Oscar speculation underway for "Inception"

Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:56am EDT
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By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Can "Inception" safely dream of Oscar glory?

That's one conundrum that will linger long after average moviegoers have stopped debating the ambiguities of Christopher Nolan's twisty new thrill ride into the subconscious.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to reward Nolan's most recent movie, mega-grossing "The Dark Knight," with a best picture nomination, though it collected eight other nominations. And though the producers, directors and writers guilds all nominated Nolan for that movie, the Academy didn't. To date, Nolan has earned only one Oscar nomination, for his original screenplay for "Memento."

The resulting outcry from "Knight's" fans was so loud it influenced the decision last year to double the field to 10 nominees, with the Academy's then-president Sid Ganis acknowledging, "I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words 'Dark Knight' did not come up."

An "Inception" best picture nomination would be some compensation for the slight to "Knight," but with nominations still six months away, "Inception's" best picture prospects are a long way from a sure thing.

The Warner Bros. release cleared the first hurdle this weekend when it opened to a solid $60.4 million in North America. Oscar nominees don't have to be box office blockbusters, but if Nolan's fan base hadn't shown up en masse, that would have damaged the movie's chances.

Reviews have not been as ecstatic as those that greeted "Knight," which scored an 82 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. As of Sunday, "Inception" was rated 76. The movie did get a key endorsement from hometown reviewer Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times who praised it for "expertly blending the best of traditional and modern filmmaking. If you're searching for smart and nervy popular entertainment, this is what it looks like."

But Leah Rozen, writing at theWrap.com, offered a caveat, saying the movie "proves more engaging to the mind and eyes than to the heart." That could prove a potential stumbling block for Academy members, who vote as much with their hearts as with their heads.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Leonardo DiCaprio poses with co-stars Marion Cotillard (R) and Ellen Page at the premiere of "Inception" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California July 13, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>