Oscar predictions, part 3: the moments you’ve all been waiting for …

26 February 2011

If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of my Oscar predictions, you might want to check them out first.  But now it’s time for the big, high-profile awards, the ones people think about when they say “so-and-so is an Oscar winner!”  Ready?  Then let’s go!

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Mike Leigh (Another Year), Silver/Tamasy/Johnson/Dorrington (The Fighter), Christopher Nolan (Inception), Lisa Cholodenko/Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right), David Seidler (The King’s Speech)

Rule of thumb: Well, it’s complicated …

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Oscar Predictions, part 2: It’s Techie Time!

26 February 2011

If you missed part one of my annual Academy Awards predictions, click here.  And now …

PART TWO: THE TECHNICAL CATEGORIES

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit.

Rule of thumb: The best single shot or scene can sell the whole film.

And for the first time in the prognosticating process this year, there’s a wild card thrown into the mix.  And his name is Roger Deakins.

Traditionally, who the cinematographer is matters little in deciding the race.  There’s a good reason for this — his or her name isn’t listed on the Oscar ballot.  The acting nominations are the only one where the person’s name is actually included; in all other categories, they just list the films.  You don’t always realize who you’re voting for.  But there have been so many articles this year about how Deakins has just received his ninth nomination (for True Grit) but has never won.  Deakins is best known for his work with the Coen Brothers (he’s done every movie of theirs since Barton Fink in 1991, including Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men) and is very highly respected in the industry.  Plus, while ASC, the cinematographers’ guild, gave their award to Wally Pfister for Inception, it’s not always an indicator of who’ll win the Oscar (they agree less than half the time), and Deakins has already won the ASC award twice.  So I’m going to say he’s due.  The Oscar goes to: True Grit. (Possible upset: Inception.)

(One other possible factor in Deakins’ favor: True Grit is nominated in 10 categories, but isn’t a favorite in any except this one and maybe Costume.  It would be unusual for a film to go 0-for-10 …)

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Oscar predictions, part 1: The Special Categories

26 February 2011

As promised yesterday, it’s time for my annual Academy Awards predictions.  Again, these are for entertainment purposes only, so please, no wagering.  (And if you do wager and lose, don’t whine at me about it, I warned ya.)

The format will be a little more complex this year.  First of all, to keep from wearing you out, I’ll be splitting the prognostications over three separate blog entries — one of the “special” categories, one for technical achievement, and one for the big names (writing, directing, acting and Best Picture).  Also, in addition to listing the nominees, my pick, and the reasons for the pick, I’ll be including rules of thumb for how to pick each category, and possible upsets in categories where I don’t think my choice is a stone-cold lock (that’s half of them — 12 out of the 24).

Here’s a few general rules about how Oscars are won, before we proceed:

  • Oscar nominations are based on merit; Oscar wins are based more on politics. I covered that in yesterday’s post, so I won’t reiterate it here.  It’s the most important rule to remember — the people who complain that Oscars don’t always go to the most deserving candidate are just people who don’t understand how the Oscar system works.  Life isn’t fair, and neither is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  Cope.
  • The juries of one’s peers are exceedingly important. Before the Oscars, there are the guild awards, given by various sections of the movie-making community.  The directors have the Directors Guild Awards.  The actors have the Screen Actors Guild Awards.  The editors, the cinematographers, the sound mixing wallahs … you get the picture.  Many of the people who vote for those awards are also members of the Academy, and are the ones who vote on the same categories at the Oscars (only Best Picture is voted on by everyone).  So the guild awards, even more than the Golden Globes or other awards given by film critics, are often good indicators of who will be coming up on stage come Oscar night.
  • Keep a sharp eye on who’s aging, who’s “overdue,” and who’s a previous loser. The Academy voters like to spread the wealth, and make sure as many people win as possible.  They also like to honor their longest-serving veterans who haven’t received a trophy previously.  So being a previous Oscar winner is actually a disadvantage, while being a senior citizen — in Hollywood, that’s anyone over 40 — can boost your vote totals (they want to make sure they say “we love you” before you croak).  And if you’re older, have been nominated several times before and never won … better have that speech prepared.  (This is especially true in the acting categories.)
  • The average age of an Academy voter is 57. Granted, some of them let their grandkids fill out the ballot (Jack Palance once admitted it to a reporter), but not all of them.  This tends to cause the winners to be slightly more conservative/traditional choices than those of the critics.

