Friday, November 13, 2009

Oscar Update: Where We Are Now

I know I said this would be a weekly column, and then I have not done much in the last month or so with it. The simple answer as to why is that because very little has changed in the last month. The films that were the frontrunners, are still the frontrunners. The films that were unseen are still unseen. We are still waiting on Nine, The Lovely Bones, Avatar, Invictus, Brothers and It’s Complicated to show themselves. Add to that list Crazy Heart, which Fox Searchlight has decided to move up into 2009 after it’s expected awards contender Amelia tanked. Some have seen Crazy Heart, and swear that Jeff Bridges will win the Best Actor Oscar this year. The trick will be to get the film into the conversation in such a short period of time.

So this week, I decided just to give a recap of where we are and what I think will be nominated.

Best Picture
1. Precious
2. Up in the Air
3. An Education
4. Invictus
5. Nine
6. Up
7. The Hurt Locker
8. A Serious Man
9. The Lovely Bones
10. Inglorious Basterds

Whether they want it or nor, Precious has become the Oscar frontrunner for the year. Whether or not it can sustain it until February or not remains to be seen, but it a certain nominee. Up in the Air has quieted down a little, but that’s a stratrgy they are taking and will do the film fine. An Education has started out a solid run at the box office to go along with great reviews, and just keeps chugging along. Invictus and Nine have been the most talked about films in terms of awards this year, and until they are seen, nothing will change that. With 10 spots, Up looks like a good bet to become the second animated nominee in history. The Hurt Locker is probably the most critically acclaimed film of the year, so even if audiences didn’t respond, with 10 slots, it will get in. A Serious Man is among the best of the Coen’s films, and they have enough support to get it in. The Lovely Bones is Peter Jackson, based on a critically acclaimed best seller, so until I hear otherwise, I’m sticking with it. Inglorious Basterds is the type of film that never gets nominated – but with 10 nominees, I’m sticking to my guns.

Best Director
1. Clint Eastwood, Invictus
2. Rob Marshall, Nine
3. Lee Daniels, Precious
4. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
5. Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

Never bet against Clint, even if he is coming off an off year awards wise. Rob Marshall directing a musical should get him in easily. Lee Daniels will be swept up in the Precious hype, even if he is doing himself no real favors. Any director in the world has to see how brilliant Kathryn Bigelow’s work is in The Hurt Locker. And finally, if Jason Reitman can be nominated for Juno, I don’t see how they could not nominate him for Up in the Air.

Best Actor
1. George Clooney, Up in the Air
2. Colin Firth, A Single Man
3. Morgan Freeman, Invictus
4. Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
5. Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Clooney and Firth are your safest bets, coming off of a great festival season for both of them. Clooney has become an Oscar favorite, and in a movie star role like this, he’s a natural. Firth is the kind of actor they are embarrassed they have never nominated before, and his acclaimed work should get him in. Freeman and Day-Lewis are Oscar favorites, with tailor made Oscar roles, so it’s tough to imagine they will be overlooked. Finally, Bridges is entering the race late, but if they can get a campaign off the ground, I could easily see him being your winner.

Best Actress
1. Carey Mulligan, An Education
2. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
3. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
4. Marion Cotillard, Nine
5. Helen Mirren, The Last Station

So many adjectives have already been spilled about Mulligan, there is no need to add anymore. She’s a nominee for sure. The Academy never overlooks Streep, even if it is for a not great performance in Julie & Julia. Sidibe is becoming a breakout sensation for Precious, and it seems ridiculous to think that it could get nominated for everything else, and not pull the title character along. Cotillard has the juiciest role in Nine, and coming off a win two years ago helps her. Finally Helen Mirren is an Oscar favorite, and her role here will certainly appeal to the older Academy members.

Best Supporting Actor
1. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
2. Alfred Molina, An Education
3. Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
4. Matt Damon, Invictus
5. Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Coming off back to back years with villains winning this award, it seems unlikely that the Academy could possibly overlook Waltz’s great turn in Inglorious Basterds. Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci are two great actors who have never been nominated, and I think the Academy will be looking to make up for that this year. If Invictus becomes a big player this year, then you have to think that Damon will be pulled along with it. And finally, can you believe Christopher Plummer has never been nominated for an Oscar? I think playing Leo Tolstoy will net him his first.

Best Supporting Actress
1. Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
2. Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
3. Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
4. Penélope Cruz, Nine
5. Julianne Moore, A Single Man

Monique pretty much has the win in the bag at this point – unless she starts drowning kittens or kicking babies that is. A weak year in this category means that there should easily be enough room for both Up in the Air ladies to get nominated. Cruz has the flashiest supporting role in Nine, and she is an Oscar favorite. Finally, poor Julianne Moore should get her fifth nomination this year – and her fifth loss.

