Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscar Predictions

Well, my master plan to squeeze in viewings of all ten Best Picture nominees before the big show Sunday doesn't look like it'll come to pass. So far, I've seen 7 (not bad) and am still attempting to plow through the remainder of the nominees in a few other categories before the week is out but it's not looking so good. A lot of catching up to do. Regardless, I feel I still have enough familiarity with this year's contest to comfortably make my predictions on how things will turn out in all the major categories as well as the minor ones.

Of course, I'm more confident with some selections than others but overall I feel better about my chances of nailing these categories than I do about the chances of seeing an entertaining show given the pointless changes implemented and embarrassing presenters announced in a desperate, pathetic attempt to boost ratings and drive away any viewers left who watch to see quality films honored. Expect a little more of WHO WILL win than WHO SHOULD in my analysis below but I'll definitely be weighing in with my opinions on the films and performances I've seen and the way I'd like things to go.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

As the charismatically evil Nazi Col. Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds Christoph Waltz is just about as much of a lock as Heath Ledger was last year. Had he not appeared in any part of the film but the opening scene he would still win this. By far the non-race of the night, but in a way it's great to have a performance so deserving it just towers above all the rest. Will be the third consecutive villainous role to win in this category. What's Matt Damon even doing here? Harrelson's nomination was reward enough. No one knows Plummer's in this race or saw his movie while the word on the street is that Tucci was merely creepy in a stock role. Not much competition. Even the Academy can't screw this one up. You can check off Waltz with a permanent magic marker.

Prediction: Christoph Waltz

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Analysis: This is really Jeff Bridges' career achievement award which is fine since we all know this guy should have half a dozen Oscars on his mantle already. But that's not implying the performance (which I still haven't seen) isn't deserving on its own merits. Rarely does he ever do work that isn't award-worthy. If that's not enough, he playing an alcoholic and we know how much they love it when actors do that. Clooney fell behind in this race a while back, having the misfortune to be nominated against a huge favorite much like he was a couple of years ago against Daniel Day-Lewis (for a far better performance in Michael Clayton). Freeman's nod feels obligatory. Colin Firth suffers from a common problem: Highly praised performance in a small film no one's seen. The spoiler could be Renner because as over-praised as the Hurt Locker is, his performance is strangely kind of underrated in a way. The film isn't generally viewed as an actor's movie but it should be because he carried all of it. The only small glimmer of hope he has is that Bridges' film isn't nominated for Best Picture. But as it stands now, this one isn't even close.

Prediction: Jeff Bridges

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Analysis: In a category with a long history of shocking upsets don't expect any this time around. It's no secret Mo'Nique's taking this for her role as monstrous mother from hell Mary Jones in Precious and no matter what you may think of the polarizing film, she's earned it. Kendrick and Farmiga will split their votes, but it still boggles my mind Farmiga's performance as basically a female George Clooney is deemed Oscar worthy in the slightest. That she's in while Inglourious Basterds' Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger are snubbed is a joke. Penelope Cruz is just lucky to be there so if there's a spoiler it'll be the respected and well-liked Gyllenhaal for her turn as a reporter opposite Bridges in Crazy Heart. But that's not happening. It's a done deal.

Prediction: Mo'Nique

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Analysis: A two-way Streep/Bullock race with Bullock firmly in the lead. Mirren is the only nominee with NO CHANCE of winning since no one's seen that film and she was just nominated because she's Helen Mirren. If anyone's going to sneak in it will be Sidibe. No one's had a bad word to say about her performance and if voters get tired of hearing about the two front runners, she's a worthy alternative. The same could be said (to a lesser extent) for Mulligan but the film she stars in probably doesn't have enough mileage to secure her the votes necessary for a surprise win. With newcomers the nod is often reward enough. Everyone loves a comeback story and there's no better one than Sandra' least commercially. If nothing else, expect a memorable speech.

Prediction: Sandra Bullock

Best Directing
James Cameron, "Avatar"
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
Lee Daniels, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"

Analysis: Unless James Cameron gets a sex change operation before Sunday we can comfortably call this race over. He's probably thought of (rightly or wrongly) by voters as more of a motion capture or special effects coordinator than a director anyway. It's just a shame all the focus is on Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win Best Director rather than the actual work itself. Sure, she may have been nominated because of the work but she'll be winning because of her gender and the Academy's need to "make history." And I can't think of a worse reason to hand someone an Oscar. Lost in all this is the fact that Tarantino deserves to win. How many other directors could have taken that material and accomplished what he did? Unfortunately, he doesn't stand a chance. No one else in this category does either.

Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow

Best Picture
"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
"A Serious Man"
"Up in the Air"

Analysis: The field of nominees may have expanded to ten this year there's really only five to talk about here: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious and Up in the Air. The remaining pictures are just filling up slots and don't have chance. A win for Avatar is a win for big budget, effects-driven movie making and sci-fi, which is never recognized for anything. Commercialism wins out and the profile of the Academy Awards as a barometer for public taste rises slightly. Finally a movie wins that people have seen and heard of.

A Hurt Locker victory accomplishes just the opposite. No one's heard of it. It made no money. It covers a depressing topic. Film snobs everywhere rejoice while Hollywood bleeds money at the worst time and ratings for the Oscar telecast plummet. None of this should matter and the BEST FILM should be awarded the statue, but it matters... to them. It seems everything but the actual quality of the films is taken into account when voters fill out their ballots which is why the Oscars have very little credibility left.

That The Hurt Locker would be the lowest grossing winner in history hurts its chances but Avatar has even more going against it. It's the type of movie guaranteed to get a strong response either way while it's almost impossible to find one person who didn't at least like The Hurt Locker (if they saw it). Besides featuring new technology many in the industry (especially actors) aren't yet willing to embrace, Cameron isn't exactly known as the most likable guy around. Nor was it nominated in any screenplay or acting categories, which is unheard of for a potential Best Pic winner. And with the exception of the Golden Globe, it's lost every precursor award usually needed to win. So it won't.

I still haven't seen Avatar so can't comment on its worthiness, but plan on re-watching THL before Sunday in hopes of seeing this "masterpiece" everyone is raving about because, while I still respected it greatly, I just don't get what all the fuss is about. It feels like something we've seen before. On the other hand, Inglourious Basterds was a film that should have felt very familiar but didn't because Tarantino took an issue and completely revolutionized it. It works as compelling drama AND a fun piece of entertainment that should hold up years from now. I'm still hoping the top two favorites cancel each other out and it somehow pulls off the upset but that's wishful thinking.

Prediction: The Hurt Locker

Other Categories:

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, "District 9"
Nick Hornby, "An Education"
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, "In the Loop"
Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"
* Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"
* Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, "The Messenger"
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man"
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Tom McCarthy, "Up"

Best Animated Feature Film
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
"The Secret of Kells"

Best Art Direction
* "Avatar"
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"Sherlock Holmes"
"The Young Victoria"

Best Cinematography
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
* "The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"The White Ribbon"

Best Costume Design
"Bright Star"
"Coco Before Chanel"
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
* "The Young Victoria"

Best Makeup
"Il Divo"

* "Star Trek"

"The Young Victoria"

Best Documentary Feature
"Burma VJ"
* "The Cove"
"Food, Inc."
"The Most Dangerous in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"
"Which Way Home"

Best Documentary Short
"China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province"
"The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner"
* "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant"
"Music by Prudence"
"Rabbit à la Berlin"

Best Film Editing
"District 9"
* "The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Best Foreign Language Film
"Ajami," Israel
"El Secreto de Sus Ojos," Argentina
"The Milk of Sorrow," Peru
"Un Prophète," France
* "The White Ribbon," Germany

Best Music (Original Score)
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Sherlock Holmes"
* "Up"

Best Music (Original Song)
"Almost There," "The Princess and the Frog"
"Down in New Orleans," "The Princess and the Frog"
"Loin de Paname," "Paris 36"
"Take It All," "Nine"
* "The Weary Kind (Theme from 'Crazy Heart')," "Crazy Heart"

Best Short Film (Animated)
"French Roast"
"Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty"
"The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)"
* "A Matter of Loaf and Death"

Best Short Film (Live Action)
* "The Door"
"Instead of Abracadabra"
"Miracle Fish"
"The New Tenants"

Best Sound Editing
* "Avatar"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Star Trek"

Best Sound Mixing
* "The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Star Trek"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

Best Visual Effects
* "Avatar"

"District 9"
"Star Trek"

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