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David Poland

By David Poland

16 Weeks To Oscar

We are getting near the end of the early screenings of the list of titles that will seriously be considered for Best Picture. Very near the end.
The idea of guessing at what films and performances WILL win, especially in this season of relatively soft contenders in all categories (if there is one kind of obvious call, it

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43 Responses to “16 Weeks To Oscar”

  1. loyal says:

    I really enjoyed The Hurt Locker but that $12 Million domestic take worries me. It’s DVD release is scheduled for early January, I dont see that much of an Oscar bump in its future.
    Interesting article for sure.

  2. martin says:

    I think it’s one of those situations where the Academy could really care less about The Hurt Locker, but because of various critics putting pressure on the voters, they will give it a token nom for Best Pic so they don’t look bad. I don’t think it will win though.

  3. indiemarketer says:

    Always a great read Mr. Poland.
    Glad Ms Cynthia Swartz has weight and experience because she is universally hated, and has a terrible reputation in the industry.

  4. a_loco says:

    Can I ask why Nic Cage isn’t being pushed for Best Actor? I know his winning is a long shot, but a nomination doesn’t seem out of the question, considering the praise he’s been getting. Does it have to do with First Look being a second tier distributor?

  5. Crow T Robot says:

    The case for Inglourious Basterds:
    – It is (and likely will remain) the biggest commercial hit of all the contenders. People have seen it.
    – Brad Pitt makes it a real movie star movie.
    – Critics wrote passionately about it.
    – It is, for all intents and purposes, a love letter to Jews.
    – Tarantino is a “bad boy” director. The last three best director wins have gone to bad boys.
    – Like the last three winners, it follows the trend of being tough and gritty and funny.
    – It is as artsy fartsy as it is popcorn entertaining.
    – It will likely win an acting Oscar.
    – Who are we kidding… it’s a fucking Weinstein.

  6. Dignan says:

    Up grossed more than Basterds. Most expect Avatar to as well. Lovely Bones and Up in the Air could both pass $120 mil domestic before the Oscars. Incidentally that the film has made most of its money already, whereas the equally expensive Nine from Weinsteins will still be in theaters means Harvey and company will likely be pushing for it instead. Any Oscars for Basterds will be gravy.
    Also have no idea what your “bad boy” statement is supposed to mean. Scorsese, the Coens and Boyle = badboys? I see a bunch of 50+ something professionals who haven’t trashed a hotel room in a lonnnnnnnnng time. But, whatever.

  7. Geoff says:

    Dave, I would love to be wrong, but sorry, I think The Hurt Locker absolutely has no shot. I loved the movie, but have serious doubts as to whether it can make even the final 10.
    Seriously, when (if ever) has a film that was NOT a commercial hit and came out before the fall made the Best Picture list? Sure, you’ll always see films like Frost/Nixon and Capote making the cut, but they still had money left on the table around nomination time.
    As far as I’m concerned, Summit lost this race in July – this film SHOULD have been a major hit. If hard-R indisyncratic films like Distric 9 and Inglorious Bastards could become blockbusters, there is no reason this could not have pulled it off. They started a platform release right during Potter and Transformers and probably lost a ton of arthouse screens to 500 Days of Summer, which ended up making twice as much – release strategy was horrible.
    And ads starting off with the “near-perfect” pull quote from Time magazine, are you kidding???? Sure, that will pull in the summer action crowd. They bungled it, completely, and left money on the table – even Crash was a commercial hit. If this made District 9 money, then this movie would be the front-runner, right now.
    Crow, good push for Inglorious – and yes, Scorcese, Coens, and Boyle were all considered outcast, “bad boy” directors at one point. And I have a feeling that the Weinsteins will soon see the writing on the wall for Nine – the movie is not going to make money and musicals are always iffy. I have a feeling that come early January, ‘Bastards will be their prize horse.
    Referred to Precious on the other blog – loved it and will be rooting for it, but I hate to admit that the huge success of the similarly-themed (and more crossover-friendly) The Blind Side has probably sucked some momentum from it, as this point.

