In the run up to the Oscars 2008, I have decided to follow up on all the buzz and activity surrounding the biggest event of Hollywood in a calendar year. If anyone expected the Coen Brother to bounce back, for their information they have. Their superb crime drama starring acclaimed Spanish actor Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones is the darling of the critics this year. But hold on! Almost always as recent trends show, the critics’ darling looses out to the big guns. So Joel and Ethan Coen might just have to wait a bit longer for the coveted golden statuette. The other film, making a huge impact is Sweeney Todd, directed by Tim Burton is based on a hit Broadway musical and has been widely praised. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the lead role have been widely praised for their turns as Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett. Also a sure shot Best actor nominee is another Oscar veteran Daniel Day Lewis for his brilliant performance in There Will Be Blood. Other strong contenders for the Best Picture include Atonement, a heart-wrenching story of love and lust set in pre-world war II England and director Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.
The Coen’s are definitely the front-runners for the Best Director nod but Tim Burton and veteran Sidney Lumet, who has already won an Honorary Oscar is also up in the race. Lumet may be seen as a sentimental favorite for his film Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, as the Oscars have a history of awarding the top prize for a huge body of works (think Scorcese, Polanski and Peter Jackson). Twenty year old Ellen Page seems to have emerged as the front runner for the Best Actress Oscar this year for her role in the film Juno. But the list of potential contenders also include some not so familiar names like Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Amy Adams (Enchanted) and Laura Linney (The Savages). Also in the running are Cate Blanchett (The Golden Age), Keira Knightley (Atonement) and Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart). Even if Blanchett is nominated for the Shekhar Kapur period piece, she more likely to be recognized by the academy for her turn in the film I’m Not There, for the Best Supporting Actress. Here she is expected to receive stiff competition from Ruby Dee (American Gangster) and Saoirse Ronan (Atonement).
But one film that has caught my eyes is the Belgian film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a true-life story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn’t paralyzed. A foreign language film has rarely made it well at the Oscars, exceptions being Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful. But even these two never came close to winning the Best Picture trophy. The jinx is unlikely to be broken this year but it will be interesting to see how the Academy views the film. A lot of things will be clear when the Golden Globe nominations are announced tonight. Till then we can only hope that Tabu and Irfan Khan (who incidentally has won an Independent Spirit nomination) will be recognized for their performance in Mira Nair’s The Namesake.