It's cloudy in Toronto today, but the best picture field for the 83rd Academy Awards is not. There are well over 15 potential films who could fill the 10 coveted slots and that could change if certain films get picked up or find a surprise late release in December. That's a big change from only a few months ago when many in the industry were expecting a dearth of legitimate candidates. Oh, ye of little faith.
My initial 15 picks were part of this year's inaugural Gurus of Gold poll which ran on Monday. A number of films in the race have been seen by this pundit since then which may explain a few changes.
It passes the cultural phenomenon test with flying colors.
"Toy Story 3"
After "Up" was nominated in the big category last year do you really think a more critically acclaimed and bigger hit won't make the dance this time around?
"The Social Network"
Could be cultural phenomenon candidate no. 2 and Fincher's most accessible work to date.
"The King's Speech"
Everything that's great about a Hollywood historical prestige piece. Will be adored.
Boyle has made an incredible film about a climber stuck in a canyon, but will its extreme reputation scare some voters off from even seeing it? We say actors branch and editors get it in, but it's early.
Something tells us Aronofsky's latest is going to play very well on screener.
Word is it's fantastic, but Paramount wants to keep the hype down and avoid "Up in the Air's" quandary of peaking too early.
Coens + Jeff Bridges + Josh Brolin + great material + uber producer Scott Rudin. How could this not be a best picture nominee?
Mike Leigh's most entertaining movie since "Topsy-Turvy." Great performances too.
"The Kids Are All Right"
The Sundance feel good dramedy drew nicely, but not spectacularly in the summer. A better gross would have helped, but it has its fans about town.
HOPEFUL (aka UNDERDOGS)
"How To Train Your Dragon"
Great movie, but needs to blow all the smoke for "Toy Story 3" out of the way a bit.
"The Ghost Writer"
More people loved this one than you might think. Great, classy thriller with a wonderful twist ending. If Summit can pitch it right -- and it would be a pricey job unfortunately -- they could wiggle their way in.
"I Am Love"
Star Tilda Swinton might have a better chance her, but if this screener got out early…don't be shocked. Critic's support will be important too.
"The Tree of Life"
Just depends if it's being considered for early, limited release in Dec. The elements are there, but questions remain over length and clarity.
It's either a supernatural thriller that could surprise the academy or just a supernatural thriller that could make a lot of money. Or, possibly both. The question should be revealed this weekend.
Mixed reviews for Sophia Coppola's latest out of Venice. Until more people screen it, it's still a big question mark.
Elements are there for a late Academy campaign, but does Classics want to risk "Version" knocking Leigh's "Year" out of contention for the 10?
Star Robert Duvall has many friends in the Academy. It's preformed admirably on the limited art house circuit and could be a surprise. Critic's lists will be important.
"Never Let Me Go"
Will get moderate to positive reviews, but even Searchlight has to know it's a longshot for this dark romance to crack the top ten.
Going into Telluride it was considered a slam dunk for festival goers, but got overshadowed by other titles. Most of the attendees enjoyed it, but it may be too light to have staying power in an awards race.
DON'T BUY IT
"How Do You Know"
James L. Brooks hasn't made a good movie since "Broadcast News" (and yes, I realize there are "As Good As It Gets" fans out there, but watch it again). Nothing we've seen or heard about "Know" convinces us its just this year's pretender "It's Complicated" candidate.
"Love and Other Drugs"
Ed Zwick may not have made a good movie since the underrated "Courage Under Fire" and you can argue that his 1990 breakthrough "Glory" is still his best film. That makes "Drugs" a likely pretender.
Universally ambivalent response after its Cannes debut is not a good sign.
"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"
Fox seems to be going for more of a box office win here than anything on the awards (though Douglas will factor in supporting actor for a variety of reasons).
Disney would love for this to tap into the "Blind Side" audience somehow, but we're not sure it has more than a tepid "Seabiscuit." appeal.
Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner has its fans, but feels more like 2008's "Frozen" where star Melissa Leo and writer/director Courtney Hunt came away with nominations, but the picture didn't.
Any films you think are missing from this list? Share your thoughts below.