Welcome to the launch of BOP's annual awards section, in the run-up to the 2007 Academy Awards.
Academy Awards Power Rankings
By Reagen Sulewski
October 29, 2006
As with previous years, BOP's coverage will take the form of looking at the contenders as they arrive. Nothing is sure until a film is released, so until it actually hits theaters, it doesn't exist for us.
To this point, there have been four serious contenders for Best Picture of the Year released in theaters, those being The Departed, Flags of Our Fathers, Little Miss Sunshine and The Illusionist. Should the last two months of the year prove to be disappointing, there's a few other films that can step in, but for now we can mostly consider them space fillers.
The match up between The Departed and Flags of Our Fathers would be a replay of 2004's top Oscar contenders. In that year, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood's two films were the strongest two films for the bulk of the Oscar race, with Million Dollar Baby ultimately prevailing over The Aviator in what was a mild upset. Scorsese's film is in the lead again this year, though neither film is as sure of a bet as in 2004.
Where The Aviator was a big Hollywood epic about Hollywood involving mental illness, The Departed is a "mere" gangster film. Of course, this is the kind of thing that he does brilliantly; see Goodfellas for an easy analog for how this film could fare this year. Also working strongly in The Departed's favor is that it's the first big contender to do well at the box office. Hollywood likes to reward success, and the close to $80 million that it's earned to date is a huge feather in its cap. The positively packed cast doesn't hurt either.
Eastwood's film has a bit tougher row to hoe, starting off with just $10 million and considerably less critical acclaim. This isn't disastrous – Million Dollar Baby's wide opening weekend was just slightly larger than this – but this far out from the awards galas means it needs some staying power to remain in the minds of voters.
On the surface, Flags of Our Fathers has a ton of elements that make it seem like a shoe-in; the World War II setting, Eastwood's status as an American icon, and a complex take on a seminal moment in American history. There's something just a tad off with this one, though - perhaps just a feeling that we've been down this road with war films before. However, its positives outweigh its negatives, and it should remain a strong contender provided the public support is there. Expect this to get some Critics Guild support down the road.
At least one indie sensation will work its way into the mix each year, and this year's candidate is Little Miss Sunshine. A festival favorite, Sunshine built through the year with a near exhaustive series of free preview screenings, building word-of-mouth. This paid off handsomely, and the dysfunctional family film is hovering around the $60 million mark in box office.
That's more than enough to make it a factor in the Oscar race as the sentimental fan favorite. The chances of it winning the top prize are next to nil, given that it's a) a comedy and b) made outside the studio system, but it has so many passionate fans that it would be folly to completely write it off.
Its early competitor in that vein is The Illusionist, which was the first of this year's magic themed films. Weaker in terms of both box office and critical support, it is nonetheless a more traditional Oscar bait movie. A romantic thriller, it has that Hollywood magic feeling, an Academy friendly star in Ed Norton, and grassroots support, which is always the most authentic kind of buzz. Unfortunately, it's a few too many months out and it might have been better served for Oscar purposes by a later year release. This is a film that's going to need tons of guild support.
A few other films are hanging around with faint hopes, like The Queen (too British, too small), the two 9/11 films, United 93 and World Trade Center (too hot button) and Thank You For Smoking (too early, and too little box office). These are going to need a lot of help, but they're in better shape than a lot of films that were touted early, like Hollywoodland and The Black Dahlia, whose outright flopping doomed their chances out of the gate.
Follow along each week to see how we rank the new contenders for the major Oscar categories, and follow the fortunes of films already released.
Power Rankings for:
BOP Awards Tracking Section