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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

September 1, 2009 at 9:34 AM

It’s September, and Oscar talk begins . . .

The other day, a commenter on this blog asked me if I thought Abbie Cornish’s performance in “Bright Star” was Oscar-worthy; it was a good reminder that, as the fall movies arrive, our attention turns to those little gold men. I’m already seeing articles predicting the year’s Oscar nominees, sight unseen. So far, Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,” a movie seen by nobody and not due in theaters until December, seems to be leading the race, for what it’s worth.
This will be an unusual Oscar season, what with the new 10-movie Best Picture slate, and the recent observation that this fall will have far fewer movies in theaters than previous fall seasons. The New York Times has an article today citing statistics that 30 to 40 percent fewer movies will be released between September and December than last year — due to the economy, which has hit the film industry just as it hit everywhere else. So there’ll be fewer films competing (note the recent withdrawal of “Shutter Island” from the awards season, due to what its studio said were financial reasons) for more Best Picture slots. This is good news for small movies, like “Bright Star” and the Sundance favorite “Precious,” which may not be able to afford vast promotional campaigns.
And so will we see the term “Oscar-worthy” changing this year? Perhaps, but it’s one I’d like to minimize anyway. An Oscar nomination, particularly for acting, has so many factors involved, and only one of those is the performance: personal feelings voters have toward the performer; whether the film was generally liked; whether the distributor was able to mount a publicity campaign to get screeners into the hands of voters; whether the performer has been nominated and lost before. (If it were just about the performance, we would have seen Kate Winslet nominated for “Revolutionary Road” last year, no question.) Do I think Cornish is Oscar-worthy in “Bright Star,” in the sense of whether it’s a performance that stands out from the crowd for its accomplishment and impact? Absolutely. Do I think she’ll get an Oscar nomination? No idea; it depends on too many factors to predict right now. It’ll be a fascinating season to watch.

Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish in “Bright Star.” Photo courtesy of Apparition.

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