01 March 2010

Oscar predictions, twenty-ten style!

That's right, everybody. It's pronounced twenty-ten, not two thousand ten and certainly not two-thousand and ten. Guh. All y'all that say it differently can suck it!

With that said, I will now proceed with my detailed(esque) and sharp(ish) examination of the eight major Academy Award categories, presenting you with my cogent arguments for who should and who probably will win in each. The nominee that I think will win will appear in green, the one I think should win will be in red, and if they somehow magically coincide, it will be in yellow. Now I know this is pointless, and that Academy Awards don't mean a damn thing in the grand scheme of things, but somehow I keep watching and predicting, so if you have a similar love-hate relationship with Oscar (or have even maintained a love-love relationship somehow), drop me a line and say who you think will win or else validate my opinion. Without further ado, let's begin...

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

Going into this analysis, I'd like to say this: the whole ten nominees instead of five thing is bullshit. I like the preferential voting idea, however, but the expansion to ten will undoubtedly just prove an illusion of greater egalitarianism for the notoriously snobbish Academy. Ultimately, the same old stuff will keep winning, and we all know what the five nominees would be had they not expanded it to ten. While for a time, the race was between Avatar and Up in the Air, momentum and word of mouth after it hit DVD has now put The Hurt Locker in a neck-and-neck race with Avatar, with Up in the Air and maybe Inglourious Basterds standing in as potential dark horses. Avatar, I'm quite certain, will pull it off, seeing as how it's the most popular thing since sliced bread, and since the Academy sure loves their technically proficient, exorbitantly long and grandiose Cameron pictures. As much as I'd like to think the Academy has changed its standards a bit since No Country for Old Men took the award two years ago, they're gonna go with tradition and re-crown Mr. Cameron the king of the world once again. Prove me wrong.
-Meanwhile, it's no secret what I think should win. While I would be thrilled to see The Hurt Locker, with its combination of throat-gripping suspense, action scenes far more effective and competently staged than anything done more expensively in Avatar, and rich, intimate characterization, or Precious, with its searing emotional impact and, again, amazingly realized characters, win, the true gem of the year for me was Up in the Air. Just such a proficient combination of realism with Hollywood magic, charm and surface wit with a deepening sense of emptiness and empathy, romantic comedy (with the heroines as equals of the hero for once!) with workplace tragedy... it's an insightful and moving exploration of humanity that's masterful and entertaining enough to recall not only Alexander Payne but maybe even Billy Wilder. (Something about its old-fashioned wit craftsmanship.)

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

Allegedly an amazing round-up of fantastic actors, I unfortunately haven't seen two of these movies -- Invictus and Crazy Heart. And where on earth is Michael Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man? Anyways... while you'd think I would be rooting for my main man Clooney here (I still think it was the best performance of his career), Colin Firth, the best thing in an otherwise cold and smotheringly stylish depiction of romantic tragedy, and probably one of the best things in movies in general this year, gave a performance that moved me to my core. So studied, so achingly real and heartfelt. It's a mighty close race between Firth, Clooney, and Renner (a seamless, seemingly effortless, surprisingly complex portrayal of a man caught willingly in an unbearably tough job), but Firth shone through most brightly this year.
-However, buzz suggests even Firth will be bested, perhaps or perhaps not justly, by Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. The man oozes a certain rumpled charm, and seems well-suited for this part, so who am I to judge before seeing the movie. I predict he will win, although my heart (possibly until I see Crazy Heart or Invictus) goes with Firth.

Best Actress
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

Haven't seen The Blind Side or The Last Station. Was wowed by Mulligan, Sidibe, and, to an admittedly lesser extent (if only because she's always so effortlessly great and charming), Streep. Tough category. Ultimately, I think I'm rooting for Carey Mulligan, who gave such a refreshing, thoughtful, downright luminous performance in an otherwise just-alright movie (let's call it the Firth factor), with Sidibe being a ridiculously close second. However, somehow this became Bullock's year, just like 2001 was Julia Roberts's year with her performance in Erin Brockovich. Neither of these occurrences quite make sense to me (I was fond of Roberts in Brockovich, but come on -- Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream was a clear stand-out), but such is the way of the universe. I don't even particularly care to see the seeming Red State cliche-fest that appears to be The Blind Side, but it will probably win this award. Meh. Go Bullock. I guess.

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

OK, first off, what the fuck. Where is Jackie Earle Haley from Watchmen? I know it was released early in the year, but the dude made a phenomenal Rorschach, especially in a movie where the rest of the acting ran the gamut from pretty good to downright bland and awful. Also, Anthony Mackie as the level-headed foil to Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker... a performance that gave the film much of its balance. But whatever. I haven't seen Invictus (once again) or The Messenger or The Last Station, so maybe I'm criticizing needlessly. Again, whatever. As much as Tucci made his moments in the dreadful Lovely Bones at least somewhat bearable and intense, this is so far and away Christoph Waltz's year it's almost embarrassing for the other nominees. He was one of the most devilishly intense, intelligent, commanding characters of the year -- hell, multiple years. As much as the Academy has an iffy relationship with Tarantino, the rest of the competition just isn't strong or buzzy enough (even by their standards) for them to ignore the deserved winner here. All hail Waltz, the Jew Hunter! (Jeez, never thought I'd say those words. Hehe.)

