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by Peter Knegt
August 25, 2010 3:57 AM
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For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm

A scene from Christopher Nolan's "Inception." [Image courtesy of Warner Bros.]

It's been almost six months since indieWIRE's coverage of the mammoth 2009-2010 awards season came to an end. This "For Your Consideration" column has laid dormant ever since, its most recent edition a near year-in-advance stab at what might become of the next awards season. But with the potential awards contender-heavy Venice Film Festival kicking off in just one week, and Toronto a week after that, "next" is soon to be now. Thus, indieWIRE welcomes you to the first edition of a new season of "For Your Consideration," which will continue weekly right through to the bitter end.

Taking another shot at a full slate of predictions is perhaps a bit premature at this point (and perhaps something to save until Venice and Toronto have come and gone). So instead, this inaugural column of the 2010-2011 awards season will take a look at the films that have already screened, whether at theaters or in film festivals. Last year at this point, we'd actually seen six of the ten best picture nominees, including the eventual winner, "The Hurt Locker." Not to mention seven of twenty best acting nominees (including Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique, winners in the supporting categories). While it may be unlikely such a pre-fall dominance will repeat in 2010, films from festivals like Sundance and Cannes, and even a few summer blockbusters, all look poised to play a role in awards season.

A few things that are looking quite certain as summer turns to fall:

-Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo will receive acting nominations for "The Kids Are All Right."
-"The Kids Are All Right" will also be nominated for best original screenplay.
-"Inside Job" will be nominated for, and likely win, best documentary feature.
-"Toy Story 3" and "How To Train Your Dragon" will be nominated for best animated feature.
-"Toy Story 3" will also be nominated for best adapted screenplay.
-Randy Newman will receive his 19th Oscar nomination.
-"Inception" will receive at least six nominations, one of which will be best picture.

It's almost just as easy to suggest that three of the other best picture slots will be taken up by Lisa Cholodenko's indie hit hit "The Kids Are All Right," Mike Leigh's very well-received Cannes entry "Another Year" (which opens Stateside in the fall), and Pixar's $400 million-grossing, universally acclaimed "Toy Story 3." It would take a very strong fall slate to keep those three films out of Oscar's top ten. But for now, Christopher Nolan's "Inception" is probably the most-likely-to-succeed. It's directed by someone the Academy has controversialy snubbed in the past. It has generally strong reviews going for it. It made way more money than anyone expected and even flirted with being a cultural phenomenon. In the new world order of ten best picture slots, it's hard to imagine "Inception" being edged out.

Other films that could play into this year's race, so far, include Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone" and Aaron Schneider's "Get Low" (particularly in the acting categories), and as-yet-unreleased festival titles like Derek Cianfrance's anti-romance "Blue Valentine," Doug Liman's Valerie Plame biopic "Fair Game," Sylvain Chomet's animated "The Illusionist" and Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful."

Many of those films play a role in the most fascinating aspect of the race thus far: The best actress category. No fewer than seven actresses are already contenders in this category, and in any other year, each and every one of them would probably seem poised for a nomination. But, there's already two too many, and it's not even September. Perhaps the Academy should extend this category to ten nominees as well... which wouldn't be such a bad idea considering the gifts we've already been given:

Director Lisa Cholodenko (middle) on the set of "The Kids Are All Right with stars Annette Benning and Julianne Moore. Image courtesy of Focus Features

There's "The Kids Are All Right's" critically beloved (and shamefully Oscarless) duo Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, who both seem likely to pursue this category despite it potentially canceling one of them out. There's "Winter's Bone" breakout Jennifer Lawrence, who could take the little-film-that-could route to an Oscar nod (a la Melissa Leo in "Frozen River," a film that, like "Bone," won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize). There's "I Am Love"'s Tilda Swinton, who a) learned Italian for the role, b) spoke said Italian in a Russian accent, and c) carried the movie to minor box office success. And then there's "Another Year"'s Lesley Manville, "Blue Valentine"'s Michelle Williams and "Fair Game"'s Naomi Watts. None of their films have opened yet, but critics had nothing but glowing things to say about all three women when the films made their festival debuts.

So, what happens if Anne Hathaway ("Love and Other Drugs"), Natalie Portman ("Black Swan"), Nicole Kidman ("Rabbit Hole"), Diane Lane ("Secretariat"), Freida Pinto ("Miral"), Sally Hawkins ("Made in Dagenham"), Robin Wright Penn ("The Conspirator") or, gasp, Hilary Swank ("Conviction") all give the performances of their lives this fall? Who knows. The only near-certainty for a nomination, so far, is Annette Bening, considering how much everyone loved her performance in "The Kids Are All Right," how many times she's been snubbed, and how successful - critically and financially - the film was.

