By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com October 24, 2012 at 12:05PM
This week sees the 23rd James Bond film, "Skyfall," hit theaters in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, ahead of the film's U.S. release on November 9th. About ten days ago, it screened to critics, this writer included, to probably the most wildly positive reaction ever seen to a film in the franchise. It's been hard to find a naysayer, with a three star review from Little White Lies deemed the only "rotten" review so far (and as usual, bringing out the mouth-breathers who can't deal with the slightest criticism of a movie they haven't seen).
And as ever, certain people have started floating the question: Could "Skyfall" be a Best Picture nominee? Cinema Blend brought up the possibility (rightly framed by saying "I'm not naive enough to assume that 'Skyfall' can be the one to break the trend"), and only today The Independent weighed in with their own speculation. Hell, bookmakers Paddy Power have the film at 3/1 odds for a Best Picture nomination, which are pretty decent. But you'd be a fool to take that bet.
We're firmly on board with the film. If anything, I've grown to like it more and more as I've thought about it, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again this weekend. But we have to say that its chances of more than a handful of nods -- and certainly a Best Picture nomination -- are very slim at best, and we're slightly surprised that we've had to say this.
After "The Dark Knight" was overlooked at the 2009 ceremony, the Academy opened the field to ten Best Picture nominees in the hope of including more popular hits to boost TV ratings of the ceremony. And it seemed to work. The following year saw "Avatar," "Up" and "District 9" among the ten Best Picture nominees, and the ratings saw a 14% bump to the biggest audience in five years. And principally commercial fare like "Inception" and "Toy Story 3" got in the year after as well.
But last year saw the blockbuster well dried up, and this year, while "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises" and now "Skyfall" have all been touted, we're expecting a similar result. The Academy are ultimately looking to affirm the power of their medium and like to vote for things that feel important, or at least have a considerable emotional backbone. If they're going to vote for a nakedly commercial tentpole, it needs to feel like it's pushing the medium forward, has an of-the-moment subtext, or feels prestigious, ideally from a literary source material (see "Lord of the Rings"). Ideally more than one of the above.
It's why "District 9," "Avatar," "Inception" and the Pixar films made the cut, and it's why "Star Trek" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2" missed out. And it's why none of this year's big contenders will make it in. "The Dark Knight Rises" still likely has the better shot, thanks to Nolan's pedigree and the of-the-moment thematic qualities, but the film doesn't have the same degree of critical support as "The Dark Knight," so it seems unlikely that it would make the cut, particularly in a stronger field than its predecessor faced back in 2009.
"The Avengers" is now the third-biggest grossing movie of all time and given that numbers one and two - "Avatar" and "Titanic" -- were both nominees, some have thought that the Marvel movie has a chance. But as enjoyable and well done as it is, it never transcends the superhero genre -- there's not much more substance to it than "Green Lantern," it's just executed infinitely better. This is not to say that it's any more disposable than "The Artist," but while the Academy will vote for a black-and-white homage to silent film, as frothy as it was, they're not going to vote for a film where two of the central characters are space Vikings.
And the same is true of "Skyfall." For all the prestige of its creators (Oscar winner Sam Mendes, multiple Oscar nominees John Logan and Roger Deakins), and its equally lauded cast of Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Albert Finney, et al., it's still an espionage actioner. And more than that, a Bond movie. Outside of technical nominations and a handful of songs (and even then, not as many as you'd think), Bond movies have never been popular with the Academy, and as good as "Skyfall" is, as much as it has more emotional content than previous films and as likely as it is to be a monster hit (and it will be), there's simply not enough to give voters a reason to pick it over competition like "Hitchcock" or even "Django Unchained."
We suppose that the advantage is does have is that, with 50 years of Bond, the Academy's typically older demographic grew up on the series in a way that they probably didn't with The Incredible Hulk (although Batman is actually older than 007, for what that's worth ). And it certainly has a chance at some nominations. Roger Deakins should certainly make the cut in cinematography -- though we said that about Robert Elswit and 'Ghost Protocol' last year, and it didn't pan out that way. If he does make the cut, he could even win, given that he's wildly overdue for a statue. And editing and sound nods are reasonably likely as well, and if it's deemed eligible (its use of the original theme could well end up disqualifying it), Adele's theme is a decent bet too.
We think that's likely it, though. We'd heard some early buzz about Judi Dench as a possibility for Supporting Actress, but as weak as the category is, and extended as her role is, there doesn't seem to be quite enough material for her. And some have floated Javier Bardem as villain Silva, and while he's absolutely terrific, his character never transcends the bad guy role, and voters are likely to compare it to his victorious turn in "No Country For Old Men" unfavorably. Given its origins, though, it has every chance of doing well at the BAFTAs - "Casino Royale" got 9 nods at the U.K. ceremony, including Best British Film and Best Actor.
New Best Picture Chart can be found on page two.