By Peter Knegt
Before next week’s final pre-Oscar column that intends to run down each and every category for your prognosticatory pleasure, this very last category-by-category batch edition of “For Your Consideration” takes on the three non-Best Picture best pictures, where the alleged best in animation, documentary, and foreign filmmaking fight for the Academy’s often debated stamp of excellence. While the expanded-to-ten best picture category did allow for one example of the generally underacknowledged trio to make the cut (Pixar’s “Up,” which became the second animated film ever nominated after 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast”), dreams of a first-time doc nod or a rare foreign addition never ended up materializing. So both will have to settle for their specific categories, which as per usual received their fare share of complaint-friendly omissions (docs “The Beaches of Agnes” and “Mugabe and the White African,” for example, and foreign favorites like “Summer Hours,” which wasn’t even eligible to begin due to the Academy’s in-need-of-revision submission rules). But this article is not intended as a bitch session. It’s here to predict the winners, whether we’re happy with the nominations or not.
Best animated feature and best documentary both appear to have very significant frontrunners and its probably very safe to say Pete Docter’s “Up” and Louie Psihoyos’ “The Cove” are headed for wins in those categories. In addition to “Up”‘s best picture nomination, the film has won animated kudos from the Annies, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics Choice and PGA. That’s a pretty strong combination, even if - unlike the past two years - Pixar’s offering is not the only film winning animated laurels. Both “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Coraline” have managed a few kudos, most notably for “Mr. Fox” in its dual New York and Los Angeles critics prizes. That said, upsetting “Up” seems like a pretty tall order.
The same goes for “The Cove,” which also has a truckload of accolades heading into Oscar night. The DGA, PGA, National Board of Review, LA Critics, Critics Choice and Cinema Eye Honors all vouched for the dolphin slaughter exposé, in addition to dozens of awards on the festival circuit earlier in the year. The film that took the second most precursors - “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” - didn’t end up making the Oscar cut, leaving Robert Kenner’s very well-received (and much more profitable) food industry investigation “Food, Inc.” as “The Cove”‘s only considerable competition.The one category of the three that does offer some significant suspense, though, is foreign-language film. Its particular voting system - which is restricted to “active and life Academy members who have attended Academy screenings, or other exhibition, of all five motion pictures nominated for the award” - makes for a voting block of often older members and has in the past given us some of Oscar night’s biggest upsets. Last year, for example, Japan’s “Departures” seemingly came out of nowhere to topple both “The Class” and “Waltz With Bashir.” Both “The Class” and “Bashir” were released by Sony Classics, though I suspect the distributor will be snubbed this time around. It’s releasing what are arguably the three main contenders here - France’s “A Prophet,” Germany’s “The White Ribbon” and Argentina’s “The Secret In Their Eyes.” “Prophet” and “Ribbon”‘s dual nomination really mirrors the “The Class” and “Bashir”: two Cannes Film Festival favorites that were very well received critically Stateside. And while “Ribbon” in particular has taken home quite a few precursors (Golden Globe, Chicago critics) and definitely has the momentum heading into the awards, it is seeming more and more like SPC’s third candidate is heading for the win.
“The Secret in Their Eyes,” directed by Juan José Campanella, details an Argentinian federal agent as he tries to solve a murder. It has a twisty narrative that comes together quite powerfully in the end, and is probably a much easier film for Academy members to digest. The violence of “A Prophet” and the unconventionality of “The White Ribbon” are both traits that have long proved problematic for the Academy. “Ribbon”‘s Palme d’Or win and strong buzz could very well help it buck that trend, but I’d say “The Secret” ends up sneaking in over it.
Best Animated Feature
1. Up 80%
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox 10%
3. Coraline 7%
4. The Princess and the Frog 2%
5. The Secret of Kells 1%
Best Foreign Language FIlm
1. The Secret In Their Eyes (Argentina) 42%
2. The White Ribbon (Germany) 38%
3. A Prophet (France) 12%
4. Ajami (Israel) 5%
5. The Milk of Sorrow (Peru) 4%
Best Documentary Feature
1. The Cove 70%
2. Food, Inc 17%
3. Burma VJ 6%
4. Which Way Home 4%
5. The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers 3%