Oscar Moment: “Invictus”

10 11 2009

Every year, one movie looks so impressive on paper that it is a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the year that it is not only a slam dunk to be a nominee, but also the assume winner of Best Picture.  I think I speak for most pundits when I say that “Invictus” is that movie from 2009.  When you mix one of the Academy’s favorite directors, Clint Eastwood, with two highly respected actors, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, not to mention a true inspirational story involving a beloved humanist, Nelson Mandela, it seems like simple math that these add up to Oscar gold.

But let’s look at the movies in a comparable position to “Invictus” from the past few years:

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was nominated for 13 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay.  However, its three victories came only from its technical merit.
  • “Atonement” was nominated for 7 Oscars, including Best Picture and Screenplay, and those were a surprise due to a fair level of disappointment that met the film upon its release.  It ended up walking away with a statue for Best Score.
  • “Dreamgirls” was nominated for 8 Oscars in 6 categories (3 nominations came from Best Song), but the film surprisingly was omitted from many major categories including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay.  It ended up with two awards, Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson and Best Sound Mixing.
  • “Munich” was able to ride its assumed esteem into nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, but it did not cash in on any of its nominations.

The only real conclusion that can be drawn from those results is that having sky-high expectations can often yield unfavorable results.  If people expect something amazing, it is all the easier to underwhelm.  So the only question that remains is which awards season path “Invictus” will tread – the extremely disappointing “Dreamgirls,” the mildly rewarding “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” or perhaps it will even capitalize on its status and turn it into Oscar triumph.

It is hard to judge the film on its own merit, though, because no one has seen it.  However, if the trailer is any indication, we are really in for a treat.  “Invictus” seems to be one of those inspirational movies designed to make your heart melt, the type of movie that the Academy hadn’t rewarded in a while until last year when “Slumdog Millionaire” cleaned house.  If “Slumdog” has really ushered in a new era of feel-good, triumphant films taking home the big prizes, “Invictus” seems to be a logical successor.  But then again, I feel like bloggers like myself often create these “movements” much like some suspect English teachers of coming up with “themes.”  Maybe we over think it, and the choice of a body of voters is just based on what movie took their breath away that year.

To bring up the obligatory other face of the coin, Clint Eastwood perhaps isn’t quite as venerated by the Academy as many think.  Neither of his two works gained much attention; “Gran Torino” wound up with a goose egg in the nomination column, not even willing to acknowledge what could be the last time he steps in front of the camera.  The Academy rarely awards more than two Oscars to actors and directors, and maybe the voters think that Eastwood has gotten enough recognition from them.  On a different note, if people are looking for a fairly buoyant movie, they might find “Up in the Air” a more appealing choice.  Critics claim that it truly expresses the zeitgeist of these tough economic times, addressing our problems but infusing the gravity with a bit of levity.

While I could spend all day discussing the awards potential of “Invictus,” I will let the movie speak for itself on December 11.  Then I will be in a much better position to discourse.


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2 responses

10 11 2009
Encore Entertainment

People were disappointed with Atonement. And as much as I like Dreamgirls…you compare it to Atonement, Benjamin?

And to be honest, though I understand the prestige of winning the Oscar. All the good ones can’t and 13 nods, and 7 nods is respectable as is a nomination for Best Picture. Well it was. With ten nominees, I can’t say.

PS. So did you like Atonement? And I do think [hope] Invictus fails.

11 11 2009
Marshall

I don’t really want any movie to fail … even movies like “The Road” and “The Lovely Bones,” adaptations of books that I loathed. Maybe the destruction of the source material that has become a staple of adaptations in Hollywood will make me like it.

I like “Atonement,” but I don’t love it. The film dragged horrifically in the Dunkirk and Romola Gorai section. The Redgrave section was exceptional, and the Ronan section was so beautiful that I was willing to overlook a few narrative missteps.

The reason I drew the comparison that I did was because those were all the frontrunners from day 1. I just think it is interesting that recently, none of these movies have capitalized on their status and won the most coveted prize in the industry.

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