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Gold Digging: Front Runners and Underdogs

Gold Digging: Front Runners and Underdogs

r154636_556687.jpgI’m abandoning my recent awards blogging format to coincide with indieWIRE‘s new awards season coverage. Myself and my colleague Eugene will be ranking our picks in various categories to be linked to from a main article on the indieWIRE mainpage. I’ll continue my usual biweeklyish ranking (not necessarily always when iW updates their section), but now in this format. So check out my inaugural rankings after the jump.

BEST PICTURE

1. Atonement
2. American Gangster
3. No Country For Old Men
4. Michael Clayton
5. Juno
6. Into The Wild
7. There Will Be Blood
8. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
9. The Kite Runner
10. Charlie Wilson’s War

Underdog: Sweeney Todd

I know you’re likely thinking placing Sweeney as the underdog and Charlie in tenth is a total cop-out, but let me explain. Sweeney should never have recieved the Oscar status it has leading up to this. It may be a great musical, but the horror elements, Tim Burton‘s weirdness and its tendency to turn off the Academy and the lessons learned from Dreamgirls really put its hopes on this side of the fence. I want it to be in that top five. I want it to be so good that no one can deny Burton’s genius and it – like Tom O’Neil has gutsily predicted – WINS the big prize. But until the reviews are more than Harry Knowles, I think Sweeney is an underdog.

As for Charlie, maybe its tenth place sitting is a bit of a cop-out. But after seeing the trailer, I wonder if its tone might make it more likely for an acting nod (Hoffman) and a screenplay nod and that’s that? Atonement is going to be the December gorilla; Gangster the box office draw and Country the critics darling, which in my opinion leaves two spots open (though many might argue Country is going to polarize Academy opinion). And Charlie has some stiff competition for those two slots.

Theres been some excellent films this year, and I fear this category might really disappoint me in the end. Nat Rogers wrote a piece at The Film Experience that summarized these thoughts exactly. I kept thinking of 1999 as well, where this load of excellent, risky films (Being John Malkovich, Magnolia) lost to films like The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile, which makes me think I should move The Kite Runner and Charlie up in the ranks and forget about No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood altogether.

BEST ACTOR

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
2. James McAvoy, Atonement
3. Denzel Washington, American Gangster
4. George Clooney, Michael Clayton
5. Tommy Lee Jones, In The Valley of Elah

Underdog: Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

I’m quite confident with these five choices, with Johnny Depp the main competition if Sweeney is as good as Aint-It-Cool says it is. Tom Hanks, John Cusack, Emile Hirsch and a double offering Phillip Seymor Hoffman are the only other notbale competition. As for Mr. Viggo, I have a feeling it will be Day-Lewis and himself that split the majority of the critics awards, and maybe that exposure will push him up. Nothing would make me happier than hearing Viggo’s name on nomination morning. But I have a feeling Oscar will snub two consecutive, very deserving Best Actor candidates in roles highlighted by nude wrestling matchs.

BEST ACTRESS

1. Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
2. Julie Christie, Away From Her
3. Ellen Page, Juno
4. Laura Linney, The Savages
5. Keira Knightley, Atonement

Underdog: Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding

This category is, similar to its male counterpart, coming together quickly. Angelina Jolie, Helena Bonham Carter and Amy Adams offer the most threat to Knightley’s vulnerable slot (she didn’t carry the film and after her nod two years ago, they might feel too-much-too-soon). And its also looking more and more like Cotillard has the win locked up. Nicole Kidman is likely out, but I really hope Margot‘s impending release goes over better than most people think. I really loved the film and Kidman’s performance, and am surprised this return to form is not getting the buzz it deserves.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
2. Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
3. Phillip Seymor Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
4. Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild
5. Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James

Underdog: Ethan Hawke, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

The most crowded category. Any of these five (save Bardem’s menancing lock) could be knocked out for: Albert Finney, Alan Rickman, Philip Bosco, Paul Dano, Max Von Sydow, Russell Crowe or John Travolta. I also wonder if they’ll throw Josh Brolin a bone somewhere and if his smaller, well-recieved performance in American Gangster might rise up in this category. Nonetheless, two interesting trends in this category: First, veteran Oscarless performers are thriving more than usual: Holbrook, Finney, Bosco, Von Sydow are all formidable candidates. Of them, I can’t see more than 2 getting in and I see Holbrook the current frontrunner of them. Second, Its possible that Phillip Seymor Hoffman could be facing up to three of his co-stars (Bosco, Finney, Hawke) but none in the movie he’s nominated for. I played around with this category for a while and am most nervous about Affleck (but after Gone Baby Gone you’d think they’d want to reward him). Anything could really happen here. And Ethan Hawke might be a underdiscussed candidate to rise in the ranks. He is fantastic in Devil and they might want to give it as much love as possible to make up for its likely snub in the Best Picture category. He’s also very well-known, which is not confidently true of Bardem, Wilkinson or even Casey Affleck.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
2. Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
3. Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
4. Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
5. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding

Underdog: Ruby Dee, American Gangster

I’m probably going to kick myself for excluding Vanessa Redgrave and including Jennifer Jason Leigh. Redgrave’s 7 minute monologue was certainly powerful, but not at all deserving of Oscar consideration. Leigh’s layered and hypnotic performance as Pauline is my personal frontrunner for the win. But she’s not going to win, and my only hope is that she’ll manage a nomination. Like Supporting Actor, this category is still in rough development stage. The only lock in this category is Blanchett, with Ronan close behind. I worry Swinton and Ryan, and well as close-behinder Marisa Tomei will suffer from generally underwritten roles (each with one killer scene), but isn’t that the definition of “supporting”? The five I predicted are not really “stars”, except maybe Blanchett, which might entice the Academy to vote for a more recognizable nominee. Julia Roberts could take this category and run if she’s really good in Charlie while Leslie Mann and Jennifer Garner should not be ruled out either. As for Ruby Dee, if American Gangster gets a lot of love, she could come with it. She’s very good I hear, and she has had a nice career in character roles that have all gone unrecognized. Add that to the significant shortage of African-American candidates (after last year’s 25% African-American nomination pool), this might all work in Dee’s favour.

BEST DIRECTOR

1. Joe Wright, Atonement
2. Ethan & Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men
3. Ridley Scott, American Gangster
4. Sidney Lumet, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
5. Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Underdog: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

I’m predicting a 3 of 5 matchup for Director/Picture, with Anderson and Lumet’s more challenging works being left out in favour of more accessible fare like Michael Clayton and Juno. Juno is being thought of as a writer’s picture (here comes the Academy’s first former stripper nominee, unless Ellen Burstyn’s tame work as a exotic dancer in 1960s Montreal counts). And Gilroy’s status as a first time filmmaker will automatically place him way farther down the directing list than the film itself. Its likely that Clayton and its whole cast could get nods and Gilroy getting a screenplay consolation nomination. It might have been a mistake taking Sean Penn out (hes my #6), but that will become more clear in the next few weeks.

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