Welcome back to September Oscar Buzz and Predictions. Today we cover what I like to call the genre categories, those awards given to the best film overall of a specific type. The shorts (Animated, Live Action, and Documentary) I'm going to pretty much skip entirely, as I know nothing more than I did in June. Well, that's not entirely true, as the animated short Paperman has risen as a likely contender. Otherwise, nothing new. That still leaves Foreign Language Film, Animated Feature, and Documentary Feature, which we'll start with...right...now...
This branch of the Academy is notoriously nutty with its nominations, so don't expect more than two or three of the films we talk about today to make the final cut. Chance are good that at least one or two of the eventual nominees have hardly made a splash yet, and will emerge at the last possible second. As always, numbers in parenthesis indicate previous rankings. With that in mind, the buzz has spoken thusly:
2.(3) The Invisible War
3. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
4.(2) The House I Live In
6.(8) This Is Not A Film
7.(6) The Island President
8.(10) West of Memphis
9. Queen of Versailles
10. Under African Skies
Leaving the Rankings: The World Before Her, Searching For Sugarman, Detroipia, The Law In These Parts
I would go on record more like...
1. Bully - Okay, so it's hard to argue with this one. It is far from the best reviewed doc of the year but it got relatively lots of publicity, did decent box office, and is backed by Harvey Weinstein. Last year, the Weinsteins backed a documentary called Undefeated. No one was even talking about it this time last year, and it ended up winning the damn Oscar.
2. This Is Not A Film - This IS one of the best reviewed docs of the year. Director Panahi is highly respected and admired world wide and this film, constructed of bits of footage he sent out of his captivity in pieces, is the sort of unique creation that might catch the Academy's eye. It also performed VERY well on the international film festival circuit.
3. The Central Park 5 - I think that the documentary branch will be too burnt out on the subject matter (already covered in the Paradise Lost trilogy) to award West of Memphis with a nomination this year. However, if they are still into docs about penal injustices being brought to light, this piece is currently blowing minds at the Toronto film festival. The behind the scenes story here is a passing of the torch from twice nominated documentarian (Ken Burns) to his daughter Sarah.
4. The Queen of Versailles - This did well at the box office, director Lauren Greenfield won the top documentary directing prize at Sundance earlier this year, and the reviews have been enthusiastic. Plus, its one of those happy accident, truth is stranger than fiction sort of stories.
5. The House I Live In - This Grand Jury Prize winner from Sundance, is by Eugene Jarecki, one of the most celebrated working documentarians to never be nominated, and covers the War On Drugs, which is an increasingly more timely issue.
6. Ai Wei Wei - Never Sorry - Ai Wei Wei is a prominent artist and social activist in China, and this film's promotionals make his life story look fascinating. This film has performed well on both the Festival Circuit and the critical gauntlet. If Jarecki did not feel overdue, I would have given this movie "House"'s slot in the top five.
7. The Gatekeepers - If this film, wowing critics currently in Toronto, qualifies this year, it might be unstoppable. Unprecedented access to Israel's most prominent military strategists to be found within.
8,. The Invisible War - Luke warm critical reception has me more leery of this doc than the buzz would dictate. However, the subject of rape (and its cover up) in the U.S. military sounds like it might carry the emotional impact to overcome that handicap.
9. Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Although this film is well liked and known among the general public and it is on MY must watch list for the year, the relatively light subject matter may hurt its chances.
10. Searching For Sugarman - This one looks great to me, but bio docs of entertainers rarely break in even if they are one of the year's best. Just ask Joan Rivers.
So, it looks right now like there will definitely be enough qualifying films this year to produce five nominees (the minimum is sixteen eligible movies). With Brave meeting positive but not exuberant reception, the field is completely wide open as well. This might be a good scrap for once. Buzz has it...
3.(3) Rise of the Guardians
4.(6) Wreck-It Ralph
7.(9) From Up On Poppy Hill
8. Le Tableau
9.(8) Hotel Transylvania
10.(7) The Rabbi's Cat
Leaving the Rankings: Pirates! Band of Misfits
I, however, would draw things out like this...
1. Rise of the Guardians - The Hollywood Awards (which, granted, mean very little, except publicity) have chosen to honor IT, instead of Brave, indicating that we might not be looking at a Pixar sweeping season, at the very least. It also has a highly impressive voice cast (Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law), a score by Alexandre Desplat, and Dreamworks has gotta be overdue for a win.
2. Frankenweenie - It seems to me that this film and Paranorman might be too similar to both get in, but one of them almost surely will. Especially considering "Norman's" lukewarm critical reception, I'm gonna lay my bets with Tim Burton. His live action flicks may have fallen off a bit in quality in recent years, but everything animated that he's ever had his hands in has been exceptional.
3. Brave - So, yeah, the nomination is almost a gimme. I mean, even Brave's most virulent critics haven't treated it like it was Cars 3 or anything. The general consensus is: it's good just not (Toy Story 1,2, or 3, WALL-E, or Up) good. So, it's not a guaranteed win, probably won't be. Still...almost a gimme.
4. From Up On Poppy Hill - Immensely popular and highly respected Japanese animated film maker Hayao Miyazaki wrote the script, and many will surely be disappointed that his other screenplay The Secret World of Arriety (still the best reviewed animated US release this year) will be ineligible due to an issue with its Japanese release date. This could be a way to still get their Miyazaki fix. It's also being distributed by G-Kids, who have had tremendous success scoring nominations for little known foreign films in the Animated category the last couple of years. I expect 1-2 of their films to pounce on any weaknesses in the bigger movies armor. Of the four G-KID releases, this is easily the highest profile movie.
5. A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman - One last shining moment of brilliance from one of the most brilliant sketch comedy troupes in film and television history? If I don't believe, then John Cleese dressed as Tinkerbell will be unable to fly.
6. Wreck-It Ralph - It's not that I'm not interested in the film, or that I don't consider Disney proper a contender. Their year is coming, and this could be it. However, might their eleventh hour entry Arjun: The Warrior Prince signal that Wreck-It Ralph is not their top horse in this race? Or is Arjun a throwaway meant to fluff up the number of nominations to help Ralph?
7. The Rabbi's Cat - This seemingly offbeat French film is, to my mind, the second most likely G-KIDS possibility. There could be two, there were last year. Of course, Pixar tanked last year, so....
8. Paranorman - I love these kinds of films, and I'm sure I'll enjoy this one, but I just don't see it AND Frankenweenie getting in. A ghost story, and a reanimated monster flick in the same year? If they had both killed critically and at the box office, maybe, but "Norman" is already catching some critical flack.
9, Le Tableau - This somewhat obscure French production about the inhabitants of an incomplete painting is another G-KIDS production, and they have secured nominations for films even further off the radar in the past. I, for one, had never even heard of The Secret of Kells until nomination day.
10. Arjun: The Warrior Prince - Everything I said in my commentary for number six applies. Also, I would like to add that there is the third possibility that Disney feels confident enough in both films that they think they can get them both into the race.
Foreign Language Film
In between the time that I began writing this article yesterday and getting to this category, the number of confirmed submissions has already changed by three. The category is too in flux right now. Just this once, I'm going to split it off into its own post, a little later in the series, maybe at the end. My number two pick right now could be summarily eliminated by the time I get this posted, if France makes a poor choice for their official submission.
Coming soon: The Screenplays
Related articles: Sept. Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Techs: Part 1, Part 2, Awards Season Hits the Next Leg, June Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Genres