As promised, and for the second straight year, here are my predictions for tomorrow night’s Academy Awards. I did pretty well with my picks last year – 16 out of 24, comparable with some of the low-end movie critics. This year … I’m going for the sweep! (Just kidding; no chance of that happening. But let’s see if I can build on my previous record.
(A warning for those with sensitivities regarding language: several times in this post, I will be forced to type the word “basterds.” I didn’t really want to, but calling Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Mispellings,” as I do in normal conversation, would just get confusing. It can’t be helped, folks. Sorry.)
A few things to bear in mind before I roll into the actual predictions:
> I have seen very few of the nominated pictures. Aside from some of the animated shorts (I loooooove YouTube), I’ve only seen two films that are nominated for any Oscar at all – Up and The Blind Side. (And I wouldn’t have seen the latter except my wife Nina, aka the Supermodel, is both a football fan and one of Sandra Bullock’s great admirers.). You might think this is a disadvantage when picking Academy Award winners; after all, how can you judge when you haven’t seen the flicks? Actually, it may be an advantage, because …
> Oscar nominations are based on merit; Oscar winners are based more on politics. For the most part, the people who get nominated for Academy Awards these days are the people who deserve to be. In olden times, studio block voting and old grudges might throw those numbers off, but that hasn’t really been the case in decades – too much scrutiny is given to the process for Hollywood to allow that now. But once the nominations are in place … whole ‘nother story. The final voting is driven far more by previous Oscar wins/losses, lifetime-achievement sympathies, “for your consideration” campaigns and other factors that have little or nothing to do with the talent expended on making the actual movies. So you don’t really need to see the films to have an accurate grasp of how the Oscar races are going, you just need to read about the races themselves. (Keep that in mind when you hear someone wonder how in heck X could possibly win the little gold man over Y; it just shows that they don’t understand how the system works.)
> The guilds know what’s what, and everyone else in the industry knows it. The biggest factor in support of whether someone will or won’t win an Oscar in their nominated category is not the opinions of the critics or the movie-going public, but one’s peers. The easiest way to guess which actors will win is to look at who won the Screen Actors Guild awards. The best indicator for the writers is who won the Writers Guild trophies, and so on through cinematography, editing, costuming, sound, direction (ESPECIALLY direction), whatever. Unless there’s a good reason, the voters outside a particular discipline will trust the judgments of those inside it. Probably makes for smoother interactions on the next movie set, too.
> Finally, if you want an early indicator of who’ll win Best Picture, watch the techie awards. Many times, Academy voters who can’t decide in areas outside their expertise will simply pick their own choice for top film in those categories. I remember back in 1987, The Last Emperor all but swept the technical honors on its way to Best Picture. It isn’t as extreme these days, but it’s still a factor.
Okay, with that primer out of the way, cue up your illegally-downloaded MP3 of “Hooray for Hollywood” and let’s try and predict the future …
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Best Cinematography – Nominees: Avatar, Das Weisse Band, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds.
This one has been listed consistently as a toss-up between the two Best Picture favorites, the 800-Pound Behemoth (Avatar) and the Little Movie that Could (Hurt Locker). The cameramen’s guild, though, made their choice, so I’ll go with that. The Oscar goes to … The Hurt Locker.
Best Editing – Nominees: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious.
Same as above, really, for both my choice and the reasoning behind it (that’s how the editors’ guild voted). The Oscar goes to … The Hurt Locker.
Best Art Direction – Nominees: Avatar, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria.
Let me put it this way: if the technological tour-de-force that may change the way films are made *doesn’t* win this award, something is very wrong. Either that, or the Academy voters just decided en masse that they’re sick of James Cameron. The Oscar goes to … Avatar.
Best Costuming – Nominees: Bright Star, Coco avant Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, The Young Victoria.
Three historical films, a fantasy, and whatever the heck Nine was supposed to be. For some reason, “period pieces,” especially those set before 1900, are thought to be more difficult in terms of costuming. I’ve always thought it would be the opposite, since with contemporary settings one has to be more careful to make the clothes accurate in every detail. But whatever. Coco avant Chanel was expected to be the front-runner here, but the costume guild went another direction, and I will too. The Oscar goes to … The Young Victoria.
Best Makeup – Nominees: Il Divo, Star Trek, The Young Victoria.
The makeup guild no longer gives out trophies, so I’ll just proceed on the assumption that making someone look like a Romulan is harder to do than making them look like a 19th-century Brit or 20th-century Italian. The Oscar goes to … Star Trek.
