Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Oscar Nomination Predictions

We are still a few weeks away from the unveiling of the Oscar nominations for 2009. Due to the Olympics, they’ve pushed the nominations back until February 2nd this year, about 10 days later than normal. But at this point, there is little if anything else we can gather from the Precursor awards that we haven’t already. Every guild, except for the Costume Designs and the Sound people, have released their nominees, and every category that is going to have a shortlist. I may do a final round of predictions later, but right now, this is how I see it. So, these are probably pretty close to what my final predictions will be.

1. Up in the Air
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Avatar
4. Inglorious Basterds
5. Precious
6. Up
7. An Education
8. District 9
9. Invictus
10. A Serious Man
Spoiler: Star Trek

At this point, I feel fairly secure in the top seven films on this list. They are the films that have dominated the precursor circuit, and feel like the best fit for the Academy. The final three slots are where it really gets interesting. District 9 has done remarkably well in the precursors so far, and has a lot of critical support as well. I think, although it would be a strange film for the Academy to embrace, that this year they will do just that. Invictus seemed like a sure thing a little while ago, but it keeps getting left out of important precursors. I still think in a field 10 strong, they will not be able to resist giving Eastwood’s film a nod, but I’m not 100% sure. Finally, I continue to hold out hope that enough Academy members embrace the strange Coen brothers film A Serious Man. Strangely, the film that is knocking at the door is Star Trek, which is doing amazingly well in the precursors. I may regreat leaving it off my list, but for now, I still do not see the Academy embracing 3 science fiction films in one year. We’ll see.

1. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
2. James Cameron, Avatar
3. Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
4. Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
5. Neil Blomkamp, District 9
Spoilers: Lee Daniels, Precious/Clint Eastwood, Invictus

The director’s guild nominations are usually a good indicator of four of the five eventual nominees – but not all five. I’ve thought for a while now that the weakest of the frontrunners is Daniels for Precious, so I’ve replaced him with Blomkamp for District 9. But never count out Clint, who I could easily see pulling off a nomination as well. Could we be heading for an off the wall choice here? Perhaps, but trying to guess what is a fool’s errand.

1. George Clooney, Up in the Air
2. Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
3. Colin Firth, A Single Man
4. Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
5. Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Spoiler: Matt Damon, The Informant

At this point, I think that Clooney and Bridges are as safe as they can be. Firth doesn’t quite have the support for the film as they do, so he’s a little less sure, but can probably sleep soundly. Renner has had an amazing run, and they love his movie, but will they truly embrace this unknown? Finally Freeman as Mandela seemed like a sure thing, but I lose confidence in Invictus every day. Could Matt Damon really sneak in for The Informant. I almost feel like we’re in for a shocker on nomination morning – but who it could be, I’m not sure.

1. Carey Mulligan, An Education
2. Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
3. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
4. Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
5. Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Spoilers: Marion Cotillard, Nine, Abbie Cornish, Bright Star

This feels like a safe line-up. Two young, unknown breaking into the race, two Oscar veterans doing their thing, and big time movie star looking for her first nomination. Cornish has yet to get any real weight put behind her, so I think she’ll come up short. And the prospects for Nine are hurting all over, and the misguided campaign to put Cottilard in the lead race will probably back fire. I really do not see anyone upsetting these five.

Supporting Actor
1. Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
2. Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
3. Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
4. Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
5. Alfred Molina, An Education
Spoilers: Matt Damon, Invictus, Peter Sarsgaard, An Education, Christian McKay, Me and Orson Welles, Peter Capaldi, In the Loop

Waltz has dominated this category all season long so far, and I really do not see anyone standing in his way of a nomination. Tucci is the one part of The Lovely Bones that seems to have remained standing through the season. Harrelson has gotten enough support to push him back into the spotlight. Plummer is the token old guy who has never been nominated before. These four seem secure. But the fifth spot is a head scratcher. I’m sticking by Molina, even if he has missed some key precursors, but am still not convinced that Sarsgaard isn’t hurting him more than we think. Damon has gotten the noms he needs to keep him in the conversation for Invictus, but the movie is running out of steam in a hurry. Can two critics favorites – McKay or Capaldi – break in? Will they go even further astray? Not sure.

