Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Flicks Flashforward - "Oscar Preview 2011 - Best Picture"

With the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor Guild already pulling back the curtain on this year’s group of nominees, it will soon be time for the Academy of Arts & Sciences to do the same. This six part series will look at each of the main categories and break down the frontrunners and dark horses of this Oscar season.

The Frontrunners:

“The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” & “The Fighter” – With the Academy switching last year to a system with 10 nominated films, a number of movies have in turn gone from contenders to frontrunners to locks; the above trio qualify in that category. If one of these movies doesn’t make the final list, you’ll hear a collective gasp from the nation’s critics.

The Contenders:

“127 Hours” –  Both director Danny Boyle and lead actor James Franco have great shots at being nominated in their individual categories as does the movie itself. Although some of the film’s detractors have said the film itself may just be a little too intense for certain voters to stomach.

“Black Swan” – Director Darren Aronofsky undoubtedly has a hit on his hands with this dark ballerina thriller and it would be surprising not to see his talented cast acknowledged.  With that said Aronofsky has yet to receive a nomination for himself and has yet to see a film he’s directed get the nod either. Even last year’s well-received “The Wrestler” was snubbed and that was also with the expanded field in play. Will this be the year he breaks though?

“Inception” – “Inception’s” Oscar chances are as complicated to describe as the film’s plot. The movie itself was one of the year’s most creative and visually stunning box office entries, but also one of the most confusing. While a lot of viewers were able to navigate the storyline’s different layers, a lot of audience members were lost halfway into first act. It is that level of intricacy that can work both for and against it a movie hoping for a nomination.

“True Grit” – The Coen Brothers know how to make movies that the public and the Academy love, even if most of them are beyond dark. Regardless, an expanded category works in this film’s favor.

“Toy Story 3” – Oscar fact: only twice has an animated movie been nominated for Best Picture.  The reason is that many voters still refuse to look at animation as a viable storytelling device for anybody other than children. Eventually the backlash grew to such a fever pitch that the Academy had to add a Best Animated Film category, but that itself hasn’t come without controversy.  Now with five more nomination slots, voters have been able to grant animated movies entry to what had been an exclusive club, but whether they’ll reward one with a win is yet to be seen. Either way, if “Toy Story 3” makes the cut, members will be hard pressed to watch this film and not put it in the same class as its colleagues.

“Shutter Island” – Paramount originally slated “Shutter Island” for last October, but unexpectedly moved it to February to avoid a crowded field of contenders and allow it room to breathe. The plan worked in that the movie became the first real hit of 2010, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to the big dance. With legendary director Martin Scorsese at the helm and a spot on a number of year end “best” lists, the movie should be a shoo-in, but it will have to contend with lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Titanic” sized hit “Inception” which could steal its thunder. While it is possible both could be nominated, it is still rare to see one actor topline two different “Best Picture” contenders.

“The Kids Are Alright” – The reason for expanding the nominations was for films like this to make the cut. Smaller art house style movies that the public has embraced have in the past always been left off, but now they have a real legit shot.

The Dark Horses:

“Rabbit Hole” – The Academy has a habit of nominating the leads of many successful dramas but snubbing the actual picture itself. Despite strong performances from its casts, voters may still elect to skip this trip down the “rabbit hole.”

“The Town” – Ben Affleck jumped back on the radar in 2010 with his second directorial hit, “The Town.” Despite his well-known flops, many people have forgotten (or some in cases joked) that his Oscar from “Good Will Hunting” wasn’t for acting but for writing. As the director, star and co-writer on “The Town,” Affleck has struck back against the naysayers and could emerge with the last laugh.

“The Ghost Writer” – Very few names in Hollywood elicit more of a response than that of Roman Polanski. The exiled director’s latest film about a former British Prime Minister publishing his memoirs didn’t make as many headlines as his legal troubles did in 2010. Despite the small box office cume, it is hard to discount anything that this talented (and Oscar winning) director releases. Although with a busy field of contenders in the acting and directing categories, Polanski’s best shot at a nod could be with the big prize. Once again in this case, a nomination may be just as good as a win.

“Winter’s Bone” –Every year one movie comes out of nowhere and grabs the attention of the movie going public. In 2010, that movie was Lionsgate’s “Winter’s Bone,” a family drama about a  teenage mother of two, who must hunt down her deadbeat drug dealing father in the Ozark mountains or else lose their family home. This gripping drama has succeeded because of a well written script and the strong performance of its stars Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawks.

“Love & Other Drugs” –“Love & Other Drugs” has had varying degrees of success in 2010. The star power of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway has put the film on everyone’s radar, but the problem is nobody is quite sure what to make of it.

“How To Train Your Dragon” – Yes, DreamWorks’s animated hit about a Viking boy who befriends a Dragon was incredibly well received and well-developed, but remember the Academy has problems with rewarding  animated films with a shot at the big prize. As nice as it would be to see two animated movies get a nod, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. More than likely we’ll have to settle for “Toy Story 3” & “Dragon” going head to head for the “Best Animated” film award against what will probably be the popular foreign film “The Illusionist.”

“Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1” –As far out there as it may seem, the Academy could decide to honor the long running franchise as it comes to a close. The voters have been known in the past to go the sentimental route, but even if that happened this time it would probably be for next year’s finale.