MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland

22 Weeks To Oscar: The Year Of Good Being Good Enough

I was going to write about how tight the Oscar race already is as we enter the month of October. But looking back at last season’s post-Toronto column… 8 of 10 of the eventual nominees were already well in focus. And had I not been so stubborn about believing that District 9 could make it, I would have had every film except The Blind Side in my Top 13 possibles at the time.

The point is not to ring my own bell, but to pay tribute, really, to how early and how strong the Oscar push efforts are these days. They are still stealth. No one is supposed to notice that a campaign has been going on for months. In fact, no one wants to be up in front, towards the head of the pack, this early. You can be sure that a lot of competitors are giddy that The Social Network has such heat around it RIGHT NOW.

The biggest news coming out of Toronto, aside from films that were non-starters, was that we now have only seven films, by my count, that are in any way contenders that have not been widely available to be seen by The Press and some public. And the only one that seems to be an inevitable nominee – scary words, those – is True Grit.

That is not to say that the other unseen films are not serious contenders. Four are comedies – Due Date, How Do You Know, Love & Other Drugs, and Morning Glory – three from very serious directors and one from the director of one of last year’s commercial phenoms, The Hangover. The Fighter is from revered David O. Russell… who has never made it into the Oscar race. And another, For Colored Girls…, is from critically reviled Tyler Perry, who is a commercial sensation and is working from a play that was one of the most widely seen in the 70s and 80s.

And then there are the films that have already garnered a lot of love. Movies like The Kids Are All Right, Winter’s Bone, and Get Low have many fans and supporters. The Town has had a few weeks as the hot title to discuss, to be followed this weekend by The Social Network. Shutter Island is Scorsese’s biggest worldwide grosser ever, slightly ahead of Best Picture winner The Departed. And what of Oscar faves Clint Eastwood, Mike Leigh, and Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu?

I am pretty comfortable that at least 6 of my 7 Most Liklies will be there in the end. The only real question, to me, is whether both Black Swan and 127 Hours, both masterful, artful, commercial films will make the cut. And that’s when distributors have to decide how they are going to craft their efforts. Does a Sony Classics move forward on all fronts or do they decide which of their films is the most realistic nominee? Does a Roadside Attractions, which has very strong candidates in Best Actor and Best Actress, push for more… aside from maybe screenplay nods? Does Lionsgate believe that either of their actor-nom chasing films are BP candidates? And how does Sony balance what feels like a lock for The Social Network when they have a Jim Brooks movie with Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Jack Nicholson in the hopper?

But the thing that really, really strikes me at this moment is that it is a very competitive race for a dozen or so movies looking to fit into a few slots (anything can happen in Phase II… there is no such thing as a frontrunner to win at this point), GREAT is not necessary. In fact, GREAT may be a problem for some of these films. This is the Oscar season of Really Good.

There is no The Hurt Locker… no film offering itself up as one. There’s no deep underdog like Precious. There is no Avatar. Toy Story 3 and Inception will be the highest grosser amongst BP nominees (assuming TS3 makes it). But neither film has had the kind of impact that Avatar had and will be two of at least five $700 million worldwide grossing films this year.

So we may be back to the best liked movies over the best movies. How lovable is Made in Dagenham? Is Ed Zwick at an advantage making his first comedy in almost 25 years instead of another drama? Do Academy members really want to wrestle with the heaviness of Never Let Me Go and Winter’s Bone and Biutiful and Rabbit Hole when Black Swan and Shutter Island feel both a little weighty, but are also movie movies that leave you leaving the theater excited by the craft of filmmaking?

I’m really curious. All six of the still unseen non-Coen films could be left on the sidelines. Or they could represent 3 or 4 of the final 10.

In any case, we’ve all been whining about the first half of 2010 and I have to say, there are a lot of good times at the movies coming down the pike. And if even half the unseen films are Really Good, it’s kind of a thrilling year… all of a sudden… out of nowhere.


6 Responses to “22 Weeks To Oscar: The Year Of Good Being Good Enough”

  1. Maxim says:

    More like Shutter Island is the kind of movie that leaves you excited to leave the theater.

    In other words, yawn.

  2. actionman says:

    Shutter Island was phenomenal on all levels.

  3. nizerifin says:

    Shutter Island really wasn’t that good. At least 75 critics gave it negative reviews.

