It's early December, the Golden Globe nominations are handed out next week and the critics circles from around the country are beginning to list their favorites of the year. Of course, what all of that means is that Oscar season is officially underway! While, like every year, there are some real stand-outs and favorites, the Academy's decision to extend the best picture category to include 10 films has really thrown a wrench into the predicting process. Additionally, it's been a somewhat quiet year filled with quality films, but nothing that's sure to sweep come Oscar time.
The Five: Oscar Wild Cards
Thus, that leaves the door open for some wild cards and Cinderella stories. And in case you're wondering who the wild cards are this year, here are five to get you started:
Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster
These two actors star opposite each other in a little indie called The Messenger, in which both Harrelson and Foster play ex-soldiers who must serve time back home by alerting families that their loved ones were killed. It's an emotionally gripping film, and both men deserve kudos for their wonderful, soulful performances. Harrelson, as a veteran at the job and Foster's mentor, is a little more edgy and smooth in his delivery. Foster, meanwhile, is more nuanced and freaky. The work he pulls off with his eyes alone are worthy of an Oscar nod.
Chances of Oscar Nomination: 90% (Though only one of these guys will wind up with the nod, we'd love to see them both be honored).
Sam Rockwell and 'Moon'
My favorite science fiction film of the year, Moon has flown under the radar when it comes to awards, but the fanboys have totally embraced it as one of best films of 2009. Director Duncan Jones even started a grassroots Oscar campaign for Rockwell, who's tremendous in a role that finds him playing an astronaut working on the moon who finds it difficult to return home when someone (or something) shows up on his ship.
Chances of Oscar Nomination: 30% (Sadly, while the buzz is strong with this one, it might be a little too heady for some Academy voters.)
The actress who's been content starring in one awful rom-com after another has turned in what many are calling an Oscar-worthy performance in the inspirational sports flick, The Blind Side. In the film, Bullock plays a woman who takes in a troubled football player and, with much care and dedication, helps him achieve his dreams of playing in the NFL.
Chances of Oscar Nomination: 70% (She's definitely in the hunt, though there are tons of talented ladies and performances to compete with.)
Star Trek and J.J. Abrams
With the new 10-movie rule in the best picture category, chances are very good that at least one fanboy film will make the cut. The one movie that a lot of people seem to be talking up is Star Trek, though it's still very much a wild card in that it's not appearing on critic lists. Not for nothing, while Star Trek was a great film and perhaps one that deserves some recognition, in my opinion it's J.J. Abrams who deserves the award…if only because he did the impossible: he made Star Trek cool again.
Chances of Oscar Nomination: 75% (The odds are good, but there are definitely ten quality films that will more than likely beat out the Trek.)
His turn as a corrupt, sex-obsessed cop in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was so wild and so over the top that it's hard not to wonder whether he deserves some sort of award for it. Now I don't know if it's an Oscar or a gift certificate for instant therapy, but I do know that it's memorable and one that's not to be missed…assuming you like your Nicolas Cage on the freaky side.
Chances of Oscar Nomination: 30% (While lots found something to adore in this performance, it may be a little too rough around the edges for the Academy voters.)
Who would you like to see wind up with a nomination this year? Any films or performances that really stood out?
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Erik DavisFandango Bloggers
Erik is a leading movie commentator who has worked for outlets such as AOL Moviefone and Movies.com.