It's that time of year, folks. One week left until the Oscars! And while I'm sure few in the general populace really care about that fact at all, and certainly don't care enough to get invested in making actual predictions about who is/should win the awards, I somehow still hold onto my traditional obsession despite all logic suggesting it's not such a big deal. At any rate, below I will take a look at the eight major categories, point out who I think will win (highlighted in green), who I think should win (highlighted in red), and if I think the winner is deserved, then I will highlight it in blue. (Hopefully, this jives with my layout. We'll see, I suppose.) I will also give reasons for my choices and say who I thought was brutally robbed of a nomination if I have particularly strong feelings about it. Cool? Cool. Let's get this train a-rollin'!
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
should have been nominated: This is actually pretty good. Maybe A Prophet? This ten nominees thing so far has meant that most of my favourites actually get in there, as my top four movies from last year are all among the nominees. So... cool.
Like I said, my four favourite movies of last year (Toy Story 3, The Social Network, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter's Bone) all scored a nomination, and 127 Hours and Inception was pretty darn stellar as well. The best of these was Toy Story 3, however, a timeless classic that proves indelibly the merits of animation, three-quels, and bright, beautiful multi-leveled big-budget entertainments that speak to folks of all generations. If I had my way, it would take down the formidable competition next Sunday. (As it is, it's certainly going to win Best Animated Feature.) Unfortunately, the odds are against it, as the Academy seems to like real people rather than 3-D playthings in their movies. Almost everyone has suggested this will be a race between the brainy Social Network and the heart-warming King's Speech. While I would be thrilled if The Social Network won, The King's Speech has just built up far too much momentum in all the other awards ceremonies so far for it to be derailed at this point. If you're into betting, you should be thinking, "Long live the king!" at this point.
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter
should have been nominated: Christopher Nolan, Inception; Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3; Danny Boyle, 127 Hours; Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right... seriously, screw this category! I'd be OK with everyone except Fincher and maybe the Coens not being there.
David Fincher is so clearly the winner in this category that it's a good time to get your consolation cards to the other nominees in the mail, if you haven't already. While I do expect Tom Hooper's The King's Speech will take home the biggest award of the evening, I suspect the film's director will be seen as a bit too inexperienced to take this particular prize. And, really, I'm pretty OK with it, since The King's Speech succeeded almost entirely on the actorly strengths of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush... not so much on the competent but unexciting direction of Hooper. Fincher's film was perhaps the most lively, endlessly engrossing, timely, and smoothly directed of last year. Every touch, from the colour palette to the angles at which it was shot to the quietly unnerving musical score to the bravura showcase of rapid-fire dialogue, added to the overall effect. Fincher was economical and cunning in bringing off the zingy wonder of The Social Network with such little fat left on it to trim off. He will almost certainly win, and I'll be grinning like a schoolgirl when he does.
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
should have been nominated: Leonardo DiCaprio in either Shutter Island or Inception
Another no-brainer of a category, at least in terms of who will win. Colin Firth is so handily going to take this that it's almost unfair to everyone else. I mean, really. It's almost harsh even having the other guys there. Firth's portrayal of the uneasy would-be king is truly towering work, effortless but never unimpressive. I thought Jesse Eisenberg certainly did comparably amazing work in The Social Network, with James Franco falling not too far behind. But it's Firth's night -- all the factors, especially that his film is a period piece about royalty, are so completely Oscar catnip -- and the man certainly deserves it.