Oddly enough, supporting actress is the one category that seems completely free of strong contenders. There's a half dozen or so dark horses (from "Nowhere Boy" duo Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff to "Winter's Bone"'s Dale Dickey) that could find their way into the mix if things do prove unusually slow this fall, but that seems unlikely. But again, you never know.

In the interest of keeping this first column from excess, the rest of the story can be told through the following list. Category by category, it details the chances of films that have officially screened at either a festival or in theaters. Keep in mind the difficulty of picking candidates in the categories of best foreign language film and best original song, both of which are notoriously unpredictable (with regard to foreign language, we still don't know which films will even be submitted for consideration).

Next week, this column will preview what Venice and Toronto could soon tell us about Oscar. Until then, here's what we might already know about the eventual nominations.

Best Picture:
Safe Bets: "Another Year," "The Kids Are All Right," "Inception," "Toy Story 3"
Reasonable Maybes: "Blue Valentine," "Fair Game," "Winter's Bone"
Dark Horses: "Biutiful," "Get Low," "Inside Job"

Best Director
Safe Bets: Christopher Nolan, "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: Mike Leigh, "Another Year"; Lisa Cholodenko, "The Kids Are All Right"
Dark Horses: Derek Cianfrance, "Blue Valentine"; Debra Granik, "Winter's Bone"; Doug Liman, "Fair Game"

Best Actor
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"; Robert Duvall, "Get Low"; Ryan Gosling, "Blue Valentine"
Dark Horses: Jim Broadbent, "Another Year"; Leonardo diCaprio, "Inception"; Leonardo diCaprio, "Shutter Island"; Michael Douglas, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"; Sean Penn, "Fair Game"

Best Actress
Safe Bets: Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Reasonable Maybes: Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"; Lesley Manville, "Another Year"; Julianne Moore, "The Kids Are All Right"; Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"
Dark Horses: Tilda Swinton, "I Am Love"; Naomi Watts, "Fair Game"

Best Supporting Actor
Safe Bets: Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
Reasonable Maybes: None.
Dark Horses: Bill Murray, "Get Low"

Best Supporting Actress
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: Marion Cotillard, "Inception"; Dale Dickey, "Winter's Bone"; Anne-Marie Duff, "Nowhere Boy"; Ruth Sheen, "Another Year"; Sissy Spacek, "Get Low"; Kristin Scott Thomas, "Nowhere Boy"; Mia Wasikowska, "The Kids Are All Right"

Best Original Screenplay:
Safe Bets: "Another Year"; "The Kids Are All Right"; "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: "Blue Valentine"
Dark Horses: "Biutiful"; "Get Low"; "The Illusionist"; "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger"

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Safe Bets: "Toy Story 3"
Reasonable Maybes: "How To Train Your Dragon"; "Winter's Bone"
Dark Horses: "Fair Game"; "The Ghost Writer"

Best Animated Feature:
Safe Bets: "How To Train Your Dragon"; "Toy Story 3"
Reasonable Maybes: "Despicable Me"; "The Illusionist"
Dark Horses: "Shrek Forever After"

Best Foreign Language Film:
Safe Bets: None
Reasonable Maybes: "The Certified Copy" (Iran); "I Am Love" (Italy); "Of Gods And Men" (France)
Dark Horses: "Les Amour Imaginaires" (Canada); "My Joy" (Russia); "Northless" (Mexico); "Outside The Law" (Algeria); "Poetry" (South Korea); "The Strange Case of Angelica" (Portugal); "Tuesday After Christmas" (Romania); "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (Thailand)

Best Documentary Feature:
Safe Bets: "Inside Job"
Reasonable Maybes: "A Film Unfinished"; "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"; "Last Train Home"; "Restrepo"; "The Tillman Story"; "Waiting For Superman"
Dark Horses: "Babies"; "Countdown To Zero"; "Exit Through The Gift Shop"; "The Oath"; "Prodigal Sons"; "Waking Sleeping Beauty"

Best Cinematography:
Safe Bets: "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: "Shutter Island"
Dark Horses: "Biutiful"; "I Am Love"

Best Film Editing:
Safe Bets: "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: "Another Year"; "Fair Game"; "The Ghost Writer"; "Inside Job"; "The Kids Are All Right"; "Shutter Island"