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope 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

Another category where the race was pretty much over before it began... even more so. I am pleased as punch that the two wonderful actresses from Up in the Air got nominated here. But this is so utterly Mo'Nique's year that it's crazy. She deserves it, for her searing, unflinching portrayal of inter-generational bitterness, anger, and warped psychology, for going so far beyond her comfort zone to deliver a performance that puts most seasoned drama vets and Oscar darlings to shame. And she will win it quite handily.

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

Now this will be interesting. Will the Academy go for a one-two Avatar-sized punch and award both Picture and Director to James Cameron and Avatar? Or will they choose to split the love, which they sometimes do, and give it to Kathryn Bigelow (Cameron's ex!), director of the hot-on-his-heels contender, The Hurt Locker? My gut tells me they will choose the latter option. I'm not completely convinced she deserves it head-and-shoulders over anyone else here, though. A lot of the buzz behind her is based on the fact that she is a woman and has directed an amazing, male-oriented action picture... which kind of smacks of a bit of reverse discrimination to me. I think Reitman just keeps getting better at that nifty thing he does, and he would be a deserving winner too. I'm not sure it was Daniels's direction that made Precious so, well, precious, but he's certainly damn good. Cameron, of course, I wasn't a huge fan of this time around. I think Tarantino might have ultimately taken the biggest risk here, and exceeded all my expectations, delivering a joyously-made, exciting, provocative, often hypnotically suspenseful film in a genre I thought he might struggle in. As such, I would really like to see him win it, although the likely winner, Bigelow, will garner essentially as much applause from me. Like I said, tough category to judge.

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

OK, not sure what District 9 is adapted from, but whatever, it was good, original, and took risks that paid off in spades with a meaty yet kick-ass film. I also wonder where the sparklingly written Fantastic Mr. Fox or even The Princess and the Frog are here... animation had a banner year in '09 and it deserves to be represented elsewhere than in the Animated Film category (awesome as it is to see Up battling it out for Best Picture). Moving on... In the Loop was witty and well-written as hell, of course, and more people need to see it. I like the charm and well-done characterization that Hornby brought to An Education, but not so much the underlying formulaic-ness of it all. And I don't know that Precious was that much of a "script" film as it was an "acting" film, but again -- good stuff. Up in the Air is the one my heart is behind, so great in its balance of heart and humour, piercing realistic observation and Hollywood fun... Reitman should for sure take this if he doesn't take Director... along with Sheldon Turner of course. As for who will likely win... I honestly have no idea. I have a hunch it will be Hornby, though, as An Education was a fairly Oscar-ish movie, and his script was certainly a pretty solid creation... add to the fact that he is a renowned novelist and he probably has this in the bag.

And finally...

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

OK, where the hell is (500) Days of Summer? And why does Inglourious Basterds count here since it was based (loosely, to be sure) on an old Italian film? Bah. This is actually a damn good category (except for the fact that I haven't seen The Messenger) and a hard choice to make. The mesmerizing streams of dialogue that made Inglourious Basterds spring to life. The impeccably observed and carefully laid-out structure of The Hurt Locker. The classic combination of heart and humour in Up. The daring allegories and somehow almost-but-not-quite Jewish caricatures of A Serious Man and its ingenious black humour swirling around its serious questions of faith and existence. I suppose Up is ruled out since I wasn't a huge fan of its middle stretches, although it had a marvelous beginning and end. It ain't the best Pixar film, but it's still damn good. So that leaves three. I suppose I'll give this one to the Coens since they're relatively underrepresented elsewhere and since I did think it was an ingeniously well-thought-out and thoughtful and constantly surprising film... but I really, really am equally fond of Tarantino's amazing Basterds script and Boal's rigorously journalistic Hurt Locker script. What will win, you ask? I'm guessing this is the category that the Academy thinks they can most efficiently honour Tarantino's achievement in Basterds, and so the trophy will probably go to him, barring some sort of Hurt Locker sweep or spark of rare smartness, which would lead the Coens to win something. But when does that happen in the Oscars? Tee-hee. Whatever they choose, I will be extremely OK with.

As for Best Animated Film, I'm rooting for Fantastic Mr. Fox (by just a wispy little stop-motion fox hair) over the very very nearly as awesome Up, Coraline, and The Princess and the Frog. Haven't seen that other one. Up will probably win, though, since Pixar owns this category... and I won't care too much if it does.

Foreign Film? No idea. Sadly haven't seen any of them. And the rest of the categories? Meh. Who cares about them? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Well, that's it for another year of prediction-y, Oscar-ish fun! Agree? Disagree? Not care at all? Leave me a comment.

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