  4. Joe Me says:

    in the 26 weeks to oscar post, David mentioned that there were virtually no “Locks” to the possible oscar list at that time. I countered this in my comment at the time saying that i think there were MANY “very good” yet not “great” movies already out there, and that his problem was that he was looking too closely for the great movies in the festival circuit, when I felt he should be looking at the very good crop of “mainstream” movies that were already out, or about to be out, that when put together made for a very strong list of ten movies for oscars. Well I’m now glad to see that David has come around to my view of this with his 22 weeks to oscar post, mentioning many, if not all, of the movies from the top ten list that i made back in the last post. (Don’t worry, i’m not delusional to think that he, or anyone, actually read my comment or was swayed by it) But anyway, here once again is my list of 10 movies that I feel are “locks” or “near locks” already for the oscar list, with only one change at #8. (again in order of how strong a chance they have for making the official list.)

    1. The Social Network – My choice for the winner (A winner like how Crash once was: Not the best movie ever, but a movie of the times. Or a winner like Scorsese’s Departed was; a lifetime achievement award. Fincher’s due)(Last list – #4, though still my pick for the win)
    2. Inception – My back-up, and big box-office movie pick (this years Avatar) (Last list #1)
    3. Shutter Island – My, “good” movie, yet no chance for the award pick (see: Curious Cas of Benjamin Button, Inglorious Basterds, Atonement, etc. . .) (Last List – #2)
    4. True Grit – My, it’s a Cohen’s “serious” movie so it makes the list pick (Last List – #7)
    5. Toy Story 3 – My, it’s Pixar so despite its unworthiness it will make the list pick (Last List – #3)
    6. Never Let me Go – My, no chance of winning, yet there are great acting nominations in it so it makes the list pick. (See: An Education, Frost/Nixon, A serious Man, etc. . .) (Last List – # 6)
    7. The King’s Speech – My, best actor in a movie pick, though The American, my origional pick for this spot, may take it’s place if Clooney gets the best actor votes. (Last List – Not on)
    8. Get Low – My, quirky, well acted pick (See: little miss sunshine, or Juno, or Sideways)(Last List – #8)
    9. Winter’s Bone – My, serious “Indie” pick (See: The Reader, Precious, Milk, etc. . .) (Last List – #10)
    10. Black Swan – My, Aranofsky is a new Oscar darling director and the movie looks pretty damn interesting so it makes the list pick. (Last List – # 5)

    SO there you have it. My List. Stare at it in awe. Perfection. Although I think I am missing an, “It doesn’t deserve to be on the list pick” (see: The Reader, The Blind Side, Babel, etc. . .) I’m not sure what that movie is at the moment (Maybe “The kids are alright” or “127 hours” might get it?) But if one does arise in my mind, it will likely knock out Black Swan, eventhough i love that movie. There are many “on the edge” picks floating in my mind too, like; Somewhere, The Ghost Writer, The Fighter, Another Year, Hereafter, The American, and The Town, But I don’t think any have enough juice to fight their way onto the list. Though I’d like to replace Toy Story 3 with either The American, The Town or The Ghost Writer if this were my personal favorites list. But, anyway, this is my list as of now. Enjoy. And see you again at the 18 weeks to oscar comment section later this month. I’ll likely have my picks for acting winners then.

    Awe, what the heck, I’ll do them now:

    Best Actor: George Clooney, Colin Firth, Jesse Eisenburg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Broadbent (WINNER – Colin Firth – The King’s Speech)

    Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Carey Mulligan, Julianne Moore, Reece Witherspoon (WINNER – Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone)

    Best Supporting Actor: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, Ben Afleck, Mark Ruffalo (WINNER – Robert Duvall – Get Low – unless he’s nominated for LEAD ACTOR in which case he wins that and supporting goes to, i don’t know, Ben Afleck maybe?

    Best Supporting Actress: Elle Fanning, Rooney Mara, Olivia Williams, Hailee Steinfeld, Keira Knightley (WINNER – Elle Fanning – Somewhere)

    Sorry for the long post. If you want to comment about this to me, e-mail me at Thanks.

  5. David says:

    Uh, to this last posting-how could you put Julianne Moore but not Annette Bening? Bening is the obvious choice to win because she is “due” We will probably see her and Colin Firth standing on the podium. And Never Let Me Go is this year’s Duchess, meant to be a contender but will be virtually ignored.

  6. Greg says:

    Bening will get nominated for “The Kids Are All Right,” count on it. Portman will, too (and will be the fave to win). The rest of your list – at least two won’t be in the five. “The Kids Are All Right” could easily be your “doesn’t deserve it” best pic nominee, because it really DOESN’T deserve it.

    Count on Helena Bonham-Carter and Geoffrey Rush getting supporting noms for “The King’s Speech” – it’s really an excellent film.

    I wouldn’t bet on Shutter Island getting into the top ten – or scoring much of anything, nomination-wise.
    Count on Dakota Fanning spitting blood if her sister wins an Oscar before her. A new De Haviland/Fontaine saga.

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“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg