So I early reviewed Tron: Legacy here. That’s fun. It’ll be interesting to see how the film disseminates across the internet, and by that I’m curious to see who fanwanks on it. I’ve been fighting a nasty bug for the last couple days, you know the kind where if you laugh you sound like a car failing to turn over? Right now – more than anything – I’m growing claustrophobic. I want to dance, for inspiration.



TIS THE SEASON

The first shot is across the bow. The National Board of Review has issued their top ten and best of for the year, and it’s coming up Fincher. Last week True Grit screened for a handful of internet journalists, and it looks like it got some NY play recently (I know the junket screening is next week), but every cat is officially out of the bag now, and the Oscar race is becoming that much clearer.

Right now – unless there’s some print backlash due to True Grit’s screening policy – it looks like there’s four main contenders. They are: True Grit (though its stocks might diminish when all the reviews are in), The Social Network, The King’s Speech and The Fighter. On the side is Black Swan, Winter’s Bone, Inception, 127 Hours, and The Kids are All Right. Rabbit Hole has yet to pick up traction, though it might. Everything’s a little unsure, and Rabbit hasn’t come out of hiding yet (though the fest screenings suggest it’s going to be between Nicole Kidman and Natalie Portman).

As for the four main contenders, each has its pluses and minuses. True Grit is another in a long line of good-to-great Coen films, but they’re still high off of No Country For Old Men. This appears to be more traditional, and a remake to boot. I wonder if they’ll try and stick Haliee Steinfield in best supporting to make her more competitive. Jeff Bridges is coming off a win, but a nomination in appreciation of him taking over this December seems likely. Colin Firth and James Franco seem locks, but my guess is that this is Firth’s to lose. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are well respected, and they may get their nods, though Christian Bale seems the horse to beat in supporting. Is it good enough? I’ll probably speak more on this after I see it (hopefully next week).

But right now it feels like a three way race, though it might best be described as a marathon. The King’s Speech right now feels like the front runner, which is great for both The Fighter and The Social Network. Speech has a lot of things going for it: it’s classy, it’s British-y but not too British, and it’s got great actors doing their thing. As the film slowly rolls out over the country awards and word should spread, which is enough to get the film to at least a $30-$40 Million domestic take. Like I said, I think Firth should – without question – be considered the front runner and near-on lock, especially after having been a team player, being British, having no flashy role in his way, and a sense of being owed (he was the best thing in last year’s A Single Man). But then it’s also a Weinstein company production: they know how to hustle, but also they’re still the Weinsteins and there are people who actively hate them. The backlash on this one is coming, and how hard it hits is unknown.

The Social Network then has a couple things going for it. Right now it’s got the award momentum, but that could turn. They (the collective they) were nervous the film would become the front runner, and it was for a while, but now it’s Speech. Critical support, being crowned the best of the year at this point can only help. But where The King’s Speech is only going to grow box office wise, The Social Network is mostly done theatrically as a modest but not runaway success. So it’s a bit cold that way. The DVD/Blu-ray should be coming out February/March, it’s going to need some oomph, which means people who love it, and critical support is the best way to get it over the top. I think Jesse Eisenberg has a shot of being nominated, and I think both Armie Hammer (though I’d lean more toward) Justin Timberlake could get nominated for supporting. What this film needs is a sense of consensus. As I’ve said before, I’d put money on Fincher being the best chance of this film winning an award (for director), with Sorkin’s script a close second. Tom Hooper will surely get nominated, but he’s relatively fresh. It would have to be a sweeping gesture for Speech, and if David Seidler wins a screenplay award, then…

But then there’s The Fighter. Okay, yeah, it’s a formula picture, but it’s a great one. The academy responds to films like this. For me there is no finer supporting performance I’ve seen this year than Melissa Leo’s turn, if only because I completely forgot it was her. If you get Leo out there enough, and show how much she transformed herself into a Southie, she’s going to be a winner. Then there’s Christian Bale, who does give the “freak” drug addict performance, but there’s a lot of heart and character there – it’s not just the standard thing, even if it is familiar. Wahlberg’s fine in the central role, but he’s more of a rock, where Amy Adams is also excellent, and well deserving of a nod. If I were Paramount, I’d probably put all my energies into this one – though David O. Russell has an uphill battle. Royalty like George Clooney and Lily Tomlin actively hate him. Do you background him? Do you try and push Wahlberg as producer to get him his Oscar? At this moment, if I were doing a pie chart I would put the odds on The King’s Speech at 37%, The Fighter right behind at 33% and 30% for The Social Network. But The Fighter may do bang up business. The question is if that helps or hurts. Or if it does modest but strong business if that helps or hurts. Bale’s gonna have to do the rounds, but as long as he can be as fun as he was at the press conference (which I’ll run shortly), you’re looking at a thoroughbred.

What does this mean for box office? Lots.

IT’S TOO LATE TO CHANGE YOUR PREDICTION, YOU LET LOSS BE YOUR GUIDE

ZZZZ. The Warrior’s Way opens. Everything else holds. I don’t know how well Warrior cracks. Like I said in Sunday Tangled does the rare thing and takes the top spot the weekend after release.

1.    Tangled - $22.7 Million
2.    Harry Potter and One More Movie to Go - $19 Million
3.    The Warrior’s Way – $5.9 Million
4.    Megamind – $4.7 Million
5.    Burlesque – $4.3 Million

And then on Sunday we’ll take a nap after sports.