"United 93" Makes a Comeback

Yesterday was a pretty big day on the 2006 awards calendar, with year end awards and lists being announced by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Boston Film Critics Association, the American Film Institute, New York Online Critics, and Washington D.C. Critics.

And the results are all over the map. Sure Helen Mirren cleaned up the Best Actress prizes (she has won every one up to this point) for The Queen, as has Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (although he tied with Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat with LAFCA).

But overall, the Best Picture choices were all over the map, going to The Departed, The Queen, Letters from Iwo Jima, and United 93. Each one picked a different winner. AFI doesn't choose winners, just a top ten list, and they unexpectedly snubbed both The Departed and The Queen.

So what does all this mean? Well, nothing really. It only helps to muddy the waters. Although United 93 came back in a big way today, taking home 3 awards and 2 runner-up mentions, and one mention in a top ten list.

Basically, it's back in the race, having been left for dead by many prognosticators (including myself) before the preliminary awards started coming in.

It's looking like the year of the underdogs. With today's surge by United 93 and Clint Eastwood's latebreaking blitzkrieg with Letters from Iwo Jima, the field looks a lot different than it did a week ago.

The biggest loser, so far, seems to be Babel. It was mentioned in the top ten list of both AFI (which seemed to think that The Devil Wears Prada, Inside Man, and Happy Feet were more worthy of praise than The Departed and The Queen) and the New York Online Critics, yet it failed to win a single competitive award today. Could it be that it is in danger of losing its early front runner status to United 93?

I hope not. United 93 is a good film. But it is not a great one. Not by a longshot. The only reason it would make the top five is patriotic sentimentality. There will be more, and probably better, films made on the subject of 9/11.

Babel, on the other hand, is a great film. And deserves a spot among the top 5. But there are lots of awards still to go, so it still has a chance.

Another surprise was that Volver failed to win a Foreign Language Film award. It recieved 2 runner-up notices, but consistently lost to Germany's The Lives of Others (which seems to be making a surge to win the Oscar a'la No Man's Land against heavy favorite Amélie in 2001), and most notably, Mexico's Pan's Labyrinth. Expect to see all three films vying for the Academy Award.

It's was an interesting day for us awards junkies. It has only reminded us that when it comes to awards prognosticating, nobody knows anything.

And this year, the preliminaries aren't helping.


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