THE OSCARS: THE ANTICIPATION KILLS
FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
JAMES CAMERON can deliver an audience, whether at movie theatres or at the ACADEMY AWARDS, whether in the frosty North Atlantic or on a lush world light years away.
The Canadian director’s sci fi sensation AVATAR is among a strong crop of popular films in the running for OSCAR nominations tomorrow morning – the sort of hits organizers hope can elevate the modest TV ratings the ceremony has drawn in recent years.
Along with AVATAR, prospects in the OSCAR’S newly expanded BEST PICTURE race of 10 films include two other sci fi smashes STAR TREK and DISTRICT 9, the Second World War hit INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and the animated blockbuster UP.
Also contending are such critical darlings as the recession tale UP IN THE AIR from director JASON REITMAN, the war on terror thriller THE HURT LOCKER, the Nelson Mandela story INVICTUS and the teen dramas AN EDUCATION and PRECIOUS.
Among acting favourites are lead players SANDRA BULLOCK for the football drama THE BLIND SIDE and JEFF BRIDGES for the country music tale CRAZY HEART as well as supporting performers Mo’NIQUE for PRECIOUS and CHRISTOPH WALTZ for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.
All four won GOLDEN GLOBES for their roles.
JAMES CAMERON made the two biggest modern blockbusters with 1997’s TITANIC, set aboard the doomed luxury liner on its maiden Atlantic crossing and AVATAR, a tale of humans and aliens in conflict on a distant moon.
TITANIC did $1.84 billion at the box office worldwide. Just before his new sci fi epic opened in December, the director said, “I don’t expect that kind of performance out of Avatar.”
Yet AVATAR, which won for BEST DRAMA and DIRECTOR at the GOLDEN GLOBES, has shot past TITANIC, heading beyond $2 billion with plenty of box office life left in it.
OSCAR TV ratings typically rise when a major commercial hit is among the favourites. TITANIC dominated the ACADEMY AWARDS and lured the biggest TV audience ever – 55.2 million viewers – for Hollywood’s premier party.
The TV audience has been well below that mark since then.
OSCAR organizers decided last summer to double the BEST PICTURE field to 10 movies, saying they felt there were more than five worthy contenders.
The expanded BEST PICTURE category caught Hollywood by surprise, with filmmakers, actors, studio executives and others divided over the idea. Some say it opens the OSCARS up to a broader range of films, others think it might allow lesser movies to sneak into the BEST PICTURE competition.
Among those with reservations…
“Does that make the awards more prestigious? No. I think it makes them less prestigious,” said Harry Potter producer DAVID HEYMAN. “But listen, if I were ever one of the 10, I’d be very proud and very happy.”
“It seems like it might take away a little bit of the exclusivity of being a nominee out of five, rather than to be a nominee out of 10,” commented MICHAEL DOUGLAS, a producer of the 1975 BEST PICTURE winner ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST and the 1987 BEST ACTOR winner for WALL STREET.
And those who think it might be a good idea…
“Consider critics. No critic has trouble coming up with a top 10 list,” said THE DARK KNIGHT director CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, who earned a BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY nomination for 2001’s MEMENTO.
“When you look at the critics’ top 10 lists, they’re broad lists – a lot of different types of movies. That works very well for critics and maybe it’ll work for the Academy.”