Finally, I’ll underline the films I’ve actually seen, so as to help screen out any lingering “I watched that, and it was really good/bad” bias.

Okay, on to the predictions!

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Oscar pre-predictions: is a little knowledge a dangerous thing?

25 February 2011

Well, Sunday night is Oscar night, and WE’RE INVITED! So that’s pretty cool.

I definitely will be watching the Academy Awards broadcast and expect it to be a load of fun, especially with two honest-to-goodness funny people like James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting.  (Anything’s better than Ricky Gervais at this point.)  But it’s more to me than just being the first time I’ll spend three straight hours watching TV since the World Series ended.  ‘Cause if you don’t know it, I like predicting the Oscar races.

In the past, I’ve done okay at it — I got 17 out of 24 right last year, 16 out of 24 the year before that, 14 the year before that.  This time I’m hoping to build on previous successes, aiming for 20 but with 18 probably being more realistic.  However, there’s been a change in my prediction preparation this year that might adversely affect my picks, and I’m a little worried about it.

You see … I’ve watched a lot more films this year.

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Watching the dominoes fall in the Middle East

22 February 2011

The international news lately has been a wild ride, hasn’t it?

First, it was the start of what looks to be a successful (and peaceful) partitioning of Sudan, with the national referendum on the separation of the largely African and Christian/animist southern part from the largely Arab and Muslim northern part. Then came the protests in Tunisia, which led to the overthrow of dictator Zine el Abidine ben Ali.  This in turn inspired dissidents in Egypt to rise up and (with the help of a sympathetic military) push out their longtime despot, Hosni Mubarak.  And now demonstrations (and more) have risen in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Morocco and — most notably and bloodily — Libya.

The whole series of events is reminiscent to me of similar occurrences in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s.  I was in college at the time, minoring in political science no less, and there was an electricity in the air as my fellow students and I read about and watched the collapse of Communist rule in one country after another.  In 1990 I, along with many others from my soon-to-be-alma mater (University of the Pacific), played representatives of the U.S.S.R. at an intermural Model United Nations conference in southern California.  Later that year, I took a class entitled “Soviet and East European Politics.”  And less than two years later, there was no longer a U.S.S.R. or any Soviets — the whole Cold War map I’d grown up with had been redrawn, and a wind of freedom was sweeping through a big chunk in the world.  So, seeing something like that happen again, this time in North Africa and the Middle East, is really exciting.  And I’m optimistic.

Well, cautiously optimistic …

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The (long-overdue) latest on Sean

20 February 2011

I know, I knowIknowIknow – I’ve been promising to give an update on my son Sean’s continuing fight with Leigh’s disease for a while now.  I apologize for the delay, but I do have an excuse.  Namely, every time I plan to write it, some new development appears to be on the horizon, and it seems right to wait so I can give you fuller information.

But there’s a limit, and I’ve really waited far too long (I want to say it’s been four months since the last recap).  Thank you to all who have been praying for him all this time – it has meant more to me, and to Sean, than I can express.

And now, the news …

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Projecting 2011: One month in

2 February 2011

Back on January 4, I wrote about the projects I believed God was guiding me to work on for 2011.  What struck me about them at the time was how mundane they were — no grand public gestures or insurmountable obstacles, just stuff-around-the-house kinds of things.  I was a little put out, until I realized that a) part of the purpose was to focus me by getting me to concentrate on fewer activities than usual, and b) the underlying subtext was that I was right where God wanted me for now.

So that’s all right, then.  But how am I doin’ with what God has me doin’?  Four and a half weeks into the new year, that seems like a good question to ask.  So why don’t I take a look, and see how well I’ve been keeping up …

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