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
should have been nominated: Kim Hye-Ja, Mother
Keep in mind I've only seen three of these five films, so please take my opinions with a grain of salt here. While Jennifer Lawrence was stunning in Winter's Bone, she's certainly too new, and a tiny bit outclassed, here to take home the trophy. Natalie Portman will pretty much certainly take home the statuette, and while I found her work to be basically the piercing, subtle, graceful, and compelling saving grace of the somewhat overbearing and cheesy Black Swan, she didn't quite (by like an inch) dominate her movie as thoroughly and winningly as did Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right. Her Nic was the most fully formed female character (possibly the best character period) from last year, and this was due not only to the sparkling writing and loose-but-serious direction of Lisa Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg, but by the whip-smart, committed, easy-going but emotionally complex work done by seasoned veteran Bening. While Portman certainly put on a great, flashier show in Black Swan, and I reckon the Academy will honour this, and was a worthy competitor, I liked the subtle and more grounded and more instantly identifiable, equally brilliant work done by Bening just a little bit more.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
should have been nominated: Andrew Garfield, The Social Network; maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception
This category is a bit tougher... thankfully. I do hate when it's a complete blow-out of a race. While my personal favourite is Mark Ruffalo from The Kids Are All Right -- a great, subtly surprising match of an actor's personality to a character's -- I'm not sure the Academy will quite agree with my reasoning... especially when he was surrounded by equally wonderful performers giving equally, and more, great performances. I'm thinking a horse race between Geoffrey Rush and Christian Bale, and since Rush has (unduly, in my view) been overshadowed by talk of Colin Firth in all the chatter about King's Speech, I think Christian Bale will pull a win here for his Method-complex work in The Fighter... and that will sit pretty darn well with me.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Another tough category, although it might just be because I haven't put much thought so far into this particular race. But it's undoubtedly a solid line-up here: you may have noticed the lack of a "should have been nominated" section here. I'm at least somewhat of a fan of all of these choices, but I predict it will be a race between Melissa Leo and Hailee Steinfeld, both unbelievably vibrant in their particular roles in their particular movies. Since this is a category fairly well-known for its wild-card wins, (which begs the question of how I can even predict it at all, but shush) I think young Hailee Steinfeld might just have the chutzpah as well as the sincerity to pull off a win here. To be sure, she was the heart and soul of the Coens' rollickingly entertaining but occasionally detached Western revival. And I would be all for Steinfeld, until I saw Animal Kingdom and thrilled to the way Jacki Weaver slipped so casually between lovey-dovey mother and cruel, conniving jungle cat. It was downright electrifying, but unfortunately too few people saw this movie, ultimately, for it to register as much more than a blip on the Academy's radar.
Best Adapted Screenplay
127 Hours, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3, Michael Arndt; story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich
True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone, Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
should have been nominated: The Ghost Writer
Pretty OK with all these nominees, once again. Awesome! But c'mon... as much as I liked all of these movies script-wise, particularly The Social Network and Toy Story 3, Aaron Sorkin has this one in the figurative bag. His script was a thing of beauty, unspooling streams of stylized, fully modern patter without ever letting his tightly knit story go off the rails. He will win, and by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, so he should.
Best Original Screenplay
Another Year, Mike Leigh
The Fighter, Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson; story by Keith Dorrington, Tamasy, and Johnson
Inception, Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right, Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech, David Seidler
should have been nominated: Fish Tank
I direly wished I could have seen Another Year before this. Ah well, life is a bitch. Frankly, this could very well be another chance for the Academy to shower its gold upon The King's Speech, but I predict they will take this as their opportunity to honour Inception and its mind-boggling chutzpah. I, too, was pretty darn impressed that anyone could even write something like this in a filmable fashion, so undoubtedly Inception would be a shrewd choice to win, and it probably will win here. However, The Kids Are All Right was not only smartly written, but full of the type of heart and well-rounded characters that, for all its invigorating mind games, Inception didn't quite pull off. I think Cholodenko and Blumberg's achievement was just a tad more towering than the formidable Nolan's. I want to stress that I'd be OK with a Nolan win, though, quite OK; a bit less OK with a King's Speech win, though that is a definite possibility.
Other categories? I think it would be a hoot and a most deserving win if Exit Through the Gift Shop took Best Documentary Feature, though the sobering, intellectual, and dazzlingly put-together Inside Job will probably pull ahead, not without merit. Toy Story 3 will undoubtedly win Best Animated Feature, as it damn well should. I would be thrilled if The Social Network track by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won Best Original Score, but it's facing stiff, strong competition from the likes of Alexandre Desplat, the likely winner, Hans Zimmer, and John Powell's soaring work on How to Train Your Dragon. And on a rather anticlimactic note, I hope Inception wins the two sound awards because, well, it sounded fucking amazing in theatres.
Agree? Disagree? Want to talk and ramble on? Feel free now to do just that. Happy Oscars, and I'll see you on the other side! (Unless I decide to do a live blog of them again like last year... Hmm...)