This morning Nathaniel Rogers from Film Experience emailed over a question asking "What if They're Were Five...?" pondering the thought of five Best Picture nominees instead of the now ten. I agree with him, The King's Speech, The Social Network, The Fighter and True Grit would be the obvious top four with Black Swan likely being #5. To me this signals a four film Best Picture race. Yes, in only a few days, the awards season went from a predictable bore to a rather interesting race for the Oscar.
A resurgence of interest in the Oscar race started with The King's Speech winning with the Producers Guild, a win that shocked me entirely. I can come up with several reasons as to why several other films seemed more likely to take that award from Mark Wahlberg's stick-to-it-iveness with The Fighter and the success it has enjoyed, same with Darren Aronofsky and the near $100 million success Black Swan has become, or the aggressive team behind the highly lauded The Social Network or True Grit becoming the first $100+ million film for the Coen brothers. I can't come up with any major reason for why The King's Speech would have topped the list, it wasn't even the cheapest production on the board with The Fighter and The Kids are All Right both coming in below Speech's reported $12.3 million total and Black Swan coming in just over at $13 million. And Black Swan and The Fighter blow it away at the box-office.
It should be said, I'm approaching the idea of a Producers Guild Award from the perspective of looking at it as a group awarding the best producers. The producers that put together not only a great film, but a cost effective one. A film that speaks to the art of filmmaking as much as showing some sort of an advancement in the cinematic world and to the profession. In these terms it would seem a win for The King's Speech is more of a win for convention, and I say this as a firm supporter of The King's Speech, a film that seems more like a logical loss at the PGAs and a win at the Oscars by comparison.
Then again, never count out Harvey Weinstein. It seems no matter the film and no matter the conversation he's always found a way to buck the system and you better believe he'll take that PGA win and the film's 12 Oscar nominations and work some magic. And it already seems he's found even more ways to keep the film in the headlines.
Weinstein is already thinking of new ways to bolster Speech's box-office prospects, primarily involving the film's R-rating, which comes as a result of the clip you can watch to the right featuring a foul-mouthed expression of frustration in the midst of a therapeutic exercise where Colin Firth as King George VI utters the word "fuck" 42 times. It's a one minute and 19 second scene that earned the film an R rating from the MPAA, a rating that was appealed, but held up in comparison to Jack Nicholson using the word three times in How Do You Know and that film still managed to receive a PG-13 rating on appeal.
The R-rating is certainly holding the film back domestically and Harvey may have an answer as he is talking with director Tom Hooper about trimming the profanity that earned the film an R rating in order to attain a PG-13 or even PG. Weinstein tells the Los Angeles Times, "The British numbers are huge because the rating lets families see the movie together. Tom and I are trying to find a unique way to do this that keeps his vision of the movie."
Weinstein's plan wouldn't be put in action until after the Oscars are held on February 27, but just the idea keeps the film's name in the headlines. For now, the film is expected to expand to nearly 2,500 theaters this weekend and after 12 Oscar nominations and competition that consists of The Mechanic and The Rite it serves as solid counter programming as it sets out to add to its current $57.9 million domestic total.
UPDATE: Fandango reports: "Fandango's top daily ticket-seller is now The King's Speech, as of 12:00 noon PT Wednesday. The film has seen a 76% increase in ticket sales on Fandango since the Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday."
So where does that leave us as far as the Best Picture race goes?
I'll begin by saying I've moved The King's Speech back into front-runner status and I don't think there is much that can be done to change my mind. I expect to go into Oscar Sunday with Speech as my pick to win. There are a few guild awards to be handed out that could beef up the conversation, but I don't think even those can change my mind.
This Saturday the Directors Guild will hand out their award and I expect David Fincher (The Social Network) will take that one home. However, I won't be shocked if any of the other candidates -- Darren Aronofsky, Tom Hooper, Christopher Nolan and David O. Russell -- take home the award. Regardless of who wins at the DGA I still expect Fincher to win the Oscar, but will also remain equally unsurprised if he doesn't. In fact, Hooper stands a very good chance at taking both.
Then, on Sunday I'll be live-blogging the Screen Actors Guild Awards at which time I expect The Fighter to win Best Ensemble, but if there is an award to make me change my mind this is it. Should SAG decide to award The Social Network the Best Ensemble award the tides could shift again, but at that time it becomes a situation similar to the final games of the NFL regular season... If X wins Y and A loses B, then C is in, but if Z loses Y and C wins B, then A is probably the front-runner. My head is already spinning.
So, at this point The King's Speech is the film I expect to take the top prize, even though Vegas doesn't agree.
Just above are the Vegas odds on Best Picture (get the complete PDF right here), which has The Social Network as a slight favorite over The King's Speech. However, I'm not sure if you see what I see, but True Grit at 100 to 1 odds? Everyone I've talked to, and read recently, feels the Coens' True Grit was among the films on Tuesday morning it was obvious the Academy has really proved they liked. It's a universally enjoyed film, perhaps not considered the best of 2010 (which it was for me), but definitely top five material. And with the Academy's preferential voting process that's just the kind of film that could end up surprising us all, but then again, I wouldn't consider it that much of a surprise.
Beyond Best Picture, other notable changes include David Seidler (The King's Speech) now winning Best Original Screenplay over Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Annette Bening winning for Best Actress over Natalie Portman (Black Swan). No, this isn't because I think No Strings Attached was some sort of detriment to Portman's Oscar campaign, it just feels to me like that's the way the winds are blowing and I expect we'll see a Bening win this Sunday at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Should Portman win, maybe I'll change my tune.
So with that rather long-winded opening out of the way, here are my updated Oscar predictions. Listed below are just the winners with a few runners-up and second consideration names and nominees listed. If you want the full charts for each category just click here and you can see how my predictions have shifted since the nominations were announced.
Best Picture: The King's Speech
CLOSE SECOND: The Social Network
CLOSE THIRD: True Grit
CLOSE FOURTH: The Fighter
Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Actress: Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right)
RUNNER-UP: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
LEANING TOWARD: Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Best Director: David Fincher (The Social Network)
LEANING TOWARD: Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler (The King's Speech)
CLOSE SECOND: Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Best Foreign Language Feature: Incendies (Canada)
Best Documentary: Inside Job
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Film Editing: The Social Network (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
LEANING TOWARD: The King's Speech (Tariq Anwar)
Best Cinematography: True Grit (Roger Deakins)
Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland (Robert Stromberg and Karen O'Hara)
Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
Best Sound Editing: Inception
Best Sound Mixing: The Social Network
Best Original Score: The Social Network (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
Best Original Song: "I See the Light" from Tangled
Best Makeup: Barney's Version
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Again, if you want to see my full prediction charts click here.
Now, as a special bonus, for any of my readers in the United States (sorry international readers I don't think Hulu works outside the US), Hulu has made available the entirety of Banksy's Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. You can watch the full documentary directly below.