[The Week in Geek is a weekly Tuesday column that plunges headfirst into a deep pool of genre geekiness without ever coming up for air.]
One of the coolest things about ten nominees for Best Picture means you get to see films like 'District 9' and 'Inception' rub shoulders with artsier "prestige" pictures. It's like the cool kids crashed the party! I can only guess what upcoming genre releases might earn their spot as future Best Picture nominees, but here are a few that seem, on paper at least, like they could be Oscar front-runners in 2011.
Andrew Niccol has spent most of his career looking like a guy right on the very cusp of great things. As a writer, he won critics over early on, with 'Gattaca' and 'The Truman Show,' but his red-hot career cooled down with 'S1m0ne' and 'The Terminal.' He seems picky with projects, only directing films that he's written, and rarely taking a break from high-brow science-fiction concepts.
'Now' sounds very much like a modern spin on 'Logan's Run,' taking place in a world in which only the richest citizens can buy the privilege of life past the age of twenty-five. While brainy sci-fi doesn't always nab Academy voters' attention (it didn't help 'Never Let Me Go'), there's still a chance that the subject matter will strike a chord with viewers outside of the usual sci-fi fans.
Academy Award Bait: Andrew Niccol (1-time Oscar nominee), Cinematographer Roger Deakins (9-time Oscar nominee)
J.J. Abrams' name may be all over 'Super 8' as the writer and director, but those trailers look 100% Spielberg to me. Watching a backlit, dirty-faced little kid stare in awe at very alien things going awry in the suburbs screams "STEVEN SPIELBERG!" No surprise then that Spielberg is executive producer on the film.
Like all J.J. Abrams' projects, details are being kept under wraps. We know it's probably another alien invasion film (maybe? kind of?) in a year stuffed full of them ('Skyline,' 'Battle: Los Angeles,' 'Paul,' 'Cowboys Vs. Aliens,' 'The Darkest Hour'), but 'Super 8' looks special because of how well it seems to visually ape vintage Spielberg. We could use some of that magic in our blockbusters again. No, 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' doesn't count.
Academy Award Bait: Executive Producer Steven Spielberg (3 Oscars). Composer Michael Giacchino (1 Oscar). Plus, the academy loves children that can act, and this one has Elle Fanning and Zach Mills.
Walking a fine line between science-fiction and science-fact, comes this thriller from Steven Soderbergh about CDC workers attempting to control a deadly outbreak. It's easily the least fantastical of the genre films on the list, but it's also the one with the most prestige attached. This thing looks absolutely primed to make a bid for Best Picture.
Positively Loaded With Academy Award Bait: Director Steven Soderbergh (1 Oscar). Matt Damon (1 Oscar). Gwyneth Paltrow (1 Oscar). Kate Winslet (1 Oscar). Marion Cotillard (1 Oscar). Plus former Oscar nominees Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, and Elliot Gould.
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2'
Sometimes films win Oscars for reasons beyond the contents of one individual film. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see 'Deathly Hallows Pt. 2' in the mix for Best Picture, even if it doesn't turn out to be the best Harry Potter film. Despite all seven of the films receiving critical accolades, not a single of them has been nominated for Best Picture. Is the eighth time the charm?
I think so. Considering the content of 'Deathly Hallows Part 2' and David Yates' sure-handed, soulful handling of 'Part 1,' I think we're in for a conclusion on the level of 'Return of the King.' We all know what happened to that little film...
Academy Award Bait: Final film in a beloved, acclaimed series. Five of the films have earned a total of eight nominations, but the series has never walked away with Oscar gold.