Could a sputtering, stuttering and clearly star-struck David Letterman give us some keen, late-in-the-game insight into the Oscar race?
He was so tremendously tongue tied -- a lot spazzier than usual -- but was he trying to tell us something? Something important?
In other words, should we not be at all surprised if Letterman's legendary guest last night, an indulgent Clint Eastwood who sat for what was basically an hour-long "This is Your Life"-meets-Lifetime-Achievement-style tribute, pulls out nominations for himself and "Gran Torino?"
If he does, we're wondering at whose expense his nods will come. "The Dark Knight" and Christopher Nolan, if he's a contender for best picture and director? And in the best actor race, could he bump Richard Jenkins or Leonardo DiCaprio, who are seeming like longer shots with each passing day? (That means the race could shape up like this: Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, Frank Langella, Brad Pitt and Eastwood).
There's no denying how revered Eastwood is, particularly by the male Hollywood establishment and, by extension, lots of Academy voters. Even the acerbic Letterman -- OK, he's known to fawn, but usually over gorgeous actresses showing some skin -- could barely form coherent questions between an ongoing recitation of the actor/director's list of memorable movies, famous colleagues and cinematic accomplishments. (Plus, he was mayor of Carmel!)
Eastwood, whether he was stumping hard or just being polite, even subjected himself to an embarrassingly bad sketch with Alan Kalter. (You can watch that here
if you want to, but we don't really recommend it).
"Gran Torino," with all its racist, smack-talking 'tude, was the champ at the boxoffice this past weekend, with a hefty $30 million haul as it hit wide release. But those numbers, like a Golden Globe win, would've been a little late to influence Oscar nods -- those ballots were due Monday. Not too late the steer the voters, though, who'll pick the winners from the five nominees announced next week.
We're still mulling our Oscar picks, but we're beginning to think they'll need to be revised in a way that takes into account shrewd campaigning on the one hand and lost momentum on the other, even more than the quality of the creative products.