MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

10 Weeks To Oscar: Let The Great Settling Begin!

It’s that time of year again, folks. DVDs in homes, hotels rooms and rental houses all over the world.

And the thing about The 2010 Race is… there is no clear choice.

There is no dominant box office smash to be the Goliath. There is no extreme underdog to be the David. The only franchise that might demand to be honored for its history is animated.

But some film has to win!

With no obvious winner, everyone really does have a chance.

You can easily get distracted by the seemingly endless parade of critics groups jumping all over The Social Network, as they did last year for The Hurt Locker. But it’s no cake walk for The Social Network. The argument the media loves to make is that there is more going on in this excellent film than the story being told. But real audiences – and The Academy qualifies as that, for the most part – didn’t seem to develop that opinion, which manifested in a very-good-for-a-drama but not breathtaking box office numbers.

The King’s Speech has a ton of acting love so far, but hasn’t won much of anything as Best Film. Still, when you take the temperature of most Academy voters I have run into, it is the easy choice as their favorite… even if they don’t think it’s The Film.

Black Swan remains the most passionately loved and most passionately hated of the films in the heat of the race. You can’t vote against a film. Searchlight will have to find a way to define the film as The Future if voters are going to believe that it has a chance to win.

The Fighter developed a lot of heat in a hurry, but most of it seems to be around the three “supporting” performances. Even the rave reviews have been a bit ambivalent about what the movie is really about. It could well go home with wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo… and nothing else.

True Grit is getting classic Coen Bros reviews… which is to say that respect is being shown, but for the most part, the sticky ideas in the film are not sticking right away. If you took a poll today about A Serious Man, last year’s unexpected nominee from the brothers, I would bet that you’d see “the top two boxes” (recommend and definite recommend) improve amongst Academy voters by 20% or more. Some of those people were offended last year by the idea of it being stereotypically Jewish… and now, it’s settled in. It’s now looking likely that one of the most overlooked great performances of 2010 may be Matt Damon playing an absolute ass with a heart of gold with Ranger LeBouff. Understanding the subtext of the film will take a while. Hell, acknowledging that there IS a subtext seems like it’s going to take a while. Can it happen in the next 6 weeks? Very cloudy forecast.

There are three films that are assumed to be locks for nominations – Inception, The Kids Are All Right, and Toy Story 3 – which almost no one believes have any shot under any circumstances to win.

And then, you have the rest of the group, none of which are locks, but some of which seem more assured of nomination than others. Winter’s Bone, 127 Hours, The Town, Rabbit Hole, Another Year, and Shutter Island. Three of these are likely to be in… and three of the titles are likely to be very disappointed.

The “precursors” are unlikely to help clarify much of anything. The Golden Globes are likely to go Social or Speech in Drama and Kids could well win Comedy/Musical against a field that offers not one other likely Best Picture nominee. If BFCA went with True Grit or Black Swan, that would certainly change the overall conversation… but don’t hold your breath.

If Social Network sweeps, does that make an Oscar win inevitable? No. But you’d have to be a bit insane to not see it as at least a 75% favorite at that point. The Academy is not unvulnerable to peer pressure and you would need a film that is more than just preferred. The film that came closest in recent memory was The Pianist, that seemed like it came within a hair’s breath of upsetting Chicago for the Best Picture win. A powerful Holocaust themed film vs. a light entertainment.

So here would be my watch list from here until the morning of nominations…

1. True Grit at the box office.
2. Can the youngsters help grandma & grandpa turn on to Black Swan? (Swan is also straight in the way, btw, of a Shutter Island nomination.)
3. Do people choose to watch The Social Network again over the holidays or is another film the “must see” for family gatherings?
4. Do people watch 127 Hours… and find something more than an amputation? (A nomination is probably all that’s on the line… but it is on the line.)
5. Does The Fighter get a second look from people who admired the acting more than the story?
6. Do people put The Town, Winter’s Bone, Rabbit Hole, and Blue Valentine in the DVD player?
7. Can people be convinced to try Biutiful, if only to watch Bardem tear it up? Right now, fear of the experience is getting in the way of Bardem’s undeniable right to a nomination – ridiculously – much in the way that the amputation in 127 Hours gets in the way of that film commercially.

