Friday, January 21, 2011

Final Oscar Nominations Predictions

The Academy will release its Oscar nominations next Tuesday, so it really comes down to this. Pretty soon, we’ll forget who won what awards earlier in the season, because the truth of the matter is this – the only one that really matters is the Oscars. Sure, it’s nice to win the other awards, but I think most people who trade a Golden Globe win for an Oscar nomination. It just means more. I put more thought and effort into the main categories – Picture, Director, Acting and Writing – then the others, because honestly, sometimes those ones can be impossible to predict until they come out.

Anyway, here is how I see things shaking out.

Best Picture
I feel quite confident that the top 9 year are going to make the cut this year. The real question is whether #10 or the 11th Man makes it in – I go back and forth nearly every day, so perhaps you’re best just to flip a coin.

1. The Social Network – Has been locked since it was released in October, and has kept the heat all season. Is desperately waiting for Phase 2 to begin to try and push for the win.
2. The King’s Speech - Perhaps the most widely liked film in the competition – the passion isn’t quite there, but it seems impossible that it misses.
3. Toy Story 3 – Has taken taken over what is now known as the Pixar slot in the era of 10 nominees. Huge hit, financially and critically, they’d look dumb not to nominate it.
4. The Fighter – Is settling in nicely for the studio, who will push hard for some acting wins, but I’m not sure they’ll try to win here – the nomination will be nice.
5. Black Swan – The people who love it, really really love it and that will make up for all the haters in the nominating round.
6. Inception – Christopher Nolan is partly responsible for getting the Academy to move to 10 nominees because they looked like idiots not nominating The Dark Knight. Two years later, they will not overlook him again.
7. True Grit – I am truly surprised how much this film has been embraced by audiences – a true hit film. The critics love it as well, so it gets in.
8. The Kids Are All Right – They need an indie film in here somewhere, and The Kids Are All Right feels like the safe choice here – liberal Hollywood can pat themselves on the back.
9. 127 Hours – Has turned many people off from even seeing it because they know what is coming. Those who have seen it like it through, so I think it sneaks into the top 10.
10. Winter’s Bone – I think the Academy is going to go with this film – they already have enough audience friendly genre pieces, but I think they’ll want to add another indie to the mix.
The 11th Man: The Town – Everyone likes The Town – I’m just not sure enough people really, truly love it enough to get it into the top 10.
Dark Horse: Blue Valentine – The Oscar campaign started slow, but has been building. If they’ve convinced enough people to watch it, perhaps it slides up.

Best Director
I really do think the top 4 are all but locked, but I have a feeling I could easily be wrong about number 5 – and that perhaps some real long shot – like Mike Leigh, Derek Cianfrance or Martin Scorsese somehow pulls off a nomination. It’s been that kind of year.

1. David Fincher, The Social Network – Fincher has been your frontrunner all season, and he remains firmly planted in the lead. Just waiting for Phase 2 to start so he can lock in the win.
2. Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan – The people who love Black Swan, really love, and it is a director’s showcase, from a filmmaker who has come close but never broken through with the Academy before.
3. Christopher Nolan, Inception – They must feel silly about not nominating The Dark Knight, and I do not believe they will make the same mistake twice.
4. Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech – Has surprised me as he has consistently showed up all season for a film I thought the directors may not embrace. Looking solid right now though.
5. Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit – When choosing between well loved filmmakers who have won before and a blowhard trying to make amends, picked the well loved past winners.
The 6th Man: David O. Russell, The Fighter – His reputation hurts him a little, but could easily move up and supplant the Coens or even Hooper.
Dark Horse: Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone – They gave a woman the Oscar last year, so why not nominate another one?

Best Actor
You can count on the top 4, and I feel very strongly that my number 5 is correct – although I felt just as strongly about my number 5 a month ago, and it was someone different.

1. Colin Firth, The King’s Speech- Was dutiful and gracious last year, showing up everywhere even when he knew he was losing for A Single Man. He paid his dues, he gets the win this year most likely, so a nomination is assured.
2. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network – Has been a constant presence all season, and could become a real threat to upset if they push for it.
3. James Franco, 127 Hours – The one aspect constantly praised about 127 Hours is him – hosting will kill his chances to win though.
4. Jeff Bridges, True Grit – Last year’s victor is back and delivers one of the most enjoyable, memorable performances of the year. An easy nomination.
5. Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine – Going with my gut on this one. It seems to be gaining steam at the right time, and may easily get him into the race. He is a past nominee and that helps.
The 6th Man: Robert Duvall, Get Low – Has had a scattershot awards season – hitting and missing just about as often. The film has not really been embraced though, and he’s running a long distance race. I don’t think he squeezes in.
Dark Horse: Javier Bardem, Biutiful – Is probably really pissed at the studio, who have completely tanked his campaign this year – or would if he truly cared, and I’m not sure he does.

