August is going to be a pretty lame month of movies. As we watch “The Dark Knight” topple record after record, “Pineapple Express” is likely to be the only thing that gets me to the theatre. So, that’s a good excuse to start looking toward Oscar season, because believe it or not, we know more than we did four months ago. Using Kris Tapley’s list of Best Picture contenders, I found that eight movies currently have trailers released. I don’t know if it’s possible to judge a movie by the trailer accurately, but since many people decide whether they will see a movie depending on the trailer, I think it’s fair to judge its Oscar prospects in the same mentality. Here’s my best attempt:
Australia: This is, I think, going to be what “Pearl Harbor” wanted to be. Baz Luhrmann’s project looks like an epic, but it’s impossible not to wonder if he’s aiming a little big here. It’s funny, because in the trailer, Nicole Kidman’s look is very similar to hers in “Moulin Rouge” and it took a minute to remind that both are Luhrmann’s. I think Nicole has a better shot at an Oscar nom than Jackman from the look of things, but I’m not convinced we have a Best Picture nomination here. If it connects, if Luhrmann doesn’t miss a note, it’s epic enough to win Oscar gold from the look of things. But if it misses, even a little, I don’t think it gets nominated.
Blindness: I saw this trailer during my first “Dark Knight” viewing, and boy, I didn’t see that coming. It is, for me, the favorite right now to win Best Picture. I mentioned to a friend in the theatre it has a “Children of Men” vibe to it, and if Cuaron has had an influence on Fernando Meirelles (“Constant Gardener”), watch out. The reviews from Cannes weren’t great, but we all know there’s a long time between Cannes and release day. This looks like a powerful movie believing in people, and it looks like both Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal will put in dynamic performances. I’m excited.
Body of Lies: Not surprising that after the success of “American Gangster,” Ridley Scott’s next turn is another movie that looks to be about 99% between two actors. This goes against about everything that I normally believe, but the trailer actually makes Russell Crowe’s performance look better than Leo’s. I think it’s going to be one fun movie, and one Hell of a ride, but I don’t see it being a product the Academy would love. If they can fit Crowe into the Supporting Actor category, it seems like that might be the best road to a nomination.
Burn After Reading: This is obviously going to come with big expectations, because it’s the Coen Brothers first effort since “No Country.” It’s a monster cast, but it’s a different vision than most Oscar contenders. I don’t deny that with this cast, this is going to be a good movie. But it also looks like the Coens went to humor here, and it probably means an 0-for-nominations. Maybe something in supporting for Malkovich or McDormand, and maybe another screenplay, but no wins and no Best Picture. Move along.
Curious Case of Benjamin Button: I know better than to predict too much from a David Fincher movie, who is an all-or-nothing director if there is one. At worst, in my opinion, he makes the movie 200 minutes long and feel longer than “Zodiac.” At best, Brad Pitt wins an Oscar, and Cate Blanchett and the fabulous (fabulous!) Taraji Henson get Academy talk. I think it’s more likely to see a win from an actor in this movie than the movie as a whole, but that’s only after a 90-second trailer.
Defiance: Not everyone loves Edward Zwick, but one can only hope that his WWII epic is the compilation of what he learned in “Glory” and “Blood Diamond” and “The Last Samurai.” It looks fabulous; for me, second behind “Blindness” in the best trailers of the bunch. I think Liev Schreiber might be in good position to get a nod from the Academy, which is nice. I don’t know if I believe in Daniel Craig enough to say he gets a leading nomination. Instead, I think it’s more likely the film, which looks a little more put together than WWII counterparts “Australia” and “Miracle at St. Anna”, is nominated for Best Picture.
Happy-Go-Lucky: An off-the-wall choice by Tapley, clearly trying to throw in a few underdogs on his list. Surprised this made it and “Hamlet 2” didn’t, frankly, but Tapley spent time in London so I’ll give him credit here. It seems like Sally Hawkins might just be in line for a surprise nomination for playing Poppy, but I doubt this movie has the legs to make it all the way. Too cutesy, and while some would say that about “Juno,” I think Diablo Cody’s script did have some edge.
Miracle at St. Anna: This is Spike Lee’s biggest undertaking in years, certainly more so than the forgettable “Inside Man” that is referenced in the trailer. I haven’t liked a Lee movie a great deal in 16 years, since Denzel Washington nailed “Malcolm X” into my memory. This is much more of an ensemble cast than this, so this is the opposite of Benjamin Button: it’s more likely a Best Picture nomination than anything from the actors. I think it misses the mark slightly, though, falling short to Defiance and aiming a bit too large like Australia.
Most Likely Best Picture Nominees: Blindness, Defiance, Curious Case of Benhamin Button, Australia
Most Likely Best Actor Nominees: Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig
Most Likely Best Actress Nominees: Julianne Moore, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman
Most Likely Best Supporting Actor Nominees: Heath Ledger, Russell Crowe, Liev Schreiber, John Malkovich, Gael Garcia Bernal
Most Likely Best Supporting Actress Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Frances McDormand, Taraji Henson
Best Guess at 5 Best Picture Nominees: Blindness, Changeling, Defiance, Milk, Revolutionary Road.