In what looks to be one of the most predictable Oscar races of all time, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made a few changes to their nomination format, but those changes have not ramped up the suspense in many of the categories. For the first time, 10 movies have been nominated for “Best Picture”. While that sounds unorthodox, I believe it’s a perfectly altruistic and fair move to some of those great films that don’t usually get a lot of attention come awards season. Many voters (and the media) have jumped on highly influential bandwagons to champion a select few of the nominees, so the chances for an upset or two seem few and far between. However, in the Academy Awards, upsets do happen and with the changes to the voting system this year, things could get interesting.
Below are my predictions for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards which airs Sunday March 7 at 7pm Central/5pm Pacific on ABC…
Jeff Bridges has received the only recent buzz surrounding this category, especially after winning the Golden Globe for his portrayal as an alcoholic country singer in “Crazy Heart”. Freeman’s turn as Nelson Mandela in “Invictus” seemed too obvious and unchallenging for most viewers and people quickly forgot Clooney’s adept performance in “Up in the Air”. Not enough viewers saw “A Single Man” to give Colin Firth even a slight chance. While I prefer Jeremy Renner’s taut and intense performance in “The Hurt Locker”, Bridges looks like a lock.
Christoph Waltz WILL win for his unforgettable villainous role as the Nazi “Jew Hunter” Hans Landa in Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds”. Never in the history of the Oscars have I witnessed a more certain victory in this category.
No one expected Sandra Bullock to receive the attention and acclaim she has garnered from her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in the “Blind Side”. Way back I predicted she would get the nomination; now I predict she will win the Oscar. Her only competition is Meryl Streep as Julia Child in “Julie & Julia” but that movie and performance were nowhere near as crowd-pleasing as Bullock’s. Gabourey Sidbe as the abused teen in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” gave the finest performance of the year but first-time actresses never win this category.
Mo’Nique in “Precious” portrayed one of the most vile villains in the history of cinema as the abusive mother of the title character. While I found the character almost too repulsive to bear, there’s no denying the usually comedic Mo’Nique has some hidden talents. She’s expected to win over very fine performances by Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (my personal fave), who both co-stared in “Up in the Air”. Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”) and Penelope Cruz (“Nine”) were far weaker this year and I don’t believe either deserved a nomination.
“Up” may be the best Disney/Pixar movie of all time. I can’t imagine an Academy member with the heart to vote against it. “Coraline” – too dark and disturbing, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” – too avant garde, “The Princess and the Frog” – too many offensive stereotypes, and “The Secret of Kells”… The Secret of What??? (this one hasn’t even received a wide release in America).
“Avatar” was designed to win this category. While I was highly critical of the film, I feel it deserves to win Best Art Direction hands down. While its categorical competitors all managed some fantastic sets, costumes, etc… all pale in comparison to the sheer magnitude of “Avatar’s” overall design.
Finally, a hard category to call. I think “Avatar” is the front-runner here but if it loses, it will be due to the fact that animation and computer techniques overshadowed the skillful camerawork. Due to its more practical and traditional camera wrangling, “The Hurt Locker” might win based on simple mastery of the craft. It might be a long shot, but I wouldn’t count out “Basterds” with it’s throwback to 1970’s-style retro photography. Bet on “Avatar”.
Usually, Victorian-Era period pieces destroy the equally deserving competition in this category, but “Coco before Chanel” happens to be a film devoted entirely to the discipline. In a rare break from tradition, I’ll wager on “Coco” but if “The Young Victoria” wins, at least the predictability of Best Costume Design will be preserved.
“The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigalow won Best Director at the Director’s Guild Awards this year. The winner of the DGA’s most prestigious honor is one of the Academy’s most reliable indications of the Oscar winner for Best Directing. While Bigalow’s ex-husband James Cameron won the 2010 Golden Globe for this category, I wouldn’t bet against the DGA unless I have a good reason to… and this year I don’t.
“The Cove”, about the wholesale slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen, has the tear-jerking potential for a win. “Food Inc.” is a fearful, stomach-churning look at the American food industry and has the dubious effect of turning many of it’s viewers into vegetarians. While fear-mongering can be effective, don’t bet against the power of a good tear-jerker.
Due to it’s timely subject matter, many are guessing “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” to win this one. Since none of the other nominees seem quite as relevant to the current economic climate, I’d say it seems like a likely contender.
“The Hurt Locker’s” masterful tension and pacing were dependent on its editing, making it an easy choice. “Inglourious Basterds” likewise had some fine editing, but neither it, nor any of the other nominees had the tightness of “Locker”. Another lock as far as I’m concerned.
Foreign Language Film:
“The White Ribbon” has received all the buzz. The director, Michael Haneke, is one of the most skilled, fascinating European directors in the biz, so I’d put the money on him any day.
“Star Trek” deserves it. “The Young Victoria” will probably get it. I’m going out on a limb here to optimistically predict a “Trek” win.
The last time James Horner collaborated with James Cameron on a feature film, he won this category. That film was “Titanic”. This film is “Avatar”, an even bigger success than “Titanic”. Do the math. Some say that “Up” has a chance to win, but not everyone likes that French-style “accordion-in-the-cafe” music. I certainly don’t.
“The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart” emerged as my favorite amongst a flood of pretentious showtunes and stiff, art-house numbers. Luckily “The Weary Kind” has gotten all the buzz. I don’t really like country music, but “The Weary Kind” makes me want to. Now that’s powerful.
Short Film – Animated:
The Wallace and Gromit adventure “A Matter of Loaf and Death” will most likely clench it. I have a weakness for this British series of claymation films and I doubt I’m the only one.
Short Film – Live Action:
“Kavi” tells the story of a young Indian boy and his family who are sold into slavery. None of the other films seemed to have a plot with a comparable emotional impact. “Slumdog Millionaire” easily paved the way for this one to grab the most attention.
Are you kidding? “Avatar”. I do prefer the more grounded, and extremely spectacular effects of the $30 million-budgeted “District 9”. However, this category doesn’t give awards for performing miracles with a small budget.
Screenplay – Adapted:
While the others definitely deserve the nom, none can compete with the adaptation of the novel “Up in the Air”. The screenplay is perfection and I think might even beat “Inglourious Basterds” as a work of screenwriting art.
Screenplay – Original:
“Inglourious Basterds”. The Academy loves Tarantino but seems afraid to let him win anything but this category. They will probably let it be his consolation prize again for not giving him the Best Picture win (just like they did with “Pulp Fiction” in 1995). “The Hurt Locker” and “Up” both have a chance in this category, but Tarantino is a genius of the written form and difficult to compete against.
1. “Avatar” 2. “The Blind Side” 3. “District 9” 4. “An Education” 5. “The Hurt Locker” 6. “Inglourious Basterds” 7. “Precious” 8. “A Serious Man” 9. “Up” 10. “Up in the Air… The new voting rules (weighting votes in order of preference instead of casting a singular vote) could create an unusual upset. The obvious frontrunners: “Avatar”, “The Hurt Locker” and “Up in the Air” appear to have unanimous support in this category from critics and the media. Since the Hollywood bandwagon seems to favor “The Hurt Locker” the most at the moment, I’m going to bet on that horse. The other two have a chance, but if any of the other seven win, it will be a MAJOR upset. I’d still like “Up in the Air” to win, but my favorites often don’t (except for “Slumdog”).
I invite you to follow along on March 7 and compete against my predictions by printing out my 2010 Oscars ballot which you can find and download here. On the ballot you can compare my predictions, my favorites and a chance for you to vote on your own picks. Good luck and have fun!
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