Best Original Score – Nominees: James Horner (Avatar), Alexandre Desplat (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Hans Zimmer (Sherlock Holmes), Marco Beltrami / Buck Sanders (The Hurt Locker), Michael Giacchino (Up).
One of the above has won about two-thirds of the awards this year, the other third going to composers that weren’t nominated for the Oscar. Seems a safe bet. The Oscar goes to … Michael Giacchino.
Best Original Song – Nominees: “The Weary Kind” (Crazy Heart), “Loin de Paname” (Faubourg 36), “Take It All” (Nine), “Down in New Orleans” (The Princess and the Frog), “Almost There” (The Princess and the Frog).
This is not a contest so much as a coronation; one tune has won pretty much every award that matters this year. The Oscar goes to … “The Weary Kind”.
Best Sound Mixing – Nominees: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
Is it just me, or does anyone else get a laugh out of Transformers: Revenge on the Bad Taste of the American Film-Watching Public actually receiving an Oscar nod? (Okay, it’s just me.) But often, the sound awards go to the loudest film, and you have to admit, it qualifies on that score. Still, this one is expected to come down to the Big Two, and again, the appropriate guild has made their selection. The Oscar goes to … The Hurt Locker.
Best Sound Editing – Nominees: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Up.
Yes, there are separate awards for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. Yes, they even have separate guilds. No, I can’t tell you what separates the mixing part from the editing part. But I can tell you who the experts gave their award to, and that’s what matters in this contest. The Oscar goes to … Avatar.
Best Visual Effects – Nominees: Avatar, District 9, Star Trek.
Only fitting that the F/X nominees are all science fiction films. And only fitting that the one that took motion capture where no motion capture has gone before gets the statuette. The Oscar goes to … Avatar.
(Now, remember how I said that the tech awards give an indicator of who could win Best Picture? The count we have here is Avatar 3, Hurt Locker 3, Up 1, all other Best Picture nominees 0. Narrows it down some, doesn’t it?)
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Best Animated Feature – Nominees: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up.
Fantastic Mr. Fox won a few critics’ awards, and The Princess and the Frog won at least one. Everyone else, including the Annie Awards (specifically for cartoons), has been pointing in one direction and one direction only. The Oscar goes to … Up.
Best Foreign-Language Film – Nominees: Ajami (Israel), Das Weisse Band (Germany), El Secretos de Sus Ojos (Argentina), La Teta Asustada (Peru), Un Prophete (France).
El Secretos de Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes), a Peronist-era murder mystery, has been getting a lot of good publicity and is considered a trendy upset pick, as is Un Prophete, about a Arab prisoner-turned-leader of (Mafia) men. But it would have to upset Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon), Michael Haneke’s black-and-white meditation on the escalation of violence in a pre-WWI German town, which won top honors at last year’s Cannes Film Festival (over Un Prophete, among others). Doesn’t seem likely. The Oscar goes to … Das Weisse Band.
Best Documentary Feature – Nominees: Burma VJ, The Cove, Food Inc., The Most Dangerous Man in America, Which Way Home.
In a normal year, any of these films would have a shot. A year when almost every award has gone to an in-depth (and shocking) investigation of dolphin-killing practices in Japan – an investigation led by the man who captured the dolphins used in the TV series Flipper, no less – is NOT a normal year. The Oscar goes to … The Cove.
Best Documentary Short – Nominees: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, Krolik po Berlinsku, Music by Prudence, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.
No one really knows who’s going to win this category, so I’m just going to take a wild stab at it. The Oscar goes to … The Last Truck. (Maybe.)
Best Animated Short – Nominees: French Roast, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, La Dama y La Muerte, Logorama, Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death.
Aardman Studios (the folks behind Wallace and Gromit) have been nominated for five Oscars and won four; the only time they lost was when they were nominated against themselves. But I think a 17-minute street-crime drama where almost everything is made out of corporate logos, including all the characters (a truck-driving Pringles man, two foul-mouthed Michelin Man gangbangers, etc.) could break that streak. The Oscar goes to … Logorama.
Best Live Action Short – Nominees: The Door, Istallet for Abrakadabra, Kavi, Miracle Fish, The New Tenants.
The Door, about a family being evacuated from a town near Chernobyl after the famous nuclear-plant failure, was considered the favorite until critics noticed that nobody watching the (admittedly depressing) film seemed to like it. The one about the young Indian boy attempting to escape from indentured servitude got much better reactions at Academy screenings. The Oscar goes to … Kavi.
