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Oscar Early Predictions Best Picture: From Iraq War Drama to '8½' Musical Remake

Emma Thompson, Carey Mulligan in An Education

An Education, d: Lone Scherfig; scr: Nick Hornby

In Swinging (suburban) London, a teenager decides to have her first sexual experience with a man in his thirties.

The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow

The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow; scr: Mark Boal

An elite unit of the US Army must disarm bombs during combat in an “enemy” city in Iraq.

The Informant!, d: Steven Soderbergh; scr: Scott Z. Burns

A whistle-blower (who also happens to be a pathological liar) helps the US government nab an agribusiness conglomerate.

Saoirse Ronan in The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson; scr: Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens

A murdered girl, now a heaven-resident, sees how life has changed in her small Pennsylvania town following her disappearance.

George Clooney in The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats, d: Grant Heslov; scr: Peter Straughan

A journalist gets involved with US military intelligence (or rather, stupidity), which uses paranormal activities in its missions.

Kate Hudson, Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine

Nine, d: Rob Marshall; scr: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella

A musicalized remake of Federico Fellini's , about a film director and his many women

Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Paula Patton in Precious

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, d: Lee Daniels; scr: Geoffrey Fletcher

A pregnant, abused teen is helped by a compassionate teacher.

Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man

A Serious Man, d & scr: Joel and Ethan Coen

In the late 1960s, a Midwestern Jewish man goes through more suffering than Job.

Anna Kendrick, George Clooney in Up in the Air

Up in the Air, d: Jason Reitman; scr: Reitman, Sheldon Turner

A peripatetic professional downsizer discovers his perfect frequent-flying match – and a bit of his own lost humanity.

The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke

The White Ribbon, d & scr: Michael Haneke

The seeds of the Nazi generation can be found in this small German town prior to the outbreak of World War I

So you're thinking, “This is ridiculous! We're not even in mid-October. It's way too early to predict the list of 2010 Academy Award nominees.”

I totally agree.

Well, almost totally.

People have been predicting not only the 2010 Oscar nominees, but also the winners since sometime in late 2007 when movies now being released were announced as “possibly in pre-pre-pre-production.”

Additionally, Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, and Telluride have all come and gone. Though none of those festivals are 100 percent accurate Oscar predictors, they do give an idea – sometimes a pretty good idea – of who or what may land a nomination or even an Oscar win, e.g.:

  • 2004 Venice best actress Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake
  • 2005 Berlin best director Marc Rothemund for Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (which received a best foreign-language film nod)
  • 2006 Venice best actress Helen Mirren for The Queen
  • 2007 Berlin loser (but widely praised) Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose
  • 2007 Berlin best director Joseph Cedar for Beaufort (which received a best foreign-language film nod)
  • 2007 Cannes best director Julian Schnabel and best technical contribution winner (cinematographer) Janusz Kaminski for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • 2008 Sundance US narrative winner Frozen River (which earned nominations for actress Melissa Leo and for writer-director Courtney Hunt in the original screenplay category)
  • 2008 Sundance World Cinema documentary winner Man on Wire
  • 2008 Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Class (which received a best foreign-language film nod)
  • 2008 Toronto Audience Award winner Slumdog Millionaire, etc. etc.

Anyhow, the ten films listed above are ten very tentative (in a few cases, e.g., Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, not that tentative) possibilities for Oscar 2010's best picture category.

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

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.

The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow

The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson (above, with Saoirse Ronan)

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

A Serious Man, Joel and Ethan Coen

George Clooney, Jason Reitman - Up in the Air

Up in the Air, Jason Reitman (above, with George Clooney)

Michael Haneke

The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke

In all honesty, I don't know who the hell will get a best direction nod this year – though I'm pretty sure it'll be five of the ten directors listed in my “tentative” 2010 best picture Oscar list.

For the record, the other five not listed above are: Lone Scherfig for An Education; Grant Heslov for The Men Who Stare at Goats; Lee Daniels for Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire; Steven Soderbergh for The Informant!, and Rob Marshall for Nine.

Unless, of course, Jane Campion manages to get a nod for Bright Star. If both Campion and Kathryn Bigelow get in, that'll be a first: two female directors nominated for the best direction Oscar.

Other possibilities – though I'd say less likely considering the aforementioned competition – are Clint Eastwood for Invictus, Spike Jonze for Where the Wild Things Are, Mira Nair for Amelia, and James Cameron for Avatar.

I should add that I've opted to include Michael Haneke in the above shortlist because the Academy's relatively small directors' branch has been more adventurous in the past than nearly every other Academy branch, e.g. – in the last 15 years – Krzysztof Kieslowski for Red, Mike Figgis for Leaving Las Vegas, Atom Egoyan for The Sweet Hereafter, David Lynch for Mulholland Dr., Pedro Almodóvar for Talk to Her, Fernando Meirelles for City of God, Mike Leigh for Vera Drake, and Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Agnes Varda in The Beaches of Agnes

The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda

Veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda remembers her life's beaches, sand dunes, sun rays, and more.

Burma VJ

Burma VJ, Anders Østergaard

In 2007, thousands of monks took to the streets of Burma to protest the military government's brutal anti-democratic policies.

The Cove, Louie Psihoyos

Beautiful, intelligent dolphins are abused and slaughtered to provide entertainment and fodder for ugly, stupid people. The bloody cove of the title is located near Taijii, Japan, where the government does nothing to stop the slaughter.

