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Is ‘Sweeney Todd’ Really a Best Picture Contender?

Courtesy of Dreamworks

The L.A. Times' Tom O'Neil goes out on a limb and predicts that not only will Sweeney Todd be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, it will win. "Sweeney Todd may become the fourth film to sweep all top Oscars," he writes. "Picture, director, actor and actress — after The Silence of the Lambs, It Happened One Night, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." O'Neil claims that the passion he's heard from people who have seen the movie, and the film's Broadway pedigree, have him thinking it's a "shrewd, if recklessly early call."

I was in New York City in 1979 when "Sweeney Todd" first cast its mad spell on audiences. Broadway went berserk. Media and Manhattan's fancy folk couldn't stop talking about it. Beware: America's moviegoers are about to go through the same mania when they inevitably become smitten with its irresistible bloodlust, artistic brilliance and twisted love tales.


Of course, shrewd readers may remember another movie musical, just last year, that stirred up passion among those who loved it.

That movie, too, had a Broadway pedigree, and similarly took New York by storm all those years ago when it appeared on stage. As it happens, O'Neil was an early adopter of that movie, Dreamgirls, as well, and famously wrote a tearful screed the day of the nominations when it was shut out of the major categories.

So what about it? Does Sweeney Todd really have a chance at the top slot? We'd tend to think not, though we freely admit we know nothing. But Tim Burton's directing history is full of movies that got us really excited before they were released, then turned out to be just not as good as we all hoped they would be — Planet of the Apes, say, or Sleepy Hollow — or, if they were really good, like Ed Wood, they were way too dark and weird for the Academy to give major awards attention to.

Burton's last awards hopeful, Big Fish, failed to accumulate nominations even though it was brighter and sunnier than his usual fare. So why would Sweeney Todd necessarily get nominated? O'Neil claims that Chicago proves that movies with murderous leads can still get Academy love, but we think it's a little silly to compare the glossy, glitzy, cartoony babes in Chicago with the pale, Victorian, Burtonized Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd. Seriously: Can you imagine this movie winning Oscars? Neither can we. It's like saying that Shockheaded Peter would win a Tony. Or a crazy Gothic revival of Sweeney Todd, for that matter. Oh, wait.

Prediction: 'Sweeney Todd' will win the Oscar for best picture [LAT]