Best Actress
Unless there is an upset on the horizon, I feel secure in calling these five. Who else are they really going to go with – unless of course they take it on themselves and move Hailee Steinfeld here where she belongs.

1. Natalie Portman, Black Swan – Has been the one constant all season long. She even gets credit from those who hate the film.
2. Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right – A veteran working on her fourth nomination now – great, subtle work here.
3. Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone – The breakthrough star of the season, Lawrence has moved into locked status at this point.
4. Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole – The film has stumbled along the way for some reason, but Kidman’s presence has been there in practically every major award. It has been a while for the Academy favorite.
5. Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine – The film is gaining steam, and she truly is the heart and soul of the movie – unless they do not see it, she gets in.
The 6th Man: Lesley Manville, Another Year – Was once considered a lock, but has fallen on tough times this awards season. Perhaps she can break through – either here or in supporting.
Dark Horse: Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right – If the voters don’t bother to watch smaller films like Rabbit Hole, Blue Valentine or Another Year, who else can they vote for?

Best Supporting Actor
To me, this category seems to be waiting for a shocking inclusion this year, as it is far and away the weakest of the categories, and outside the top 2, no one has shown up with enough consistency this season to be called a lock. May we see a double nom for The Social Network, or at least a different actor from that film move up?

1. Christian Bale, The Fighter – With Batman he has become one of the biggest stars in the world – and they are always impressed with drug addicts and physical transformations, so I think Bale is your frontrunner – an easy nomination no doubt.
2. Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech – They truly do love Rush – even when they don’t love his film as much, and they really love The King’s Speech, so this is easy.
3. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network – The one character in the movie that you can actually feel sympathy towards for the entire film. He is also having a breakout year, so he looks solid.
4. Jeremy Renner, The Town – They nominated for The Hurt Locker last year, and really like his film this year. Also, the only real villain in a category where the past three winners played one.
5. Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right – One of those actors who have been on the cusp of being nominated for years now finally breaks through. Unless of course, he makes this performance look too easy.
The 6th Man: John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone – He just seems to stick around all awards season. As long as voters see the film, and remember his name, he has a real shot at moving up.
Dark Horse: Justin Timberlake/Armie Hamer, The Social Network – Timberlake nailed his role, making his character the personification of cool – right up to the point where he becomes a geek again. As the Winklevii twins, Hamer is also great, and memorable. Neither have shown up all that often this year, which makes me think Garfield will be the actor pulling off this nomination – but stranger things have happened (remember Marky Mark getting in for The Departed over Nicholson?)

Best Supporting Actress
Category confusion for two candidates here could make for a very interesting nomination day. Count on the top 3 though.

1. Melissa Leo, The Fighter – She has a lot of residual love for her work in Frozen River, and for sticking around in general. They love white trash roles.
2. Amy Adams, The Fighter – Sweet, adorable Amy Adams swears like Joe Pesci in GoodFellas in this film – fit that’s not enough, I don’t know what is.
3. Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech – Benefits from being the only woman in an Oscar frontrunner – and being damned charming in the film as well.
4. Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit – Would place high on this list, if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion that some voters will put her in the lead category – either meaning she gets nominated there, and get overlooked altogether.
5. Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom – Has had bloggers and critics beating the drum for her all season long – if they convinced voters to watch the film, I don’t see how they do not nominate her.
The 6th Man: Mila Kunis, Black Swan – On the cusp, waiting for Steinfeld to split her own vote, or hoping that no one saw Animal Kingdom. Would not surprise me to see her moved up.
Dark Horse: Lesley Manville, Another Year – The studio campaigned her as a lead, which looks to be a mistake. She shows up just as often in both categories, and really, there is no one else the Academy will be seriously looking at in this category.

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. The Social Network
2. Toy Story 3
3. Winter’s Bone
4. True Grit
5. 127 Hours
The 6th Man: The Town
Dark Horse: The Ghost Writer
Analysis: The Social Network will win this one without trying, so the other four are just going to settle for being nominated. I feel very good about Toy Story 3 and Winter’s Bone, but wonder if the Coen’s used too much dialogue from the book for them to get in for True Grit, and if 127 Hours is going to be seen as a triumph for Boyle and Franco and not the writer – making for The Town or even The Ghost Writer (which gets bonus points from me for having my favorite line of the year not in The Social Network - "He can't drown two ghost writers. You're not kittens") to sneak into play. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it could happen.

