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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Oscar puzzler: How could 'True Grit' get 10 nominations but take a best picture dive?

Jeff_britdges If you were reading a lot of media coverage of Tuesday's Oscar nominations, you'd think it was a glorious day for "True Grit" and its chances to win the best picture award. After all, the film landed 10 nominations, second only to the 12 for "The King's Speech," prompting Variety to say that "True Grit" "emerged as a strong contender" for best picture. But if you talk to Oscar insiders, you'd know that Variety's upbeat assessment is, well, a lot of hooey.

If there is one key indicator that provides the most accurate prediction of a film's best picture chances, it is not how many nominations the film received, but whether it earned an all-important nomination for best editing. In fact, not since "Ordinary People" way, way back in 1980 has a film won best picture without also being nominated for the best editing award. And sadly for directors Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit" did not score a best editing nomination, which pretty much puts a big damper on its best picture chances.

Of course, that means there are a host of other films that are already out of the best picture race too. If you believe in the predictive power of the best editing category, "Inception" is also dead in the water, since it didn't score an editing nomination or even a directing nod for Christopher Nolan. That leaves "The King's Speech," which did land an editing nomination, along with four possible rivals: "The Social Network," "The Fighter," "127 Hours" and "The Black Swan."

While some of those films, especially "The Fighter," are popular with a broad swath of the academy, I'm guessing right now that the Oscar horse race remains the same two-film derby it looked like two months ago, a showdown between "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network," which got eight nominations Tuesday and has racked up a host of critics' awards. They are both richly deserving of all their honors, but only one will emerge a winner. Will it be the vibrant, old-fashioned storytelling of "The King's Speech," which appeals to the older members of the academy, or the sharp-tongued cultural observations of "The Social Network," which has captured the imagination of a younger generation?

If I had to place a bet, I'd bet on the old trumping the new, since that's exactly what happened at the Oscars last year, when the gripping war-movie narrative of "The Hurt Locker" won out over the edgier, video-game style innovation of "Avatar." By that logic, the prize goes to "The King's Speech." But since when were the Oscars ever logical? I guess I'm saying that for now, this race is a lot like the Super Bowl match-up between the Packers and the Steelers. It's way too close to call.

--Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Jeff Bridges in a scene from the Oscar-nominated film "True Grit." Credit: Lorey Sebastian / Paramount Pictures


Comments () | Archives (5)

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Don't bet against it. The little movie that could. Not perfect but a fine, fine, piece of work. For 30 million. I could sit in the theatre with my eyes closed the entire time and still enjoy this film more than 90% of the crap we get force fed. I am so tired of Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts lips and CGI car chases and Superheroes. I also think I don't like Brad Pitt, but he always surprises me.

Hey, Grit was a re-make. And a re-make that broke no new ground. That's why it won't make Best Film.

Again the Academy proved their irrelevance by ignoring Kickass and The Next Three Days.

The article's writer assumes that there's some pre-determined plan for determining Best Picture nominees and that they (a brilliant person, no doubt) has discovered the key ingredient-- best editing nomination! Then they say the process isn't logical. Maybe the question is now why the "True Grit" remake didn't get a Best Picture nominaion, but why it got so many oher nominations. "Avatar" edgy? I found it so boring and unoriginal I fell asleep watching it on a plane, and I hadn't had to pay. Besides, should a film academy being giving awards based on "video-game-style innovation"? Don't we already have enough films relying on computer effects over interesting plots?

While true that Grit didn't score in editing, Social Network was surprisingly 3rd place in total number, which indicates, i think, staleness. People have gotten bored with a film that relies completely on fast dialogue, which is why no screwball comedy (unfortunately) ever won anything.

When you listen to the fun, sharp patter of "Network" versus the grander glory of the delicious dialogue of "Grit", it's no contest, methinks.

And when you look at the actors list and see "Jesse Eisenberg", whose acting rival seems to be Michael Cera, competing with longtime greats, the film pales into relative insignificance, which is why i think it faded in total nominations.

I can't see a quiet British film bring in the big one. While a good production, "King's" subject matter has little to say for itself [pun]. Oscar prefers Big to "nice". As a lover of good British drama, this one is just too small.

I for one think Grit is the best example of the best total filmmaking package of the year. It's the denouement, which i think the Coens kept, true to the book, to kill any possibility of another bad sequel, that kept it from the editing category, but which is easily overcome experientially by its top notch pacing.


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