Will Inception Strike Oscar Gold?

One of the year’s most eagerly anticipated movies (at least among dedicated filmgoers) has finally arrived. The reviews are in – and they’re damn good (84% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many of those “fresh ratings” being 4 or 5 stars). Inception struck a chord with audiences in its first weekend as well, earning a better-than-expected $60.4 million in its first three days. Yes, Christopher Nolan’s latest head-trip is getting a lot of love from both critics and the general public. So, naturally, one has to wonder: will it get some love from The Academy as well?

Let’s take a look at Inception’s best chances at Oscar gold:

It’s a Lock

Even if Inception follows in the footsteps of Nolan’s last film, The Dark Knight, which was shut out of most major categories, it’s sure to get some recognition for its technical achievements (many forget: TDK did earn a total of eight nominations two years ago, with seven being in technical categories).

With that in mind, we must recognize the film’s absolutely breathtaking visuals. The worlds created during the various dream-sequences will surely catch the Academy’s attention and net nominations for both Visual Effects and Art Direction. The only way Inception will miss out on either of these two categories is if the movie is shut out completely. Also, the visuals are captured through the lens of Nolan’s incredible DP, Wally Pfister; a Best Cinematography nod is very likely as well (he was nominated for his work in Nolan’s last three films, don’t expect that trend to end here).

The same thinking should apply to the stellar sound work present in Inception. The Academy tends to favor movies loaded with fast-paced and complex action scenes (see: The Dark Knight, the Bourne films and The Matrix); there is no shortage of such scenes in Inception. So, recognition for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are sure things. We can also tack on another nomination for Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer’s amazing, bombastic Original Score.

The last guarantee is for the biggest award of the night, Best Picture. This film is fantastic enough to have earned a nomination back when there were only five slots, but the expansion to ten makes a snub impossible – especially after the backlash the Academy suffered when it failed to nominate TDK.

It’s Likely

Now that I’ve promised seven nominations, I’m going to offer up a few more that I think are pretty safe bets.

Along with a Best Picture nomination often comes a nod for the film’s Director as well. Nolan has proven himself over seven films now that he is as deserving of Academy love as anyone working today. With Inception’s solid story and perfect production values, the Academy will probably bestow a nomination on the man who brought it all together.

Speaking of story, there’s a very good chance Nolan will also be nominated for his complex and riveting Original Screenplay. Inception would not have succeeded on visuals alone, it took a solid story with strong characters and pertinent dialogue to make those visuals hold any real weight. Also, bringing that screenplay to life in a way that makes sense to an audience and keeps the pace moving took some stellar Film Editing. Look for some additional Academy love there.

The next accolade that should come Inception’s way is a Best Actor nomination for its star, Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio is great in everything he does, and Inception is no exception. Stunning visuals and intense action aside, this film is largely an exploration into the psyche of his character, Dom Cobb. Without a stellar performance from Leo, the emotional aspects of Nolan’s script would have fallen flat. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t include this in the “locks” section, is that, per Academy rules, the same actor cannot be nominated in the same category twice – they may choose to recognize his work in Shutter Island instead, though my money is still on Inception.

It’s a Stretch

The rest of the Inception cast turned in amazing work as well and, in my book, should also be recognized. While it’s far less likely, the supporting cast may join DiCaprio among this year’s Oscar nominees.

Marion Cotillard, an Academy Award winner, might get some recognition in the Supporting Actress category for her work as Mal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt should get a Supporting Actor nomination, both for his stellar work here and to make up for his being snubbed last year for his work in (500) Days of Summer (we all know how much the Academy loves the good ‘ole “we’re sorry” awards). In a perfect world, Tom Hardy would also get a Supporting Actor nomination, but I’m not counting on it.

There you go: seven sure-things, four-safe bets and three long-shots. That’s fourteen total for those of you who are bad at math – which would tie the record set by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King seven years ago. My guess is that the actual number will most likely be around ten, but we’ll have to wait until the nominations are officially announced on January 25th to find out for sure.

What do you think? Am I being to optimistic? Is my love for the movie clouding my judgement? Leave your thoughts below…