Best Original Screenplay
1. A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen)
2. Up (Bob Peterson)
3. The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal)
4. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
5. 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb)

Not a strong year for Oscar friendly original screenplay. So the animated Up will follow in the footsteps of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles Ratatouille and Wall-E to a nomination. The Coens have always been more liked by the writers then any other branch, so they’ll get in. The screenplay for The Hurt Locker is excellent – Boal just has to hope that they do not consider it too much of a director’s film. Tarantino should be on track to pick up another nomination here. And finally, some indie love for the surprise hit 500 Days of Summer is not out of the question.

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Precious (Damien Paul)
2. An Education (Nick Hornby)
3. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
4. The Lovely Bones (Philipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson)
5. Invictus (Anthony Peckham)

This is your heavy hitting category. Precious, An Education and Up in the Air are all locked and loaded, and will be the ones truly competing for the win this year. They nominated Boyens, Walsh and Jackson for the Rings, so I think they will probably do the same thing for Bones. And Invictus is just going to be too big to ignore.

Best Animated Film
1. Up
2. Coraline
3. Ponyo
4. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
5. The Princess and the Frog

For only the second time, there appears like there will be five nominees in this category. It doesn’t really matter, because Up is winning this one going away. Pixar has won two in a row and I don't see them missing this year either. Coraline will certainly be nominated, and Ponyo’s director Miyazaki is a god to animators, so he will not be overlooked. I think the Academy will also dig Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox as the reviews have so far been great. The stumbling block there will be the animators not liking Anderson moving in on their turf. Finally, I think they will rejoice that Disney has gone back to traditional animation with The Princess and the Frog.

Best Documentary Film
1. Capitalism: A Love Story
2. The Cove
3. We Live in Public
4. No Impact Man
5. Food, Inc.

Until the shortlist is out, it is impossible to tell what will be nominated. But they love Michael Moore, so even if Capitalism was a bit of a dud, it will be nominated. The Cove is the most talked about doc of the year, so it should get in even if the box office has been a little weaker then it should have been. We Live in Public, No Impact Man and Food, Inc. have all been praised to high heaven, so they are my guesses at this point. The shortlist should be coming out soon though, so these could change.

Best Foreign Language Film
1. The White Ribbon (Germany)
2. A Prophet (France)
3. Mother (Korea)
4. Police, Adjective (Romania)
5. I Killed My Mother (Canada)

The Palme D’Or should help The White Ribbon become Michael Haneke’s Oscar breakthrough. The stodgy Academy may not be as high on the film as critics have been though, so I doubt it will win. A Prophet has been a favorite of everyone who has seen it since Cannes, so I think it’s a safe bet as well. Mother could well be wishful thinking on my part, since I loved it so much. Police, Adjective has been constantly praised, but will the stodgy Academy get it? Finally, I always predict Canada until I know otherwise, and I actually hear I Killed My Mother is excellent.

Best Cinematography
1. Nine (Dion Beebe)
2. The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd)
3. The Lovely Bones (Andrew Lesnie)
4. Bright Star (Greg Frasier)
5. Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)

The shots we have seen from Nine are amazing, so I expect Oscar favorite Dion Beebe to easily be nominated. Barry Ackroyd’s brilliant work on The Hurt Locker cannot be denied. It is the type of work that always gets noticed. They have gone for Lesnie in the past when he works with Jackson, so count of The Lovely Bones. Bright Star has the kind of gorgeous, colorful photography they love, so count on it. And finally, Robert Richardson always does great work, and his Inglorious Basterds is not exception. The fact that he is an Oscar favorite also helps.

Best Editing
1. Nine
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Precious
4. Avatar
5. Invictus

Musicals often get in, so count on Nine. Chicago won this one, so I doubt they'll overlook it. The Hurt Locker’s work is probably the best of the year, so a nomination seems safe as the editors have taste. You cannot be the Oscar frontrunner without getting in here, so Precious should get in, even if it is not quite your typical nominee. James Cameron’s films often do well here even if they miss elsewhere, so count on Avatar regardless of weather or not it breaks into the top races. Clint’s films often miss here, but Invictus could be too big to ignore.

Best Art Direction
1. Nine
2. Inglourious Basterds
3. Sherlock Holmes
4. A Serious Man
5. Bright Star

Nine is guaranteed a nod here now matter the quality of the film. Marshall's films have yet to be overlooked. The work on Inglorious Basterds is amazing and diverse, so I think it gets a nod, even if it is not the typical nominee. Sherlock Holmes is the type of big budget, period piece, audience pleaser (assuming it is an audience pleaser), that often gets a nod here. A Serious Man’s work is low key but brilliant, effortlessly recreating 1960s Minnesota. And finally, Bright Star’s assured work is the type that always gets in, even if the film fails elsewhere.

