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Oscar 2010: More Best Picture Contenders

Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw in Bright Star
Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw in Bright Star

Oscar 2010: Early Predictions for Best Picture Part I

Among the top runners-up in that category are: Jane Campion's period romance Bright Star, which would have a much better chance had its box office figures been more impressive; Quentin Tarantino's dark World War II fantasy Inglourious Basterds; Marc Webb's quirky 500 Days of Summer; Tom Hooper's The Damned United, about Leeds United coach Brian Clough; Tom Ford's A Single Man, based on a Christopher Isherwood novel; Michael Moore's anti-Wall Street Capitalism: A Love Story; and Pete Docter's animated hit Up.

Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon in Invictus

And here are some more: Clint Eastwood's Invictus (above, with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon), adapted by Anthony Peckham from John Carlin's book about South Africa's first ethnically mixed rugby team; Oren Moverman's psychological/romantic drama The Messenger, with Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson; Olivier Dahan's My One and Only, a sort of road movie starring Renée Zellweger; Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr; and Neill Blomkamp's futuristic thriller District 9.

Mimi Kennedy, James Gandolfini in In the Loope

Also: Armando Iannucci's political comedy In the Loop (above, with Mimi Kennedy and James Gandolfini); Stephen Frears' period drama Cheri, with Michelle Pfeiffer as an experienced courtesan; John Hillcoat's post-apocalyptic The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron; Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, an adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's story; and J.J. Abrams' well-received sci-fi adventure Star Trek.

Penélope Cruz, Lluis Homar in Broken Embraces

And more: Pedro Almodóvar's noirish Broken Embraces (above, with Penélope Cruz and Lluís Homar); Mira Nair's biopic Amelia, the story of aviatrix Amelia Earhart; Jim Sheridan's drama Brothers, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman; Andrew Jarecki's thriller All Good Things; and James Cameron's special-effects-laden Avatar.

Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel

And finally: Anne Fontaine's Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou (above); Rodrigo García's Mother and Child, revolving around women and adoptions; Phil Lord and Chris Miller's animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; Kirk Jones' family comedy-drama-road-movie Everybody's Fine; Jean-Marc Vallée's historicalish Young Victoria; and Julie Taymor's gender-switching The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren as Prospera.

Admittedly, a few of the aforementioned potential contenders may end up not being contenders at all – once they open to poor reviews and/or disappointing box office returns later this year. Think Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers back in 2006 or Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road last year. In a handful of cases, release dates may even be pushed back into 2010.

Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe in State of Play

State of Play (above, with Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe), The Soloist, Taking Woodstock, Five Minutes of Heaven, The Boys Are Back, Séraphine, and Away We Go – and those involved in them – might have had a chance had they not been box office disappointments. Even so, it's possible that some of the talent involved in those films may pop up in an Oscar category or two, but quite definitely not best picture.

Also, it's important to know what it means to have ten best picture nominees. Say, if 50 percent of Academy members bother sending in their ballots (that's about 3,000 people), a film will only need, say, 273 votes (3,000 / 11 + 1) in the #1 spot of each member's list to automatically land a nomination. More than 500 votes – 501 to be exact – would have been needed had there been only five available slots.

As a result – and considering that the Academy isn't dominated by the studios as in olden times (when there were also 8-12 best pictures nominees per year) – there's a good chance that some really offbeat choices, say, small, independent films and/or non-English-language productions with an ardent following, will make it to the top ten.

That, in addition to a blockbuster or two (Up? Up in the Air?), the type of Hollywood fare that (much to the annoyance of ratings-crazy Oscarcasters) has usually been left out of the five-slot best picture roster in the last few years. Think The Dark Knight and WALL-E last year, though I doubt there will be a huge outcry if Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Hangover, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, The Proposal, X-Men: Wolverine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Monsters vs. Aliens, Fast and Furious, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop – eleven of this year's top thirteen domestic box office hits – fail to land a best picture nomination.

In any case, everything will become considerably less fuzzy once US critics (who tend to pick the same films, the same actors, the same screenwriters, etc.), the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and the various Hollywood guilds begin announcing their nominations in a couple of months.


         
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