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The Oscar Race: What Upsets Would You Like To See?

Posted on Friday January 29, 2010, 02:11 by Damon Wise in Off The Wire
The Oscar Race: What Upsets Would You Like To See?

Taking a break from the Sundance marathon, I found myself watching the SAG awards telecast on Sunday night, which is actually a much bigger event that I'd ever realised. Quite a few things went through my mind as I watched, one of them being that I really think the Oscar race is taking shape now, and, if you haven't already put your money on Jeff Bridges for Best Actor, I think you should do so now, ditto for Mo'Nique (Precious) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), since they too seem to have a lock on their respective supporting-actor categories. But the thing that surprised me most was the award for Best Ensemble cast; like many others, I'd have bet the farm on Nine, for pedigree alone, so I was actually quite shocked – in a good way – to see the guys from Inglourious Basterds win the day. It proved to me that there are still some upsets possible along the way.

So this got me to thinking about the upsets I'd like to see. For Best Actor, much as I like Bridges, I'd love to see Best Actor go to Sam Rockwell. He hasn't been mentioned anywhere in all the awards talk, but his performance in Moon is exquisite: how Tobey Maguire beat him to a Golden Globe nomination I'll never know. Well, I think I do know, and it has a little to do with the HFPA's obsession with celebrity and a lot to do with the stigma that's still attached to sci-fi. Best Actress, meanwhile, is a bit more problematic because I can't see that too many films have really showcased decent roles for women this year. So, although I have a very big soft spot for Melanie Laurent in Basterds, and would give it to Avatar's Zoe Saldana if I possibly could (Cameron made the magic but she brought the humanity), I'm going to go for Up In The Air's Vera Farmiga against the twin juggernauts of Meryl Streep (Julie And Julia) and Sandra Bullock (Blind Side).

But the biggest problem I'm having is in deciding how the Best Director upset should go. We all know that James Cameron is now very much in the frame, but if he's going to go home empty handed, where should the Oscar go? An obvious alternative is Kathryn Bigelow, whose mastery of tension made The Hurt Locker 2009's most unexpected success story (when I reviewed the film out of Venice in 2008, I think I was the lone voice in saying all the things that critics are now saying). Another entertaining alternative is Peter Jackson, whose The Lovely Bones seems to have been forgotten by the very people who predicted great things for it, sight unseen, and then dumped it.

But I'm going to go with a director who had a rough time not so long ago. I'm going to go with Quentin Tarantino, who came back from the bloody nose of Grindhouse to deliver a film that worked in four languages (even the snotty French seemed to like it), made a mainstream American audience read subtitles for a change, and hand-picked a superlative cast that, at the SAG awards at least, blew away the Oscar-dripping stars of Nine. Like many, I've seen Basterds more than once (at least four times now), and it's a film I think I'll see a lot more of. True, people are returning to Avatar too, but that's a film in state-of-the-art 3D that took 12 years to reach us and cost over $400 million. Basterds took roughly 11 months, from script to can, and cost less than a quarter of the budget. As for that script, Basterds is the boldest piece of writing this year, and the thing that blew me away is that, though not everybody said as much, we all got it: QT didn't simply revise history, he explored the cathartic power of fiction and made it fun, creating a film that was both liberating for Jews and Germans – and how many films can you possibly say THAT about?

Tarantino has been rewarded in the past for his writing and his casting but I think it's time he was given credit for motivating, delivering and micro-managing the whole damn package that ends up onscreen. Without him, the films he made would not exist, and that's really not something you can say about every director. It's somewhat true of Cameron too, but can you really say that Avatar would stand up without the awe-inspiring visuals? If there's going to be blood on the carpet this awards season, I think it's only right that Tarantino should be the man to spill it. But that's just my opinion: what do you think?

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1 Pinguman
Posted on Friday January 29, 2010, 23:02
Amen to that, Inglourious Basterds deserves more than just the writing credit it will get. Hands down my favourite film of last year. Also, it would be nice to see Viggo Mortensen for The Road get nominated...anyone...?

2 Nerky
Posted on Saturday January 30, 2010, 13:15
Completely 100% agree with you on Sam Rockwell and Moon. I loved Avatar, big fan of Cameron and everything but i was suprised when it one the globe for Best Picture. But maybe that could make it a shoein for Picture at the oscars? But with 10 nominees in that category this year that opens up places for films that normally wouldn't get nominated. Here's hoping Star Trek gets a nod, that film was amazing. Really hope 500 Days Of Summer gets something, anything.

3 faris93
Posted on Saturday January 30, 2010, 14:29
While I am very much pleased Moon and Basterds' are getting some attention, I still feel the most underrated film of the year was A Serious Man. As much as I would love to see a Best Pic, Director, Screenplay and perhaps best actor, I am safely in the knowledge that one of the great films of our time will be duely ignored.

