The announcement of the National Board of Review's picks on December 4th, as is tradition, will bring down the checked flag for the start of Awards season. Here at One Line Review, Pre-Awards season begins with the simultaneous publication in the first weekend of November of the Los Angeles Times's "Holiday Movie Sneaks," Entertainment Weekly's Holiday Movie Preview Issue (which contains their early guesses in Oscar's Best Picture, Directing, and Acting races), and Awards-Season Previews in the trades. On Monday, I feel we can safely stand around the water cooler and say the word "Oscar" without fear of "already?" (These year-round Oscar websites, however, to me, are the equivalent of playing Christmas music in July.)
With Daniel Craig/James Bond on the cover of EW's Holiday Movie Preview, we have further proof of a lackluster Oscar-movie end run for '08 (a number of prospective front runners were pushed to next year).
Among the contenders, Best Picture hopeful The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is high on everyone's list. I have to say I'm mixed on that trailer (gives the whole movie away too)— but somebody knows something, because the buzz is strong. I personally think that The Dark Knight is a lock on Picture and Director (and obviously supporting actor, for Ledger) but there seems to be some reluctance on the various sites to call its Best Picture nomination a definite. Doubt is on EW's and other's lists but I'm not quite convinced about that— the trailer looks so "last decade." Frost/Nixon, just seems too obvious, and the trailer is not that great. Slumdog Millionaire, on EW's "possible" Best Picture list has strong buzz as well. Australia has that epic quality... Absent from EW's Best Picture list (even the "longshots") is Changeling, which might get a Best Picture nod reprieve if the late releases tank (plus Jolie and Malkovich acting noms). And I wonder if the "WALL•E should be in the regular Best Picture category"-talk will start up again?
There are at least five acting "locks" it seems: Sean Penn (Milk), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), and Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
On the potential side for acting: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Ralph Fiennes (The Reader), Brad Pitt (....Button), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Josh Brolin (W.), Cate Blanchett (... Button), Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Kristin Scott Thomas (I've Loved You So Long), James Cromwell (W.), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), John Malkovich (Changeling), Rosemary DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married), and Debra Winger (Rachel Getting Married).
Of course the negative side to Oscar is having the "prestige" films crammed into the last two months of the year-- but the fact of the matter is, there are just as many great movies and bombs in Oscar Season as there are in the spring, summer, and fall. That being said, let's hope for a strong finish to an otherwise weak movie year.