After a big week of awards announcements, indieWIRE's Eric Kohn and Peter Knegt chatted via instant messenger for some quick reflection about what just happened, and where things might be headed...
Eric Kohn: So the last time we spoke, you suggested that with the upcoming onslaught of critics awards, "The Social Network" would steal the wind beneath the wings of "The King's Speech." How right you were. Meanwhile, both movies are in the running for the recently announced SAG Awards and Golden Globes, along with a handful of expected secondary contenders like "The Fighter." But "Black Swan" has done handsomely well at the box office and with critics. Pundits are hesitant to say "Black Swan" has legs this season since it's such an odd movie, but I sense that change is afoot. Or at least some steady competition for the burgeoning Oscar race.
Peter Knegt: I wish I wasn't so right about "The Social Network," at least to a degree. For the second year in a row, it seems every single one of the seemingly 100+ critics groups out there are giving the same film their top prize... and it's downright boring for someone who is following the race. It's also unfortunate for a slew of films that seem to be struggling to get notices - "Another Year," "I Am Love," "Rabbit Hole," "Blue Valentine," etc - that the critics didn't spread some love their way too.
But yes, on another hand, I hesisitated about "Black Swan" too. I really thought it would be a tough sell in the bigger picture but everyone is embracing it, from critics groups to audiences. I'm honestly a bit shocked at how much money it's making, and how much it's more or less a lock for a best picture nomination at this point.
EK: Notwithstanding "Inception," I think you could easily make the case that "Black Swan" is the most cinematic of the current Best Picture contenders, which might be the reason why it has picked up so much momentum. Still, it's too early to assume that one of the secondary contenders could pick up some momentum.
But as far as those neglected films you mention, it's important to acknowledge that they're all fairly divisive, whereas "Social Network" and "Black Swan" are popular favorites.
I love "Another Year," but Mike Leigh movies are usually so quiet that they get ignored. Remember that tragic Sally Hawkins snub for "Happy Go Lucky"?
PK: It's looking like Hawkins redux this year, sadly. I mean, I wasn't certain about "Another Year" itself, but if you'd asked me a month ago I would have bet good money on Lesley Manville getting a nomination. But she's been all but ignored so far, and it's looking very unlikely. She's just so, so good... And the fact that Hilary Swank gets a SAG nomination over her is mind-boggling.
EK: But maybe the domination of "The Social Network" did something good: It tipped the scales of the Oscar race away from an easy "King's Speech" victory into something far more interesting -- the possibility of two very different, and uniquely odd, films as the frontrunners for the top awards.
By which I mean: We're firmly in "Social Network" vs. "Black Swan" turf now.
PK: The momentum has shifted from "King's Speech" to "Social Network," for sure. However, I think it's still a "Social Network" vs. "King's Speech" race. If anything's joining that party, it seems like it could actually end up being "The Fighter" as far as I can tell. The Globes loved it, so did the SAGs... And it's got an accessibility that "Black Swan" just doesn't quite have. And it seems to me its actors Christian Bale and Melissa Leo are both looking pretty good to actually win.
EK: Melissa Leo is great in "The Fighter," but I prefer Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom" when it comes to ferocious, domineering matriarchs. Too bad her chances are melting in Leo's shadow at this point.
PK: I actually would go so far as to say - despite just saying she's probably going to win - that I don't think Leo even deserves to be nominated. I found that performance way too campy and over the top.
EK: That was my reaction to Bale. But one man's camp is another man's intensity, I suppose.
PK: I agree even more fully on Bale. It's like... Yeah, he lost 50 pounds and you barely recognize him and he's good at seeming all cracked out. But Dicky was just such a caraicature to me... I never felt anything above surface level for him. And this is coming from someone who is generally a huge fan of Bale - and Leo for that matter. Bit as far as I'm concerned the best thing about that movie is Amy Adams.
