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2011 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

Here it is folks. My predictions for the ten Best Picture nominees. Let me know what you think … what would you take out and what would you replace it by. Worth noting: I’m aware that the category was enlarged to include animation, but I think 2011 will be an “off-year”.

Here it is folks. My predictions for the ten Best Picture nominees. Let me know what you think – what would you take out and what would you replace it by. Worth noting: I’m aware that the category was enlarged to include animation, but I think 2011 will be an “off-year”.

The American (Focus Features)
It comes out at an odd time theatrically on the opening day of the Venice Film Festival (September 1st), but as a reader pointed out, so did The Constant Gardener. The first title out of the gate if you don’t include the tentpole Inception, The American is the one I’m least confident about. Don’t get me wrong, this has everything working for it, all the ingredients are there, but for this to be included in the final dance, Focus Features will have to put a concentrated effort in the film (they do have several quality items on slate). Anton Corbijn and his DP will need to offer an aesthetic that is less arty than Control, George Clooney he is already at the top of his game, but hopefully this character is unlike anything he has previously done before and finally this will have to be Rowan Joffe best work to date. (Photo above: Corbijn’s blog

Betty Anne Waters (Fox Searchlight)
Dramas based on real life people going against the establishment are just as popular as they were a decade back when Erin Brockovich was fighting workplace discrimination and corruption. I’m betting that if Swank and Rockwell’s performances swim rather than sink and this biography receives the same push as A Crazy Heart did, then Tony Goldwyn who up until this point gave us feel-good, family dramas will delivery the same but without the hallmark film tonality. In the battle of courtroom films, this will win the spot over Redford’s The Conspirator.

Fair Game (No Distributor)
What is almost a given, is that this reunion between 21 Grams co-stars Sean Penn and Naomi Watts should be brimming with quality performances, but I wonder how Doug Liman will do with less of a Bourne pacing – essentially if the thriller aspects undermines the drama and the facts then I’m way off with this prediction, but if this film is a firecracker, controversial and accusatory in tone (I expect Participant Media to be faithful to mandate found in their previous films), then we’ll have one more document that questions those that were pardoned and those that did the pardoning. The distributor who picks this up will have to put together a release pattern like what WB did with Syriana. This takes the spot of the often mentioned film (The Special Relations) from Richard Loncraine, and surprisingly takes a place that would have gone to The Fighter.

Hereafter (Warner Bros.)
Statistically speaking, I’d be a fool to not include Clint Eastwood among my predictions. This year he might have more clout than just his name, his chances are indeed favourable because he is working from an original screenplay from award-winning scribe Peter Morgan. I’m also thinking that the use of multiple locations and the fact that Eastwood is branching out into a genre that is not his forte is actually a plus in this case. This should scratch out the votes that would have gone to Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Polanski’s The Ghost Writer.

Inception (Warner Bros.)
Some might say beforehand that this is being included on the list because it’s the big blockbuster film that could now be included in the new 10-nom system and/or payback for The Dark Knight omission from a couple of years back, but that might be unjust as I’m banking that this will be included on its own merits. Huge cast, this should win/be nominated for several tech awards, but will be appreciated furthermore because this is from the same brainchild behind Memento.

Miral (No Distributor)
I think there’ll be a battle of the true story from stylistically ambitious filmmakers. If Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours does indeed show up this year, it’ll go head to head with this already established audience favorite. I’m forseeing that Julian Schnabel will show this in Cannes, it’ll get picked up and will be promoted much in the same way that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly entered the consciousness. If he replicates the aesthetic beauty, reaches for the jugular with the same transposed emotionality, then this story which unfolds in the backdrop of the Palestine-Israel conflict might win over hearts and minds and profit tissue-makers. Unlike his previous film, the more recognizable faces with the female leads will benefit the film in this final category of the evening.

Somewhere (Focus Features)
Hollywood loves looking at itself in the mirror, while this isn’t Altman’s The Player or L.A. Confidential, I imagine it’ll be just as flattering. As I mentioned previously, notions of celebrity and hotel rooms are comfort zones for Coppola and without Wes and Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Jonze at the party this year, the open space reserved for the little art-house pic fighting for a spot amongst giants will be this personalized, unique, oblique, smaller in stature film. Plus my money is on a Fanning win for Best Supporting.

The Tree of Life (Apparition)
This is the official shoe-in among nominations for the Best Picture category, but for my Best Picture win prediction to materialize the film’s distributor Apparition will need to phish for strong critical support like The Hurt Locker did this year. You’d think that a Malick film would be in the bag, but we only have to look at The New World – an unappreciated classic that was totally dismissed. In front of the camera this has got Brad Pitt and what will probably be a stunning visuals from Emmanuel Lubezki and decor from Jack Fisk, in the sound department you have Sean Penn narrating and a score from Alexandre Desplat, and if you’ve been reading up on the project, then the morsels that have been mentioned include: IMAX, two decades in the works, the history of mankind, dinosaurs and Kubrickesque. I’m expecting this rather ambitious project to win Oscar. My premature congrats goes to producers Dede Gardner, Sarah Green, Grant Hill, Brad Pitt and William Pohlad.

True Grit (Paramount Pictures)
Apart from a stretch of about three or four films (you know which ones), year after year, the Coen bros. have consistently been producing vintage films – 2009 was no different, but a lot of people either didn’t get the brilliance behind A Serious Man or felt that NCFOM was still fresh. True Grit has all the workings of a classic Hollywood tale of good vs. evil, it has all the classic story elements of a Coen bros. films that we love: themes of revenge, unflinching violence and the return of The Dude and their DP Roger Deakins. At this moment the film is pegged with a holiday release, and just started filming, so let’s cross our fingers for everything to stay on schedule. This overtakes the spot that would have gone to Ben Affleck’s The Town.

The Way Back (No Distributor)
Welcome back to the film world and welcome back to the Oscars Mr. Weir. With the advent of CGI and the green screen, we sort of lost our cinephile footing with films such as these, so it’s comforting to know that this was big in scope, shot on location (Bulgaria, India and Morocco) and probably didn’t use many plastic trees. I’m expecting to be marvelled by the lush photography, and to experience the same implosion I felt when watching Midnight Express and Escape from Alcatraz for the first time – that portion of when escapees are in the clear and what is ahead of them is the unknown. Great cast of players should add more in terms of quality, my only concern is that this doesn’t have a distributor yet and my guessing is that this is a summer tentpole picture, not something you’d find in the Fall.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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