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Roman Polanski’s “Ghost Writer” Receives Needed Awards Boost

Roman Polanski
Francois Durand/Getty Images
Roman Polanski

Yesterday Film Comment's 2010 Top 50 list revived No. 4 winner Roman Polanski's guttering Oscar hopes to a flicker quicker than Sissy Spacek's hand erupting from the grave in Carrie. (Spacek's Get Low hopes remain lower than dirt.) On The Hollywood Reporter's Top 20 Real FC Winners List: Winter's Bone, Inside Job, and...

Only a few winners of Film Comment's very-big-deal cineaste poll will actually see any Oscar benefit. Here's my guess at some who will win what sort of awards cred:

1. The Ghost Writer (FC fourth-prize winner). Roman Polanski's momentum needed a dash of benzedrine in its ovaltine. Spectral, softspoken, perfectly realized auteurist films like this and Sofia Coppola's Somewhere have been shouted down by bellowing boxing crowds and lulus in tutus ululating like police sirens. The FC honor helps heal the image damage lurid scandal did to Polanski. The film's startlingly high rank on FC's list adds more crucial fuel to the legitimizing heat of his Dec. 4 sweep of the European Film Awards.

2. Carlos (FC first-prize winner). Olivier Assayas's 5 /12 hour miniseries, also screened theatrically in shorter movie versions, can only get TV honors, like this week's Golden Globe nom and SAG nom for star Edgar Ramirez, who tells me he's stunned to face John Goodman, Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid and Patrick Stewart in his first major awards bout. But Carlos is so insanely bold, risky, and vast, it has upped long-term Oscar odds for everybody in it, way more than if Assayas had played meekly by the usual movie rules. Besides topping FC's list, it's on critics' top-10 lists right and left. FC does far more for Carlos than it does for its second-prize winner The Social Network, already too incandescent with kudos to be brightened up by even FC's considerable prestige.

3. Winter's Bone (FC sixth-prize winner). Teetering on the brink of falling into the lowest slot or better for best actress, best supporting actor, and best picture, it could get a crucial nudge from its high FC rank.

4. Inside Job (FC seventh-prize winner). Both FC's 100-plus eminent movie experts and the Academy cherish this quixotic assault on Wall Street, which reminds of of Kurt Vonnegut's suggestion that antiwar novels be called "anti-glacier novels," because art can't stop wars or glaciers (or Wall Street). If they were artier and more into sheer entertainment, they wouldn't have ranked Bansky's Exit Through the Gift Shop 26 slots lower (FC 33rd-prize winner). I think FC people want to make a political statement with this award.

5. Greenberg (FC tenth-prize winner). Winning Top 10 status in FC beats the films' recent Gotham and Spirit Award noms in status, but the hero is still too appealingly appalling to appeal to Oscar voters.

6. Toy Story 3 (FC twelfth-prize winner). FC's prestige reminds voters this isn't just kiddie commerce, or a third-generation xerox of a revered original, it's high art.

7. Another Year (FC fourteenth-prize winner). Director Mike Leigh and star Lesley Manville get a boost, but not enough to reach the red carpet.

8. The Kids Are All Right (FC sixteenth-prizewinner). Kids have been subtly slipping in esteem. This pretty-high rank may improve odds for others besides slamdunk nominee Annette Bening.

9. Shutter Island (FC seventeenth-prize winner). Of course FC was likely to make nice to Martin Scorsese, but the endorsement takes the faint genre stink off the project.

10. Film Socialisme (FC second-prizewinner on the Top 20 Unreleased Films of 2010 list). The imprimatur reminds us of the artist and his work, now that we're starting to forget the kerfuffle over Godard's bizarre ethnic philosophy and fingernails-on-the-blackboard-or-in-your-eye style of his defiant reaction to his Governor's Awards controversy.

Maybe Black Swan gets an Oscar edge by making No. 24 of FC's list, an encomium countering opinions like critic Nathan Lee's, who posted on Facebook, "Crushingly obvious but highly entertainting. Compelling surface effects and innovations of tone do not overcome the fact that it doesn't have more or richer ideas than Burlesque."

But being at No. 24 kind of feels like making a list of the 144 Best-Dressed Women in Wahkiakum County. Nice, but not five-alarm news. Animal Kingdom's No. 35 win may be too low to do much for Jacki Weaver. Frederick Wiseman's No. 26 win for the doc Boxing Gym should be called the "Screw You, The Fighter Award." Maybe Inception's No. 30 win isn't too low to be insulting, but it sounds increasingly so to put other Oscar-predix list hopefuls True Grit at No. 42, The King's Speech at No. 44, and Blue Valentine at No. 47.

On the other hand, everybody's a winner, and Film Comment has a bit of new buzz thanks to new Director of Digital Strategy Eugene Hernandez, founder of IndieWire.

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