Food, Inc. by Robert Kenner

Food, Inc., Robert Kenner

The distasteful food industry and their government accomplices vs. your health

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers by Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith

Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers, undemocracy at work, Watergate, and the fall of the unscrupulous Nixon regime

Like other categories such as best foreign-language film, best original song, and best short subjects, the potential Oscar nominees in the best documentary category are hard to predict because the nominees (and in this case the eventual winner) are decided upon by a relatively small group of people, each with their own sets of rules and regulations, minimum passing grades, pet peeves, personal friendships, et al.

Addendum (Nov. 18): So difficult to predict, in fact, that two of the films previously listed above – Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story and Yoav Shamir's Defamation – were not even included in the Academy's Documentary Branch list of 15 semi-finalists for the best feature documentary 2010 Oscar. Also left out was R. J. Cutler's widely acclaimed The September Issue, listed below as a “strong potential contender.”

Anna Wintour in The September Issue by R. J. Cutler

Another strong potential contender is: R. J. Cutler's The September Issue (above), which focuses on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's preparations for her magazine's 2007 fall issue.

And there's also Kirby Dick's daring Outrage, an indictment against several closeted anti-gay politicians.

Among the other documentaries in the running are (some of those depend on their actual release dates in Los Angeles/New York):

Elephant in Earth

Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield's box office hit Earth (above); Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern's Every Little Step, which looks at those auditioning for a Broadway production of A Chorus Line; James Toback's Tyson, about fighter Mike Tyson; and Matt Tyrnauer's Valentino: The Last Emperor, about the fashion designer.

Racing Dreams by Marshall Curry

Also, Marshall Curry's Racing Dreams (above); Davis Guggenheim's It Might Get Loud; Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil; Terence Davies' Of Time and the City, Aron Gaudet's The Way We Get By, and Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson's Mugabe and the White African.

I don't believe that Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert has a chance.

Sources: All These Wonderful Things, Thompson on Hollywood

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Phil Lord and Chris Miller

As a scientist tries to solve world hunger, it starts raining food.

Coraline by Henry Selick

Coraline, Henry Selick

A young girl discovers a new world featuring an idealized version of her dysfunctional family life – and some spooky little secrets as well.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson

Farmers band together to get rid of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) and his family (Meryl Streep is the Missus).

Ponyo by Hayao Miyazaki

Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki

A five-year-old boy and a goldfish princess develop a close bond.

Up by Pete Docter

Up, Pete Docter

A man in his late 70s takes his house and a young stowaway to the South American jungle.

In case there are 16 or more animated features being considered for the 2010 Academy Awards, the category automatically goes from three to five entries. There's a chance – however slim – that'll happen this year. So, just in case, I've listed five films.

In addition to those five, other potential Oscar 2010 contenders are:

9 by Shane Acker

Shane Acker's post-apocalyptic 9 (above); Robert Zemeckis' version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, featuring Jim Carrey, Robin Wright, Colin Firth, and Michael J. Fox, among others; Ron Clements and John Musker's The Princess and the Frog, a fairy-tale set in Jazz Age New Orleans, and voiced by Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Anika Noni Rose, and others; and Adam Elliot's Sundance opener Mary and Max, about two unlikely pen pals, an 8-year-old girl (Toni Collette) in Melbourne and a 40-something man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in New York City.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Also in the running are: Carlos Saldanha's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (above); Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon's Monsters vs. Aliens; Aristomenis Tsirbas' Battle for Terra; Jorge Blanco's Planet 51; David Bowers' Astro Boy, with voices by Nicolas Cage, Charlize Theron, and others; Klay Hall's Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure; Masayuki and Kazuya Tsurumaki's Evangerion; and possibly Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar's A Town Called Panic.

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15 Comments to Oscar Early Predictions Best Picture: From Iraq War Drama to '8½' Musical Remake

  1. David

    UP is just uncompetitive :)

  2. I personally nominate “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Toy Story 3” and “Up” for the best animations.

    There are many other animations which I really like and would love to mention but those 3 are the ones that caught my eye the most …

  3. Food Inc was a great documentary but I'm happy to see The Cove won the award. I hope it raised enough awareness that the Japanese stopped this awful slaughter of intelligent dolphins.

  4. KARAN SHARMA

    'UP' will Win…

  5. Ikuko

    >Rude/crass/bigoted comments and/or remarks, and name-calling of any sort will be immediately deleted.

    Then what about this?

    “Beautiful, intelligent dolphins are abused and slaughtered to provide entertainment and fodder for ugly, stupid people.”

    Very sad.

  6. Frank

    Up should win. Coraline was just a mediocre video game.

  7. Mumbles Rsielsb

    I believe The Princess & the Frog also has a good chance of nabbing an oscar. This has been a very good year for good animated films.

  8. Bradley Badder

    Best Picture : The Lovely Bones
    Best Director : Rob Marshall,NINE
    Best Actor : Daniel Day Lewis, NINE
    Best Actress : Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

  9. Marcy

    If Jane Campion and Lone Scherfig get nominated we'll have three women along with Kathryn Bigelow. Now, THAT will be an Oscar first.

  10. Evangeline

    Best actor: Clive Owen

    Best Director: Scott Hicks

    Best score: Hal Lindes

    Best picture: “The Boys Are Back”

  11. Janet

    Whenever I think of the Academy's music branch I think of Alan Menken, Walt Disney, mermaids, and singing teapots.

  12. Valdez-Lopez

    Actually, I would think the music, specifically the song branch, the ones who've been more adventurous.

    Eminem, anyone?

  13. Plum

    I haven't seen ANY of these films!!!!! I want to see them all before the Oscars… :o)

    Plum

    Don't Be a Plum