By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 11, 2009 at 4:52AM
"What I am most excited about is, and I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a twist this year," Oscar host Hugh Jackman said in an interview with ABC News. "I feel like I’m part of something new, part of a new initiative, a new era."
The New York Times' Dave Carr wondered on his blog whether there's much interest in that new era either way when he took a trip to Times Square to ask folks about their thoughts. "In years past, two weeks before the Oscars, people of all stripes and incarnations were more than happy to talk about this movie or that role, that favorite actress, and who might win," he said. "But even though many of the people strolling around the so-called crossroads of America were there at their leisure, the idea that they would care or worry about movies at a time like this seemed preposterous to the people the Bagger queried."
Perhaps this has to do with the general lack-of-suspense regarding the vast majority of the winners. Even bloggers seem to be bored with the probably "Slumdog" sweep. Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger decided to try and remain interested by revisiting the contenders. While he still doesn't think it stands a chance against "Slumdog," he felt "The Reader" won more most improved: "This year, I enjoyed 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'Milk' more when I watched them again, while my love for 'Frost/Nixon' faded a bit the second time. (And I simply don't have enough time to sit through 'Benjamin Button' again.) With The Reader, though, the difference was the most dramatic. This time, I found myself quite moved by it, particularly during Kate Winslet's centerpiece courtroom scene in which the film's surprising plot twist is revealed. By the end, I was a wreck." Slate's Ron Rosenbaum might disagree.
One forecaster decided to go out a limb in one of the two somewhat questionable acting categories (with Heath Ledger and Kate Winslet essentially assumed by most at this point), suggesting Amy Adams might shock for best supporting actress (where Penelope Cruz is the favorite). Tariq Khan, who has a pretty good track record, notes that "an Oscars upset usually happens when two factors are in place: support for the presumed front-runner is softer than people realize and support for another nominee is stronger than people realize." He then goes on to give as surprisingly convincing list of reasons why Adams applies.
The other contested acting race, best actor, gets InContention's John Foote waxes nostalgic for the 1974 and 2002's races, discussing how the two-man race (in this case, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke) can often give rise to a third party, such as in 2002 when Adrien Brody broke through Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson's supposed neck-and-neck-ness. His suggested benefactor? Frank Langella or Richard Jenkins. Just not Brad Pitt.
Foote's InContention colleague Kris Tapley pretty much calls it an Oscar season and sets some focus on next year instead. "I hinted at it two weeks ago, but I’m seriously over 2008," he says. "I’ve been knee deep in my usual year-in-advance research and finally polished it off over the weekend. I’m even ready to unleash my first set of charts. I’m that eager to move on. And there are some exciting projects waiting in the wings."
Tapley offers up 2009 possibilities (similar to Sasha Stone's list on Variety last week), from Clint Eastwood's "Mandela" to Rob Marshall's "Nine" to Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones."
Spout's Christopher Campbell took Tapley's cue and rounded up some thoughts on the 2010 possibilities, most notably citing Jeff Wells' suggestion that Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" might be in the mix. While many of Campbell's linkees suggest that's impossible time wise, Ropes of Silicon notes: "This isn’t anything new for Spielberg who pulled a similar rush job on Munich in 2005 when he began principal photography in early July and the film debuted on December 23 that year and went on to earn $130 million worldwide and was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Kushner also penned Munich with the aid of Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)."
It's also quite possible people have already seen some of the 2010 contenders. After all, at this point last year "The Visitor," "Frozen River," "In Bruges," "Man on Wire" and "Happy-Go-Lucky" had all debuted at festivals. indieWIRE covered events with two such possibilities at Berlin, particularly in the best actress category: "Cheri"'s Michelle Pfeiffer and "An Education"'s Carey Mulligan.
indieWIRE will continue extensive coverage of the two weeks leading up to the Academy Awards and Spirit Awards, offering daily profiles of nominees (like today's Tia Lessin & Carl Deal, nominated for best documentary for "Trouble The Water"), predictions and these daily round-ups.