Oscar Early Predictions: Michelle Pfeiffer Best Actress Contender?
Abbie Cornish, Bright Star
Frances 'Fanny' Brawne has a relatively brief but intense love affair with poet John Keats
Carey Mulligan, An Education
In 1960s London, a schoolgirl falls for a man in his 30s
Michelle Pfeiffer, Cheri
An older courtesan introduces a young man to the art of lovemaking
Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
An abused pregnant teen is befriended by a compassionate teacher
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Julia Child joyfully introduces dead poultry into American kitchens
A dozen actresses – female actors if you wish – can be considered as very strong candidates for a 2010 best actress nomination (as long as their movies open in LA until December 31). In addition to the five listed above, there are:
Audrey Tautou as modiste Gabrielle Chanel in Coco Before Chanel; Saoirse Ronan as the dead girl overlooking those down below in The Lovely Bones; Renée Zellweger in the road movie My One and Only; Hilary Swank as doomed aviatrix Amelia Earhart in Amelia; Helen Mirren as Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station (The Tempest will apparently be released only in 2010); and Annette Bening as a mother who decades earlier gave up her daughter for adoption in Mother and Child.
Meryl Streep should have had a clause in her contract stipulating that It's Complicated would open only in 2010. That way she'd likely get her 200th Oscar nomination in early 2011. For this year, it's gonna be Julie & Julia.
Other strong best actress possibilities are Zooey Deschanel as the object of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's desire in (500) Days of Summer and César winner Yolande Moreau (above) for Séraphine – as long as she gets recognized by US film critics later in the year. (Who is Marion Cotillard's publicist? Those people should all be calling him/her.)
Cotillard, by the way, may be pushed in the best actress category for Nine. Also in the running are Penélope Cruz in Pedro Almodóvar's film noirish Broken Embraces (above); Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried in the drama-cum-thriller Chloe; Michelle Monaghan in Trucker; Emily Blunt in Young Victoria; Naomi Watts and Mother and Child; and Rachel Weisz in The Lovely Bones.
Plus Charlize Theron in either The Road or the box office disappointment The Burning Plain; Samantha Morton in The Messenger; Brenda Blethyn in London River (above); Amy Adams in Julie & Julia; Natalie Portman in Brothers; and Kirsten Dunst in All Good Things.
Pushing it: Sandra Bullock in The Proposal. (Dec. 7 addendum: Surprisingly, Bullock has become a potential contender for the sentimental drama The Blind Side. Michelle Pfeiffer and Abbie Cornish, on the other hand, seem less and less likely to land a nod.)
Addendum: Someone who should be pushed – Hiam Abbass for her beautiful, resolute, and immensely touching widow in Eran Riklis' Lemon Tree.
Addendum II: Lars von Trier's Antichrist has opened in Los Angeles, which makes Charlotte Gainsbourg a potential Oscar contender. The Academy tends to shy away from films revolving around sex (especially the kind of sex found in Antichrist), but Emily Watson did get a nod back in 1996 for von Trier's Breaking the Waves – in which Watson's deeply religious character has sex with just about every available guy in the area. Thus, Gainsbourg, winner of this year's best actress prize at Cannes, is a possibility – perhaps even a strong one if US critics' groups decide to send her some love later this year.
And here's another one: Sophie Okonedo, playing the black daughter of white parents in Skin, set in the South Africa of the 1950s.
Addendum III (Nov. 29): A commenter reminded me of Catalina Saavedra, another possibility if US critics decide to honor her performance as a determined houseworker in the Chilean-made The Maid. She's up for a Gotham Award.
George Clooney, Up in the Air
A professional downsizer finds the frequent-flying love of his life while having to come to terms with his long-lost humanity.
Matt Damon, The Informant!
A pathological liar helps the FBI nab his employer, a dishonest agribusiness conglomerate.
Nine (with Marion Cotillard)
Colin Firth, A Single Man
In 1960s Los Angeles, a gay college professor is determined to kill himself after learning that his lover has died in an accident.
Viggo Mortensen, The Road
A man and his son struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
I'd say that four of the five actors listed above are, if not shoo-ins, at least highly likely Oscar 2010 contenders.