But back to Jacki Weaver - who like Leo, is strangely also playing a overbearing, blonde haired sixty year-old matriarch of a severly dystfunctional family, would be an amazing choice. I just wonder with her SAG snub today whether the best crazy mama will win,
EK: This has the potential to rival last year's "battle-of-the-exes" showcase.
PK: Ha. Battle of overbearing, blonde haired sixty year-old matriarchs just isn't quite as sexy as battle of the exes, but I'll take it.
EK: Well, it's a lot more enticing than Jesse Eisenberg v. Colin Firth. Personally, I'd take Bridges in "True Grit." He's the best thing about that movie. But I know that'll never happen. I might as well say it: "True Grit" is not going to get much play this season.
PK: I think Firth - along with Aaron Sorkin for best adapted screenplay - are the biggest locks we have for wins at this point. Which is oddly enough in Firth's regard, because he lost to Jeff Bridges last year.
EK: I guess it's that whole "It's his time" thing, not to mention a fairly decent performance, that's playing into Firth's favor.
PK: Yeah. Plus playing someone with a more-or-less disability (if a speech impediment counts), and playing a member of the royal family. That's essentially automatic Oscar (even though I agree he's quite good in the film nonetheless).
EK: Bridges and Robert Duvall are basically non-entities at this point. And Franco is probably not even paying attention.
PK: I hope Bridges at least gets nominated. And I think he will. Golden Globes or not, I think "True Grit" is going to find some momentum. It's such a welcoming movie. Crackling script, well-crafted, perfect performances... Bridges, Matt Damon and especially Hailee Steinfeld all deserve Oscar nominations.
Though what do you think about Steinfeld being a "supporting actress"? If anything, Jeff Bridges is supporting her.
EK: She also came out of left field. Nobody knows who she is. If she gets nominated, it's basically out of laziness. But her performance is basically competent enough, which is how I feel about the movie as a whole. It's fine for what it is -- but, as I wrote in my review, it's not a seminal Coen brothers movie. And the Coens had a hard time winning awards for "A Serious Man" partly because they had so recently cleaned up with "No Country" and few voters felt they deserved to fatten their heads any further.
PK: Yeah, I do wonder how many voters will hesitate to check them off because of "No Country"'s sweep just 3 years ago. But I think it has a very good shot at sneaking into the top 10.
EK: It'll keep "Inception" happy in the corner, sure. It's nice to think of the 10 Best Picture slots as a way of acknowledging more movies, but to a certain extent you can view it as two separate categories -- the real competitors and the ones keeping them company.
We could talk for hours about what belongs where, but it seems like right now, we can very easily nail down the top five in the real best picture category.
PK: "The Social Network," "The King's Speech," "The Fighter," "Black Swan," and..... ? That would be the question right now if it were still 5.
EK: It's either "Inception" or "The Kids Are Alright." But those would just flesh out the category. I think we can say with a fair degree of certainty that one of the four you mentioned are the real stars now.
PK: I'd wager "Kids" would have got best picture, and Nolan a lone director slot. But of course, what's the point of wagering on something that doesn't exist. But yeah, those are the big four. And they'll probably collectively win all of the major awards.
EK: I don't mind playing make believe. It keeps things interesting. "Inception" shouldn't necessarily win Best Picture, but if it did, what a night!
I can't wait for the first splashy magazine photo illustration that puts all these movies together on the same stage. There goes Natalie Portman, sashaying past a stuttering Colin Firth, while Jesse Eisenberg sits on the sidelines writing insults about them on his laptop.
And they're all dreaming of Leonard DiCaprio.
PK: It's inevitable. And throw in Christian Bale smoking a crackpipe and Annette Bening drinking a glass of red wine and rolling her eyes at everyone.
EK: Franco couldn't make it. He's trapped backstage under the weight of Nicole Kidman's sorrow.
Somebody get us a pen and paper.
Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog. And check out his recent awards column on the 10 biggest surprises of the Spirit Awards.