Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Billy the Fish predicts the Oscars

Regular readers will get the reference immediately. Billy the Fish was, the publishers of Viz claimed, the least popular character in that amusing comic. Every time he returned, a subheading would announce “it’s the strip all readers hate” or something. …

Mon, Nov 1, 2010, 14:45

   

Regular readers will get the reference immediately. Billy the Fish was, the publishers of Viz claimed, the least popular character in that amusing comic. Every time he returned, a subheading would announce “it’s the strip all readers hate” or something. Last year’s experiences suggest that the Screenwriter community is (with much justification) bored, angered and depressed by any consideration of the festival of back-slapping that goes by the name of the Academy Awards.

At any rate, you can’t claim that Christmas comes earlier every year. It’s over 12 months since we had our first crack at predicting the 10 best picture nominees. A glance at that post offers illumination. We got six of the 10 right. None of the unsuccessful four films had opened at the time of the post, which perhaps reveals the pointlessness of the whole exercise. As it happened, Nine and The Lovely Bones turned out to be simply awful. Invictus was just about all right. The Road was somewhat under-appreciated.

The missing sore thumb is, without doubt, Avatar. Back in October 2009, it still seemed possible — even likely — that Cameron’s Smurf epic would turn out to be an artistic folly and a financial flop. (Many of us believe it still seems close to the former.)

Anyway, the Gold Derby is already up and running. So — your whinges noted — the time has come for our first stab at the best picture finalists. As ever, these are not my favourite films. These are merely the pictures I think the academy will favour. In no particular order…

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Seemed like a “personal project” for David Fincher after the tedious (unsuccessful) Oscar-bait that was Benjamin Button. But it’s turned out to be the best reviewed film of the year. Current favourite for the top gong.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

Hollywood would like to show some more generosity towards a female director and would be keen to give a thumbs up to same-sex marriage. It also happens to be a very good film.

THE KING’S SPEECH

Jason Solomons sniffily described Tom Hooper’s study of George VI’s battle with a speech impediment as the sort of film that ¬†gives “the Yanks what they want”. Pencil it in then. Colin Firth is a dead cert for a best actor nod.

TRUE GRIT

Nobody has seen it yet. But the Coens’ mid-career surge has been so impressive that it already seems to have a place booked. Could Jeff Bridges follow in the steps of Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks with back-to-back best actor wins?

BLACK SWAN

A superb film, but it’s by no means guaranteed a place. Some critics (not me) have found Darren Aronofsky’s ballet drama a tad too unhinged. Loosen up, folks. Natalie Portman is current favourite for the best actress gong.

INCEPTION

It’s this year’s Avatar — the blockbuster that registers with Oscar voters. Many believe it was the exclusion of The Dark Knight that led to the Academy’s decision to increase nominations from five to 10. Payback time for Christopher Nolan.

127 HOURS

Just opened to very strong reviews in the US. Danny Boyle’s climbing adventure benefits from the “true story” boost and from the director’s rapidly rising respectability.

THE FIGHTER

Again, almost nobody has seen it, but David O Russell’s tale of Irish-American brawlers has a classy look about it.

TOY STORY 3

We are nearly alone in feeling that, while undoubtedly a cracking film, TS3 is not quite up to Pixar’s very high standards. Everyone else adored it and that studio looks to have a lock on one place in the shortlist.

BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Martin Lawrence is long overdue recognition and the new film is said to take the Big Momma franchise in a more serious, less squelchy direction.

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