Supporting Actress
1. Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
2. Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
3. Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
4. Julianne Moore, A Single Man
5. Penélope Cruz, Nine
Spoilers: Samantha Morton, The Messenger, Diane Kruger, Inglorious Basterds, Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds, Marion Cottilard, Nine

We all know that Mo’Nique has the win in the bag for this award, which could explain why we aren’t seeing more competition spring up. The two Up in the Air woman seemed locked and ready to go as well. But the two final spots are strange. Moore has gotten just enough support to stay in the race, but I am not convinced they’ll go for her again. Cruz has gotten all the precursors she needs for Nine, but the film is fading fast, and if the Academy is smart, they’ll realize that Cottilard is much better in the film, and really has a supporting role. Samantha Morton has shocked before in this category, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pick off one of the ladies in front. And can one of the gorgeous Inglorious Basterds women – Kruger or Laurent – sneak into the race, or will they cancel each other out?

Adapted Screenplay
1. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
2. An Education (Nick Hornby)
3. Precious (Damien Paul)
4. District 9 (Neil Blomkamp)
5. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
Spoilers: In the Loop (Aramndo Ianucci et al), Invictus (Anthony Peckham), Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron), Star Trek (JJ Abrams et al), Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper), Bright Star (Jane Campion), Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze & David Eggars).

You can’t look to the Writers Guild for clarification here, as so many films were disqualified this year that won’t be at the Oscars that awards became a joke. Regardless, I think that Up in the Air has the win in the bag, and a nomination is assured. An Education and Precious also slide in without too much trouble. District 9 has had a good season in this category, so I expect Blomkamp to surprise some people here. Finally, I think Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox will find more love here than it did at the box office. But there are a lot of films creeping up behind. In a less crowded year, In the Loop would almost be assured a nomination, and the rest of the spoilers could easily get in. Do any of them have enough to get past the five I have?

Original Screenplay
1. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
2. Up (Bob Peterson)
3. The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal)
4. A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen)
5. 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb)
Spoilers: Avatar (James Cameron), The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke), The Hangover.

Once again, the Writer’s Guild Awards are useless here, as my top two films were disqualified there, but will easily get in at the Oscars. The Hurt Locker is going to ride the support for the film to a nomination. The writers have always been more supportive of the Coens then anyone, so I suspect they get in easily. Finally, 500 Days of Summer is the type of indie that always sneaks in for a nomination here. If the writers didn’t embrace Titanic, I doubt they’ll embrace Avatar, but you never know. They have been known to go foreign, and for me The White Ribbon is the only real possibility this year. The Hangover is the type of film that gets in at the guild, and then is forgotten (see The 40 Year Old Virgin for another example).

1. Up
2. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
3. Coraline
4. The Princess and the Frog
5. Ponyo
Spoilers: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 9, Mary and Max, The Secret of Kells.

I think the top four are pretty much set. Whatever awards Up has not won, Fantastic Mr. Fox has pretty much won, but Coraline has snuck in a few places as well. I believe the Animation branch is going to love have a traditional Disney movie back in the fold, so it will pick up a spot easily. The last spot is the hardest. Hayao Miyazaki is a God to animators, but Ponyo is his weakest film in quite some time, perhaps opening the door to other more offbeat, adult oriented movies like 9, Mary and Max or The Secret of Kells – all of which have passionate supporters. But perhaps the animation branch, thinking that with only one $100 million grosser in the pack, may decide to go populist and nominate Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

1. The White Ribbon (Germany)
2. A Prophet (France)
3. The Secret of Her Eyes (Argentina)
4. The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)
5. Winter in Wartime (The Netherlands)
Spoilers: Samson and Deliah (Australia), Ajami (Israel), Kelin (Kazakhstan), The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner (Bulgaria).

