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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

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

February 17, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Oscar countdown: “Inception”

(By the way, you have exactly one day left — today — to catch the Hepburn movies at Cinerama. I went yesterday, and “Roman Holiday” was glorious and looked beautiful — for me and the five other people in the theater.)
The countdown continues with another polarizing film: Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” one of the biggest moneymakers of 2010 (and certainly the biggest film based on a non-sequel original screenplay — a rarity in Hollywood these days). An intricate, dazzling tale of dream invasion, this cerebral heist movie also had a soul: a heartbreaking tale of lost love, beautifully acted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard. (And why didn’t the Academy notice these performances? Seems like, with the exception of Heath Ledger, voters rarely notice acting in blockbusters.) Not everybody liked this movie — a commenter on this site just yesterday said it was “one of the worst films I’ve seen in decades” — but everyone’s got an opinion on it. I loved it (even better the second time through), but I wonder if, like many elaborately tricked-out movies, it works better on the big screen than on DVD screener, which is how many Academy voters may have seen it. It also may have an especially strong appeal for younger viewers — I know several teenagers who adored it — and the Academy famously skews older. Nonetheless, I think it’ll be awarded Oscar night; see below.
Total U.S. box office: $292 million, making it far and away the leader among the ten Best Picture nominees (“True Grit,” in second place, has made $161 million.)
Total Oscar nominations: Eight, for best picture, original screenplay, score, art direction, cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, and visual effects.
Best chances for a win: I think “Inception” is a lock for the last three categories. It doesn’t have a prayer for best picture (many point to Nolan’s non-nomination in the director category as a lack of overall support for the film), but it’s in the hunt for the remaining four. Nolan might get a groundswell of support in the original screenplay category (currently “The King’s Speech” looks more likely, but voters may be fickle); likewise, eight-time nominee Hans Zimmer could win for his score. The American Society of Cinematographers recently gave “Inception’s” Wally Pfister its top award (over Roger Deakins for “True Grit” and Matthew Libatique for “Black Swan”), which could be a hint of things to come — and, if the Academy can ignore its usual bias toward period films in the category, its art direction could get a nod as well.
Odds of this movie creating any fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: I suspect Anne Hathaway or James Franco will make at least one “Is this all a dream?” comment from the podium. Otherwise, unless a group of fanboys storm the auditorium demanding a directing statuette for Nolan, things should be fairly quiet on the “Inception” front.
Where I’d rank this movie among the 10 Best Picture contenders: I waver between 1 and 2 (between this and “The King’s Speech”). Like I said, I love this movie and greatly admire Nolan’s cinematic imagination. You?

Doomed lovers, or just dreamers? Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception” (photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures)

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