It’s admittedly a bit premature to start tagging Oscar winners, but Inception stands up and demands this sort of analysis. Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming film has been hailed as the most anticipated of the Summer (and maybe of the year), and it fulfills every promise that it makes. Beyond the film itself, there are several other factors that might come together as a perfect storm that will clear a path toward the podium for Nolan and company.

Inception will win Best Picture next year. Here’s why.

The Film

The heaviest contributor to its chances is the movie itself – made with a quality that should be celebrated and recognized. Of course it’s large and beautiful and engaging, but it’s also the brand of Action With an Imagination that will appeal to general audiences and the sometimes-stuffy Awards-mongers alike.

It’s proof that you can think and chew popcorn at the same time.

In addition to being a better film than The Dark Knight, it’s also more traditionally Oscar-worthy while still being cutting edge. Theoretically, TDK was choked out of the running because it was “just a Superhero movie,” but there’s no similar sentiment here. It’s a classic-style hero’s journey featuring five Oscar nominees and two Oscar winners in front of the camera. Behind it, Nolan and Wally Pfister are both former nominees and composer Hans Zimmer won an Oscar for The Lion King back in 1995.

In short, the pedigree here is overwhelming, and the talent is all utilized to its fullest.

The Legacy Argument

Christopher Nolan is not Martin Scorsese. Still, there’s a lingering sentiment that he was unfairly snubbed for The Dark Knight. That feeling is so palpable that the Academy expanded the field to ten Best Picture nominees last year as a result. There’s no doubt that he’ll be nominated as Best Director, but the film could also benefit from the shortest legacy in history. It may seem absurd, but it’s certainly not out of the question – especially considering that his work has had a direct impact on how the awards are now done.

Plus, it would be a legacy win that voters could feel confident about instead of having to explain away with, you know, the legacy argument.

The Competition

This year has been sadly devoid of good films. The unbearable dearth of quality has plagued theaters for six months. Thus, there’s really no reason to even look backward in time for competition (except for Toy Story 3), so let’s look ahead at some possible contenders.

  • Toy Story 3The movie is fantastic and has gotten essentially the same reception as Best Picture nominee Up, but it faces the same uphill battle that that film did: it’s animated, and it has its own category.
  • The American – Anything with George Clooney in it is almost always a lock for a nomination, but this film will have to be a lot more than the standard Spy On His Last Job drama that we’ve seen before. Considering Michael Clayton and Up in the Air, the nomination is a given, but the win is not.
  • The Social Network – This movie actually might be the stiffest competition that Inception will face when the ballots go out. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin together with an intriguing entrepreneurial tale might be the right combination for success.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One - This could be another difficult decision for Academy members. No Potter film has even been nominated (which may help or hurt it), but there’s also the chance that members might wait for part two to award the “fantasy children’s movie” the gold.
  • True Grit – The original wasn’t nominated, but the Brothers Coen are fawned over by the Academy (for good reason). They’re winners, have directed a Best Picture, and hired last year’s Best Actor for their film. Remember what happens when they direct Westerns.
  • Blue Valentine – The word out of Sundance almost qualifies as the earliest Oscar buzz of the year – a year in advance. At the least, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams will grab nominations, and the relationship drama might be in the running as a dark horse for the big prize.
  • I Love You, Phillip Morris – Assuming it actually does get released at some point, this might be in the pack, but probably won’t have the steam to take home the statue. Is America really ready for an Oscar winner featuring two gay men? Oh, wait…
  • Buried – I add this to the list simply because it’s artistic and daring, and I was looking for any conceivable competition, but it’s not likely to even be nominated.
  • Secretariat – This looks the most like Oscar bait of the bunch, and because of that, I predict it will go the way of Changeling and Invictus. Is America really ready for an Oscar winner featuring a racing horse? Oh, wait…
  • Wild Things 4 – I hear there’s an orgy in this one, and that sort of thing deserves to be lauded.

Not counting the obviously-going-to-be-robbed Wild Things 4, that’s nine films right there that very well could end up being the finalists alongside Inception.

It’s impossible to know the quality of movies that haven’t hit screens yet, but it hasn’t been a strong year so far, and it doesn’t look like things will get much better. That’s tough for fans, but it only reinforces the strong chances for Inception to march its way up to the dais to Hans Zimmer’s booming, Edith-Piaf laden score.

With the mind-blowing strength of the film, a possible legacy consideration to make up for The Dark Knight, and a field of more chaff than wheat, audiences will get a chance to see the Best Picture winner for 2010 roll into theaters this weekend.

I also looked at some tarot cards and called Cleo about this.


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