Best Original Screenplay
1. The King’s Speech
2. The Kids Are All Right
3. Inception
4. Black Swan
5. Another Year
The 6th Man: Blue Valentine
Dark Horse: The Fighter

Analysis: I see The King’s Speech winning this one pretty easily and The Kids Are All Right and Inception are fairly safe bets for nominations. I wonder is Black Swan is going to be seen as Portman/Aronofsky’s triumph, and therefore not get in. I’m betting that Another Year sneaks in here, because despite his writing style, Mike Leigh always gets in here. Blue Valentine could easily sneak in though, and if they like The Fighter enough, you never know.

Best Animated Film
1. Toy Story 3
2. How to Train Your Dragon
3. The Illusionist
The 4th Man: Despicable Me
Dark Horse: Tangled

Analysis: Only three films like year, and I guarantee you that Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon are two of them. The third spot is tricky, but I think that enough people are going to love The Illusionist to put it at number 1 – meaning it eeks out a nomination over Despicable Me and Tangled.

Best Documentary
1. Inside Job
2. Exit Through the Gift Shop
3. The Tillman Story
4. Waiting for Superman
5. Restrepo
The 6th Man: Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer
Dark Horse: Waste Land

Analysis: Seriously, this branch seems to be on crack at least half the time, so you never really know what they are going to do. I do feel safe in saying Inside Job and Exit Through the Gift Shop – easily the two most acclaimed docs of the year will be among the nominees. The Tillman Story seems to have enough support, but it’s not a lock. Waiting for Superman is a popular choice, so it should squeeze in. And that’s where it gets really interesting – I am going with Restrepo since it seems to show up more often than the others, but I think Client 9 could easily upset here. Waste Land is trying to be that feel good film that sneaks in – but it died a quick death at the box office, so I don’t know.

Best Foreign Film
1. Biutiful – Mexico
2. Incendies - Canada
3. In a Better World – Denmark
4. Life Above All – South Africa
5. Outside the Law - Algeria
The 6th Man: Dogtooth - Greece
Dark Horse: Confessions – Japan, Even the Rain – Spain, Simple Simon – Sweden

I decided to list all 9 of the finalists for this prize – which shocking left out Of Gods and Men from France, and not so shockingly left out Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives from Thailand. As it stands, I think Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu has the best shot at a win – they have liked all three of his previous films, but he remains Oscar-less, and as such he could win this year. Call me a biased if you want, but I think Canada’s entry is next on the list – I have heard great things about it, and hope to see it soon. Fresh off a Globe win, In a Better World looks strong for a nomination – and perhaps another win. I have heard good things about Life Above All, so it sneaks in as well, and since they have nominated him in the past, I’ll guess Outside the Law gets the fifth spot. I would love to see Dogtooth – the only of these 9 films I have seen – in the lineup, but it is so dark and strange, I am amazed it made it this far. I hear Confessions is really violent, not really a good thing for Academy types. And finally, I know nothing about Even the Rain or Simple Simon, which to me means they are the underdogs – and knowing my luck will end up nominees.

Best Cinematography
1. True Grit
2. Black Swan
3. Inception
4. The Social Network
5. 127 Hours
The 6th Man: The King’s Speech
Dark Horse: Shutter Island

Analysis: If Roger Deakins doesn’t finally win his Oscar this year for True Grit, I will be truly surprised. The work on Black Swan is exceptional however, and they have already shown a love for the work of Wally Pfister when working with Nolan, so Inception seems safe as well. Jeff Cronenweth was somewhat of a surprise nominee at the ASC, so I think The Social Network could squeeze in here. Something tells me that 127 Hours, snubbed at those same awards, get in though. The King’s Speech is lurking on the outside, and don’t be surprised if they go with one of their old favorites – Robert Richardson working with Martin Scorsese.

Best Editing
1. Black Swan
2. Inception
3. The Social Network
4. 127 Hours
5. The King’s Speech
The 6th Man: Shutter Island
Dark Horse: True Grit

Analysis: Normally, this lines up with Best Picture pretty well, so I have a feeling this year it will as well – with Black Swan, Inception and The Social Network seemingly pretty secure. 127 Hours has the rapid fire editing they like, and The King’s Speech is very well done. I wouldn’t be shocked though to see Thelma Schoonmaker’s great work on Shutter Island get in – or if they can look past the fact that it’s the Coens using a fake name, than True Grit has a shot as well.