Have a nice holiday.

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10 Responses to “10 Weeks To Oscar: Let The Great Settling Begin!”

  1. Robert Hamer says:

    The Hurt Locker had a more modest box office take, stiffer competition, more divided reactions from “real audiences” (whatever the hell that Palin-esque term means),and more attacks on its alleged inaccuracies, and it was *still* able to ride its massive critical support to a Best Picture win.

    The argument that The Social Network is not the obvious frontrunner at this point in the race strikes me as an attempt to make this already boring awards season somewhat interesting. Well, at least there’s the acting categories…

  2. marla says:

    Mike Leigh’s Another Year, is a most charming film…very likable characters.

  3. David Poland says:

    Hamer (don’t hurt ’em)… it’s not that interesting… it’s just the reality of talking to many Academy members. Hurt Locker is a completely different situation than Social Network, which was a front-runner from before opening day.

    And if you think that Hurt Locker won primarily on critical support, you’d be wrong.

  4. Rob says:

    “more divided reactions from ‘real audiences'”

    How does one measure that, exactly?

  5. PaperlessWriter says:

    I still don’t understand how or why somebody somewhere decided that The Town should be taken seriously while Another Year seems to be struggling for just a single Best Actress nom and Never Let Me Go gets nothing at all.

    Maybe it really is the ‘Biutiful effect’ and that people don’t like melancholy at all.

  6. PaperlessWriter says:

    And this push by Disney to get Toy Story 3 the Best Picture gold instead of “just” Best Animated seems so arrogant and greedy to me. I find their “If not now, when?” campaign misguided and borderline distasteful. Its like they’re trying to squeeze out votes based on guilt alone, as if the academy somehow owes them something based on the past pedigrees of TS 1 & 2.

    If not now, when? How about when you release something that’s even close to the quality of your own Beauty and the Beast, then we’ll talk. Until then, you’re just embarassing yourselves.

  7. Proman says:

    “Swan is also straight in the way, btw, of a Shutter Island nomination”

    That line classic Poland bullshit. Just like him to sell a line that Shutter Island has a chance. It doesn’t.

    With or without Swan. It’s not even #11.

  8. filmgoer says:

    I might be somewhat bias because I loved the film but I am thinking “The Fighter” is going to surprise a lot of people when nominations for OSCAR are announced. Not many people have seen the film thus far but talking to people who have seen it all seem to like it if not love it and judging from mass critique boards like the Yahoo board, yes I know, but you have some 2 to 3 thousand people expressing their opinions and they are liking it as well. Just out for this sleeper hit.

  9. filmgoer says:

    “Black Swan” is the first movie since I was a young twenty yr old where I had to walk out of the theater after watching the movie with my jacket over my head so my friends couldn’t recognize me. I know a lot of other people felt the same way on their way out.

  10. David Poland says:

    Proman/Maxim… with 10 nominees, you end up with all kinds of constituencies. Movies that would not otherwise get in, get in. Movies that may well have gotten in do not.

    You are right that Shutter Island is probably out of the running… but it is, in part, because Black Swan exists. Without Black Swan, there is a constituency for the kind of arty genre that both are that could have been tapped by Paramount. With Black Swan in the game, it’s been very hard to get anyone to even think about Shutter… and it doesn’t help that Scorsese and DiCaprio have been on the sidelines, working on films.

    Black Swan no existing would not assure a February thriller a nomination. But it would allow the ground to be more receptive to the seed.

    I’m trying to figure out where your particular brand of hotheaded rage comes from. You think almost exclusively on the surface of things and get oddly angry about notions that aren’t even offered as fully formed arguments. And you almost never make an argument that disagrees with the crux of what I’ve written. Interesting.

    And why have you changed names?

Quote Unquotesee all »

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