Best Costume Design
1. Nine
2. Inglourious Basterds
3. Where the Wild Things Are
4. Bright Star
5. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

What I said about Art Direction for Nine - Marshall's films always lands a nod here regardless of quality. Inglorious Basterds has a lot of fine period work, and so even if Tarantino has never broken through here before, he should this year. Bright Star not only has great costimes, but also has a main character who designs them, so it gets in. I think Where the Wild Things Are should easily get in – unless the purists in the branch do not like the CGI work done on the faces of the Things. And The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is probably too weird to score much, but the costume designers like weird.

Best Score
1. Avatar (James Horner)
2. Up (Michael Giacchino)
3. Bright Star (Mark Bradshaw)
4. The Princess and the Frog (Randy Newman)
5. Coco Avant Chanel (Alexandre Desplat)

I have learned not to bet against a Horner score for a Cameron movie, so I’m going all in for Avatar here. They have recently embraced Giacchino’s brilliant work for Pixar, so he’ll get in again for what is perhaps the finest work of his career. Even though all his scores sound the same, you never bet against Randy Newman and Disney. Mark Bradshaw’s work on Bright Star is beautiful and subtle, and the type of period music they love. And Desplat has become an Oscar favorite, so I’m betting on another nomination for him here even if no one will actually see the movie in question.

Best Song
1. The Princess and the Frog - Down in New Orleans
2. Crazy Heart – The Weary Kind
3. Nine - Take it All
4. Nine - Cinema Italiana
5. Precious - I See in Color

Never bet against Randy Newman writing for Disney. He has several songs in contention this year for that movie, so this is just a guess at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with two in contention. Since Crazy Heart is a movie about Country music, you have assume the song is good, and will be featured prominently and not just over the end credits - something that cost Bruce Springsteen last year. They love it when classic musicals do new songs, so count on at least one if not both new numbers from Nine - you know the branch will hear them since they are featured in the movie. Precious gets bonus marks for being a best picture contender, but is Mary J. Blige going to go the way of Springsteen and Vedder in the last two years?

Best Sound Mixing
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2. Nine
3. Star Trek
4. Up
5. The Hurt Locker

Here, the louder you are the better you are. Since the original Transformers won this Oscar, you have to assume that the sequel will get in as well - despite the fact that the movie itself sucks, you cannot deny it is loud. They almost always embrace musicals, and since Nine is the only one is contention this year, its nomination seems safe. Big budget science fiction is often a hindrance for the Oscars, but not in this category, so count on Star Trek getting a nod as well. Pixar usually picks up a nomination here, so I bet Up continues the trend. Finally, they love war movies here with all the explosions and bullets flying, and The Hurt Locker has some of the best sound work of the decade.

Best Sound Editing
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
2. Avatar
3. Star Trek
4. Up
5. The Hurt Locker

Much like Sound Mixing, they like their films loud here. And the original Transformers won this Oscar, so I think the sequel's nomination is secure. Avatar will likely be filled with sound effects, and they almost always nominate the Cameron film in this category, so it gets in as well. Star Trek has a lot of wonderful science fiction themed work here, with all those battles and phasers, so I expect it to make the cut as well. Pixar is a favorite of Sound Editors, so even if the work in Up is not quite as extensive as it was in say, Wall-E, is bet it will get in anyway. And finally, The Hurt Locker's work is just too strong to ignore - if they can get the sound editors to watch it that is.

Best Make-Up
1. District 9
2. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
3. Star Trek

The only stumbling block I can see for the absolutely brilliant make-up work in District 9 is the fact that some purists don't like to see an CGI enhancements at all, and you know that there was quite a bit of it done here. Still, the work is too good to deny. The Imaginarium of Dr. Paranassus is probably too weird (it is a Terry Gilliam film after all) to score any major nominations, but the make-up branch is not as put off by weird as everyone else, so I suspect the extensive work here will get a nod. Finally, Star Trek has been boldly going where no make-up artist has gone before for decades, and now they actually have a film people like. I don't see too many "realistic" make-up work this year getting in, so I would bet on these three until I hear something else.

Best Visual Effects
1. Avatar
2. Star Trek
3. District 9

This branch hates to repeat itself, so often times a sequel doesn't get in even if the original one did, so that's why you don't see any Transformers (thankfully) on this list. Avatar's special effects already has people saying these like "groundbreaking" and "revolutionary", so I highly doubt that it will miss here - Cameron's films have always been a favorite here. The special effects are everywhere in the latest Star Trek film, and are wonderfully integreated into the plot of the movie. Even if this does feel a little like they are repeating themselves, because this is a reboot of the franchise, instead of a continuation, I bet it gets in. Plus, you know all the visual effects people are nerds who love Trek. Finally, the work on District 9 is amazingly good, and also quite innovative in its own way, so I would bet on it over some of the bigger name contenders.

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