Feel-good films favoured for Oscars

Make way for the Rocky Oscars, where the losers win out and the underdogs get rosettes. The nominations have been announced and the frontrunners anointed.

Favourite for best film is Slumdog Millionaire, a star-free, rags-to-riches fairytale from the slums of Mumbai.
There goes punch-drunk Mickey Rourke, slouching towards the best actor award for The Wrestler. Three cheers for five-time nominee Kate Winslet, all set to make it sixth-time lucky for The Reader.

This, at least, is the script as written by the pundits and the bookmakers. What remains to be seen is whether the academy voters choose to follow it.

If they do, the 81st annual Academy Awards will play out as a virtual karaoke retread of the Golden Globes—which could be the main incentive to go the other way.

And quite possibly this is happening already. The shortlist announced yesterday broke with globe form by largely snubbing Sam Mendes’s Revolutionary Road (and by association, its stars Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio).

It also tossed a few wild cards into the mix. Melissa Leo almost certainly won’t win the best actress Oscar for her acclaimed turn in Frozen River, but her presence alone is a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.

Stars will rise and fall over the next four weeks, albeit behind closed doors. Can it be that the likes of Winslet and Rourke have already overplayed their underdog card? It’s hard to stay convincing as an against-the-odds hero when the actual odds tell a different story.

For all that, Slumdog Millionaire is the clear favourite to take the crowning best picture Oscar. If anything, rival nominees Milk and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are marginally better movies, but Slumdog has the momentum and seems curiously in tune with the tenor of the age.

This may be the world’s first truly globalised blockbuster; a collage of English and Hindi; world cinema with a Hollywood gloss.

Its feel-good nature is another point in its favour. After the cold-eyed nihilism of the last two best picture winners (The Departed; No Country For Old Men), the academy will be looking for a change of pace.—guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009