I suspect that The White Ribbon and A Prophet are safe here. If either films gets left out of the nominations, expect the foreign language branch to announce new rules AGAIN to try and make themselves look less like idiots. After that, the safest bets, given the Academy’s tastes, would be The Secret of Her Eyes, The Milk of Sorrow and Winter in Wartime. However, any of the nine shortlisted titles could get in here – I never have a clue what the hell this branch is up to.

1. The Cove
2. Food, Inc.
3. Every Little Step
4. The Most Dangerous Man in America
5. Mugabe and the White African
Spoilers: The Beaches of Agnes, Burma VJ, Valentino, Under Our Skin, Soundtrack for a Revolution, Sergio, Living in Emergency, Which Way Home, Garbage Dreams, Facing Ali

I never really have any idea as to what is going to happen in this category until the nominations are actually announced. Out of the 15 films shortlisted, I have only had a chance to see five of them (The Cove, Food Inc, Every Little Step, Valentino and Facing Ali). The other 10 either never really had a theatrical release, or else did but never played near me, and still haven’t come to video. I think it’s clear that The Cove and Food Inc. are your frontrunners at the moment. Every Little Step is an audience pleaser as far as docs go. The Most Dangerous Man in America seems to have the type of weighty subject matter they like, and Mugabe and the White African got great reviews in England. But then again, the critics have loved The Beaches of Agnes (but will the Academy embrace a self portrait of a foreign filmmaker?), and Burma VJ has also got some great notices. Valentino was popular with audiences, and Under Our Skin was praised by those who saw it. Soundtrack for a Revolution and Sergio have done pretty good in some of the Guild Awards so far. The other four, probably don’t have a chance. Really anyone’s guess.

1. The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd)
2. Avatar (Mauro Fiore)
3. Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson)
4. Nine (Dion Beebe)
5. The White Ribbon (Christain Berger)
Spoilers: Public Enemies (Dante Spinotti), A Serious Man (Roger Deakins), Bright Star (Greg Frasier).

The Academy loves war movies here, and the jittery, brilliant work by Barry Ackroyd in The Hurt Locker should be secure. Avatar continues to plug along, and the ASC nomination proves that cinematographers don’t seem to have a problem with all the special effects. Robert Richardson is an Oscar favorite, and he gives Inglorious Basterds a distinctive look, so he’s safe. This is the only category where it appears that Nine hasn’t been knocked down yet, and Dion Beebe’s work is great. Finally, they do like black and white, so I would guess that they follow the ASC’s lead and nominate The White Ribbon. Coming up behind them are Oscar favorites Dante Spinotti for Public Enemies and Roger Deakins for A Serious Man, as well as the colorful work by Greg Fraiser for Bright Star, any one that could break into the race.

Art Direction
1. Inglorious Basterds
2. Avatar
3. District 9
4. A Serious Man
5. Star Trek
Spoilers: Public Enemies, Sherlock Holmes.

I think the many different, distinctive period sets for Inglorious Basterds pretty much makes it a lock. They have embraced science fiction in the past, and I think that the Avatar juggernaut and the respect for District 9 and Star Trek will get them in as well. Finally, I think that they will embrace the more subtle, but brilliant period work on A Serious Man. However, I am not convinced that all three science fiction will get in, so watch out for the period work of Public Enemies or Sherlock Holmes to sneak in here instead.

Costume Design
1. Inglorious Basterds
2. Bright Star
3. The Young Victoria
4. Nine
5. Where the Wild Things Are
Spoilers: Public Enemies, Coco Before Chanel, Sherlock Holmes.

Once again, the varied work on Inglorious Basterds should get it a nod easily. They do love period work, so even if they don’t show up in many other categories, I feel like Bright Star, The Young Victoria and Nine could all find a place in the top five. Finally, I think the work in Where the Wild Things Are is a can’t miss opportunity – unless they feel slighted by the fact that CGI was used to enhance the facial expressions. Public Enemies, Coco Before Chanel and Sherlock Holmes are all waiting on the outside trying to get in.

