baseless speculation

The Oscar Nominations: What’ll Get the Fifth-Best Picture Slot?

The Academy Award nominations won’t be officially announced until Thursday morning, but, for as long as most Oscar watchers can remember, 2008’s Best Picture race has already been pretty much decided: Slumdog Millionaire will win, easily defeating other surefire nominees The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, and Milk — but what’s the other film that Slumdog will steamroll on its way to the podium? Despite late-growing consensus for The Dark Knight (following nods from the DGA, PGA, and the WGA), could another movie still score that elusive fifth slot? Sure, we guess! After the jump, we survey the likely contenders.

The Dark Knight: For as much as we’d love to see Rachel Getting Married or The Wrestler get the fifth slot, we won’t deny that Dark Knight would probably be the smarter pick — if the Academy wants to lift the Oscar ceremony out of the ratings basement this year, recognizing 2008’s biggest blockbuster seems like a pretty obvious way to do it. Important nods from the Directors Guild, Producers Guild, and Writers Guild bode well, but will voters really feel comfortable nominating a superhero movie? Or will they decide that Heath Ledger’s inevitable win for Best Supporting Actor (on top of the movie’s billion-dollar box office) is reward enough? Odds: 2 to 1.

Doubt: It’s popular with critics and based on a play that took home Tonys and a Pulitzer, but, most importantly here, it features four top-notch performances that should help it find support with actors, the Academy’s biggest voting bloc. But, despite acknowledgment from SAG, it hasn’t had much luck with other early awards. Odds: 5 to 1.

Wall-E: Frequent readers of our blog might have noticed that we have a horse in this year’s Best Picture race. It’s not just that we think Pixar’s universally hailed masterpiece is worthy of that fifth slot, though — it’s also that we think it’s virtually the only fifth-slot contender with a legitimate shot at upsetting Slumdog Millionaire. If it can get a nod (and, since the Academy uses a preferential ballot, it could hypothetically do so with the support of a passionate minority), voters would be forced to consider its status as 2008’s best-reviewed movie, instead of taking the easy route and just handing it the statue for Best Animated Feature. Also, Wall-E’s $224 million box-office haul means its inclusion would be almost as ratings-friendly as The Dark Knight’s. Even so, we won’t get our hopes up, since the Academy hates still animation even more than it hates comedy. Odds: 10 to 1.

Gran Torino: Yes, most of the acting was bad, and, no, its ending didn’t make any logical sense at all — but were you aware that the Academy’s membership includes a number of Clint Eastwood fans? It’s true! Plus, Torino made $30 million in wide release the weekend before ballots were due, so it would’ve been fresh in voters’ minds Odds: 10 to 1.

The Oscar Nominations: What’ll Get the Fifth-Best Picture Slot?