‘Up in the Air’ perilously holds on to Oscar frontrunner status

12.18.09 8 years ago

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Winning the Best Picture Oscar is a marathon, hardly a sprint, but it must have felt more like a roller coaster ride for the “Up in the Air” crew this week.  After Jason Reitman’s acclaimed drama received five Golden Globe nomination Tuesday including Best Picture – Drama, Best Actor (George Clooney), Best Director (Reitman), Best Screenplay (Reitman) and two for Best Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick and Vera Farminga), the shock of the week occurred on Thursday morning when the Paramount flick failed to land a SAG Awards nomination for Best Ensemble.

For those playing at home, the last Academy Award winner for Best Picture that didn’t land a Best Ensemble nomination?  “Braveheart” in 1996, the first year the award existed. In the 13 years since its never been duplicated.  That’s a pretty impressive statistical trend that no doubt made the Paramount team deeply concerned.  Especially since two films with lesser known stars, “An Education” and “The Hurt Locker,” landed ensemble nods over it.  That was unthinkable a week ago.

To make things worse, critics have gone gaga over James Cameron’s “Avatar” and the Sci-Fi epic — which also landed four Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture – Drama — is set to become a box office phenomenon beginning this weekend.  Can you say “Titanic II”?  That’s what 20th Century Fox is certainly hoping for.

Meanwhile, to try to get a leg up on a very crowded Christmas release slate, “Air” moved its wide national release to Dec. 23.  Considering that the 23rd and 24th are big travel and low moviegoing days its unclear how much that will help “Air” at the box office.  However, some serious coin in theaters will help a big deal to help overcome the growing scuttlebutt that “Air” is a “small movie.”  Additionally, if “Air” can dominate critic’s top ten lists (start counting) it will provide the campaign with just another selling point to remind Academy members why “Air” is, in their view, “the movie of the moment.”

This pundit still has “Air” in the top spot, but it will be interesting to gauge Academy members after the upcoming holiday movie season when many voters sit down with a stack of screeners and solidify their opinions.  “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Inglourious Basterds” are all poised to jump into the top slot and are legitimate contenders to win it all.

With that in mind, here are Awards Campaign’s contender countdown top ten that will be reflected in Movie City News’ Gurus of Gold and The Envelope’s Buzzmeter voting this week.

1. “Up in the Air”
Needs to dominate year-end critics groups and become a big hit to solidify frontrunner status.  A Golden Globe win wouldn’t hurt either.

2. “Avatar”
The bigger its box office gets, the better it’s chances at winning.

3. “The Hurt Locker”
If it wins SAG part 1, it’s a true contender to win it all.

4. “Inglourious Basterds”
If it wins SAG part 2, it’s a true contender to win it all.  

5. “Precious”
All of a sudden the underdog which was always an underdog is one again.  It feels as though Lionsgate misplayed this in theaters, should have gone wide earlier when publicity and momentum was there.

6. “Up”
The quiet nominee no one talks about.  

7. “Invictus”
Screener is out, if enough members watch it Clint’s latest should make the cut.

8. “Nine”
Boy, those reviews are not good, but SAG Ensemble nod means at least the actor’s branch will respect it enough to sneak in.

9. “An Education”
That’s a sigh of relief from Sony Pictures Classics you’re hearing in the distance. The SAG Ensemble nomination was a huge sign the indie drama is still in play for an Oscar nod.

10. “The Blind Side”
Or, “Crazy Heart,” “500 Days of Summer,” “District 9” or “A Serious Man.”  The 10th slot may be the biggest surprise on nomination morning.

Who do you think is in and who is out of Oscar’s top ten?  Share your thoughts below.

 As the season heats up, look for breaking awards season news and commentary daily on Awards Campaign.  For the latest, follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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