Well, the nominations are out and they took some of my suggestions. I am bitterly disappointed that (500) Days of Summer got ripped off 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.
BEST PICTURE: THE HURT LOCKER
Attention fanboys: no science-fiction film has ever won Best Picture, so stop your drooling because Avatar will not win. Period. That fact isn't fun for me to think about because it also knocks out 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 split 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. In the Age of Obama, we need another first.
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Clooney and Freeman already won, and Jeremy Renner should realize people don't normally win for 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 but he's the only returning nominee NOT to have won plus he's a Hollywood legacy. Right now, Bridges is too far ahead to lose.
BEST ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan (An Education)*
Who would have thought driving that bus would have such benefits? While Sandra Bullock has the strongest pull going in her direction (and don't be surprised if she wins), she has three strikes against her: 1.) she's a popular star (as opposed to an artistic actress), 2.) The Proposal, and most dangerously, 3.) All About Steve. There could be a Norbit Effect to her chances if enough people hold the latter against her. Streep & Mirren--already winners, Gabourey Sidibe is both too young and too unknown, and 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 conscious won't pull it off (Invictus wasn't a hit and he has an Oscar--for writing--an illegitimate one at that in my view), and 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 (a child murderer) in a horrible film (The Lovely Bones). As for Harrelson, few people have seen it--and some may worry if he goes into a "free pot" speech at the podium. Expect the envelope opening to be followed by a Waltz onstage.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'nique (Precious)
We might as well get used to saying it: Academy Award winner Mo'nique. That will be the ONLY thing she and Ingrid Bergman will have in common. Penelope Cruz won last year (and 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 knock each other out, and Maggie Gyllenhaal can't count on a Crazy Heart drive to get her over.
BEST ANIMATED FILM: UP
Since we pretty much know it won't win Best Picture, consider this the consolation prize. Coraline might be too dark, Fantastic Mr. Fox too intelligent, The Princess & the Frog too Disney, and frankly, whoever heard of The Secret of Kells?
BEST ART DIRECTION: THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS*
Right now it's between the wild Parnassus or the stately The Young Victoria. Nine suffers from being 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 edge (slight) to Ledger's last film since it seemed all about visuals.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: THE HURT LOCKER*
Again, Avatar was CGI, 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--Best Picture pull.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Young Victoria
Coco Before Chanel would be the logical choice--costumes BEING it's reason for being. However, the Academy has a weakness for "costume dramas" and stories about royalty give the biggest reasons to have those lavish dresses.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
The Coens--they have four (Fargo & No Country for Old Men) so it's time to follow President Obama's advise and "spread the wealth around". The Messenger is another war film but it DOESN'T have Best Picture on it, and Tarantino is a previous winner whose Inglorious Basterds didn't have the impact of Pulp Fiction. It's only serious competition is UP, but again, the Animated Category could be the place where they honor it. Finally...Best Picture, people.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9)*
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 In The Loop, which got no other nominations, but A.) few saw it, and B.) it got no other nominations. Films rarely win the only category they get nominated for.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Food, Inc.*
The documentary branch loves these type of films, which are more advocacy films than straightforward documentaries. Curious that Capitalism: A Love Story wasn't included. Food, Inc. is also one of the few that is more generally known than its competition.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province*
It's a safe bet that few of us have seen ANY of the nominees...though I wish they were more available. However, the documentary branch also loves disaster/tragedies.
BEST EDITING: Avatar
I'd rather go for The Hurt Locker (Best Picture and all). However, I feel that the sheer lavishness of Avatar will push it to a win...although I thought it rather too long.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The White Ribbon (Germany)*
Here's a quiz: what film won last year in this category? Departures from Japan, when the odds-on favorite had been Israel's Waltz With Bashir. That goes to show anything's possible. This year, I think they'll play it safe and go for the best known of the bunch.
BEST MAKEUP: Star Trek
Count this as its 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.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Logorama
Just a shot in the dark. Curiously, Partly Cloudy (which opened UP) isn't a nominee.
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM: The New Tenants
Is it me, or shouldn't there be a greater effort to show some of these films to a wider audience? It beats watching all those commercials before the film. I figure this category dates back to when there were short films before the main feature. Let's bring that tradition back. Again, another shot in the dark.
BEST SOUND EDITING: Avatar*
Star Trek comes close, but my thinking is that a technical film will dominate technical categories.
BEST SOUND MIXING: Avatar*
See BEST SOUND EDITING.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Avatar
See BEST SOUND EDITING.
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 an actual talent? Randy Newman finally ended his losing streak long back, so no loss for him. However, I would give the Oscar to Take It All from Nine if I was guaranteed Marion Cotillard would show her ta-tas instead of teasing me like she did for the stripper number the song's built around.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: UP (Michael Giacchino)
I was right--Sherlock Holmes did have good music...so out-of-character for Hans Zimmer. Who remembers the MUSIC for Avatar, anyway? 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.
Update: Out of the major categories, I missed only one (Best Actress). Popularity does have its place. In total, I got 15 out of 24. which is I think a 63% accuracy rate. On the whole, not bad.