As Oscar contender piece by Pete Hammond turned up on Hollywood Wiretap yesterday. I heard a couple of days ago that Hammond has been talking to somebody about writiing a running Oscar blog thing, so maybe this is the berth.
Reading it led me to a familiar conclusion, which is that the four most likely Best Picture nominees at this stage are still Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers (pure mystique…nobody has seen anything), Pedro Almodovar‘s Volver (probably his finest flm ever, and one of the best chick flicks of all time with a serious chance of being included — maybe — among the mainsream Best Pic contenders), Bill Condon‘s Dreamgirls (so far only extended product reels have been seen), and Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu‘s Babel with the fifth slot up for grabs.
The intrepid Little Miss Sunshine could work its way in there; ditto World Trade Center, although I’m doubting this more and more. What indisputably strong and accomplished film especially deserves to take the fifth slot? Paul Greengrass‘s United 93.
If there wasn’t such an ingrained Best Picture prejudice against films in the cinefantastique realm, Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan’s Labyrinth would be at least be considered worthy of end-of-the-year distinctions. It is without question del Toro’s finest film to date — a dark political melodrama and a serenely tender child’s fable in a single package.
My gut says don’t hold your breath waiting for derby action on The History Boys. Something’s not quite happening with this film — I can just feel it with my insect antennae.
Gabrielle Muccino‘s The Pursuit Of Happyness won’t pop through for another couple of months, and the less said the better until it does. Ditto Christopher Nolan‘s The Prestige .
Some other HE conclusions based on portions of Pete’s piece: (a) All The King’s Men is dead (in my estimation this Steve Zallian period drama has been over for months — the disastrous Toronto Film Festival reception was just the official confirmation); (b) the Running With Scissors strategy of skipping the early festivals is indicative of…uhm, something; (c) Little Children is a fine film and a major creative surge by director-cowriter Todd Fields, but it has an ick-factor thing to contend with; (d) The Last King Of Scotland is a respectably crafted real-life drama (no more that that) but it also has a great Forrest Whitaker performance as General Idi Amin; (e) due respect to tjhe illustrious David Thomson, but Infamous is nowhere near as cultured or artful as Bennett Miller ‘s Capote and is basically dead in the derby; and (f) the lead performance by Derek Luke in Catch A Fire is tender and affecting, but I don’t know if the flm will launch him or not.
And what else? Breaking and Entering is mostly middling Minghella — soulful and smartly assembled in many ways, but curiously plotted in terms of the infidelity activity between Jude Law and Juliette Binoche; Peter O’Toole‘s performance as an aging actor with a wink in his eye is Venus‘s ace in the hole; Stephen FrearsThe Queen is…I’m not going to share just yet, but Helen Mirren‘s performance as Queen Elizabeth II is a near-lock for Best Actress; and the derision that greeted Emilio Estevez‘s Bobby in Toronto (the “Love Boat” label is going to stick) has begun to turn the film into a Jay Leno joke.
I wrote last week that Stranger Than Fiction is dead in the derby, and take no notice of anyone who says it isn’t.
Films yet to be seen and handicapped are Martin Scorsese‘s recently rebounded The Departed, Steven Soderbergh’s The Good German and Ed Zwick‘s Blood Diamond. Clouds of doubt are hovering over Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children Of Me and Robert DeNiro‘s The Good Shepherd.
Ridley Scott‘s A Good Life is agreeably escapist and goes down easy, but the bottom-line distinction is that it’s formulaic (as in predictable). Agreeably so, but formulaic nonetheless.