Oscar Moment: “Inception”

13 07 2010

Countdown to “Inception” is at T-minus 3 days.  I haven’t bought my ticket to go at midnight yet, but I plan on doing so today.

But some people don’t have to wait.  There are plenty of critics and Oscar pundits who have seen Christopher Nolan’s latest film, and I hate them all.  Just kidding!  Judging from their reactions, we have a serious Oscar contender on our hands.  The movie currently sits at a very healthy 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The one rotten review as of yet comes from New York Magazine‘s David Edelstein, who even concedes, “Nolan, who wrote the script, thinks like a mechanical engineer, and even when you can’t follow what’s happening, you can admire in theory the multiple, synchronized narrative arcs…”  Edelstein’s review brings down the Metacritic rating for “Inception” down 20 points, from a 97 to 77.

Although it may be too early to call, I think the critics are going to ga-ga for this movie.  All of Nolan’s movies have been certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and I don’t think this will be any different.  Even if a sudden onslaught of negative reviews comes out of nowhere, as I talked about in my Oscar Moment on “Shutter Island,” there have been non-certified fresh Best Picture nominees.

It was only two years ago that “The Reader” with a disappointing 61% managed to steal a Best Picture slot from Nolan’s own “The Dark Knight,” which scored an impressive 94%.  Redemption will definitely be on voters’ minds as massive backlash to the Best Picture snub was very vocal.  So vocal, in fact, that it may be the biggest catalyst in the Academy’s decision to expand the field of Best Picture nominees from five to ten.  Even AMPAS President Sid Ganis said, “I’d be lying if I said ‘The Dark Knight’ didn’t come up in the discussion [to change the number of nominees].”  So a Best Picture nomination for “Inception” would be the first step in healing the wounds caused by their omission.

I think a Best Picture nomination is in the bag.  Judging from what I’ve read, the movie is good enough to get it on its own merit; the atonement factor only helps.  Film School Rejects today went as far as to predict the film’s victory in Best Picture.  Here’s some of what Cole Abaius wrote:

… In addition to being a better film than The Dark Knight, it’s also more traditionally Oscar-worthy while still being cutting edge. Theoretically, TDK was choked out of the running because it was “just a Superhero movie,” but there’s no similar sentiment here. It’s a classic-style hero’s journey featuring five Oscar nominees and two Oscar winners in front of the camera …

Kris Tapley at In Contention was a little more cautiously optimistic:

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the history of Best Picture nominees is the fact that, on some level, they are fairly undemanding efforts.  There’s a pattern of simplicity of narrative, regardless of genre.  Now, most seem to think the general positive assessment Nolan’s film has received should be enough to get it into a field of 10 nominees, but I’m a touch skeptical.  “Inception” is anything but undemanding …

We all remember Nolan’s superhero epic did not make the cut with five slots.  And the thought process for some is, well, it’s time for AMPAS to kiss and make up.  Except that’s not the typical AMPAS thought process, and certainly not for a still youngish talent like Nolan.  I’m not here to piss in anyone’s cornflakes, but I just don’t think anyone can simplify the argument to, “It’s sure to get in with 10.”

And given that people will undoubtedly chalk up the success of “Inception” to writer/director Christopher Nolan, he will probably go along for the ride and receive a Best Director nomination.  Even if Best Picture hopes fade over the next few months, Nolan could easily stay in the discussion for director based on the visual style the movie possesses.  The decade has seen plenty of lone director nods for stylistic triumphs – David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive,” Pedro Almodovar for “Talk to Her,” Fernando Mierelles for “City of God,” Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” – although it’s probably less likely with the expanded field.

The screenplay should find a home in the Best Original Screenplay based on the originality and creativity of its premise, even if Best Picture and Best Director fail.  Nolan wrote “Inception” himself, and he has a prior nomination from the writer’s branch for “Memento.”  And that was Christopher Nolan before he was Christopher Nolan.

Leonardo DiCaprio could be a contender in Best Actor.  He’s had a great year between this and “Shutter Island,” and particularly if the field is weak, he could sneak in with a nomination as a reward for a good body of work in 2010.  The voters would probably have to rally around this movie, though, to get him in and prevent vote splitting.

But the movie’s surest bets are easily in the technical categories.  Best Visual Effects should be a slam dunk, as should nominations in the sound categories.  I can see Best Film Editing being a very strong possibility, and Wally Pfister’s cinematography, which has earned three nominations for work on Nolan’s past movies, could easily be nominated.

In three days, we will be able to discuss “Inception” and its chances, not just speculate.  Until then, we wait, some more eagerly than others.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio)


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3 responses

13 07 2010
Red

I wouldn’t count out costume design and original score either. I think this will end up with about 9 or 10 nominations, though I am hesitant like Tapley to guarantee a spot among the final ten. Also questioning the long-term box office intake as well. People are going to go out and see this the first weekend, but I think it might be too smart of a movie. I’ve said it before, but look over the all-time box office charts and try to tell me the first “smart” or “complicated” movie that comes up….certaintly quite a ways down the list.

13 07 2010
Marshall

Oh, and I think Best Production Design could be a possibility.

And there may not be many “smart” and “complicated” movies at the top of the list (although I certainly use those words to describe “The Dark Knight”), don’t underestimate how hungry audiences are going to be this summer for original content.

15 07 2010
Simon/Ripley

I don’t like the whole Academy way of thinking. Therefore, it will suck if Inception doesn’t get past editing and music, but I can’t say I’d be very surprised.

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