Here it is, the first of about 1,000 posts to come on the Academy Awards. To start the delirious season of guessing, analyzing, and propagandizing, I'll jump onto the wagon my fellow bloggers in the Oscarverse have been on for months and offer up my post-Thanksgiving Dinner picks for the Best Picture nominees.
And the Best Picture Nominees Will Be...
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Academy has yet to throw David Fincher a bone, even if he's gained the respect of many critics and audience demographics. Here, he'll make the argument not only for legitimate respect as a director, but for the dramatic capabilities of digital film. Brad Pitt + Cate Blanchett + Big Romantic Period Drama = Love. Unless the critics don't get behind it.
Fox Searchlight has taken the lead as one of the most reliable indy-centered distrib studios of the last few years (see also: Little Miss Sunshine and Juno), mounting relatable crowdpleasers with hard-hitting campaigns. Slumdog lit up the festival circuit a few months back, and critics have been quick to get behind it in some way or another. Plus, most everyone at least respects Danny Boyle for his competent and unique genre work over the last 12 years (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine).
The Dark Knight
For an Academy claimed to be out of touch with the modern movie-going public, here's the chance to reward the biggest film since Lord of the Rings. Yes, Dark Knight is a veritable phenomenon on par with the fantasy trilogy, Titanic, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars (all BP noms). It's the second highest-grossing film of all time and it has critical support to match, both in the elite and on the streets. It's a chance for the Academy to legitimize the comic book subgenre, director Nolan, star Ledger, and the much-derided term "pop entertainment."
I actually have a lurking suspicion there will be some kind of weird backlash that makes this an adored film that stays out of the final pack (see Eternal Sunshine, Far From Heaven...). Or a suspicion that its high expectations (read: desire for faithful adaptation) will make plenty hate it; after all, they didn't much warm to Mendes's last two films. But with Leo + Kate, good word from early screenings, and a trailer that screams "give me some Oscars now!" I think the campaign will be aggressive so as to give it this nom.
The media called them homophobic when they didn't give the big prize to Brokeback. Going on the fabulous reviews, and their penchant for bio pics, and how much they liked Van Sant's mainstream feature (Good Will Hunting) before going uber-indie, PLUS SEAN PENN, I think Milk will get it. Probably. It's the weakest out of these, and any of the following could take its place:
Doubt - Adapted from a play, big ensemble, but a Best Picture nominee I don't think. Lots of nods across the board but unless people go wild over it...this will be an acting movie.
The Wrestler - Again, this will be "Mickey Rourke's movie" not "Rourke and Aronofsky's movie." As such, it will be big on Actor, and little on everything else.
Frost/Nixon - I remain completely cynical about this movie because I remain completely cynical about Ron Howard. The Academy loves him (if you think he deserved anything in 01 against Scott, Lynch, Jackson, and Altman then you need to check yourself into a mental hospital), so this one is the one I see most likely getting in.
Gran Torino - Clint Eastwood. That's about all I have to say.