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Avatar
3. Up in the Air
4. District 9
5. Star Trek
Spoilers: A Serious Man, 500 Days of Summer, Inglorious Basterds, Precious
The Hurt Locker’s achievement is undeniable in this category, so it is a no brainer here. Avatar’s work is brilliantly put together, so it gets in as well. Up in the Air is the kind of sleek movie that gets in here as well. The action sequences will probably propel District 9 and Star Trek in here as well. But there are spoilers waiting – A Serious Man may have a better chance if the editor (Roderick Jaynes) was not a fake person. 500 Days of Summer brilliantly cuts together the comedy. Inglorious Basterds was shockingly left out of the Eddie nominations, but that could change. And finally, Precious could do it for those flashbacks.

1. District 9
2. Star Trek
3. Il Divo
Spoilers: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Road, The Young Victoria, Night at the Mueseum

District 9 and Star Trek seem well ahead of the other five titles on this shortlist – and one of them is surely going to be your winner. Now, we just have to figure out who will get that third slot. I have a feeling that after two sci-fi films, that they will want some realism thrown in there, and something tells me that the Italian film Il Divo could turn out to the shocker here, instead of The Road or The Young Victoria. If I’m wrong about the realism thing, than The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus will probably be the third nominee. Out of all of them, I would only be shocked to see Night at the Mueseum among the nominees.

1. Up (Michael Giacchino)
2. Avatar (James Horner)
3. The Informant (Marvin Hamlisch)
4. Public Enemies (Elliot Goldenthal)
5. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexander Desplat)
Spoilers: Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer), Bright Star (Mark Bradshaw), Coco Avant Chanel (Alexandre Desplat), A Serious Man (Carter Burwell), Star Trek (Michael Giacchino)

The score branch is usually a pretty insular bunch, so I think we will likely see a group of prior nominees and winners getting in this year. Michael Giacchino’s work on Up is a lock (and could help him secure a second nomination this year for Star Trek), as is James Horner’s work on Avatar. I think they will likely reward recent favorite Alexandre Desplat for his work on Fantastic Mr. Fox, but he could get in for Coco Avant Chanel instead. Elliot Goldenthal contributes great work on Public Enemies, and I think they’ll welcome back Marvin Hamlisch with a nomination for The Informant! All of this leaves Hans Zimmer’s work on Sherlock Holmes on the outside though, and I think he could sneak in. If they are looking for a newcomer though, I think that Mark Bradshaw could get in for Bright Star. Finally, the fact that they have never nominated Carter Burwell is embarrassing, so they could finally decide to award his terrific work on A Serious Man.

1. Crazy Heart - The Weary Kind
2. Nine - Cinema Italiano
3. Avatar – I See You
4. Nine - Take it All
5. The Princess and the Frog - Almost There
Spoilers: The Princess and the Frog - Never Knew I Needed & Ma Belle Evangeline & Down in New Orleans, Everybody's Fine - (I Want) To Come Home, An Education - Smoke Without Fire & You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger, Where the Wild Things Are - All is Love or Hideaway, Fantastic Mr. Fox - Petey's Song, Crazy Heart – Somebody Else, Brothers – Winter, The Hangover – Stu’s Song,

1. Avatar
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
3. District 9
4. The Hurt Locker
5. Up
Spoilers: The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, 2012, Star Trek

1. Avatar
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Up
4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
5. Inglorious Basterds
Spoilers: Star Trek, Nine, District 9, Sherlock Holmes.

These are separate categories, yet I have a hard time coming up with different things to say about them. Essentially, in both categories they like action films, science fiction films, animated films and war films. And in mixing, they like musicals. Quality of the overall movie doesn’t matter, just how LOUD they are.

1. Avatar
2. District 9
3. Star Trek
Spoilers: 2012, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Terminator: Salvation.

Does it really matter, since we all know that Avatar is going to win? District 9 and Star Trek seem like your best bets to fill out the roster, but don’t count out 2012. The other three? Forget it. They really do not like sequels.

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