:30 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    “O Saya” from “Bolt”
    A.R. Rahman; Maya Arulpragasam (M.I.A.)

    That made me laugh a little tiny bit, I dont know why

  • 2 1-26-2009 at 10:54 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Haha. Thanks. Will adjust.

    What, you don’t remember the M.I.A. jam in “Bolt?”

  • 3 1-26-2009 at 11:02 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Wait… you mean M.I.A. isn’t Miley Cyrus’ performing alter ego?

    I could’ve sworn she was.

  • 4 1-26-2009 at 11:08 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    M.I.A. MileyCyrus Is Arulpragasam

    Kris, I know you love Bolt, but what really annoys me from it (Aside the Waltz with Bashir snub in Animated Feature) is that is a very very hypocrit movie. I mean, the message is about kids in movies and how they manipulate them and stuff… And who gives the voice to the little girl? Miley Cyrus!!!

  • 5 1-26-2009 at 11:19 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    A valid point, Ziyad. But I can’t fault Disney for wanting to sell tickets.

  • 6 1-26-2009 at 11:50 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    Aside from that, I really liked the movie. But I didn’t recover yet from being the #2 of the year in your list!

  • 7 1-26-2009 at 12:11 pm

    Brian said...

    Speaking of Heavenly Creatures, The Simpsons episode last night was a clear take off on it. Not really an out and out parody, but followed all the same beats. I wonder how many viewers made the connection. Pretty obscure.

    Also, Bolt was way better than it had any right to be and probably Travolta’s best movie in years.

  • 8 1-26-2009 at 1:38 pm

    Kate said...

    Hah Brian I was thinking that last night while watching The Simpsons. Did anyone else notice Emily Blunt voiced the episode?

    I’d personally love to Marisa Tomei take it home. That might make up for the fact that The Wrestler was left out of Best Pic and screenplay.

  • 9 1-26-2009 at 1:52 pm

    N8 said...

    WALL-E aint gonna win screenplay, as much as it deserves it. There are two many Reel Geezers in the Academy.

  • 10 1-26-2009 at 1:57 pm

    J.S. said...

    I think we’ll see the BAFTA acting winners match up with Oscar once again.

    Best Actor: Sean Penn
    Best Actress: Kate Winslet
    Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger
    Best Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz

  • 11 1-26-2009 at 2:07 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I was trying to make my first stab at the winners and the only lock I could come up with was Wall-E. Slumdog sure rides the current wave much higher than any other nominee for Best Picture but that can all change.
    And I’ve just seen The Reader. Poor film, decent performances. Nothing more. Revolutionary Road is many a mile better.

  • 12 1-26-2009 at 3:29 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Hey Tapley, random news but did you hear Mickey Rourke is going in the ring for Wrestlemania 25? The man is officially my hero.

  • 13 1-26-2009 at 3:34 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Heh I read that too. Seems like a strange rumour now, I won’t believe it until he actually enters the ring. Would be great though.

  • 14 1-26-2009 at 3:38 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Would be a classic WWE move.

    (P.S.: Anyone having trouble loading the site lately?)

  • 15 1-26-2009 at 4:06 pm

    Bart Smith said...

    Mickey Rourke going in the ring for Wrestlemania could end up being his NORBIT.

  • 16 1-26-2009 at 4:20 pm

    Ivan said...

    Better a look of the next contenders

    BEST PICTURE
    Need
    Nine
    Public Enemies
    Shutter Island
    Where the Wild Things Are

    BEST DIRECTOR
    Andrew Jarecki/All Good Things
    Spike Jonze/Where the Wild Things Are
    Michael Mann/Public Enemies
    Rob Marshall/Nine
    Martin Scorsese/Shutter Island

    BEST ACTOR
    Javier Bardem/Biutiful
    Matt Damon/The Informant
    Daniel Day Lewis/Nine
    Leonardo DiCaprio/Shutter Island
    Morgan Freeman/The Human Factor

    BEST ACTRESS
    Emily Blunt/The Young Victoria
    Michelle Pfeiffer/Cheri
    Hilary Swank/Amelia
    Evan Rachel Wood/Whatever Works
    Naomi Watts/Need

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
    Christian Bale/Public Enemies
    Emile Hirsch/Taking Woodstock
    Ruben Ochandiano/Biutiful
    Kodi Smit-McPhee/The Road
    Ray Winstone/Edge of Darkness

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
    Jessica Chastain/The Tree of Life
    Marion Cotillard/Nine
    Kirsten Dunst/All Good Things
    Leslie Mann/Funny People
    Michelle Williams/Shutter Island

    BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
    All Good Things
    Edge of Darkness
    Funny People
    Up
    Where the Wild Things Are

    BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
    Green Zone
    Need
    Nine
    Public Enemies
    Shutter Island

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
    Inglorious Bastards
    Public Enemies
    Nine
    Taking Woodstock
    The Tree of Life

    BEST FILM EDITING
    Edge of Darkness
    Green Zone
    Nine
    Public Enemies
    Shutter Island

  • 17 1-26-2009 at 4:36 pm

    Mr. Harmonica said...

    Where the Wild Things Are is an adaptation.

  • 18 1-26-2009 at 4:37 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Bart Smith, Wrestlemania is in April I believe.

