Wednesday, February 3, 2010

82th Academy Awards Predictions

Well, the nominations are out, and they took some of my suggestions. I am bitterly disappointed that (500) Days of Summer got no Oscar love, but there you go. You can't always get everything you want. Still, we have to work with what we have. 

Now, I haven't seen all 10 Best Picture nominees, so it's hard to gauge which one should win, but I've decided to give my predictions as to which one will win.


No science-fiction film has ever won Best Picture as of this writing, and I do not see Avatar being the first to do so. That fact also eliminates the brilliant District 9 from the running. The Blind Side is, frankly, too popular to win, and conversely A Serious Man is too elite to win. UP has the better chance for Animated Feature. The big momentum is toward The Hurt Locker, and unless there is a serious vote split, I expect to see the words "Iraq War" and "Win" finally connected.

BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Talk about Revenge of the Exes. Tarantino & Cameron already have Oscars (original screenplay and directing/editing/producing respectively), and Jason Reitman & Lee Daniels helm films that don't have the push The Hurt Locker has. We should remember the Best Director Oscar usually goes to whoever helmed the Best Picture (usually: Spielberg won for Saving Private Ryan but Shakespeare in Love won the big prize). The former Mrs. James Cameron will make history as the first female Best Director winner.

BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

Clooney and Freeman have already won Oscars. Jeremy Renner should realize that people don't normally win on their first nomination. This should apply to Colin Firth as well, but if there's an upset here, watch out for the former Mr. Darcy. Bridges not only has the critics on his side. He's also the only returning nominee not to have won plus he's a Hollywood legacy. His performance is strong, but he also has the "overdue" narrative. Right now, Bridges is too far ahead to lose.

BEST ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan (An Education) * (Winner: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side)

This is my "no guts, no glory" selection, as Sandra Bullock realistically is the clear frontrunner. Who would have thought driving that bus would have such benefits? While Sandra Bullock has the strongest pull going in her direction (and I won't be surprised if she wins), she has some potential strikes against her. She's a popular star as opposed to an "artistic" actress. The Proposal and especially All About Steve could put a Norbit Effect to her chances if enough people hold those films against her. As for the other nominees? Streep and Mirren are already past winners. Gabourey Sidibe is both too young and too unknown to be a real contender. If enough critics charm the more traditional Academy members, Mulligan could be this year's Marion Cotillard (who unexpected won for La Vie en Rose).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)

Damon's Afrikaner with a conscience won't pull off an upset. Invictus wasn't a hit and he has an Oscar, albeit for writing. In recent years the Academy has abandoned the Supporting Acting categories serving as quasi-Lifetime Achievement Oscars, so out goes Christopher Plummer. Stanley Tucci has two strikes: he plays a horrible character in a horrible film. Whatever the merits of The Lovely Bones, and I found none, it's going to be a tough sell to give an Oscar to someone playing a child murderer. As for Harrelson, few people have seen The Messenger. Expect the envelope opening to be followed by a Waltz onstage.


We might as well get used to saying it: Academy Award winner Mo'nique. Penelope Cruz won last year. How she got a nomination for Nine can be explained by voters thinking with their heads rather than their brains. In a repeat from last year's Amy Adams/Viola Davis Doubt battle, Up in the Air's Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are going against history. More often than not, two actors or actresses from the same film nominated against each other tend to cancel each other out. Maggie Gyllenhaal was already a surprise nomination. She, however, can't count on a Crazy Heart drive to get her over into taking Mo'nique down.


Since we pretty much know Up won't win Best Picture, consider this the consolation prize. It is a popular and critical hit. It also has advantages over the other nominees. Coraline might be too dark for the Academy. Fantastic Mr. Fox may be too artistic. The Princess & the Frog probably the most likely to pull a surprise upset, may be too Disney to win. Finally, The Secret of Kells may if not is too obscure to win. 


Right now, I see the battle between the wild The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and the stately The Young Victoria. Nine suffers from being dominated by one set, and Sherlock Holmes had more style than art direction. As for Avatar, since most of the visuals were computer generated, isn't this a bit of a cheat? I'll give the slight edge to Ledger's last film since it seemed all about visuals. However, do not discount royalty.


Again, Avatar was CGI-heavy, so I argue that it isn't strictly capturing what was on the screen as what was put on the screen. The White Ribbon will be its main challenger, up to where I was going to make it the choice until I remembered the pull Best Picture has. While not as strong today, I think Cinematography and Picture do coincide, which is why I am leaning Hurt Locker


Coco Before Chanel would be the logical choice given that the film is centered around a fashion designer. However, the Academy has a weakness for "costume dramas" and stories about royalty give the biggest reasons to have those lavish dresses. More often than not, the Oscars tend to favor the lavish threads of royalty in this category.


