Each year the impending Oscars gives rise to feverish speculation that is part art and part science and bloggers are now getting in on the act.
In this week's round-up of the US Oscar and film blogs, smear campaigns and Heath Ledger are on the Academy Awards' radar.
Here Come the Smear Campaigns - 13 February
When ballots go out, so do the rumors and whisper campaigns. Don't kid yourself; the Oscar race is as nearly as cut-throat as any political election.
Take it from me, Oscarwatchers, I have seen many dirty dealings in the seven years I've been at this game.
They start as whisper campaigns and/or someone gets a piece of information that has the potential to damage a film's chances - people who operate outlets or blogs have the choice to post them or not. I am sitting on a couple of stories that are, to my mind, interesting but not relevant to the race.
How can you tell they're smear campaigns and not regular news? They just happen to appear during awards voting.
Measure of Ledger - 13 February
Heath Ledger submitted to a friendly dog-and-pony show at the Santa Barbara Film Festival last night (ie interviewed by Pete Hammond on the stage of the Lobero theatre, watched several film clips, accepted the festival's Breakthrough Award), and I'm a tiny bit stumped.
It was a nice evening... pleasant, heartening... and Heath seems like a right guy, but I don't know what to say about him that doesn't sound cliched or repetitive or flat.
I think Ledger may be a bit like Laurence Olivier and Alec Guiness, which is that without a role to play (or a fake nose or an exotic accent to hide behind) he congeals and stammers on a bit and isn't quite up to the charm levels of Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Kimmel in front of a crowd.
MOVIE CITY NEWS
DVD Geek - 13 February
A wonderful movie about the American Dream, Hustle & Flow, has been released as a Widescreen Edition DVD.
Oscar nominee Terrence Howard is a small-time Memphis pimp (he has three girls), who wants to become a rap star.
Directed by Craig Brewer, the film's style is sneaky, giving off the air of a tacked-together low-budget inner city drama, when in reality it has a stealthy, precise rhythm that locks your attention onto the screen and slides you effortlessly from one scene to the next.
The characters are as comical as they are realistic, and the natural humor that comes from their aspirations and predicaments prevents the movie from seeming too earnest or self-important, something the otherwise admirable and vaguely similar 8 Mile failed to achieve.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...
Counting Down To Oscar - 13 February
As expected, Brokeback Mountain and Crash took home the WGA Awards for Best Adapted and Original Screenplays, respectively.
My current thinking is that these will also be our winners at the Oscars.
Fellow BP nominees Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck are their only potential competition, but the Academy is going to have to go ga-ga over them for them to pull out a surprise win. After losing last year for Million Dollar Baby, Haggis is more than likely considered due for a win (he's nominated three times this year for Crash) and his best bet is Screenplay.
Fellow three-timer Clooney will either miss completely or take Supporting Actor. And Brokeback is looking at definitely winning at least three (to six) Oscars, those three fairly locked being Picture, Director, and Screenplay.