    And because someone else was insane enough to do it first:

    Best Picture:

    Amelia
    Green Zone
    The Lovely Bones
    Nine
    Public Enemies

    Best Director:

    Paul Greengrass, Green Zone
    Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones
    Michael Mann, Public Enemies
    Mira Nair, Amelia
    Lone Sherfig, An Education

    Best Actor:

    Jim Carrey, I Love You Philip Morris
    Matt Damon, The Informant
    Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
    Johnny Depp, Public Enemies
    James Franco, Howl

    Best Actress:

    Penelope Cruz, Broken Embraces
    Hope Davis, Happy Together
    Carey Mulligan, An Education
    Hilary Swank, Amelia
    Rachel Weisz, The Lovely Bones

    Best Supporting Actor:

    Pierce Brosnan, The Greatest
    George Clooney, Men Who Stare at Goats
    Billy Crudup, Public Enemies
    Jamie Foxx, The Soloist
    Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

    Best Supporting Actress:

    Judi Dench, Nine
    Sophia Loren, Nine
    Emily Mortimer, Shutter Island
    Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones
    Olivia Williams, An Education

    Best Adapted Screenplay:

    An Education
    Green Zone
    The Lovely Bones
    Nine
    Public Enemies

    Best Original Screenplay:

    Broken Embraces
    Happy Together
    Howl
    The Informant
    I Love You Philip Morris

  • 19 1-26-2009 at 4:48 pm

    Bryan C. said...

    Alright, if you guys already wanna start predicting next year’s Oscars, please don’t make the mistake of grossly underestimating my most anticipated movie in 2009, Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock”!

  • 20 1-26-2009 at 4:54 pm

    Tina said...

    Kris-

    While I disagree with you, I know that you disliked “The Reader” immensely (putting it mildly). My question is, do you dislike Kate Winslet as well? I know you disliked the movie but I’ve noticed that there has been some vitriol towards her as well and I don’t really understand this. I believe she’s one of the best actresses out there and maybe I’m wrong and you just disliked this particular performance.

    Thanks

  • 21 1-26-2009 at 5:14 pm

    Silencio said...

    Don’t be too shocked if Milk wins.

  • 22 1-26-2009 at 6:16 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Bryan C., I’m afraid Demetri Martin’s dramatic debut will be another Ang Lee misfire.

  • 23 1-26-2009 at 6:19 pm

    JAB said...

    i think Frost/Nixon is really the only non-factor in the Best Picture race.

  • 24 1-26-2009 at 6:55 pm

    Erin said...

    When did you become such a malcontent? I remember Sasha Stone making a comment to that effect early on in awards season when you repeatedly expressed your disdain for the NBR, but the constant vitriol is significantly impacting the content of the site. In Contention obviously ranks amongst the best of these Oscar spaces, and I would hate to see it be consumed by pettiness.

    That said, I think Milk has the best chance at upsetting Slumdog Millionaire. I also think it is probably likely that Frost/Nixon was the fifth nominee, not The Reader.

  • 25 1-26-2009 at 10:27 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Tina: I liked Winslet very much but her performance is a shell of what it likely could have been with the proper editorial care. I can’t imagine what was left on the floor.

    Erin: I don’t consider a personal opinion petty just because it happens to not be jubilant. Sorry. But here’s to next year, I guess.

  • 26 1-26-2009 at 10:28 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oh, and as for the nut-jobs going ahead with predicting 2009 — I love you guys. As usual, my year-in-advance predictions will land the day after the Oscars.

  • 27 1-27-2009 at 1:01 am

    Kevin said...

    As of today, I’ve officially seen 5/5 supporting actress performances and in my mind, Marisa Tomei deserves the Oscar – she works wonders with a familiar role. However, as to who ‘will’ win – I think it will be Cruz or Davis. After seeing Doubt today, I think Viola Davis was riveting in her short scene and Amy Adams completely deserves her nomination (perhaps not at the expense of Rosemarie DeWitt though!) Penelope Cruz was simply decent in Vicky Cristina Barcelona – I really didn’t care much for the film (or her performance)

  • 28 1-27-2009 at 3:39 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Erin: It’s an opinion-based site, so if one happens to be disappointed with aspects of this year’s race, there’s little sense in hiding it. Every year is different. At the very least, you can’t have missed Kris’ unbridled enthusiasm for the film likely to clean up on Oscar night, so he’s not such a “malcontent.”

  • 29 1-27-2009 at 6:00 am

    Michael W. said...

    I am really looking forward to Nine, The Lovely Bones and Public Enemies. Hope alle 3 of them will be players next award season. Martys Shutter Island is also interesting but I’m hesitating naming it as an award contender. The book is really something special and it is nothing like Marty has done before. The book has some very brutal dream sequences that seems very hard to translate onto the big screen. Really looking forward to see DiCaprio in it and Mark Ruffalo is perfectly casted.

    Regarding this years Oscars it would be a joy to finally see Thomas Newman win one. But Rahman has best score in the bag so fingers crossed for best song.

  • 30 1-27-2009 at 6:30 am

    Dominik said...

    Next year looks much more promising than this years race!
    Anyway, I would be very surprised if “Wall-E” is considered the frontrunner for the screenplay-category. This one belongs to “Milk”, which has a strong social message the Academy members would feel ignorant to snub.

  • 31 1-27-2009 at 6:48 am

    just me said...

    Mo’Nique is SO getting an oscar nod next year for Push.

  • 32 1-27-2009 at 8:48 am

    Joel said...

    My question: Is anything getting Dark Knight-sized buzz? At first, I thought “The Informers” would, being Brad Renfro’s last hurrah and all. Then it got practically shit on at Sundance.

    But really, anything generating enormous amounts of Oscar buzz as of yet?

  • 33 1-27-2009 at 8:50 am

    Joel said...

    just me: You’re probably right. Man, she was praised across the freaking board. More than the film was, if I remember correctly.

    And is anyone looking forward to “Black Dynamite” as much as I am? When the heck’s it coming out? I can’t wait.