  8. What a lot of people forget about Crash, when suggesting any “little” movie can win, is that it actually grossed $54.5 million dollars, which – unfortunately – compared to THe Hurt Locker‘s $12.6 million is blockbuster territory. I actually think the studio would be good to highlight the whole Kathryn Bigelow angle. “Make History” type of thing. The Academy loves to feel like they’re being socially progressive (Hello Halle! Slumgdog! etc).
    I think what Crow meant by “bad boys” directors is that people like Boyle and Coens have never felt like the type of directors that the Academy would accept into their club. It took how long for them to finally give the award to Scorsese? And after the long time away from awards play, Tarantino sort of feels like he fits into that club again. Crow, tell me if I’m wrong but that’s what I got from it.
    Dave, you have some truly strange things going on in the acting predictions. Colin Firth at #7 but Peter Sarsgaard at #4? Shouldn’t the fact that Christopher Plummer is #2 on your Supporting Actor chart mean he should be down on the Lead Actor chart? Brothers surely ain’t happening? There is nothing for that movie anywhere on line, right? And Tobey Maguire ain’t no big new discovery or veteran thesp.
    Amy Adams hasn’t a hope in hell of being nommed for J&J. Most people seem to be – unfairly, I’d say – acting as if her part of the movie is a disaster and with so many BIG parts on offer in that category…
    BTW, what the hell is up with the ads for The Damned United I can see on MCN? A gray shape surrounded by white space? What IS that?

  9. Hallick says:

    To paraphrase “Copland”, Summit had its chance with “The Hurt Locker” when it could have done something, but it BLEW it! Getting the movie onto the Best Picture ballot and Bigelow onto the Best Director ballot will be the only opportunity for a victory lap the studio is ever going to see.

  10. IOIOIOI says:


  11. movielocke says:

    The key to this article, and understanding Hurt Locker’s chances is the phrase, “50%+1” Dave is already thinking ahead to the new instant runoff voting and perhaps he’s theorizing that Hurt Locker may be the film that is strongest in the top half of the votes and be the nominee most likely to accumulate 50%+1 first, of all ten nominees. Dave lists a lot of reasons no one really dislikes the film, then shows that there are several reasons people dislike each of the other nominees (such as disliking Lovely Bones because Harry Knowles reviewed it first, which it looks like many critics will be taking that tactic, like they did with Munich and Time’s early coverage).
    But being the film no one dislikes is the best position to be in, in the instant runoff system. If Hurt Locker has at least the ninth most 1st place votes, it may very well have the majority of the 2nd-6th place votes, and sneak in a victory. Hurt Locker’s worst case scenario is being the film that is eliminated first by having the fewest first place votes. And this is a fairly likely scenario, imo, first place votes will be politicked heavily this year in the final voting, and Summit does not have a lot of academy members working for them, so to keep from being tenth, they need the good will of other people to vote ‘against’ their own films and their own studio’s films by putting Hurt Locker first. it will be interesting, because I think Hurt Locker very well could win the instant run-off system if it survives the first round, but I also think Hurt Locker is the most likely film to be eliminated first.
    as to Hurt Locker’s gross, I feel like everyone I know in Los Angeles saw it twice and really loved it and I ferl like I haven’t met a single person from the rest of the country who has even heard of it.

  12. lazarus says:

    Not really buying some of DP’s reasoning in this article.
    “But will Academy members, when it comes time for the finals, think to their selves,

  13. movielocke says:

    And American Beauty is also a comedy that won BP

  14. movieman says:

    At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see “The Blind Side” sneak in as a Best Picture nominee.
    And even pull a “Crash”-y upset over crix darlings like “Precious” and/or “Up in the Air.”
    If “BS” happens, folks, put your money on Palin/J. Bush ’12.
    *”The Hurt Locker”? Seriously, Dave? Your rationale for “Basterds” being this year’s “Departed” a few months back was a lot more persuasive.
    Martin is right. It’ll score a token “hey the critics liked it, so it must be good” nomination like “Letters from Iwo Jima,” and that’s about it.

  15. Dr Wally says:

    “BTW, what the hell is up with the ads for The Damned United I can see on MCN? A gray shape surrounded by white space? What IS that?”
    It’s so that no-one knows that it’s a football (sorry, SOCCER) movie. Seriously, the best leading performance by an actor i’ve seen this year is Michael Sheen in The Damned United, and the fact that it’s not in the Oscar frame has only to do with the fact that nobody in the States has got the first clue who Brian Clough was.

  16. IOIOIOI says:

    I now know who Brian Clough is thanks to that movie, and Sheen is the motherfucking man in anything he does. He should be nominated for fucking New Moon. Why? HE’S THAT DAMN GOOD! HA! PUN!

  17. jeffmcm says:

    I love Inglourious Basterds as much as anyone, but I don’t expect it to get more than a couple of nominations (acting, screenplay) because I figure the Academy will take it as not ‘serious’ enough of a movie to merit Oscar consideration. (I’m talking about Oscar-seriousness, in which Crash is considered to not be a laughable joke of a movie, as opposed to real-world seriousness).

  18. chris says:

    Admittedly, I am mystified by the “An Education” love, but I am really mystified by the notion that there will be any Sarsgaard love. Mulligan, I buy. Sarsgaard, not.

