Two words. Too soon.
What is the point of making Oscar predictions this early when so many movies have yet to open, or be seen by critics? Tom O’Neill is touting LES MISERABLES as the Best Picture frontrunner over at Gold Derby (goldderby.com). And yet he hasn’t seen it. No critic has.
O’Neill famously crowed long and loud that SWEENEY TODD would win Best Picture four years ago, along with a Best Actor and Best Actress prize for Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, respectively. He withdrew those early exclamations once he saw it. (The movie was good, but not great, and of those three big O’Neill declarations, only Depp’s nod came to pass.) Some films may seem like Oscar bait, based on cast, subject material or prestigious reputation, but you never know until they open.
Then there’s Roger Ebert who boldly declared this year that ARGO would win the top Oscar. He made that boast when he saw its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Again, at that moment he had yet to see many potential contenders like LINCOLN or LES MISERABLES or ZERO DARK THIRTY, so why the need to rush to such judgments? I’d expect Ebert to approach such declarations with a little more measure than say, the Amazing Kreskin.
Every critic wants to be heard in the industry. (Me too, with this blog.) But still, why make such boffo predictions when they’re based on so little so far? The competition hasn’t been seen. The variables that make for a nod haven’t been determined, like timing, box office, etc. And these opinions come off like that famous line about a**holes. You know, everyone’s got one.
The reason for much of this is due to Oscar prognosticating becoming such a huge cottage industry. It keeps people reading the town’s trades like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. It keeps dozens, if not hundreds, of cinematic websites and blogs afloat. And everyone wants the big scoop, to say they said it first, and to drive the conversation. But the truth is until the critics weigh in with their awards most of it is just idle talk. Critics’ awards have a lot of sway, so perhaps folks like Ebert and O’Neill are really trying to influence their peers' voting.
This year O’Neill has already declared the Best Actor race is over as no one can beat Daniel Day-Lewis’ towering performance as LINCOLN, a film due in December. He’s seen the film, true. But he hasn’t seen all the other films with other potential competition so why go out on that limb in the middle of October? O’Neill is an expert on awards trivia, so perhaps it would behoove him to remember that sure things like Lauren Bacall’s certain Best Supporting Actress victory for THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES never came to fruition.
I myself think that the sublime FRANKENWEENIE could win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Could, not will. The fact is, as great as it is, there are so many factors yet to be included in the argument - its competition, its box office, its trade ads, how it figures in the critics’ awards, etc. The fact that it isn’t making a ton of money could hurt its chances. If few see it, few can vote for it. So while I will declare it has a strong shot, I will not state unequivocally that it has the award in the bag.
And then you get whoppers of Oscar predictions that make little sense to me, and to most Oscar watchers. Over at the In Contention tab at Hitfix.com, Guy Lodge is predicting that Matthew McConaughey is a frontrunner for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in MAGIC MIKE. Really? What’s that based on? Box office? (Doubtful, it wasn’t a big hit.) A feeling that the actor is due? (Maybe, but McConaughey got better reviews this year for BERNIE and KILLER JOE.) Or is it bias? Ah, there’s the rub. For whatever reason, critic Lodge feels strong about McConaughey’s work and feels he should be a frontrunner, whether or not he actually is in most people’s minds.
Look, it’s fun to predict and argue such things. Water cooler conversation drives so much of our national discourse anyway, and Hollywood is no exception. Tinseltown lives on hype and buzz. But I think it would behoove those in the industry to be a little more speculative rather than so demonstrative.
One last gripe...
I think it's silly to push Anne Hathaway in the Best Actress category for her role as Catwoman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. It's a supporting role. And the only reason that the studio or her representation is doing so is to avoid having her compete against herself in the Supporting Actress category for her work in LES MISERABLES.
This kind of silliness doesn't help the Oscar conversation either.