Day Sixty-Three – Oscar Predictions: Genre Categories

4 03 2010

This is possibly one of the most interesting years in a while for the genre categories. I still think there’s a good argument for a couple more categories, which I’ll address once I’m through with the predictions, but the genre categories available now are almost more interesting than the big ones.

Starting with…

Best Animated Film
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

Up is the safe bet here. Pixar has dominated the category since its inception, but this year is a little different. The Princess and the Frog represents a return to the Disney pictures of old and the Academy may be wanting to show their support with gold. Not to mention, Pixar got its first Best Picture nomination with Up, which might be seen as enough of an honor to keep Pixar from taking another Oscar home. Still, looking at the past of the category, it’s near impossible to go against Pixar – especially with Up being Pixar’s best film yet. (I wasn’t that fond of Wall-E).

Best Foreign Language Film
El Secreto do Sus Ojos (Argentina)
Un Prophete (France)
The White Ribbon (Germany)
Ajami (Israel)
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)

This is the hardest category to predict for three reasons.

One – because I haven’t seen any of the nominees. Though they’ve been available at the art houses in downtown Toronto, it’s been hard to get myself down there to watch these nominees when I know they’ll be on DVD soon, not to mention there are other Oscar nominees I’ve yet to watch.

Two – because there’s been a new front-runner every week. When I was at the Toronto International Film Festival, all the talk was about The White Ribbon. I remember standing in line, in front of what must have been a group of film students fawning over Michael Haneke, the director of the US version of Funny Games. These are the people I didn’t fit in with when I was in film school. I couldn’t appreciate the “art” that these students did, preferring to spend my evenings with John McClane.

From there, the buzz moved to Ajami, which sounds a lot like last year’s Gomorrah, which I had also seen at TIFF. I was not much of a fan of Gomorrah, which focused more on just showing the characters and their crimes without any real purpose or point of view. It was applauded for being risky and not taking sides, but taking sides is what’s risky. I realize I’m attributing a lot of Gomorrah to Ajami, but that’s really all I have to go on without seeing it myself.

The Prophet seems to be the new front runner with it’s strategic release right before the Oscar ballots were due. It’ll be at the top of mind when voters mail in their ballots.

Three – because the voting system is unique to this and the Documentary category. These categories are unique because you are required to watch all of the nominees, unlike the big prizes and technical categories that don’t require voters to see the films. Given that, it’s a much more even playing field and the film is picked for its merits, rather than the game-play that’s involved with the bigger prizes. Knowing this, it makes it hard to pinpoint what people will actually like most, when all politics and “Oscars owed” are stripped from the equation.

KCRW’s The Business recently interviewed an executive from Sony Picture Classics who said even with three films in the running for Best Foreign Oscar, the voting system still makes him unsure of whether he’ll actually win.

For those reasons, I’m going to go with the film with the most recent buzz, which is The Prophet. This is probably the least predictable Oscar, so not having seen any of the films, I’m just as comfortable with this choice as I would be with any other.

Best Documentary
Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

This is probably the most competitive category of them all. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of these documentaries took the prize home, but my gut tells me The Cove will be the one to do so. I wasn’t too much of a fan of The Most Dangerous Man… with its use of odd animation that really took you out of the story. Also, it seems to cater more to those who were around for these events, more as a “remember this?” than a retelling of the story. Daniel Ellsberg himself happened to be at the screening at TIFF and got a standing ovation. I stood too, but more for his work in life than the film.

Food Inc. is a documentary that made me so angry to watch. They’re convinced that watching the movie will change the way you look at food. Considering I don’t have the vendetta against corporations that his film does, I didn’t see too much of a problem. There are problems, but nothing I didn’t already know. Not to mention, much of the film relies on hearsay from one organic farmer. Clearly he’s biased, but the film takes everything he says as fact. A much better version of this film is King Corn, that takes a much less vindictive look at the influence glucose has on our food.

I haven’t seen Which Way Home, but I’m told that the film isn’t the most technically brilliant. I’m alright with that in most cases, but I don’t know if the voters would be.

Burma VJ is my close second pick. Not only is the subject matter interesting, similar to that of The Most Dangerous Man…, but it has a gimmick to it, intentionally or not, that voters will be able to easily embrace. “Reporting from a closed country” is something that is hard to resist honoring based on pure guts and the danger involved.

Still, The Cove, however one-sided it may be at times, goes after dolphin hunters. Hollywood, the land of paint-buckets being thrown at fur-wearing stars, can get behind what The Cove is trying to sell. It reminds me a little of Sharkwater, a Canadian documentary that focused just as much on the crimes against the shark-world as it did the film-maker and how “brave” he is. He reminded me of Taylor Lautner of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D.

Between The Cove and Burma VJ, I’d have to get behind The Cove since the Academy seems to love animals more than people at times. This will be one of those times.

Clearly I had a lot to say about these genre categories. I’m a huge fan of documentary and animated film, so I tend to watch everything in those categories before they’re even nominated. Really looking forward to Hot Docs in Toronto this year.

Tomorrow, I have just as much to say about the Screenplay categories.

Leave a comment and see you then.

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