Best Art Direction:
Safe Bets: "Alice In Wonderland"; "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: "Agora"; "Get Low"; "Shutter Island"

Best Costume Design:
Safe Bets: "Alice In Wonderland"
Reasonable Maybes: None
Dark Horses: "Agora"; "Get Low"; "Robin Hood"

Best Original Score:
Safe Bets: "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: "How To Train Your Dragon"; "Toy Story 3"
Dark Horses: "Biutiful"; "Get Low"; "The Illusionist"

Best Original Song:
Safe Bets: "We Belong Together", "Toy Story 3" (Randy Newman)
Reasonable Maybes: "Better Days," "Eat Pray Love" (Eddie Vedder); various songs, "The Illusionist" (Sylvain Chomet)
Dark Horses: "Sticks & Stones," "How To Train Your Dragon" (Jónsi Birgisson), various songs, "My Own Love Song" (Bob Dylan)

Best Sound Mixing/Best Sound Editing:
Safe Bets: "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: "How To Train Your Dragon"; "Iron Man 2"; "Toy Story 3"
Dark Horses: "Alice In Wonderland"; "Robin Hood"; "Salt"; "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"

Best Visual Effects:
Safe Bets: "Alice In Wonderland"; "Inception"
Reasonable Maybes: "Iron Man 2"
Dark Horses: "The Last Airbender"; "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time"; "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World"

Best Makeup:
Safe Bets: "Alice In Wonderland"
Reasonable Maybes: "The Wolfman"
Dark Horses: "Splice"


Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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12 Comments

  • Arslan Baig | November 6, 2010 7:49 AMReply

    I think '127 Hours' also has a great potential to score at Oscars next year.

  • K. | October 15, 2010 12:39 PMReply

    Doubt it'll even be nominated, but I loved cinematography in Valhalla Rising.

  • Misty | September 3, 2010 6:06 AMReply

    It might just be because I'm a big fan of his, but I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a superb job in Inception and might be a "dark horse" for Best Supporting Actor.

  • Chris Michael-Christion | August 27, 2010 7:54 AMReply

    Ah.. people...you must think like Oscar does. This is a career for Michael Douglas. Very good in one film ( Solitary Man ) best in show in the other ( Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps )

    Plus... and Idon't want to diminish his year by saying the only reason he got an Oscar nomination was because he has cancer, but people are sympathetic by nature, and add his illness plus scoring a career year in acting, and I would think he would be close to a betting favorite at least at this point. Plus he also has strong veteran status on his side.

    Heck, he stood a good chance if he was not diagnosed, now add the sympathy vote ? Anyway.. if he does get a nomination for lead actor it will be for Solitary Man, the single handed best male lead performace of the year thus far.

    Also don't count out what having a career year can do for you in the minds of the voters. Oscar has been known to reward actors/actresses for having career years ( ala nominations )

  • Bob Hawk | August 27, 2010 6:24 AMReply

    Yes, I would consider Jacki Weaver a safe bet for her riveting, indelible performance.

  • Adam | August 27, 2010 5:47 AMReply

    Restrepo much more likely to take the best doc Oscar. Last Train Home also a strong contender. Not so sure about Inside Job.

  • snowballa | August 27, 2010 4:48 AMReply

    Adding in my vote for Jacki Weaver in Supporting Actress category as well as Ben Mendlesohn in Supporting Actor. Two of the best performances I've seen so far this year

  • Rob | August 27, 2010 2:07 AMReply

    As a regular Oscar watcher, I've got to say: this is perhaps the most spot on, thoughtful Oscar prediction column I've read at this point in the year, or any year.

  • Glenn @ Stale Popcorn | August 27, 2010 1:49 AMReply

    Jacki Weaver's perf in "Animal Kingdom" should be seen as a very real dark horse. The more people see it the higher it'll get.

    Also, the "I Am Love" score will be ineligible because it is made up of previously existing material by John Adams. It's not an original score.

  • lclifford | August 25, 2010 9:03 AMReply

    Jacki Weaver for "Animal Kingdom" should be a lock on Best Supporting Actress. Another great one was Charlotte Rampling in "Life During Wartime" although that's less likely to be remembered/recognized.

  • pmach | August 25, 2010 8:41 AMReply

    I would easily add to feature documentary consideration Berlin and Sundance audience award winner "Waste Land".

  • ben77 | August 25, 2010 5:51 AMReply

    yay! excited for these columns to start up again.

    one thing: Michael Douglas, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”?? i'd say more of a no way than a dark horse. even if cancer gets him some sympathy votes.