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THE MARQUEE MATCHUPS
Best Original Screenplay – Nominees: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), Alessandro Camon / Oren Moverman (The Messenger), Joel & Ethan Coen (A Serious Man), Pete Docter / Bob Peterson / Thomas McCarthy (Up), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds).
I refer to the Original Screenplay award as the “shadow Best Picture,” the one given to the most innovative/challenging/gutsy film of the year, a prize that says “we wanted to give you Best Picture, but we just didn’t have the cojones.” This is the one Citizen Kane won, and Pulp Fiction, Fargo, The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind … you get the idea. So while the Writers Guild gave their award to Mark Boal, I’m guessing the Academy will do otherwise. The Oscar goes to … Quentin Tarantino.
Best Adapted Screenplay – Nominees: Jesse Armstrong / Simon Blackwell / Armando Iannucci / Tony Roche (In the Loop), Neill Blomkamp / Terri Tatchell (District 9), Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious), Nick Hornby (An Education), Jason Reitman / Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air).
Almost all the awards in this category, including the Writers Guild trophy, has gone to one film. I’m not bucking the trend. The Oscar goes to … Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner.
(Incidentally, these last two awards could act as consolation prizes for the films expected to finish third and fourth, or fourth and third, in the Best Picture race.)
Best Director – Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), James Cameron (Avatar), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds).
Over the 60 years the Directors Guild of America has been giving their top award, 54 of the winners have gone on to nab the Best Director Oscar. Then you factor in how many Academy voters are, like this year’s DGA winner, a scorned ex-wife of someone else in Hollywood, and this race is O-V-E-R over. The Oscar goes to … Kathryn Bigelow.
Best Supporting Actor – Nominees: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds).
One man has pretty much swept every award from every organization in this category. I’m guaranteeing this one like I’m Joe Namath. The Oscar goes to … Christoph Waltz.
Best Supporting Actress – Nominees: Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenhall (Crazy Heart), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Mo’Nique (Precious).
Different gender from the last one, different movies, similar result – the one who’s won all the other trophies should win this one. The Oscar goes to … Mo’Nique.
Best Actor – Nominees: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker).
If Clooney didn’t already have an Oscar (won a few years back for Syriana), he’d be the favorite here. But not against a five-time nominee who’s never won, who just turned 60, who’s from one of the royal families of Hollywood .. and incidentally, who’s been turning in great acting jobs for 35 years. The Oscar goes to … Jeff Bridges.
Best Actress – Nominees: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Mulligan or Sidibe has a chance; they don’t. Both are in their early twenties with plenty of career ahead of them, nominated for their first lead roles … and going up against two Hollywood dreadnoughts in the favorites, Bullock and Streep. As much as I think Streep is the greatest actor (male or female) in the history of film, and would love to see her win every award in existence, you can’t make predictions on the basis of what you like. You have to make them going by how the wind’s blowing. And the wind is blowing away from the actress who already has two Oscars (and isn’t even on the campaign circuit this year), toward the respected 45-year-old with her first nomination (who’s giving interviews to everything that moves). The Supermodel will be happy. The Oscar goes to … Sandra Bullock.
(I mentioned that I’d actually seen The Blind Side, and while Sandra was good, I saw nothing that made me think it was the best female lead performance of the year. If I was naive enough to believe winning the Oscar was based solely on merit, I’d be predicting Meryl in a rout. I’m not that naive.)
Best Picture – Nominees: A Serious Man, An Education, Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up, Up in the Air.
First, I want to say that whoever thought a) ten Best Pic nominees and b) the “preferential voting” system (don’t even ask me to explain it) were good ideas should be forced to watch nothing but Uwe Boll films for the rest of their life. Second, despite attempts from bored critics to argue that Inglourious Basterds has a good shot at winning, this is a two-film race (and by now, you know which ones). Two factors here that helped make my decision:
- 1. It’s been over 70 years since a movie won Best Picture without getting a single writing or acting nomination. Hurt Locker has Jeremy Renner and Mark Boal in the running; Avatar has … some really neat special effects.
- 2. When a movie’s opponents are reduced to criticizing the flick’s moral stance, accuracy or some such, it’s because they’ve already lost the battle. We saw that with Slumdog Millionaire last year, and with A Beautiful Mind several years back. Both won anyway.
Same thing this year. The Little Movie that Could, I think, will. The Oscar goes to … The Hurt Locker.
So that’s it for my picks for the 82nd Academy Awards — tune in to see how many (if any) I get right. And now, I think I’ll have some fun … and actually watch a few of these films! Honey, go queue up the DVD of Julie & Julia! …