Oscar Moment: “Secretariat”

21 07 2010

“Secretariat” – it looks like a mix between Best Picture nominees “Seabiscuit” and “The Blind Side.”  Translation: someone kill me NOW!

I have now begun to hold the inspirational sports movie genre in the same regard as the romantic comedy genre, which is to say not highly.  They are so incredibly formulaic that they only serve to inspire groans now.  There’s really no way to spice up the whole “underdog comes out of nowhere and becomes a champion” storyline.  And if “Secretariat” is anything like its trailer, we are in for a story so improbable we can see the ending a mile away.  The thing about movies based on highly publicized true stories is that they don’t really have the chance to build any real suspense.

Yet I must say, the movie has several good horses in the gate for an Oscar run.  First and foremost is Diane Lane, playing the tenacious sports-loving housewife role that won Sandra Bullock an Oscar last year.  The Academy may not fall head over heels for a one-year-old rerun, but they do love Lane.  She has a prior nomination (for 2002’s “Unfaithful”), and Bullock did not have any sort of history with the Academy.  I don’t think the “she deserves it” factor will be very high with only one nomination, yet they could surprise us.

There’s also John Malkovich, the three-time nominee who is overdue for a statue.  He’s been known for his more powerful characters, and it would be strange to see them reward him for a fairly docile performance as Secretariat’s trainer.  But the ways of the Academy are strange, and if there’s a weak field, Malkovich could always squeeze in for Best Supporting Actor.  The category tends to be pretty sentimental; past years have seen winners like Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin.

And then there’s the movie itself, which probably wouldn’t have a great chance without ten nominees in the Best Picture category.  Yet out of nowhere, the box office hit and mildly well-reviewed “The Blind Side” stunned on nomination day with a nomination.  That movie overcame its mediocrity by playing well with middle America, who doesn’t want to “get” the pompous artsy fare, and becoming a true word-of-mouth phenomenon.  It did help balance out a field of nominees that included “A Serious Man,” “Precious,” “An Education,” and “The Hurt Locker,” to make the list seem to represent the whole of 2009’s cinematic landscape.  So if “Secretariat” manages to garner good reviews and play well all over America, we can’t count it out.  (And hey, “Seabiscuit” did it with five nominees back in 2003 with half the money, although it did have slightly better reviews and a weak field.)

Then again, after “Seabiscuit,” we saw “Dreamer” with Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning, another horse racing movie which bombed financially and critically.  So there is by no means a steady pattern in Academy taste for sports or horse racing movies.  Let’s just hope they don’t start a trend this year.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actress (Diane Lane)

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (John Malkovich)


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6 responses

21 07 2010
Simon/Ripley

What I hate is that studios have to come out with movies every once in awhile that meet all the trends of Oscar bait for the time, just so they can brag about how many nominations they have.

21 07 2010
Marshall

I hear you; it’s time for the fish to stop taking the bait.

22 07 2010
Jennifer

I agree that without 10 nominees in the Best Picture category, this movie would probably not be nominated. I loved your “Translation” at the beginning of this post, my feelings exactly.

22 07 2010
Encore Entertainment

I think The Blind Side was just tedious, but (when I saw it a few years ago) I found Seabiscuit mildly entertaining.

22 07 2010
Aiden R.

A little embarrassed to say that I got kinda choked up during this trailer. Totally looks like a Seabiscuit knockoff and it’ll probably be nominated for Best Pic, but it ain’t gonna win. Still wondering how they got Malkovich on board for this though.

25 07 2010
Red

Even though I have always had a great admiration for Secretariat, I can’t help but agree with everybody else on this. It looks like a Seabiscuit rip-off, but injected with a bit of the The Blind Side, which is simply uncalled for. I can easily see Malkovich and Lane getting nominated, although the Actress field should be strong enough this year to keep her out.

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