This morning's Oscar nominations offered a desperately needed opportunity to pare this season's awards also-rans from the ranks of the contenders. Alas, it just means higher-stakes hype and drama for the lucky ones:
1. How much will Harvey Weinstein spend to buy Kate Winslet an Oscar? The Reader's extraordinary showing this morning owes everything to Harvey's secret formula of marketing, publicity and assiduous word-of-mouth since last fall. But the cash-poor Weinstein Company doesn't stand a chance against Slumdog Millionaire in Picture, Director or Adapted Screenplay, so it comes down to Actress. It's one of the weakest categories of the year, with Winslet facing her stiffest competition probably from Anne Hathaway. Or Harvey can take the nominations — and the advertisement/DVD box copy that accompanies them —- and run. Ha. Right.
2. And what does "nominees to be determined" mean for The Reader's Best Picture nod? No producers are yet named for the famously contentious Rudin/Weinstein awards-season prize, suggesting that the Academy is debating one or both of two things: How Scott Rudin fits into the equation after pulling his name off the project (and being snubbed for Doubt and Revolutionary Road), and/or the eligibility of the late producing partners Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, who developed The Reader in the first place.
3. Is Werner Herzog a powerful-enough quantity to command a sympathy win? Consensus might have Man on Wire and Trouble the Water vying against each other for Best Documentary Feature. But Herzog, whose Grizzly Man was memorably snubbed in 2005, should be considered as likely a winner for Encounters at the End of the World as are either the higher-grossing Wire or more critically acclaimed Water. Why? Because with no Iraq docs on the list and perhaps its last chance to recognize a doc pioneer, the Academy's documentary branch can safely go for the man, not the movie. If it sounds outrageous, ask Errol Morris and Michael Moore their takes.
4. How will Disney and Focus handle their multiple Best Original Screenplay nominees? With WALL-E and Happy-Go-Lucky out of the running in Picture and Director, respectively, Disney won't want to compete against its own Miramax for a Screenplay win. Same thing at Focus Features, whose Milk may be a front-runner here but whose In Bruges has previous Oscar darling Martin McDonagh and its Golden Globe afterglow going for it.
5. Can Slumdog Millionaire's double-nomination in the Best Song category shorten the awardscast? Is it impolitic to kindly request combining "Jai Ho" and "O Saya" into one Bollywood-style number led by host Hugh Jackman? We'd appreciate it and will volunteer our aid any way we can.