Underdog (s) rule!

‘Greek Wedding,’ Oscar could be a match, some say
My Big Fat Greek Wedding has been a surprise box-office showstopper since its release in April. Now experts say a big fat Oscar nomination could be next.
Wedding, a low-budget movie with an unknown writer/star (Nia Vardalos), has broken every rule in the book, taking in more than $200 million at the box office and becoming the highest-grossing romantic comedy in film history.
And as unlikely as it might seem to naysayers (Wedding didn’t even make it onto the National Board of Review’s Top 10 list, released Wednesday), it could prove an award-season winner.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding is like a relief pitcher waiting in the bullpen,” says Oscar expert Damien Bona, author of Inside Oscar 2. “It can’t be considered a likely best-picture nominee, but if some of the front-runners should fail to catch on, Wedding is there waiting to jump into the thick of things. It doesn’t have the stature of a typical Oscar best-picture nominee, but its stunning word-of-mouth-based success shows that it certainly is well-liked.”
But prognosticator Tom O’Neil goes further ó way further. O’Neil, author of Movie Awards, says Wedding not only could nab a nomination Feb. 11, but it also could win best picture when the statues are awarded March 23.
“When you’re finished laughing at that idea, consider this,” O’Neil says. “The movie that wins best picture usually wins best director, and the person who claims that prize usually snags the Directors Guild of America award a few weeks earlier. (Wedding director) Joel Zwick has a huge underground constituency in the Guild, which is mostly comprised of TV directors ó all of whom vote in the film category.” Zwick is a TV sitcom veteran who once directed Happy Days and Mork & Mindy.
Only Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Denzel Washington’s Antwone Fisher have a better chance at this early point in the race, O’Neil says.
Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks’ partner in Playtone, the production company behind Wedding, says the attention is great. “We’d be thrilled to see Nia’s work recognized,” says Goetzman, who also produced Wedding. “She’s so talented. It’s great to hear people talking about her chances.”
Bona says Michael Constantine, who plays Vardalos’ Windex-obsessed father, could be nominated for supporting actor. But Vardalos herself is a long shot for best actress because that category is unusually competitive this year.
Bona says all the Oscar talk might not be such a good thing: So many people have now called Greek Wedding an underdog that it is no longer an underdog, and that might reduce the urge to rally behind it.
“When an audience favorite lands a best-picture nomination, it’s almost like a spontaneous occurrence,” Bona says. “It didn’t matter that (1994’s) Four Weddings and a Funeral and (1997’s) The Full Monty didn’t win any critics’ awards. Academy members, like the general public, simply loved these films and voted with their hearts.”
O’Neil says Wedding does have something special: a big heart.
“That’s the same thing other sleeper films had that pulled off best-picture shockeroos, movies like Rocky, Chariots of Fire and Driving Miss Daisy.”