The iffiest one in the list is Viggo Mortensen, whose spot could be taken by, say, Morgan Freeman, playing one more honorable presidential character (Nelson Mandela this time) in Clint Eastwood's South Africa-set drama Invictus; Robert Duvall in Get Low, which has been generating some good buzz for the veteran actor whose performances, no matter how ravenous, have earned him five Oscar nods and one win in the last 37 years; or Michael Stuhlbarg as the cross-carrying hero in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man – it all depending on how much love this stage performer gets from US critics later in the year.
Other solid possibilities are: Robert Downey Jr as the weird detective hero in Sherlock Holmes; Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the lovestruck young man in the sleeper hit 500 Days of Summer; Ben Whishaw as poet John Keats in Jane Campion's Bright Star; and Robert De Niro in Everybody's Fine, another old Marcello Mastroianni role, this one that of a widower on his way to meet his somewhat estranged grown children. (The Giuseppe Tornatore 1990 original is way too maudlin for my taste, but I do hope they've kept the deer sequence intact in this remake.)
Addendum: Initially, I had James McAvoy (above, with Helen Mirren) as one of the top best supporting actor contenders for The Last Station. However, McAvoy is being appropriately pushed as the film's lead. (Veteran Christopher Plummer, who'd been mentioned as a possible best actor contender for The Last Station, has been demoted to the supporting category in that film so he can run in the best actor race for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.) Anyhow, after being ignored twice – for both The Last King of Scotland and Atonement – perhaps enough Academy members will decide to give McAvoy an Oscar break for his performance as Leo Tolstoy's secretary Valentin Bulgakov.
Also: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker (above); Mark Wahlberg in The Lovely Bones; Ryan Gosling in All Good Things; Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds; Michael Sheen in The Damned United; Peter Sarsgaard in An Education; Ben Foster in The Messenger; Clive Owen in The Boys Are Back; either Jake Gyllenhaal or Tobey Maguire in Brothers; and Liam Neeson in Five Minutes of Heaven.
And last but quite probably not least, veteran Hal Holbrook (right) as a Tennessee farmer facing all sorts of problems in That Evening Sun.
Now, it's worth remembering that some of the aforementioned names may be pushed as supporting actors no matter how much screen time they have. Others may not be pushed at all, depending on how much studios and/or distributors want to spend on films that have underperformed (or will underperform) at the box office or that have been (or will be) coolly received by critics. Some of those films may only open in the Los Angeles area in 2010…
Just like last year, the real tight Oscar race will take place among the women. The best actress field has about ten likely candidates, while the best supporting actress race is even more crowded. The best supporting actor category, on the other hand, is wide open because there are thus far few truly strong candidates.
Penélope Cruz, Nine
A film director's seductive mistress (if she's half as tantalizing in the film as she is in the above photo, Cruz deserves not only a nod but the golden statuette itself)
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
A professional downsizer's trainee
Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
A pregnant, illiterate teen's Mom from Hell
Julianne Moore, A Single Man (with Colin Firth)
A married alcoholic pining for an English professor – who just happens to be both gay and suicidal
Emma Thompson, An Education
A school headmistress in 1960s London
The most disputed acting category in the 2010 Oscar race. In addition to the aforementioned five actresses, five others who could easily land a nomination (in case their movies open in the Los Angeles area in 2009 and don't bomb) are:
Vera Farmiga, as the object of professional downsizer George Clooney's desire in Up in the Air (above, top photo); Kathy Bates as a concerned mother (and courtesan) in Cheri (above, lower photo); Cara Seymour, as wayward Carey Mulligan's mom in An Education; Judi Dench as Daniel Day-Lewis' confidante in Nine; and Susan Sarandon as dead Saoirse Ronan's granny in The Lovely Bones.
And, in case they're pushed as supporting actresses, these three (potential best actress nominees) are just as likely to be nominated in the supporting category as the aforementioned 10 names: Rachel Weisz as the dead girl's mother in The Lovely Bones (above); Helen Mirren as Leo Tolstoy's wife in The Last Station; and Marion Cotillard as Daniel Day-Lewis' wife in Nine. (Cotillard also has a chance – though considerably more distant – of landing a nomination for Public Enemies.)
Other potential contenders are: Mariah Carey (above) and Paula Patton in Precious; Sissy Spacek, in case Get Low gets a 2009 release; Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, and Stacy Ferguson in Nine; Kerry Fox in Bright Star; and Samantha Morton, in case she gets pushed in the supporting actress category for The Messenger.
Also, Sigourney Weaver in Avatar (above, with Giovanni Ribisi); Mélanie Laurent and Diane Kruger in Inglourious Basterds; Imelda Staunton in Taking Woodstock; Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Melissa Leo (I'm assuming in the old Michèle Morgan role) in Everybody's Fine; and Cherry Jones and Kerry Washington in Mother and Child.
Alfred Molina, An Education (with Cara Seymour, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard)
An overprotective father worries about his wayward daughter in 1960s London.
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station (with Helen Mirren)
Initially touted as a potential best actor contender, Plummer is getting the supporting treatment for his performance as the elderly Leo Tolstoy. In that category, the veteran actor has a much better chance of landing a nomination. (James McAvoy, formerly in this list for his role in The Last Station, is now in the Oscar 2010 best actor race.)
Paul Schneider, Bright Star
John Keats' not too sympathetic best friend Charles Armitage Brown.
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Apparently, nothing lovely about Tucci in this one.
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Nazi Col. Hans Landa, fluent in four languages.
This is the most difficult acting category to predict simply because thus far there haven't been any real standouts – in terms of Oscar p.r., that is. The strongest bet is Cannes winner Christoph Waltz, whose film has grossed more than $100 million in the U.S. and Canada market. That always helps. And in case he does get nominated, Christopher Plummer may actually end up winning the 2010 Oscar for best supporting actor even if only because of his veteran-ness. But that's not guaranteed. (See the Lauren Bacall Oscar Story.)
Other possibilities, some more (or less) likely than others: Matt Damon in Invictus (above) – it's always good to have a star pushed in a supporting role (good for the star, that is, not for real supporting players); Peter Sarsgaard in An Education, depending on how he's going to be pushed (lead or supporting); ditto for George Clooney in The Men Who Stare at Goats; and Bill Murray in Get Low (if it gets a 2009 release).
Also: Liev Schreiber in Taking Woodstock (above; the film was a flop, but crossdressing is always a plus); Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker; Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated; Richard Kind in A Serious Man; Nicholas Hoult in A Single Man; Robert Duvall and Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road; Richard Gere in Amelia; Woody Harrelson in The Messenger; and Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.
And Stanley Tucci again, who may get a nod for the lighter Julie & Julia instead of the darker The Lovely Bones.
But then again, the five best supporting actor Oscar nominees of 2010 could be five performers totally ignored in this piece.
Best Foreign Language Film
Baaria, Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy)
An autobiographical tale set in the director's Sicilian hometown
Forever Enthralled, Chen Kaige (China)
Biopic chronicling the life of Mei Lanfang, China's greatest opera star.
I Killed My Mother, Xavier Dolan (Canada)
A young gay man has some serious issues with his mother.
A Prophet, Jacques Audiard (France)
Prison drama in which a young hood learns what it takes to reach the top of that small (and nasty) world.
The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke (Germany)
As a prelude to both World War I and World War II, a German village unexpectedly becomes the setting of numerous acts of cruelty.
Quality (much like fairness) is in the brain of the judge. (Of course, if we're lucky enough to have a judge who actually has a functioning brain.) In a way, that sort of sums up voting panels, committees, and individuals everywhere, including the perennially reviled Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' voters who select the five best foreign-language film nominees each year.
Sometimes, I must grudgingly admit, it's all a matter of taste. So, the Cannes jury and world critics loved Cristi Puiu's abortion drama 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days. In case foreign-language-film-voting Academy-ites loved it as well, they didn't love it well enough. The shoo-in nominee fail to land a nod in early 2008.
Other surprises in recent years include the absence of both Pedro Almodóvar's Volver and Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah among the nominated foreign films. (This year, Almodóvar's Broken Embraces was bypassed by the Spanish Oscar committee; their submission is listed further down.)
You like potato, they like tomato, I like tiramisu? Well, that could be. That could also be the result of warped voting procedures; e.g., the fact that only a (small? tiny?) minority of Academy members end up watching even a sample of the sixty or so submitted films each year.
My point is: of all the top Oscar categories, this is by far the most unpredictable. I'm sure that those Academy voters even surprise themselves every now and then – I mean, Aki Kaurismäki's way out there The Man Without Past? Susanne Bier's unusual melodrama After the Wedding? How did those get in next to conventional fare like, say, Days of Glory, The Lives of Others, Nowhere in Africa, and The Crime of Father Amaro? (By the way, “conventional” doesn't necessarily means “bad.” It just means, well, “conventional,” or if you prefer, “mainstream.”)
Anyhow, the five films listed at the top of this article are Oscar 2010 possibilities – that's it. Even Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner The White Ribbon doesn't have a guaranteed Oscar nomination because it may end up being too stark for a group of people who generally like their dramas either unabashedly sentimental or easily accessible – or even better, both. (No Haneke-directed film has ever been nominated for an Oscar – in any category.)
Among the other contenders of note – and of varying degrees of Oscarability – in the best foreign language film category are:
Claudia Llosa's The Milk of Sorrow (Peru), winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; Ciro Guerra's The Wind Journeys (Colombia), a well-received tale featuring an aging accordion player traveling with a young apprentice; and Oskar Jonasson's Reykjavik-Rotterdam (Iceland), about a former smuggler who, out of economic necessity, may revert to his old ways. Jonasson's thriller recently received quite a bit of publicity on this side of the Atlantic thanks to an announced remake to star Mark Wahlberg.
Also, Ruben Ostlund's Golden Beetle nominee (that's Sweden's Oscars) Involuntary (Sweden), about summer fun gone sour; Joon-ho Bong's Mother (Korea), in which a mother does everything in her power to save her son, who has been accused of a serious crime; and Corneliu Porumboiu's Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner Police, Adjective (Romania), in which a sensible police officer refuses to arrest a young pot dealer.
Plus Asghar Farhadi's About Elly (Iran), winner of the Silver Bear for best director in Berlin; Havana Marking's Sundance Award-winning documentary Afghan Star (United Kingdom), about how some people in Afghanistan will take all sorts of chances to appear on the television show Pop Idol; Fernando Trueba's The Dancer and the Thief (Spain), a political-psychological drama set in Chile, in which two amnestied former inmates take surprising paths once they're out of prison, partly thanks to the influence of a mute ballerina; and Yonfan's Prince of Tears (Hong Kong), the story of two mainland Chinese sisters recently arrived in Taiwan who have their lives turned upside down after their parents are accused of being spies.
Curiously, the Brazilian committee has submitted another violent urban tale for the Oscars – Sérgio Rezende's Time of Fear (above) – despite the fact that neither of their previous submissions in that genre (City of God, Last Stop 174) landed a nomination. (City of God was nominated in several categories the following year thanks to Harvey Weinstein's Oscar Vote Nabbing Machine.)
In fact, chances are that those Academy members who vote in the foreign film category will much rather watch (and vote for) Leon Dai's Golden Horse nominee No Puedo Vivir sin Ti (Taiwan), the tale of a poor dockworker who fights Taiwan's bureaucracy so as to keep custody of his child.
But then again, I could be wrong. After all, Time of Fear focuses on a mom trying to rescue her imprisoned son at a time of social and political chaos in São Paulo.
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, 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.
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.
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.
Nine, d: Rob Marshall; scr: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella
A musicalized remake of Federico Fellini's 8½, about a film director and his many women
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, d: Lee Daniels; scr: Geoffrey Fletcher
A pregnant, abused teen is helped by a compassionate teacher.
A Serious Man, d & scr: Joel and Ethan Coen
In the late 1960s, a Midwestern Jewish man goes through more suffering than Job.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
A Serious Man, Joel and Ethan Coen
Up in the Air, Jason Reitman (above, with George Clooney)
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.
The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda
Veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda remembers her life's beaches, sand dunes, sun rays, and more.
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., 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, 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.”
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):
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.
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.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Phil Lord and Chris Miller
As a scientist tries to solve world hunger, it starts raining food.
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, Wes Anderson
Farmers band together to get rid of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) and his family (Meryl Streep is the Missus).
Ponyo, Hayao Miyazaki
A five-year-old boy and a goldfish princess develop a close bond.
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:
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.
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.
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: Brutal French prison & Nazis-in-the-making among contenders
Sixty-five countries have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 82nd Academy Awards, Academy President Tom Sherak announced today. The 2009 submissions are:
Albania, “Alive!,” Artan Minarolli, director;
Argentina, “The Secret in Their Eyes,” Juan José Campanella, director;
Armenia, “Autumn of the Magician,” Rouben Kevorkov and Vaheh Kevorkov, directors;
Australia, “Samson & Delilah,” Warwick Thornton, director;
Austria, “For a Moment Freedom,” Arash T. Riahi, director;
Bangladesh, “Beyond the Circle,” Golam Rabbany Biplob, director;
Belgium, “The Misfortunates,” Felix van Groeningen, director;
Bolivia, “Zona Sur,” Juan Carlos Valdivia, director;
Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Nightguards,” Namik Kabil, director;
Brazil, “Time of Fear,” Sérgio Rezende, director;
Bulgaria, “The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner,” Stephan Komandarev, director;
Canada, “I Killed My Mother,” Xavier Dolan, director;
Chile, “Dawson, Isla 10,” Miguel Littin, director;
China, “Forever Enthralled,” Chen Kaige, director;
Colombia, “The Wind Journeys,” Ciro Guerra, director;
Croatia, “Donkey,” Antonio Nuic, director;
Cuba, “Fallen Gods,” Ernesto Daranas, director;
Czech Republic, “Protektor,” Marek Najbrt, director;
Denmark, “Terribly Happy,” Henrik Ruben Genz, director;
Estonia, “December Heat,” Asko Kase, director;
Finland, “Letters to Father Jacob,” Klaus Haro, director;
France, “Un Prophete,” Jacques Audiard, director;
Georgia, “The Other Bank,” George Ovashvili, director;
Germany, “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke, director;
Greece, “Slaves in Their Bonds,” Tony Lykouressis, director;
Hong Kong, “Prince of Tears,” Yonfan, director;
Hungary, “Chameleon,” Krisztina Goda, director;
Iceland, “Reykjavik-Rotterdam,” Oskar Jonasson, director;
India, “Harishchandrachi Factory,” Paresh Mokashi, director;
Indonesia, “Jamila and the President,” Ratna Sarumpaet;
Iran, “About Elly,” Asghar Farhadi, director;
Israel, “Ajami,” Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, director;
Italy, “Baaria,” Giuseppe Tornatore, director;
Japan, “Nobody to Watch over Me,” Ryoichi Kimizuka, director;
Kazakhstan, “Kelin,” Ermek Tursunov, director;
Korea, “Mother,” Joon-ho Bong, director;
Lithuania, “Vortex,” Gytis Luksas, director;
Luxembourg, “Refractaire,” Nicolas Steil, director;
Macedonia, “Wingless,” Ivo Trajkov, director;
Mexico, “Backyard,” Carlos Carrera, director;
Morocco, “Casanegra,” Nour-Eddine Lakhmari, director;
The Netherlands, “Winter in Wartime,” Martin Koolhoven, director;
Norway, “Max Manus,” Espen Sandberg and Joachim Roenning, directors;
Peru, “The Milk of Sorrow,” Claudia Llosa, director;
Philippines, “Grandpa Is Dead,” Soxie H. Topacio, director;
Poland, “Reverse,” Borys Lankosz, director;
Portugal, “Doomed Love,” Mario Barroso, director;
Puerto Rico, “Kabo and Platon,” Edmundo H. Rodriguez, director;
Romania, “Police, Adjective,” Corneliu Porumboiu, director;
Russia, “Ward No. 6,” Karen Shakhnazarov, director;
Serbia, “St. George Shoots the Dragon,” Srdjan Dragojevic, director;
Slovakia, “Broken Promise,” Jiri Chlumsky, director;
Slovenia, “Landscape No. 2,” Vinko Moderndorfer, director;
South Africa, “White Wedding,” Jann Turner, director;
Spain, “The Dancer and the Thief,” Fernando Trueba, director;
Sri Lanka, “The Road from Elephant Pass,” Chandran Rutnam;
Sweden, “Involuntary,” Ruben Ostlund, director;
Switzerland, “Home,” Ursula Meier, director;
Taiwan, “No Puedo Vivir sin Ti,” Leon Dai, director;
Thailand, “Best of Times,” Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, director;
Turkey, “I Saw the Sun,” Mahsun Kirmizigul, director;
United Kingdom, “Afghan Star,” Havana Marking, director;
Uruguay, “Bad Day for Fishing,” Alvaro Brechner, director;
Venezuela, “Libertador Morales, El Justiciero,” Efterpi Charalambidis, director;
Vietnam, “Don't Burn It,” Dang Nhat Minh.
