Oscar Predictions and Preferences – 2010 Edition

Award Season is Crazy Season. If you follow these things at all, you have been bombarded by information about the superiority of one film above another for months now. If you blissfully ignore all that stuff, you might even not have heard that a producer on The Hurt Locker is in trouble for trying to convince Academy voters to vote for his film instead of Avatar. His crime: sending an e-mail to his friends. Yes, things are crazy. So it is a good thing that with the Oscar telecast on Sunday, Award Season will be over. Until May or so, when the first discussions for next year’s favourites and winners will begin once more.

But before the Oscars, the most important of all the meaningless awards, are handed out on Sunday, it is time for my annual Oscar predictions. Last year, I picked 19 of the 24 winners. This year, let’s try to improve on that. But unlike last year, this year I actually feel like I am entitled to my own opinion, having seen 20 of the 58 animated films, 18 of the 38 feature films, and actually having seen all nominated films in three categories. So not only will I now predict the Oscar winners as promised, I will also tell you who should win. (Yes, my opinion constitutes objective truth in these matters.) The following list is ordered rather randomly and incomplete, an alphabetical and complete breakdown of all categories and predictions follows at the end.

Best Actor

Let’s start with a category where I have seen every single entry. Of the five who are nominated, only one stands out and that is George Clooney for Up in the Air, who was good, but not good enough. Jeremy Renner (for The Hurt Locker) and Morgan Freeman (for Invictus) both delivered outstanding performances, but neither does stand a chance to win, for the Oscar will most certainly go to Jeffrey Bridges for Crazy Heart. Which is all right, although it feels a bit like the Academy is honouring his life’s work – which is impressive. But the single best performance of the year belongs to the also nominated Colin Firth for A Single Man. The film hasn’t been widely released in most countries yet, so if you have a chance to catch it, do so. Watch out for the scene where Firth learns of his lover’s death. Now that is acting!

Best Supporting Actor

Let’s stick with the actors. The only one I haven’t seen in this category is Woody Harrelson in The Messenger. (The film has a June release date in Germany.) I didn’t much like Matt Damon’s performance in Invictus and Christopher Plummer in The Last Station was little better. Which leaves the delightfully creepy Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. And let me just say that it’s awesome that the Austrian will get that trophy on Sunday.

Original Screenplay

Here another win will come for Inglourious Basterds, when Quentin Tarantino will finally get his Oscar. The only other film with chances here is The Hurt Locker (written by Mark Boal). This category is traditionally awarded early in the show – if The Hurt Locker wins, you can expect them to sweep the Oscars. The other three nominees are The Messenger (Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman), A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen) and Up (Bob Peterson, Pete Doctor, Tom McCarthy), of which I have only seen A Serious Man and was unimpressed by it. So for the strength of the dialogue and the uniqueness of the story alone, Tarantino deserves to win.

Animated Feature

Speaking of Up: the film is not only nominated for Best Animated Film, but also one of the 10 Best Picture Nominees. That should tell you who is going to win this category, so mark another win for Pixar here. I have actually seen none of the five films nominated here (and at least for The Secret of Kells that puts me in good company, nobody has seen that), but I regret not seeing Coraline, by the great Henry Selick and Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was directed by Wes Anderson and thus definitely deserves to win, unlike the Disney cookie cutter The Princess and the Frog.

Best Actress

The female acting categories are as decided as the male ones. For Best Actress, Sandra Bullock is going to win for her turn in The Blind Side. I haven’t yet seen the film, but I shudder to think about ever having to refer to “Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock”. But she might be great for all I know, as may be Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia (yeah, no idea how I missed that one…) and Gabourey Sidibe for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. I have, however, seen Helen Mirren’s performance in The Last Station and Carey Mulligan’s turn in An Education, a true breakthrough performance that definitely deserves awards honours, so I will be rooting for her on Oscar night.

Best Supporting Actress

The Best Supporting Actress race has been decided months ago: It’s going to be Mo’Nique for Precious: With the Annoyingly Long and Superfluous Subtitle. And considering that none of the other nominees really stood out in their films, it appears to be a deserved win. Penélope Cruz was upstaged in Nine by Marion Cotillard, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga didn’t do anything extraordinary in Up in the Air and even Maggie Gyllenhaal, while still the best of these four in Crazy Heart, was not up to her usual standard.

Cinematography

Okay, we are really getting into the technical categories now. If you are as bored reading this as I am writing it, skip to the end to find out who will win Best Picture. For Cinematography is really tough this year. Nominated and frontrunners are Avatar and The Hurt Locker, with Inglourious Basterds and even Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince seriously competing. Which leaves Best Foreign Language Film nominee The White Ribbon/Das Weisse Band, which won the award given out by the Cinematographers Guild and thus should be the frontrunner. But chances are that not that many people saw a German drama about children in the early 20th century that was shot in black and white. To further complicate matters: how many people fully understand that since Avatar was mostly created inside a computer, there was actually very little cinematography involved? If they realize that the admittedly impressive visuals are not a cinematographer’s work, The Hurt Locker will win, but I strongly doubt that, so Mauro Fiore will walk away with the trophy for Avatar.

