Friday, March 5, 2010

Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

So finally, we reach the big one. The best picture race. With the new Preferential voting system, no one really knows how it is going to play out. Prior to this year, they used a regular system - like they still do for every other category - where you vote for your favorite. With 10 nominees this year, they changed it up. Now, you rank all 10 films for 1-10 on your ballot. In order to win a film need 50% + 1 of the vote. They essentially make 10 piles - one for each nominee - and drop the smallest pile out each round, and redistribute those votes by the next highest film still in contention - until a film reaches that 50% + 1 mark. It requires a lot more consensus - and a little less passion (the criticism that the system has received). Anyway, it should be interesting.

For It: It is now the BIGGEST movie of all time, and Oscar loves a success story. The reviews were great, and audiences cannot get enough of it. The Globe win was a major precursor, and makes this one of the frontrunners. It also is tied for the most nominations of any film this year, which is usually a good sign.
Against It: Every time a movie gets this successful, the boo birds come out in full force, and there is definitely a strong anti-Avatar group out there. The new preferential ballot system for best picture could easily hurt a film like this, which is divisive. There will be some who cannot bring themselves to vote for a movie about blue people.

The Blind Side
For It: Oscar loves a feel good, underdog story and The Blind Side is certainly that. A big star turn by Sandra Bullock, who will likely walk away with the Best Actress Oscar helps a lot. If Hollywood wants to reach out to the heartland of America, who they are often accused of ignoring, this is the one they will go for – as this was a HUGE hit there. The preferential ballot system helps movies that are liked by many, even if they are loved by only a small group.
Against It: Easily the least critically acclaimed of the 10 nominees, and aside from Best Picture, it only received one other nomination, meaning that aside from actors, I’m not sure how much support this will draw.

District 9
For It: For those who love science fiction, and would want to see a film in the genre win this award, but cannot stand Avatar, this is the horse to back. The film came out of nowhere to become one of the biggest hits – with audiences and critics this year.
Against It: Really though, I can’t imagine too many Academy voters putting this very high on their list of 10. It got four nominations, which is good, but nowhere near the top. Without a director or an actor in play, this is a tough get.

An Education
For It: Women absolutely seem to love this film, and they make up a sizable amount of the Oscar voters – among actors anyway. A critical favorite, talked about all year. It did only receive three nominations, but that can easily be explained by the fact that the directors are male centric, and Sarsgaard and Molina split the supporting actor vote.
Against It: It started out strong, but has certainly faded down the stretch as it limped across the finish line. In order for this to truly win this one, Mulligan has to pull off an upset in actress, and Hornby has to win adapted screenplay – something I don’t see happening. The charges of anti-Semitism just don’t seem to be going away.

The Hurt Locker
For It: The critics have backed it all year long, and with the DGA and PGA wins under its belt, it certainly has the most important precursors on its side. A film that few seem to have anything bad to say about – meaning that even if it doesn’t win on the number 1 votes, the preferential voting system could easily shoot this one up the ladder. Oscar has gone a little edgier in the past few years, and no one is going to feel bad about giving this the Oscar in the future.
Against It: It only made $13 million at the box office, making it the third lowest grossing Best Picture nominee of the decade (the two behind it? An Education and A Serious Man) and well behind Crash, who at $55 million was the lowest grossing best picture winner in years. Box office isn’t the only concern that the Academy takes into consideration, but it does help.

Inglourious Basterds
For It: The supporters of the film love it, and I have a hard time imagining they won’t be putting it at number one on their ballots. If they want a big audience hit that isn’t animated or have blue people, aliens or Sandra Bullock in it, Inglorious Basterds is the film to vote for. It has been chugging along all Oscar season, and although it doesn’t have the precursors you normally expect for a film to win, that may not matter with the preferential voting.
Against It: The film also has quite a few vocal detractors – meaning that although I expect it to get a lot of #1 votes, it will also get a number of #10 votes, which with the preferential system could easily hurt the film. Oscar prefers more serious movies than Tarantino makes.

For It: If Oscar voters went with a story of poverty in India last year, why can’t they go with one set in America this year? The film has survived its backlash, and comes into the Oscars with 6 nominations a good total. Those who like the film, really like the film, so I imagine there will be quite a few #1 votes.
Against It: The film also has detractors though – quite a few and quite vocal about it as well – meaning that it could easily be hurt by the preferential system this year. It started out very strong this year, but aside from Mo’Nique, it has faded down the stretch.

A Serious Man
For It: The Coen’s have a strong group of very avid fans who adore everything they do (I know, I’m one of them). A Serious Man is unlike anything else nominated this year.
Against It: The film has very weak box office – not even $10 million. Plus, it only got one other nomination (Original Screenplay). Plus it is perhaps the Coen’s most divisive film to date – and the Coens have never exactly enjoyed huge critical consensus (yes, some even dislike Fargo and No Country for Old Men). They got their awards just two years ago – it’s someone else’s turn this year.

Odds: 7-1
For It: Up is going to be a big beneficiary of the preferential ballot system. I mean, who didn’t love the film? I don’t expect it to get as many #1 votes as many of the other frontrunners, but if it loads up on #2s, #3 and #4s (if it goes that far which I think it could), Up could pull off a shocking upset on Oscar night.
Against It: I just don’t see it happening. The Academy has shown a disdain for animated films in the top categories for its entire 80+ year run. I don’t see that changing this year.

Up in the Air
For It: An intelligent comedy/drama that everyone seems to really like. I don’t think it will get as many #1 votes as The Hurt Locker or Avatar, but it could easily come back strong on subsequent rounds, as it is a film that is widely liked by many.
Against It: It faded a little bit after a strong start, and the film is not really a contender to win anything other than Adapted Screenplay this year (and it will most assuredly win that one). Will that be enough to put it over the top?

Who Will Win: The preferential system makes this one the hardest to pick in years, as we really have no idea how things are going to play out. I think The Hurt Locker benefits the most from the system, and will likely be your winner – although Avatar, Up in the Air, Inglorious Basterds, Precious and Up could all make a push. Should be interesting,

Who Should Win: Since Inglorious Basterds was my favorite film of 2009, obviously I am hoping it can pull off an upset. But I will be more than happy if The Hurt Locker wins this one.

Least of the Nominees: There is nothing really wrong with The Blind Side – it is a fine inspirational sports movie as far as that goes. But it is hardly in a class with the rest of this field – as even my least favorite of the remaining films (Precious) is much better.

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