The Coen Brothers have four Oscars here, for Fargo and No Country for Old Men so I figure the Academy will want to spread the wealth around. The Messenger is another war film, but as it is not nominated for Best Picture, I am ruling it out. As time goes by, I think better of Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds but it did not have the impact that Pulp Fiction had. Narrowing down to two, The Hurt Locker's only serious competition is UP, but again, the Animated Category could be the place where they honor it. Eliminating the nominees thus, I expect Mark Boal's screenplay to be selected.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9) * (Winner: Precious)

This is one that is more emotional than logical for me. However, seeing that District 9 won't win Best Picture and has no other major nominations, this may be the only real chance the Academy has to honor it. The only major obstacle would be the highly praised In The Loop, However, that has two strikes against it. Few people saw it, and Adapted Screenplay is In The Loop's only nomination. Films rarely win the only category they get nominated for. I do not see In the Loop pulling off what would be a major upset. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Food, Inc. * (Winner: The Cove)

The documentary branch has of late shown much love to what I call advocacy films, which are more about converting someone to a particular viewpoint than straightforward documentaries. Curiously, Capitalism: A Love Story wasn't included, a surprise given how Michael Moore is well-regarded by the documentary branch. Food, Inc. is also one of the few that is more generally known than its competition. That might give it a leg up.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province * (Winner: Music by Prudence)

It's a safe bet that few of us have seen any of the nominees; I wish these short films were more available. Many of the ones that I have seen are quite good and should be better known. Therefore, why do I predict China's Unnatural Disaster for the win? Just like the documentary branch loves advocacy films, they also loves disasters/tragedies. It is difficult to make a fair assessment given the lack of access, but this is as good a guess as I can make.

BEST FILM EDITING: Avatar * (Winner: The Hurt Locker)

I'd rather go for The Hurt Locker. However, I feel that the sheer lavishness of Avatar will push it to a win, even if I thought it rather too long. The Academy is a bit split when it comes to Film Editing. More often than not, the Best Film Editing winner goes on to win Best Picture. That is no longer a certainty, but this year I think it won't. 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The White Ribbon (Germany) * (Winner: The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina)). 

Last year, Departures from Japan pulled an upset over Israel's Waltz with Bashir, which had been the favorite. That goes to show anything's possible. This year, I think they'll play it safe. In retrospect, this is the most open category, as I can see The White Ribbon, The Secret in Their Eyes and A Prophet all having good shots. I lean towards the one that has nominations outside this category. 


Count this as Star Trek's only win. Let's remember, it's called The Young Victoria, not The Old Victoria. Besides, it should get an Oscar just for the Green Girl.


Just a shot in the dark. Curiously, Partly Cloudy, which opened UP, isn't a nominee.


Again, another shot in the dark. It is again unfortunate that these films are not screened for larger audiences. The Animated and Live-Action Shorts are a holdover from when theaters screened one or two films per evening. A full program consisted of an animated short, a live-action short, a newsreel and either a single film or two films. There was the main attraction and/or a secondary film, hence the A and B-Movie. As theaters went away from that, the Academy did not follow suit. I would like to see a revival of that tradition. Better than seeing literal commercials before the movie.

BEST SOUND EDITING: Avatar * (Winner: The Hurt Locker)

Star Trek comes close, but my thinking is that a technical film will dominate technical categories.

BEST SOUND MIXING: Avatar * (Winner: The Hurt Locker)




BEST ORIGINAL SONG: The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart): Ryan Bingham & T. Bone Burnett

Wouldn't they love to give T. Bone the Oscar. They gave one to Eminem and Three Six Mafia, so why not give it to someone with actual talent? Randy Newman finally ended his losing streak long back, so no loss for him. Moreover, while I like both songs from The Princess and the Frog, I expect they will cancel each other out. Finally, Take It All from Nine is not terrible, but it was not something that overwhelmed..

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: UP (Michael Giacchino)

I was right: Sherlock Holmes did have good music, one of the few highlights from the film. I would make the case that few people, if any, remember the music for Avatar. Same goes for The Hurt Locker. The score for UP is so beautiful and it never takes center stage.


Now, again, I haven't seen all the nominees for Best Picture, let alone all the nominees for every category, though I'd love to. These are just educated guesses made to the best of my abilities. I suspect this year there won't be any big surprises: no Roman Polanski or Shakespeare In Love wins that will bring audible gasps. I will say that when it comes to the Oscars, I love being wrong.

August 2023 Update: Out of the major categories, I missed only one (Best Actress). Popularity does have its place. I should have been realistic in accepting that Sandra Bullock was unstoppable that year. I think I wanted some kind of upset, but I should have been intellectually honest and seen that there would be no upsets. Inglorious Basterds and Up in the Air did the worst: 1 win out of 8 nominations for the former, a perfect 0 out of 6 for the latter. To be fair, Up in the Air had two nominees in the same category, upping its total number of nods. 

In total, I got 15 out of 24. which is I think a 63% accuracy rate.  On the whole, not bad. 

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