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Gold Digging: Front Runners and Underdogs III

Gold Digging: Front Runners and Underdogs III

I skipped last week’s “gold digging” partly because of lack of time, and also partly due to a general lack of anything progressive going on in this year’s Oscar race. But that changed quickly, as a bunch of minor events in the longrun (Indie Spirit nods, Charlie Wilson’s screenings, Enchanted and No Country‘s box office hauls, The Savages and Diving Bell‘s glowing reviews), finally shook things up. And in a week’s time, critics award after critics award and the Golden Globe nominations will solidify what is shaping up to be a varied and mostly unpredictable batch of contenders. I’ve expanded my “rankings” from five to ten (because, let’s face it, it’s more fun that way), so check them out after the jump.


1. Atonement
2. No Country For Old Men
3. American Gangster
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5. Juno
6. Into The Wild
7. Michael Clayton
8. The Kite Runner
9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
10. The Savages

Underdogs: There Will Be Blood, I’m Not There, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

With a wide variety of promising clips on the internet and showings just days away, I’ve decided to finally bite the bullet and consider Sweeney Todd. By next week, it could be #1 or #62, but for today, its an honest #9. With its gore and weirdness, the film needs to be absolutely astounding to get in – though I do believe if it does make it in, its got a decent shot at winning. I almost decided to endorse The Kite Runner, just because in a year of 925 Afghan/Iraq films, this one seems like the only one that might be up the Academy’s alley, especially now that Charlie Wilson is one (a film that I never included in any of my top predictions anyway, as I kind of sensed from the trailer it wasn’t going to jive). But at the last minute, and after reading most of its 20 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (that amount to a 57% rating) – which may have made part of me think it was lock and part of me think it just couldn’t happen – ,I decided to get off the fence and suggest that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly would be a better fit, and I might regret that soon. Add Bell to Juno, and those are my attempts at some ballsiness… it makes me nervous leaving off Into The Wild, and Michael Clayton as well. Both of them are definitely formidable opponents… As for Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, I’m Not There and There Will Be Blood, its likely these three will have to rely on a few critics’ awards and an acting nod or two. I still believe Sidney Lumet will make the director’s cut (see below), but I fear the films themselves (the first two of which I’ve seen and so far would easily make my own personal shortlist) are not the Academy’s style. And in terms of frontrunners, this race is still very wide open. Sure, Atonement, American Gangster and No Country For Old Men are all pretty sure thing nominees here, but I can’t really picture any of them winning at this point.


1. Ethan & Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men
2. Joe Wright, Atonement
3. Ridley Scott, American Gangster
4. Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5. Sidney Lumet, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
6. Sean Penn, Into The Wild
7. Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
8. Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
9. Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
10. Todd Haynes, I’m Not There

Underdog: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Theres perhaps a naive discrepancy between this list and Best Picture, but its a different nominating group – one thats always been more ballsy that the other – and I just can’t see Sidney Lumet being shut out, even if his picture has no shot. Sean Penn, Todd Haynes and Paul Thomas Anderson offer some competition in the lone director’s slot though (as does Schnabel if his film does end up getting left out), so I should probably watch out. And maybe Im underestimating Jason Reitman, Tony Gilroy and Marc Forster but they seem like likely directors-out, if there films to in fact make it in. In fact, considering most of the criticism directed at American Gangster was at its good-not-great direction, maybe Ridley Scott is vulnerable as well, though his never-won status might keep him in. But the Coens and Joe Wright are as locked as it gets on November 29th. One other noteworthy discussion regarding this category is the women. Disgustingly underrepresented here, two women – Tamara Jenkins and Sarah Polley – have done remarkable jobs this year but will likely join a long list of almost-rans. Oddly, both their films deal with people succumbing to mental illness in their old age, though the premise is captured from drastically different tones and points of view. Both films among my favourites of the year, it would be lovely if the Academy made the all-time women nominated for best director tally 4 this February. And while fellow Canadian Polley has my sentimental vote.. The Savages rather spectacular reviews make Jenkins women kind’s only (slight) chance this year.


1. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
2. Denzel Washington, American Gangster
3. George Clooney, Michael Clayton
4. James McAvoy, Atonement
5. Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
6. Frank Langella, Starting Out In The Evening
7. Tommy Lee Jones, In The Valley of Elah
8. Emile Hirsch, Into The Wild
9. Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
10. Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Men

Underdog: Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Two extremely contrasted, undeniably brilliant lead performances in 2007, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman will likely be denied a nod for either. Luckily, he has a supporting one too (Charlie Wilson’s War), but Hoffman’s true triple threat is a pretty remarkable feat. But it doesn’t factor much into this race – which is so overcrowded I could have listed 25 finalists (in its female counterpart I had trouble listing 10). I’m pretty confident that Day-Lewis, Clooney and Washington are in. McAvoy is seeming less and less a lock in this crowded house as the days pass (I’m actually getting worried about my confidence in Atonement altogether), and the final slot is a total shot in the dark. Langella‘s movie is so small, but I figure he might be the surprise nomination I thought Viggo Mortensen might be a few weeks back. But he’s also got a notable entry next year as well – Frost/Nixon – so maybe voters might wait until then to give him a career (though deserving) nomination. He’s close right now, but I’m not feeling it enough to go for it. And I guess Day-Lewis is the front runner, but like Best Picture.. if Sweeney Todd is as good as it might be (if that makes sense), Johnny Depp could easily win this race. And I’ve included him as the 5th contender, because from what I’ve seen of the clips, he looks like he pulls it off. Perhaps even if the film is too Burton or too goth for the big race, Depp will be the consolation prize.. It marks the first time I’ve actually predicted Sweeney in a main race, and I can slowly feel my holding-back unravel.


1. Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
2. Laura Linney, The Savages
3. Amy Adams, Enchanted
4. Ellen Page, Juno
5. Julie Christie, Away From Her
6. Keira Knightley, Atonement
7. Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
8. Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
9. Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding
10. Jodie Foster, The Brave One

Underdog: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There

Eight reasonable candidates (nine if Blanchett goes lead for Im Not There, which would be a very foolish decision) here. Not a lot, but a tight race among them. Helena Bonham Carter could shake things up. She looks fantastic in the nine clips that are online. She’ll have to fend off six very hopeful contenders: Linney, Cotillard, Adams, Page, Christie and Knightley. Now that Linney’s got the reviews, Adams’ has the box office and Cotillard is keeping the buzz, its becoming more and more sure that hey are in. We’ll see about Page when Juno comes out, but she’s gonna be hard to ignore. Christie is quickly becoming the weakest link of my predicted five, and the one most vulnerable to a Bonham-Carter bonanza. As for Knightley, I hope she doesn’t get in. She’s good in Atonement, but her role lacks something to make it truly great, and if does get in, it’ll be a matter of her riding an Atonement wave, at the expense of someone more deserving like Christie (or potentially Bonham-Carter). And who knows, maybe Jolie or even Kidman will have a Globes or critics fueled resurgence… But I doubt it. This race is shaping up quickly, and they both seem like they’re out.


1. Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
2. Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild
3. Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
5. Tommy Lee Jones, No Country For Old Men
6. Philip Bosco, The Savages
7. Max Von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
8. Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James…
9. Alan Rickman, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
10. Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood

Underdog: Albert Finney, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

Poor Albert Finney. Oscarless after decades of worthy work, he picked “the year of the old guy that hasn’t won” to provide great – but perhaps too subtle – work in Before The Devil, a film likely to be tragically misrepresented in the nominations. His competition? Hal Holbrook, Phillip Bosco, Max Von Sydow, and in a sense, Tom Wilkinson and Alan Rickman. All have been around awhile, none have won. However, none of them will this time either. While two or maybe three of them might get in (Holbrook and Wilkinson for sure, Bosco and Von Sydow seem more likely than before after all their films are opening to mass love from critics), this is still – and probably always will be – Javier Bardem‘s award to lose. But I also think he’s the only truly locked nominee. Holbrook and Wilkinson are very likely, but any of the ten I’ve listed, along with maybe six more, have totally believable chances at a nod here. I almost put in Russell Crowe and John Travolta – and I cringe thinking either could get in – but after the Jamie Foxx in Collateral nod a few years back, I don’t have much faith in this category.


1. Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
2. Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
3. Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
4. Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
5. Jennifer Garner, Juno
6. Marisa Tomei, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
7. Ruby Dee, American Gangster
8. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding
9. Vanessa Redgrave, Atonement
10. Kelly McDonald, No Country For Old Men

Underdog: Nicole Kidman, The Golden Compass

She might be gone for Margot, but early reviews are absolutely glowing for Nicole Kidman‘s performance in The Golden Compass.. which leads to a possible latecomer that could shake up this rather boring race. Blanchett is so in, unless they change things up category wise. Ronan, Swinton, Ryan: all looking good (though not locks by any means). I have a feeling about Garner.. she’s the heart of Juno and it might be a nice way to extend some love to the Affleck family (sort of), despite snubbing both of Casey‘s performances and Ben‘s writing and directing. However, All of the six (and then a few) that I’ve listed post-Garner could feasibly jump in. But it still leaves the question: If Blanchett and Cotillard are both front runners, will this hurt their chances? I mean, two winners in the same year for musician mimicry? And one who just won two years ago for actor mimicry? It used to be the rule “play someone with an accent or whose mentally or physically handicapped, etc”. Now, it seems, you play a musician, as both Jamie Foxx and Reese Witherspoon can recently attest.


1. Diablo Cody, Juno
2. Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
3. Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
4. Kelly Masterson, Before The Devil Knows Youre Dead
5. Brad Bird, Ratatouille
6. Judd Apatow, Knocked Up
7. Steven Zaillian, American Gangster
8. Todd Haynes, I’m Not There
9.. Steven Knight, Eastern Promises
10. John Carney, Once

Underdog: Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl


1. Ethan & Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men
2. Christopher Hampton, Atonement
3. Sean Penn, Into The Wild
4. Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5. Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
6. David Benioff, The Kite Runner
7. Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War
8. Sarah Polley, Away From Her
9. James Vanderbilt, Zodiac
10. John Logan, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Underdog: Ben Affleck & Aaron Stockard, Gone Baby Gone

As I hinted to in the Director category, the Oscars, particularly in the original category, have some opportunity to make up for lost time in regard to female screenwriters. Diablo Cody, Sarah Polley, Kelly Masterson, Tamara Jenkins, Nancy Oliver.. this has been a fantastic year for female screenwriters. But I fear an onslaught of boring, typical screenplays (American Gangster, The Kite Runner) as well as just overcrowding might make it just Cody and Jenkins. I still have Masterson down, but she’s falling with her film’s overall buzz.. Which is a same because its a killer screenplay, and one that challenges ideas of gender only in that if you see the film before you know its written by a woman, it surprises you when you find out. But anyway… the race itself seems to perhaps boil down to two two-ways: Cody vs. Gilroy and Hampton vs. Coens. Jeff Wells recently said Gilroy and The Coens were locks to win, but I’d have to disagree. I’d even go as far as saying Gilroy is the underdog. Though I’m sure it might turn some squares off, how you can resist Cody’s stripper rags to Oscar riches story?

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