5 outside shots for The Oscars

Academy voters looking for inspiration as to where they should cast their ballots should please come this way…

Robert Downey Jr. goes memorably method for Tropic Thunder.

The annual Oscar race seems to be following its regular pattern, with a collection of worthy films and obvious award-attractors in the running for the top gongs. But can we throw in a few alternatives, that aren’t perhaps the obvious choices for the Academy, but certainly deserve some consideration.

Wall-E Best Picture

Now Wall-E split us quite a lot, with scores from the team ranging from three stars to top marks. That said, there was total agreement that the first half of the film, before it becomes a mad-dash sprint around a spaceship, is absolutely stunning, and possibly the most ambitious thing seen on a cinema screen all year. At its very best, Wall-E is an outstanding, risky piece of cinema, and the sheer brilliance of the early stages of the movie must give it an outside shot at being the second animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar ever (after Beauty and the Beast in the early 1990s). It’s a long shot, maybe, but let’s not forget that even something like Four Weddings and a Funeral has managed to snare a Best Picture nomination in the past. Heck, we’re British, and even we didn’t get what they were doing there…

The Dark Knight Best Picture, Best Screenplay

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We’re taking Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker as a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but really, the Academy shouldn’t stop there. Appreciating there’s a groundswell of support behind them already, The Dark Knight has massive critical backing on its side – as well as nearly a billion dollars in the bank – and for once it shouldn’t be a case of being the token big blockbuster in the nominations. It should have a really strong chance of winning the big prize. At the very least, a screenplay gong should be on the Nolans’ mantelpieces.

Robert Downey Jr Best Supporting Actor

Here’s where you find out just how willing the Academy are to move out of their comfort zone. Comedy and the Oscars generally don’t mix, but if you are going to get a prize, then the Supporting Actor or Actress category is a good fit (just ask Jack Palace and Marisa Tomei). Bluntly, Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder is an obvious candidate for recognition, for turning a potentially thorny role into a flat-out comedy masterclass. The film around him had problems, but Downey Jr was utterly outstanding. Give him a prize. Please.

Man On Wire Best Picture

The best reviewed film of the year is the documentary Man On Wire, which we’re in the process of reviewing the disc of. How about the Academy really walks the tightrope on this one, and gives it a Best Picture nomination, as opposed to sticking it away in the Documentary category?

Cloverfield Something

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I say this as someone who never really jumped for Cloverfield in the way that many did, but surely the very fact that it can come in, pull the rug from under a genre and deliver arguably the best monster movie in absolutely ages means it shouldn’t be forgotten? Granted, it’s not too easy to find a category for it, and its age counts against it, but this was a smart, exceptionally made film, and that’s surely what the Academy should be about rewarding…

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