By Kyle | December 9, 2009
Four years ago at this time of year, “Brokeback Mountain” was all anyone could talk about; then Oscar voters got sick of hearing about it and started fumbling around for another movie to give the Best Picture Oscar to, eventually settling on “Crash.” Three years ago no one had the slightest idea that “The Departed” would win the top prize as everyone was talking about how “Dreamgirls” would rule awards season. Two years ago, “Atonement” was thought to have an excellent shot at a Best Picture win — until people saw it and decided it was lame, which made voters back up and reconsider “No Country for Old Men.” And last year at this time everyone was really excited about “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” although they were also telling each other that “Slumdog Millionaire” was a cute underdog, even if it was obviously no match for the $150 million Brad Pitt extravaganza.
My point is that the road to Oscar is long. “Up in the Air” is way, way out in front of the pack now, because those who have seen the pictures we all thought would be the leading contenders — “The Lovely Bones,” “Invictus” and “Nine” — know that none of the three films is a serious candidate for a top Oscar. So “Up in the Air” has to maintain its lead all the rest of this month and through January and February. Voters may decide to start reconsidering other movies they didn’t give much of a chance to initially–like “Precious” and (who knows?) maybe even “The Blind Side” and “Inglourious Basterds.” All three of these movies are $100 million hits (“Precious” will get there eventually). Then there is the wild card: “Up.” Top prize to an animated feature? It’s never happened before. But “Up” is a very special movie.
I think that in the end, “Up in the Air” will, despite the disadvantage of front-runner status, indeed win this marathon and take home Best Picture, because it’s right for the time, because people love Clooney so much that they’re willing to give him an Oscar for growing a gut in “Syriana” and nominate him for a ludicrous thriller like “Michael Clayton,” and because the rival pictures are just a bit too out of the mainstream (in the case of “Basterds” and “Precious”) or a bit too solidly in the middle of the mainstream (“The Blind Side”). But don’t count out Quentin Tarantino for Best Director.