In this morning's roundup of Oscar news 'n' notes from around the web, a battle looms and the conventional wisdom about Oscar voters gets tested.
Glenn Whipp takes as a given that the Best Picture race is "The Social Network" vs. "The King's Speech," and wonders if the perception of the Academy as filled with the kind of old folks who'll prefer the latter is really accurate. Maybe, he says, "the Academy's taste in film has gradually shifted over the past few years." He doesn't get much beyond that maybe, although director Doug Liman ("Fair Game") helpfully volunteers that he abhors "Oscar bait." (The Envelope)
Kris Tapley predicts the Oscar winners – which, as he and all of us who do the same thing know, is a crazy thing to attempt before the nominations ballots are even in the mail. He thinks "The King's Speech" is the one to beat for Best Picture, but he doesn't seem too confident in that prediction (I'm with him on both ends: the prediction, and the doubt), that David Fincher will win Best Director for "The Social Network," and that the acting winners will be Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Hailee Steinfeld (left). (Reasonable on all counts.) But when you throw in all the other categories, Tapley's tally has "Inception" leading the field with four Oscars, followed by "The King's Speech," "True Grit" and "Alice in Wonderland" (!) with three. "I'm not putting a ton of stock into these predictions yet," he warns. (In Contention)
In one of her regular "state of the race" musings, Sasha Stone says it boils down to this: the movie that wins "has to be the one that most industry voters can agree upon is the best." Sounds simple, doesn't it? This leads into a discussion of heat and buzz and critics, and it ends with what she's been saying for a couple of months now: she's betting on "The Social Network." But, she adds, "this is going to be one hell of a fight." (Awards Daily)
Tapley's In Contention colleague Guy Lodge wades into different waters with his predictions: he guesses what the National Board of Review will single out on Thursday. I'm not sure how you predict a group of people that, as he points out, chose "The Bucket List" over "There Will Be Blood" on their 2007 Top 10, named "Quills" the best picture of 2000 and didn't give awards last year to Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique. But he tries, and thinks they'll go for (stop me if you've heard this before) "The King's Speech." (In Contention)
There's a new dynamic going on with eagerly-awaited movies: some writers see a movie before others, and then the second wave turns the reaction of the first wave into an issue. Over the summer, the second batch of "Inception" reviews often seemed to be less of a response to the film itself than a response to the (largeky ecstatic) first batch of reviews – and now Tim Appelo trots out a few backhanded compliments ("a chosen few," "the cool kids") to describe the folks who got to see "True Grit" first. Never mind that those earliest viewers were embargoed from writing anything about the movie until it had screened much more widely – the fact that they saw it early means that they are "people [producer Scott Rudin] could control," according to a "pundit" source of Appelo's. The piece bounces from scoffing at the early viewers who raved about the movie (his implication: the movie's not that great) to questioning the judgment of one early viewer (me) who didn't rave, because I didn't see it with a big enough audience (his implication: the movie's really great). For the record: I saw "True Grit" a week and a half ago, I don't feel controlled by Scott Rudin or Paramount, and my review admitted that the size of the audience might have affected my opinion. (The Hollywood Reporter)