  19. David Poland says:

    The one thing that has come up here that I really, really wish I had considered when writing the piece was the issue of the gross.
    It is a real issue.

  20. sashastone says:

    Rotten Tomatoes, though? Really?

  21. Cadavra says:

    “If hard-R indisyncratic films like Distric 9 and Inglorious Bastards could become blockbusters, there is no reason this could not have pulled it off.”
    Not really a valid comparison. D9 and IB were both positioned as “fun” movies: a blood-splattered, FX-heavy, sci-fi thriller and a rollicking WW2 adventure. HURT LOCKER is a splendid film, but not easy to sit through. Ask anyone which of the three they’d like to see again, and LOCKER will almost always come up #3.

  22. Guy Lodge says:

    Great read, David. I would love you to be right about The Hurt Locker, but yeah, the numbers are a concern. I’ve been thinking this is Precious’s award to lose for some time — if the Reel Geezers could flip for it, the fact that it’s all-black and all-female obviously isn’t as much of a hurdle as some supposed. But the 50%+1 factor is questionmark.
    I am confused, however, as to why you think “Shakespeare in Love” isn’t an outright comedy. I see it as a pretty broad comic romp — the fact that it’s in period dress doesn’t automatically lend it more gravitas. Can you explain?

  23. Rob says:

    “Ask anyone which of the three they’d like to see again, and LOCKER will almost always come up #3.”
    Well, I don’t claim to speak for anyone else, but District 9 would be my #3 by a wide margin. It gets pretty boring once the big chase sequence takes over.

  24. Geoff says:

    “Not really a valid comparison. D9 and IB were both positioned as “fun” movies: a blood-splattered, FX-heavy, sci-fi thriller and a rollicking WW2 adventure. HURT LOCKER is a splendid film, but not easy to sit through. Ask anyone which of the three they’d like to see again, and LOCKER will almost always come up #3.”
    Sorry, Cadavra, but I really disagree with you on that one:
    First, there’s absolutely no reason that Hurt Locker could not be marketed as an action thriller – just see what Universal is doing with the Green Zone, though jury’s out on whether it will work.
    Second, I loved all three movies with Hurt Locker on top – it as thrilling and watchably entertaining as the other two, no doubt. With regards to pure grit and tone, District 9 is probably the darkest of the three – just think of what happens to the main character.
    Look, if both Inglorious Basterds and District 9 flopped, last August, Summit could have saved face – there could have been stories about how summer movies can’t be too R-rated or violent or set during wars, etc….but that’d didn’t happen. Both of the other films hit the bullseye with extremely clever marketing campaigns; both films did about double what I would have thought they could. Meanwhile, The Hurt Locker didn’t even register – even Precious is probably going to outgross it five times over.
    Bottom line, Summit left a lot of money on the table and it will likely keep them from serious awards consideration.

  25. David Poland says:

    Guy – Using the Real Geezers as a point of reference to Academy voting is like using a movie theater line in Los Angeles to estimate box office.
    I don’t want to beat this into the ground because at some point, I become the future I have been waiting for… and I don’t want or intend to become that person in this race.
    But… my sense is that there will be plenty of support for a nomination. And that issues of race will make the film a non-starter for the win in very much the way Brokeback fell off… and Brokeback was a much more easily defensibly movie for its early supporters when the pushback came.
    All-black is working for the film right now because older people are comfortable thinking the movie is cinema verite. But it is not…. and I am pretty sure that the filmmaker would agree… loudly. The stories about black people being offended by the one-note portrayal of their community have started flowing. And it’s not dirty tricks. It’s the movie.
    It’s the same spirit with which Denzel won an Oscar as a bad cop and not a good guy and Halle won an Oscar having sex with an ugly white guy on screen. It’s the same spirit that may well win Monique an Oscar.
    And there is the problem that the movie shot its load very, very early.
    The one thing it really has going for it is that the field is thin. But I see it as a very, very long shot.
    We’ll see.
    And Shakespeare in Love… I don’t know… a movie about the theater… happens to be funny… but something other than a straight comedy… to me… but disagreeing is welcome.

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    Again: Didn’t The Color Purple have a similar problem in terms of being attacked by some as offering an unflattering view of African-American males?

  27. The Big Perm says:

    Where’s Chucky?

  28. Joe Leydon says:

    He was name-checked.

  29. Guy Lodge says:

    Using the Reel Geezers was a lazy shortcut of an example, I admit. And I absolutely understand your argument against “Precious” — I felt the same way until I witnessed audience reaction to it firsthand, and was a little stunned by how persuaded the audience (made up mostly of white Brits who haven’t the faintest idea who Tyler Perry is) seemed to be.
    Again, I’d love for you to be right, as I’m not keen on the film at all.

