CATEGORIES Oscars, Awards
Highly anticipated Oscar-bait 'Invictus' finally opened wide over the weekend. But will its all-star pedigree lead to nominations -- or simply unrealistic expectations?

At first glance, the film seems to be a shoo-in for multiple nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony this March. Legendary actor Clint Eastwood has transformed himself over the past twenty years into an equally (or even more) legendary director, having been nominated for best director three times this decade alone. Highly anticipated Oscar-bait 'Invictus' finally opened wide over the weekend. But will its all-star pedigree lead to nominations -- or simply unrealistic expectations?

At first glance, the film seems to be a shoo-in for multiple nominations for the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony this March. Legendary actor Clint Eastwood has transformed himself over the past twenty years into an equally (or even more) legendary director, having been nominated for best director three times this decade alone.

'Invictus' is also bolstered by lead actor Morgan Freeman, who has been nominated for four Oscars himself, including one win for his supporting role in Eastwood's 2004 entry 'Million Dollar Baby.' And then there's Matt Damon, who has become arguably the leading actor of his generation despite having previously won his only Oscar in the Original Screenplay category.

All that would seem to add up to 'Invictus' being a clear frontrunner when the Academy announces its nominations on February 2nd, and a corresponding amount of Oscar buzz has accompanied the film's ad campaign over the last few weeks leading up to its release. But does it measure up? Or is this a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts?



Perhaps an early indicator that there may be trouble for the film's Oscar hopes was revealed today as the Golden Globes announced their nominations. As expected, Eastwood, Freeman and Damon all received nominations in their respective categories. Yet despite this, 'Invictus' was left out of the Best Motion Picture, Drama, category, with the slot instead going to the indie surprise 'Precious,' while Quentin Tarantino's revisionist World War Two actioner 'Inglorious Basterds' also surprisingly made the cut over 'Invictus.'

This doesn't necessarily mean that 'Invictus' won't earn an Oscar nomination, of course, as the Academy Awards have controversially expanded their Best Picture category to ten films; with such a large field of hopefuls, chances are 'Invictus' will sneak out a nod. The chances of the movie actually winning the award, however, now seem more distant in light of both the Golden Globe nominations and the generally favorable but unenthusiastic reviews that 'Invictus' is receiving around the country.

Indeed, the majority of reviewers and the broader movie-going public seem to be on the same page with the Hollywood Foreign Press in their feeling that while the performances of the lead actors are excellent, particularly Freeman's understated portrayal of South African president Nelson Mandela, the movie itself is less inspired than the events that inspired it. Some of this has to be put at the feet of Eastwood, who stages the film's personal interactions with a subtlety that flies out the window when the sports sequences begin. For a film that revolves around a sporting event -- in this case the 1995 Rugby World Cup -- that's a bit of a problem, and the over-the-top use of super-slo-mo during the dramatization of a cinematically uninteresting 15-12 match decided entirely on field goals plays less as a national celebration and more as an extended beer commercial.

With the action sequences falling so flat, then, it's less a wonder that 'Invictus' was left off the Golden Globe short list than that Eastwood was included over 'Precious' director Lee Daniels. That is a situation that could well be reversed when the Oscars come around, however, as the larger field for Best Picture should allow 'Invictus' to sneak in while the more select Best Director category, which still boasts only five nominees, may see Eastwood shut out.

Now that would be a true upset.