Foreign Language Film

This has been an interesting race. First the German entry The White Ribbon was heralded as a sure winner. Then Un Prophète (France) was deemed the likely winner. Now the Argetinian entry El Secreto de Sus Ojos has become the frontrunner. All but forgotten are Ajami (Israel) and La teta asustade (Peru). Now, being a patriotic German, I’m hoping The White Ribbon will win – and I’m actually going to wager that it in fact will.

Art Direction

The nominees are Avatar, Nine, The Young Victoria, Sherlock Holmes and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I have seen all but The Young Victoria and really enjoyed what Dave Warren, Anastasia Masaro and Caroline Smith did in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but Avatar is still going to walk away with the win.

Score

I really enjoy film scores. In fact, I often like them enough to listen to them independently from the movie. Many times I have been so impressed by music  written for motion pictures, I went out and bought the CD. Not this year. The Hurt Locker, Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, no matter it’s merits in other areas, had unimpressive, sometimes even distracting scores. So I’m rooting for one of the animated films’ scores, Up or Fantastic Mr. Fox, to win. And a little birdie tells me that there is just no beating Up.

Song

Original songs, on the other hand, are seldom any good. This year, two Randy Newman songs for The Princess and the Frog are nominated, along with a song from a film I have never even heard of (Paris 36/Faubourg 36), a song from Nine I don’t even remember and the one song that could change my opinion of this category: The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart. Even if the song wasn’t great, how could a man called T-Bone Burnett possibly lose?

Short Film Categories

And then there are the films that barely last as long as most songs, aptly called short films. I have no idea who would win here (nobody really does), so I will just have to go with what those people that have actually seen them predict:  A Matter of Loaf and Death (from Aardman Animations, the studio behind Wallace & Gromit) will win animated short, The Door live action short. I actually only included this in the run-down to brag about seeing a nominee from each category, Logorama and Instead of Abracadabra respectively. Both were quite decent (I especially enjoyed Instead of Abracadabra), but the consensus seems like a better bet in these categories.

Visual Effects

Everyone know that Avatar is going to win here (and that is one award the film truly deserves), but I would just like to point out that with District 9 and Star Trek the other two nominees here, this is a category completely taken over by science-fiction. Were we to rename it “Best Sci-Fi Movie”, however, District 9 should win.

Adapted Screenplay

District 9 (Director Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell) should also win for Best Adapted Screenplay, but it probably won’t. Also nominated are An Education (novelist Nick Hornby), Up in the Air (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner), In the Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche) and Precious: Based on a Book with a Different Title Written by Someone with a Stage Name (Geoffrey Fletcher). I haven’t seen the last two, but of the other three District 9 was by far the most original. But they were all decent screenplays, so I guess it’s okay that Up in the Air‘s Jason Reitman will at least get this Oscar.

Director

Now, finally, it becomes interesting once more. And about time. There are those that argue that looking at the Best Director nominees is like looking at the Best Picture nominees if that category hadn’t been unnecessary extended to ten films and that only the films nominated here stand a chance there. But first, the most titillating question of the night. Will James Cameron (Avatar) forgive his former wife Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) for winning this award? Or will Lee Daniels (Precious: Growing Tired of New Subtitles), Quention Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds: Spellcheck is for Losers) or Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) upset this precarious situation? I’m rooting for Reitman because he’s a swell guy and Up in the Air is the most glossy film I’ve seen in a long time, but Bigelow is still going to win. But as long as it’s not James “I’m the King of the World” Cameron again, I’m okay with any winner.

Picture

Finally, the category you have all been waiting for. And none more so than me. The ten nominess are: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up and Up in the Air. I haven’t (yet) seen The Blind Side, Precious and Up, but of the other seven, while there are some good films in there, none really truly deserve this award. The best of the bunch is probably The Hurt Locker, so I’m hoping against hope that it will win, but I fear that all the prognosticators are wrong and that Avatar will walk away with the biggest Oscar of the night. (Not literally, the statues are all the same height.) But who do you think should win? Vote in the poll at the right of this page (you will have to scroll back up now, though.)

All Predictions in a Handy Format for Your Oscar Ballot

Leading Actor – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Leading Actress – Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Supporting Actress – Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Animated Feature – Up
Art Direction – Avatar
Cinematography – Avatar
Costume Design – The Young Victoria
Directing – Kathry Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Documentary Feature – The Cove
Documentary Short – The Last Truck
Editing – The Hurt Locker
Foreign Language Film – The White Ribbon
Makeup – Star Trek
Score – Up
Song – The Weary Kind (from Crazy Heart)
Picture – Avatar
Animated Short – A Matter of Loaf and Death
Live Action Short – The Door
Sound Editing – Avatar
Sound Mixing – The Hurt Locker
Visual Effects – Avatar
Adapted Screenplay – Up in the Air
Original Screenplay – Inglourious Basterds

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