  30. I caught “The Messenger” last night and am really bummed it’s not being considered for some noms. Ben Foster is terrific as is Woody Harrelson but why is no one talking seriously about this film. It’s great stuff.

  31. Cadavra says:

    Rob and Geoff: My comment was directed toward the “average” moviegoer, not uber-buffs like us here on THB. Yes, they could have played up the “action” aspect of LOCKER, but 1) there really isn’t that much action–it’s more of a suspense piece, and 2) Iraq is still a turn-off, as the less than impressive figures for THE KINGDOM (which really was closer to a pure action film and had some name actors) proved. I do agree Summit dropped the ball, but it was a tough sell any way you slice it, and I firmly believe it never had a chance at D9 or IB numbers.

  32. Hopscotch says:

    I happened to watch Up again last night with my wife. And after that sequence towards the beginning when we see the young Carl age to old Carl, my wife said, “Any person that isn’t moved by this is one souless son-of-a-bitch”. I hope this is nominated, and by gone I would be happy if it won. I’d say as a “makeup award” factor, Up could be the recognition for all of the missed Pixar films.

  33. Geoff says:

    Cadavra – in a world where Slumdog Millionaire made $145 million, Taken made $145 million, Twilight made $190 million, The Hangover made almost $280 million, and several other recent examples…..The Hurt Locker could have been a blockbuster. It’s ALL about marketing.
    Let’s go back a year and compare District 9 and The Hurt Locker on paper – I’ll bet you most would have predicted that ‘Locker would gross much more.

  34. Geoff says:

    And another thing…..did Inglorious Basterds have much action? Not at all. But TWC sold the hell out of whatever they had.
    And jeez, Sharlito Copley could get a bunch of talk show appearances and magazine interviews, they couldn’t put Jeremy Renner out there????
    I kind of get the Iraq thing, but even Men Who Stare at Goats and The Kingdom opened – they had wide releases, at least.
    I honestly think that the Hurt Locker will be a test case for how NOT to market and release such a film.

  35. LYT says:

    “Let’s go back a year and compare District 9 and The Hurt Locker on paper – I’ll bet you most would have predicted that ‘Locker would gross much more.”
    I wouldn’t.
    A sci-fi movie produced by Peter Jackson, pushed at Comic-Con…versus an Iraq war movie from the director of Point Break.
    Also, District 9 was in fact being marketed more than a year ago (the Humans Only posters started showing up outside the bathrooms at Comic-Con 2008), whereas Hurt Locker was not.
    I went to see Hurt Locker both out of obligation and because of good reviews. Were I an average, non-movie-biz person, I likely would have skipped it. Glad I didn’t, of course.

  36. movielocke says:

    how successful was Platoon back in the day, and can Hurt Locker be seen as a comparable movie?

  37. jeffmcm says:

    Platoon was a pretty major hit – $138 million domestic in 1986. Remember back when an R-rated non-franchised drama could be one of the three highest-grossing movies of the year?

  38. Cadavra says:

    True, but it should be noted that PLATOON was about a past war; LOCKER is about a current one. Also, PLATOON had some name actors (Sheen, Berenger, Dafoe) that provided the audience a bit of familiarity and comfort.

  39. martin says:

    I honestly believe that THL, same movie, but different title, and A-List leads, could have been a major hit. Which is not to take away at all from the quality that’s there, but just on-paper, THL was not a hugely commercial movie. It had a minor shot at breaking out, but no real surprise that it didn’t. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, and in this case I think that would have been correct.

  40. leahnz says:

    bigelow clearly could have had ‘a-list’ actors and wouldn’t hear of it; she’s openly commented several times how financiers tried to force her hand by making funding dependant on hiring ‘a-list’ instead of who she felt were the right actors for the roles, so she said ‘up yer bum with a pint of rum’ and walked away, found her own $ and shot her own movie her way without the bean-counters sticking their sticky little fingers in her pie, and good on her. the movie would NOT be the same without renner as sgt. james

  41. leahnz says:

    sorry, the point being that k-big likely knew there would be consequences hiring little-known names for the movie, but stuck with the integrity of her vision over potentially higher box office

  42. Cadavra says:

    Alas, Leah, those potential investors are now sitting back and smugly saying, “Toldja!”

  43. leahnz says:

    (but beneath those smug exteriors lies a soulless pit carved out by years of superficial commercial interests and greed taking precedent over creative integrity and vision, and that’s where the numbing properties of rum come in handy!)

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon