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Awards Season Forecast…

It’s summer time! That means blockbusters, comic book movies! It’s comic con time! That means more blockbuster and more comic book movie gossip! It seems that everything from the Tron viral campaign to the impending release of the Alice in Wonderland teaser is generating a lot of buzz. And quite right, too. We do live in the era of the geek. However, once we get into autumn proper, there are more prestigious films approaching. Looks like the studios are sticking to the tried-and-true “cram as many Oscar contenders as you can into the least amount of time” method, and there’s a huge schlock of films coming out. Here are just some of the main ones I’m looking forward to during awards season.

Starring Morgan Freeman? Check. Directed by Clint Eastwood? Check. Story of an iconic figure? Check. Story of triumph over adversity/prejudice? Check. Set in the past? Check. Oscar Gold? Check.

Starring Morgan Freeman? Check. Directed by Clint Eastwood? Check. Story of an iconic figure? Check. Story of triumph over adversity/prejudice? Check. Set in the past? Check. Oscar Gold? Check.

Being honest, I’m more excited about this crop of awards contenders than I was about last years, and that seems to be the consensus. Not too sure about filling up ten slots, but we’ll see. Anyway, before we get into it properly, I should probably state that I don’t think that the extra five places will affect the kind of films that get nominated this year. Despite the reception they’ve received, I wouldn’t count on Moon or Star Trek getting through. Up (which hasn’t been released in Ireland yet) has a slightly better shot, but it’ll scrape in if it does at all. I’d expect Avatar, that most anticipated of geek films, to be the only major genre contender this year – and only because it is directed by James Cameron. There seems to be a bit of buzz behind Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, but this is another film I’m honestly not too sure will make the Oscar cut, due to its combination of the fantasy genre with fairly depressing (but not “fashionably depressing”) subject matter. I would expect Saoirse Ronan to be in contention for a nod, though. I’d rule out The Road completely because of this voting prejudice, but The Reader taught us to never write off the Miramax marketing machine (even when they’re broke).

Anyway, so now we’ve looked at the genre films, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and name Invictus as my favourite to win the award this year. Clint Eastwood is a grand old man of the Academy and was shunned last year (maybe because he’d dominated the ceremony in the previous few years, maybe because Gran Torino didn’t connect with voters). Starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, this is a Nelson Mandela biopic with a pretentious title directed by an American filmmaking legend. It has “awards gold” written all over it. It also sounds like it could actually be really good as well. Always a bonus.

I think we’re too far out to spot all ten nominees, but there are a number of front runners. There’s Nine, which is a musical based on a Frederick Fellini film starring Daniel Day Lewis. Director Rob Marshall got a nomination for Chicago, so he’s not an unknown quantity and Day Lewis might as well be allowed to sculpt his own Oscars at this point. I’m fairly sure it’ll be nominated and it’s a film I’m really looking forward to (if only for the cast). Then there’s Amelia, the biopic of Amelia Erhart starring Hilary Swank. I’ll confess that though she’s good, I’ve never seen what’s so amazing about Swank (she already has two awards), but the Academy loves her. My girlfriend is excited about this particular contender and there’s nothing like a classy biopic. We’ve been hearing buzz about Precious since last awards season, and it looks like (with a cast including Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Mo’Nique) it might be the ‘outside’ nomination this year despite lacking any established talent (kinda like a very, very dark and serious Juno). The Hurt Locker is generating a lot of discussion, but I can see it being dismissively classified as an ‘action’ film. Maybe it could make it. I’d like to see Shutter Island on the shortlist and I’m really anticipating it – a Scorcese film is really pretty much certain to be a highlight of any year and DiCaprio is always improving – but I’ve heard next to nothing about it and it looks like it might just be written off as a cheap ‘thriller’. We’ll probably hear more buzz as the time gets closer.

Looking Swank(y)...

Looking Swank(y)...

There’s considerable buzz generating around An Education and Bright Star, but I haven’t heard enough to get me particularly excited about the movies. I’m much more interested in The Ghost, an adaptation of the novel by Robert Harris, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor. It’s the story of a British Prime Minister and the ghost writer crafting his memoirs and I think it could (just could, pending word of mouth) be the token political film (like Frost/Nixon and The Queen were and The Special Relationship likely will be). The Academy still loves Polanski, despite it all, but I can see how he might not have the same appeal with this adaptation as he did with The Pianist. I think The Informant might have a better chance. It has a very strong trailer doing the rounds, features a strong leading performance by Matt Damon as a delusional employee ratting his company out to the FBI. It’s directed by Stephen Soderberg and seems like in might make the cut – the Academy seems more likely to embrace Soderberg’s more serious works, but he does have a strong following and a solid reputation.

Still, most of these movies are a good half-a-year off. There are likely a few sneaky contenders out there who will pop up as word-of-mouth inevitably knocks a few off. I’ll be back with a more definitive list next month, but we’ve got the time. Living in this country, I won’t see most of the above until 2010.

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