Best Art Direction
1. The King’s Speech
2. True Grit
3. Alice in Wonderland
4. Inception
5. Black Swan
The 6th Man: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Dark Horse: Robin Hood

Analysis: This branch has never been all that surprising – they like English period pieces (The King’s Speech), Westerns (True Grit) and Tim Burton fantasies (Alice in Wonderland) so those three are pretty much assured. I’m not quite so sure about Inception and Black Swan – both very worthy, but not quite the genres they embrace. If they play it safer, than Harry Potter and Robin Hood could sneak in.

Best Costume Design
1. The King’s Speech
2. Alice in Wonderland
3. Black Swan
4. True Grit
5. The Fighter
The 6th Man: Burlesque
Dark Horse: The Tempest

Analysis: This is one branch that doesn’t seem to care much about the rest of the Oscars – and they often go their own way. This year though, I think that could be hard – The King’s Speech, Black Swan and True Grit seem like surefire nominees. Alice in Wonderland is the type of fantasy they always love. The Fighter has very specific 1990s work, but I wonder if it’s flashy enough. If they really decide to go outside the box, watch for Burlesque or The Tempest to sneak in.

Best Score
1. The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
2. Inception – Hans Zimmer
3. How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
4. 127 Hours – A.R. Rahman
5. The Social Network – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The 6th Man: Never Let Me Go – Rachel Portman
Dark Horse: Alice in Wonderland – Danny Elfman

Analysis: This branch has its head up its ass most of the time. This year, they disqualified True Grit for using hymns in its score, and Black Swan because of its ballet music but not The King’s Speech for using classical musical by Beethoven during its climax. They do such strange things, that I never have a clue what the hell is going to get in. I’d bet on these five – yes even Trent Reznor for The Social Network even though he is the type of musician this branch usually scoffs at, but seriously, I don’t have a clue.

Best Song
1. Tangled – I See the Light
2. Toy Story 3 – We Belong Together
3. Country Strong – Coming Home
4. Burlesque – You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me
5. Waiting for Superman – Shine
The 6th Man: 127 Hours – If I Rise
Dark Horse: Despicable Me – Despicable Me

Analysis: Another wacky branch. There could be 3 nominees, there could be five, they could go with songs by major stars, or from small, obscure French films we didn't even know existed. We never really know until they are announced. They seem to have no reason for their nominating choices, so every year I just guess based on what has come before, and I hope I get some right. Truly the most useless of all Oscar categories.

Best Sound Mixing
1. Inception
2. Black Swan
3. Toy Story 3
4. How to Train Your Dragon
5. True Grit
The 6th Man: TRON: Legacy
Dark Horse: The Social Network

Analysis: For those who do not know, Sound Mixing is EVERYTHING you hear in a movie. The Academy tends to like loud Action Movies and animated films, but I think they’ll have a hard time overlooking the horror work on Black Swan this year. And don’t be surprised if The Social Network, which has excellent work, sneaks in.

Best Sound Editing
1. Inception
2. Toy Story 3
3. How to Train Your Dragon
4. Tron: Legacy
5. Unstoppable
The 6th Man: Shutter Island
Dark Horse: Iron Man 2

Analysis: Sound Editing are the sounds effects that are added to a movie – not the complete mix, just the added components. Again, loud, action and animation make up your nominees here most of the time.

Best Make-Up
1. Alice in Wonderland
2. The Wolf Man
3. Barney’s Version
The 4th Man: The Fighter
Dark Horse: True Grit

Analysis: By necessity it seems every year, some of the nominees in this category are horrible films that show up nowhere else in the lineup – there just aren’t as many films using makeup and not CGI these days. Having said that, they usually nominate Burton films, and the love werewolf movies, so look for Alice and Wolf Man to be in. They also tend to slide a more dramatic entry into the lineup – so I’m guessing that the great old age makeup using throughout Barney’s Version gets in instead of the bloody work of The Fighter or the Western feel of True Grit – but seriously, they go anyway.

Best Visual Effects
1. Inception
2. TRON: Legacy
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
4. Alice in Wonderland
5. Iron Man 2
The 6th Man: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Dark Horse: Hereafter

Analysis: Doesn’t it seem kind of silly to narrow the list down to seven contenders a month before the nominations come out – and then nominate five of them? Anyway, I think Scott Pilgrim’s in your face style will turn them off, and unless they really, really like that tsunami in Hereafter, they are the one being left out.

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