Friday, November 2, 2007

The Ozcars

The wonderful Rob Licuria used to run a site called Awards Heaven. And being an Australian he had a section called the Ozcars, which followed Australians in the hunt for the Academy Awards. Since Rob's site doesn't seem to be functioning anymore I thought I would take a look at the Australians in the race for Oscars this year, category by category. Shall we?


Unfortunately, I don't think Australia would get a nomination at the Golden Globes if they had their old "foreign film" policy - when movies didn't need to be "foreign language", but merely just needed to be from other countries (which is why British best picture winners Gandhi and Chariots of Fire didn't win in the bigger category at the globes and why those years will be permenantly labelled with an asterix). It would be nice to think of Jindabyne or Ten Canoes - the only Aussie releases that got any form of publicity - being in contention. Alas...


The only major player whom a For Your Consideration campaign will - should - be carried out for is Andrew Dominik, who directed the near three-hour quasi-western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The film never took off like people expected, but the performance by Casey Affleck as well as the film's technical features will keep it in awards play. Dominik, who previously won an AFI award for his directorial debut Chopper, could grab a surprise lone director nomination.

If Ten Canoes were being handled by the Weinsteins of several years ago and had stayed in cinemas for longer than a month I would actually not write Rolf de Heer off (hey, Fernando Meirelles got that shocking surprise nom in 2004), but it was barely released and didn't make a splash at all (it should have) so he's out. So too is Ray Lawrence, unfortunately.


Russell Crowe is in play again, trying to regain the Academy's favour after missing out for his performances in Master & Commander (a role he really deserved a nom for if you ask me) and Cinderella Man. This year he is in the running with his hailed performance in the hit western remake 3:10 to Yuma. It's going to be very tough though and I can't see him getting nominated, but if the film hits big, which some say it could, then Crowe could tag along.


Russell Crowe again appears here - so as to not campaign against himself - for his role in American Gangster. The marketing really has seemed to focus more on Denzel Washington (obviously being poised for a best actor campaign) although Crowe is being more heavily featured in the international marketing, where Washington and the film's central urban themes will prove less enticing. The role is apparently a good one (it does seem co-lead) and we know how the Academy loves them. But, as Nat points out - "Will they buy the category fraud with a perfomer as famous as Crowe?"

The only other possibility would be Geoffrey Rush for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but considering the film sinking like a stone and Rush not even being nominated for the original (in which he was nom-worthy) we can safely say it ain't gonna happen. Also, Cate Blanchett is stealing all of Heath Ledger's acclaim in I'm Not There, so he will have to wait for The Dark Knight, I presume, for another stab at Oscar glory.


As I just mentioned Elizabeth: The Golden Age was crushed by critics, but many of them sung the praises of it's star Cate Blanchett who, let's be honest, deserved this award for the original Elizabeth (she won a Golden Globe, but fellow GG winner Gwyneth Paltrow took the Oscar). Blanchett could very well still show up here for best actress based on the fact that she is Cate Blanchett and that the performance is a very B-I-G one. The big "however" is that she is the favourite in best supporting actress, which could derail her lead actress prospects, alongside the film's appareny quality.

The Lovely Laura Linney could prove to be a surprise contender with her critically acclaimed performance in Aussie feature Jindab... oh, I'm sorry. She's actually in contention for a festival dramedy movie with Phillip Seymour Hoffman. How. Utterly. Surprising. :/

Nicole Kidman will probably snag a Golden Globe nomination for her work in Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, but an Oscar nod will prove harder to get if the reviews continue to be as... prickly as they have been. Her performance is apparently quite the chops, but the nature of her character (offputting) could derail her chances.

Aussie feature Clubland never got off the ground in the US where it was renamed Introducing the Dwights (I know) so Brenda Blethyn won't be a factor. Fellow international AFI nominee Joan Chen's wonderful work in The Home Song Stories won't be on American screens until 2008 (if ever) so she's out.


Again, Cate Blanchett surfaces - and how - in Todd Haynes' I'm Not There where she plays one of six variations of Bob Dylan. She is a mortal lock at this stage - hard to imagine her not being nominated - and has won a prize already at the Venice Film Festival. Can she win her second trophy?

Nicole Kidman also has another performance in contention with her role as the villain in The Golden Compass. Fantasy performances are naturally harder to be nominated for and I don't expect Kidman to get a nom for this one, although if anyone can do it, perhaps it's Kidman? The film is sure to be a big December hit, so...

Romola Garai isn't Australian, but she starred in The Incredible Journey of Marie Bryant so you just know that if she got nominated they'd claim her as, like, some Aussie-by-connection.


While Beatrix Christian should be a big player for her work on Jindabyne, it's never in a million years going to happen, especially in the adapted category, which is overrun with best picture contenders.


Australia's entry this year is Tony Ayres' The Home Song Stories. It recently scooped a lot of AFI nominations. If it doesn't get nominated (which I doubt it will) then Joan Chen could possibly be a contender next year. She's really quite good and she's never been nominated, despite being quite popular.

As for the technical categories, well the pickings are slim and, quite frankly, I can't be bothered searching to see whether the set designer on The Kite Runner (just for example) is Australian or not. Previous cinematography winner (for Memoirs of a Geisha) Dion Beebe doesn't stand a chance for his work on Rendition. Jill Bilcock is hardly going to snatch an editing nomination for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Craig Armstrong is still looking for his first nomination, but he won't get it for (yet again) Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Australia usually has a representative or two in the visual effects categories though and we have done well these last few years in the shorts categories - both animation (winner Harvey Krumpet, nominee Birthday Boy) and live action (nominees The Saviour and Inja). We haven't had a heavy hand in any of the animated films either, unlike this year's winner Happy Feet.

So, from the looks of it, it's going to be a slim year for Australians at the Oscars. Cate Blanchett seems a certaintly for at least one nomination and people like Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman could finagle nominations out of tight situations. But just hang on until next year where Baz Luhmann rides into town with his epic romance Australia, and we could be looking at the first Aussie best picture nominee since Moulin Rouge! in 2002 and The Piano in 1994.


Cal said...

The only sure bet seems to be Blanchett playing a bloke. Not sure Crowe will get in supporting -- he's always been the leading guy. It'd be strange.

Oh, and Paltrow so deserved the Oscar in '98!!! :-P

Kamikaze Camel said...

She deserved a nomination but the win...? notsomuch.