Oscar Index: Fighter, Toy Story 3 Among This Week's Best Picture Bruisers

It was a busy, busy week in Movieline's Oscar bureau, where a few key guild nominations and one of the smartest campaign tricks in years in years left us sorting through the Best Picture-race implications. Plenty more turbulence -- and a Jacki Weaver sighting -- trickled down through Actress and Supporting Actress. What does it all mean? To the Index!

[Click the graphs for larger images]


The Leading 10:

1. The Social Network

2. The King's Speech

3. The Fighter

4. Inception

5. Black Swan

6. True Grit

7. The Kids Are All Right

8. Toy Story 3

9. The Town

10. 127 Hours

Outsiders: Blue Valentine; Winter's Bone; Rabbit Hole; Shutter Island

Notes: Guild recognition met critics honors this week in the Index and beyond, resulting in a nice uptick for some titles and some necessary attrition for others. As per usual, The Social Network took a top-echelon award as the National Society of Film Critics' Best Picture. And while, as Tom O'Neil pointed out, that's portended Oscar glory for only five films in the NSFC's 44-year existence, both Oscar voters and Society voters agreed as recently as last year on The Hurt Locker. So, depending on how you read your awards-season tea leaves, the Oscars either are open to a late, dark-horse move -- or they belong to David Fincher and company for the long run. I lean toward the latter, though at least one tally suggests the overall nomination count between Network, King's Speech and Inception will be close enough to leave room for suspense.

Then there's this whole Directors Guild of America thing, where the Coen brothers wound slipping off the bubble with this week's nominations. That will have obvious-enough repercussions in Best Director, but the attendant perception issue made for a big backward step in Picture as well: After a week spent surmising that the Academy might want to bond with average moviegoers who've contributed $111 million (and counting) to True Grit's coffers, the directors' branch suggested that might not be a unilateral philosophy. When you add the sentiments of close observers who waved off the idea of an "Academy" movie as old-fashioned -- "[T]o see, finally, that the guilds have found a universal liking for The Social Network and Black Swan ought to finally put to rest the idea that voters can't handle the kinds of complexities of story offered up here," wrote Sasha Stone; "THE WORLD HAS MOVED ON... CATCH UP!" echoed Scot Feinberg, a little more forcefully -- it's one big, persuasive case for a field where True Grit and The King's Speech are indeed fair game for Social Network and Black Swan in particular.

And then there's Toy Story 3. Oh, Toy Story 3 -- Jacki Weaver's husband bawled, Louis Virtel extolled, and Disney itself dispatched one of the most intense Oscar appeals since, well... Inglourious Basterds. "Not since..." began a collection of 15 character posters invoking other films that defied precedent the years they won Best Picture. Among them: Mutiny on the Bounty (which earned Picture and nothing else in 1935), The Godfather: Part II (a sequel), The Silence of the Lambs (blockbuster horror)... and plenty more. Clearly, affectionately and knowledgeably demonstrating that an animated film can win Best Picture despite what any crusty old pundit says, Disney has suddenly delivered the year's most beloved film the season's most powerful campaign. Is it enough to win? I still doubt it. But how can you not love the effort?

And in any case, even if the rest of the 2010-11 Oscar race gives us nothing more than David Poland's photo-illustration of Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein as Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross, then you've got to admit it's been a pretty good year.


The Leading 5:

1. David Fincher, The Social Network

2. Christopher Nolan, Inception

3. Tom Hooper, The King's Speech

4. David O. Russell, The Fighter

5. Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan

Outsiders: Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit; Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right; Danny Boyle, 127 Hours; Mike Leigh, Another Year

Notes: Speaking of bawling, David O. Russell's admission (or politicking, or whatever) of having cried at word of his DGA nomination was enough to not only lift him out of the outsiders bunch, but also leapfrog him over Darren Aronofsky, who stole the spotlight from his own cinematographer at Monday night's NY Film Critics Circle Awards dinner just so he could bash Armond White. It's called low-hanging fruit for a reason, Darren! Just let it dangle.

Meanwhile... can the Coens be saved? Speculation that a late release kept True Grit out of earlier critics' awards contention, and thus harmed its DGA profile, went both ways: on the one hand, said Thelma Adams, "True Grit definitely came late to the gate in a crowded field"; on the other, added Sasha Stone: "It's more common that the DGA and Oscar don't match than do match. [...] A snub is also great publicity." So! It's still anybody's game. Or at least the fifth spot is.

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  • Brett says:

    Danny Boyle has a better shot at a director nod than people think. It'll either be O. Russell, the Coens, or Boyle for that fifth slot.
    Check out my awards coverage at filmretrospect.blogspot.com - now updated daily.

  • KevyB says:

    Why would Russell even be in the running? He didn't do a spectacular job directing The Fighter. He didn't introduce any interesting shots and many shots were quite sloppy. The whole movie was directed on about the same level as your average NYPD Blue episode, so I don't see why people would ever think of nominating him. I think the Coens, who usually direct interesting-looking movies, didn't really surprise much either. Unlike, say, Boyle or Fincher or Aronofsky or Nolan. If James Cameron can be nominated for a CGI festival like Avatar, then why not nominate Lee Unkrich for Toy Story 3??? The scene where the toys almost meet their maker, and the one where they find a new home were directed better than anything in The Fighter.

  • Nerd says:

    Little Miss Steinfeld is going strong! If they do the right thing and put her in the supporting category then she should have no problem taking the win... I hope.

  • AC says:

    I totally agree. It would be nice to see Unkrich at least nominated for his work. Every year animated films are set aside while less deserving movies get moved to the front of the Oscar line. Disney knows it, critics are realizing it, and the Oscar voters apparently still need to get used to the idea. I'm rooting for Toy Story 3 all the way because, with the exception of The Social Network, I didn't see anything nearly as well crafted in 2010.

  • Chip says:

    Agreed, Lee Unkrich definitely deserves to be nominated for Best Director, Avatar is almost no less of an animated film than Toy Story 3 is (I'm not bashing Avatar, just saying). If Lee Unkrich got nominated, I would pull for him; otherwise I'm pulling for Nolan.

  • Luke says:

    I'd like to see a day when Emma Stone is considered atleast an outside chance at a nomination. She was fantastic in Easy A. My money's still on Jennifer Lawrence, but I just know that Natalie Portman will get it.