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Oscar Phase Two: Bullock vs. Streep, Renner vs. Bridges, Cameron vs. Bigelow

by Anne Thompson
February 9, 2010 11:16 AM
3 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

Nothing is certain until it's over. And that's especially true for the Oscar race.

While it's hard to imagine anything dive-bombing Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique's Oscar chances, Sandra Bullock is not a lock to beat Meryl Streep--although Bullock's Santa Barbara tribute probably wowed the local Academy members on hand. Many older Academy members are rooting for Hollywood's most-nominated actress (16 to Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn's 12), who channeled her mother to play Julia Child, and hasn't won an Oscar since 1983's Sophie's Choice. And The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner, who actually played the piano and sang on The View (clip on jump), is challenging veteran Jeff Bridges, whose singing in Crazy Heart not only makes the movie, but should win him his first Oscar. Does Renner have a shot? Most folks didn't call Adrien Brody's win for The Pianist. But, as Mark Harris writes in his Oscar cover story in New York Magazine, it's Bridges' turn.

As for best picture and director, it's Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker all the way, and Fox is putting James Cameron front and center. I'm not sure that putting him on Oprah (below) is the best way to win the hearts and minds of Academy voters. The movie couldn't be a bigger hit. The trick is to convince people that Avatar isn't just a great technological achievement but a movie to be taken seriously. That's why I wonder: if Academy members vote for The Hurt Locker for best picture (The New Yorker's Henrik Hertzberg explains why he thinks that will happen), wouldn't they consider giving Cameron best director? Who else could have accomplished what he did on Avatar? It's a director's vision, a director's achievement.

Of course Cameron has won already. But the Academy is very male. While I want Bigelow to win one for the history books as much as anyone, I'm laying out a possible scenario. If it's a popularity contest, shy and self-effacing Bigelow (her Santa Barbara interview is below) wins handsomely against her fulsomely egoistic ex-mate. But the Academy didn't "like" Cameron last time, when Titanic won 11 Oscars. The other difference: Oscar voters took historic romantic period epic Titanic more seriously than tree-hugging sci-fi Avatar.


3 Comments

  • Brian | February 11, 2010 10:39 AMReply

    I'm rooting for Tarantino and BASTERDS, but if it comes down to HURT LOCKER vs. AVATAR, I'll go with Bigelow. HURT LOCKER is very well directed, a fairly conventional war movie directed in an unconventional style that makes the whole thing far more believable than it would have been directed by someone else. What Bigelow does is actual directing. What Cameron does is: organizing, supervising, micro-managing, gathering together and then...sitting in front of a computer for months. Is that directing? It's more like animating. He's a great showman, but it's not the same as standing on the set and moving actors, props, sets and cameras around for maximum effect the way directors USED TO do when called upon to direct. (And the way Bigelow does in HURT LOCKER.)

    As for Jeremy Renner, give me a break. He's just starting out. He's very good in HURT LOCKER, but it's not an Oscar performance. He shouldn't even have been nominated. Where is everyone's standards? Sure, they wanted to give HURT LOCKER a load of noms this year to make up for all the noms for AVATAR, but I still think Renner's performance was part of an ensemble and shouldn't have been singled out.

  • Ahrean | February 11, 2010 12:17 AMReply

    I love the Starman himself, but I think Renner should take this one.

  • It'sAboutTime | February 10, 2010 8:09 AMReply

    Hopefully Hollywood will come to their senses and derail the Bullock freight train and vote for the person who deserves the win most of the nominees....Meryl Streep.

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