4 JamesMalcolm
Posted on Saturday January 30, 2010, 15:00
I'd be pretty disappointed if Avatar got Best Picture because it's such an overdone story, i'd much rather see it go to The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds because they do new, interesting stuff. I don't really understand all the love for Avatar bar the great sfx,

5 jbarrett777
Posted on Saturday January 30, 2010, 18:06
I am so glad someone else has recognized Sam Rockwell for the Best Actor nod. His performance was incredible an he's such a brilliant actor that deserves to get some recognition.

6 Iago 1979
Posted on Sunday January 31, 2010, 12:59
I am surprised more at the lack of acknowledgement that has been attributed to the cast of The Hurt Locker (easily my favourite Hollywood film of last year) - not one of the ensemble performers put a foot wrong in one of the most tense and exciting thrillers in years. I'd choose Bigelow's representation of war over Tarantino's any day.

7 timmcollins
Posted on Monday February 1, 2010, 00:24
I think I ought to watch Inglorious Basterds again because it seemed like Tarantino's worst film by a mile when I saw it. Or is the logic just that it's a quiet year, so the awards should go him for his body of work? I'll admit that Yes album cover movie Avatar shouldn't get any awards, but The Hurt Locker surely deserves something. If the mainstream genres have let us down this year, perhaps the Academy should live a little and give everything to District 9.

8 Big Braveheart
Posted on Monday February 1, 2010, 00:54
Bridges has been waiting a long time and maybe he's due it and Waltz is an absolute stick-on for best supporting actor. Tom Hardy really deserves a shout for a best actor nod for Bronson and Vincent Cassel should not be ignored for Mesrine, which not only was
the best foreign language film but to me also the best film of 2009. If Mesrine was to be up for best picture it would be great for European cinema as a whole and i think it's about time films like this should be rewarded. I'd like to see some surprises and upsets but the Academy will probably play it safe. Basterds could win best picture and Hurt Locker has
great chance but Avatar looks more like an effects feature than anything. If it's 10 for best picture then Basterds, Hurt Locker, Mesrine, District 9, hell even Watchmen should be in there! Tarantino or Bigelow for best director would be nice to see whoever wins.

9 Dubus
Posted on Monday February 1, 2010, 02:34
Inglorious Basterds took 11 months from script to can???? For Christ sake man it took as long as Avatar to come about everyone knows that Tarantino first mentioned doing it after Pulp Fiction, and went through numerous drafts before the one he filmed, if ANYTHING it had a longer gestation period than Avatar.

10 BenIsMovieKing
Posted on Monday February 1, 2010, 04:08
Peter Jacksons The Lovely Bones is a film I agree has been forgotten. It was in no way a dissapointment and I feel is deserves a lot more credit that it has been given. I think that it should at least get some nominations for at least cinematography. I can not see why Christoph Waltz is getting all this hype for his performance either. Because to be honest he wasn't that incredible. And he was barley in the film. On that note I think that Stanley Tucci should take home the oscar for his performance as George Harvey. in the lovely bones. i Lovely Bones deserves so much more credit and I would like to see it get atleast some nominations at the oscars.

11 Western23
Posted on Tuesday February 2, 2010, 00:15
The Lovely Bones is being overlooked and criticized a little too much. It's an amazing film and well crafted by Jackson. I think Jackson should be recognized this year as one of the best director nominees. Ok fine, The Lovely Bones could've been a better adaptation, so just don't nominate it for adapted screenplay, but at least nominate Jackson for bringing the script to life in a unique and brilliant way. I agree with BenisMovieKing, Tucci isn't being recognized the way he should. His role was brilliant. At least give him the BAFTA award. The only thing that I say Waltz has for him is the way his character was written and how complex he was; that's the only thing Waltz has going for him. Tucci's performance was more internal and subtle, and I think those are some of the best performances. But I believe Tucci and Waltz are on the same par. Speaking about performances, I really hope Saoirse Ronan is recognized. She played Susie with such maturity and understanding that it was frightening. And The Lovely Bones not only should be nominated for cinematography, I think it should win. Andrew Lesnie shot that perfectly; their wasn't a bad shot or lit scene, and some of the creative decisions Lesnie made, even down to choosing different cameras when dealing with different emotions, was amazing (there is a great article in the American Cinematographer's Magazine for The Lovely Bones).

On the side, I think The Road deserves more recognition. That should be up for picture, actor, cinematography, maybe score and definitely, definitely adapted screenplay. Joe Penhall adapted McCarthy's novel brilliantly, and it wasn't an easy task.

Overall I think some of the nominees should look like this, hopefully:

Best Picture: The Road, The Lovely Bones (maybe)
Director: Peter Jackson
Actor: Viggo Mortensen
Actress: Saoirse Ronan
Adapted Screenplay: The Road
Cinematography: The Road, The Lovely Bones
Score: The Road

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