The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak(top); The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (middle); China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (bottom)
Oscars: Documentary Short Subject semifinalists
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the list of eight semi-finalists in the Documentary Short Subject category for the 2010 Academy Awards. Three to five of those shorts will end up with Oscar nominations.
The eight films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:
- China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, Downtown Community Television Center, Inc.
- The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, Just Media
- The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, Community Media Productions
- Lt. Watada, Chanlim Films
- Music by Prudence, iThemba Productions, Inc.
- Rabbit a la Berlin, MS Films
- Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, Outside Productions
- Woman Rebel, Women Rebel Films
Subjects range from interviews with parents who lost their children following the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008 (Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill's China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province) to the closing down of the General Motors assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio (Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert's The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant); from an examination of children's book writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak's thoughts, including his lifelong obsession with death (Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze's Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak) to how rabbits stuck inside the confines of the Berlin Wall (or rather, walls) were affected after the Wall came down in the late '80s (Bartek Konopka's Rabbit a la Berlin).
Also, Daniel Junge's The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner shows how the former governor of the state of Washington led the campaign on behalf of the state's Death with Dignity Act, which allows assisted suicide; Lt. Watada is a portrait of US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who refused to fight in the Iraq War and got into some serious trouble for that reason; Roger Ross Williams' Music by Prudence looks at the Zimbabwe musical group Liyana and their lead singer, Prudence Mabhena; and Kiran Deol's Woman Rebel chronicles the stories of female Nepalese rebel fighters who have recently been running for public office.
The eight semi-finalists were chosen after voters from the Academy's Documentary Branch viewed this year's 37 eligible entries and submitted their ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers for tabulation. (How many voters actually watched all 37 entries remains unclear.)
The 2010 Academy Award nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
The 2010 Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 7, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center. In the U.S., it'll be televised live by ABC.
Anjelica Huston + Jonathan Demme & Kirk Douglas: Honorary Oscar Presenters
Oscar winners Anjelica Huston, Jonathan Demme, and Quentin Tarantino, and Honorary Award recipient Kirk Douglas will be some of the presenters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' first Governors Awards event on November 14 at Hollywood & Highland Center's Grand Ballroom.
The evening will feature presentations of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer-executive John Calley, and Honorary Awards to actress Lauren Bacall, producer-director Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
The black-tie dinner event for more than 600 guests will feature film clips as well as statements from the honorees, and tributes from their colleagues and admirers.
The Honorary Award, an Oscar statuette, is given to an individual for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
The Thalberg Award, a bust of the legendary motion picture executive Irving G. Thalberg, best known for his work at MGM from the founding of the studio in 1924 to his death in 1936, is given to “a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”
The Governors Awards presentation is being produced for the Academy by Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen in association with Emmy-winning producer Don Mischer.
As per a previous Academy press release, clips from the Honorary Awards presentation will be shown at the Academy Awards ceremony.