I generally don't like jumping on the bandwagon, but I think I'd have to do just that and say that Munich will most likely be the leader come awards season. The only thing that seems to be working against it is that it's already August and it's still nowhere in sight (until just recently, it didn't even have a title yet). Many of the other buzzed films, like Ask the Dust, A History of Violence and Brokeback Mountain are already making their rounds among the film festivals. Then again, anticipation for this film will have escalated to significant degrees by the time the film actually arrives. With such a heavy theme, direction from Steven Spielberg, and a screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, hopes are up for this film...and, of course, the stakes are high.
As for the other films... If there's one that's getting near zero buzz, making its chances grow dimmer every passing moment, it's the Ivory-Merchant project The White Countess. Where the heck is it? Still, I think that Ismail Merchant's recent passing can at least get the film last minute attention. I mean, we're talking about the masters of the period film here. Everyone else is either an inspired artist or a poser. The New World could be the historical epic in the slot, and it doesn't hurt that it's directed by respected Terrence Malick. It may hurt that it's an epic with Colin Farrell in it, but I don't really see that working against it in the long run. Maybe New Line will be back in the running with this one. Memoirs of a Geisha, which is based on a hugely popular novel and directed by Chicago helmer Rob Marshall, has all the trappings to make it an Oscar frontrunner, but the rumors of troubles during shooting, and the rather inaccurate (that's not saying that it isn't inspired) casting are probably making other prognosticators think twice about its chances. As far as I'm concerned, it's still in, and it's a good venue for great Asian actors Ziyi Zhang and Li Gong to shine.
Now...what about the fifth slot? It's up in the air: it could be heavily buzzed Walk the Line or Mrs. Henderson Presents, or light fare like In Her Shoes or Elizabethtown, or the war film Jarhead, or the remake of All the King's Men. But wouldn't it be nice for them to actually remember how great a film Crash was? I admit, this is more wishful thinking than anything else, but it's not entirely impossible. I'm hoping for it.
Of the other movies, I'm most excited about the buzz generated by Walk the Line and Brokeback Mountain. Both look like great acting vehicles for their actors from what I've seen (the latter in particular), but there are things working against them. We just came from a year with Ray. Walk the Line has to be exceptional to walk the carpet (or the stage) with more than just nominations for the two lead actors. Meanwhile, Brokeback Mountain is as gay as a movie could get. Is the Academy ready to accept that?
I'm pretty excited about this year, if only because there are so many possibilities. Who knows, maybe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will actually make it as another fantasy up for the major Oscars. One can always hope.
All photos taken from IMDb