Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Look away, it’s the first Oscar post.

Apologies for the silence of a late. The Corona Cork Film Festival intervened and I found it difficult to get to this corner of the computer. If you are anywhere near that great city, be aware that this venerable event …

Thu, Nov 10, 2011, 22:39


Apologies for the silence of a late. The Corona Cork Film Festival intervened and I found it difficult to get to this corner of the computer. If you are anywhere near that great city, be aware that this venerable event continues until Sunday. They’re very nice people and they have plenty of good films to show you.

What do you know? I return with everybody’s least favourite subject: the premature Oscar cheat sheet. This time last year, I managed — more or less — to predict all 10 best-picture nominees from a distance of two whole months. With the bizarre rule change, it looks close to impossible to repeat that feat. Listen carefully. There will be between five and 10 nominations. All films that receive a minimum of 5 percent of first preferences will, within those limits, be included on the shortlist. Jeez! The greatest psephologist on the planet will have trouble getting anywhere close to the final seven. Or five. Or eight. You get my drift.

A few opening comments. As ever at this stage, a few films that have yet to open look like front runners. Then again, two years ago, everyone reckoned that Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones was high in the pecking order. The film stank and tanked. It was nowhere to be seen on nomination day. Still, it is hard to ignore behemoths such as Steven Spielberg’s War Horse or Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. They are both big middle-brow films from awards-friendly directors. Hmm?

The other point that I must stress (you’d be surprised how many people miss this) is that these are not my favourite films. There are a few that I think quite ordinary among the bunch. I am merely trying to guess which way the old buggers will lean. So, in order of likelihood..

THE DESCENDANTS (Alexander Payne)

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A classic in the Payne genre. His last two films — About Schmidt and Sideways — picked up multiple nominations. The new film revisits similar themes. The Academy loves George Clooney. A dead cert for a nomination, but unlikely to win.

THE HELP (Tate Taylor)

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It’s a bit soppy. It’s a film about black people for white people. But it’s stuffed full of stonkingly good actors and it’s about “an issue”. Could very well win the big one.

THE ARTIST (Michel Hazanavicius)

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A total surprise at Cannes. This black-and-white silent film — dealing with similar story matter to Singin’ in the Rain – has won fans wherever it has played. Another potential victor.

WAR HORSE (Steven Spielberg)

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Almost nobody has seen it yet. But it’s about the first World War, it’s directed by li’l Stevie and it’s based on a play and book that everyone loved. Only has to be decent to get in.


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Okay, this is a bit of a punt. The trailer is awful (see above) and the book was not everyone’s favourite. But it’s about 9/11 and Daldry (trivia fans, alert) was nominated as best director for each of his first three films.

MONEYBALL (Bennett Miller)

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Despite starring Brad Pitt, nobody, but nobody, will go and see it outside the United States. It’s about the revival of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, for Pete’s sake. Nearly certain to be nominated. Sure to lose.

THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrence Malick)

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A film that really, really divides people. Still, the patina of quality and its Palme d’Or triumph could push it over the wire.


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Very iffy this. Its twisty plot and grim ambience will alienate many American viewers. But if it is half as well received on the other side of the Atlantic as it was on this seaboard then it might just shamble into the pack.

Okay. That’s eight. That sounds about the right number. If two more get in, I would guess the lucky films will be Midnight in Paris and J Edgar. That last movie is, perhaps, the most glaring exclusion from my main list. The film opens tomorrow in the US and the reviews have been only modestly positive. I feel it’s slipping away into the also rans.