It’s that time of year again; when the big-time Hollywood players gather together, cameras and media interviewers in tow, for some lovely communal back-patting, handing out golden statuettes to the last year’s recipients of critical praise and mass adulation.
This year, most of the commentary concerning the forthcoming Academy Awards ceremony has revolved around the assumed battle that’s on between former husband and wife James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, whose films are the front-runners for the big awards — and whose names may well be engraved on that coveted Best Director prize. I’d argue the more important news with regards to the Oscars should be “Up’s” breakthrough into the Best Picture running, further evidence of Pixar’s stranglehold on the Best Animated Feature section, a win set in stone by the very fact the film’s in with the live-actioners. Or maybe Quentin Tarantino’s deserved recognition should be more talked about.
Whatever the case, I may be the most indifferent towards the Oscars machine of any of this website’s writing team, but if that won’t stop Mo’Nique, it shouldn’t stop me. Here are my winner predictions (for the bigger prizes anyway), with slight reasoning:
Nominees: “Avatar,” “The Blind Side,” “District 9,” “An Education,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Precious,” “A Serious Man,” “Up,” “Up in the Air”
Winner: “The Hurt Locker”
As Rob Humanick reasons, the new voting process plus the added number of candidates could potentially pave the way for one of the underdogs (“Inglourious Basterds” or “Up in the Air”) to claim victory, but I suspect even under the new voting structure being utilised for this point-scoring it’ll again come down to a battle between two front-runners. “The Hurt Locker” or “Avatar,” then. I’ll plump for the former – dare I say the latter would be too popular for the Academy voters?
Nominees: Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”), James Cameron (“Avatar”), Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
Winner: Kathryn Bigelow
I’d love for Tarantino to scoop this, but this battle’s clearly to be waged between Cameron and Bigelow and, since this prize would seem to belong to the helmer of the conquering film, I’d expect Bigelow to win out over Jimmy.
Nominees: Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”), George Clooney (“Up in the Air”), Colin Firth (“A Single Man”), Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”), Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”)
Winner: Jeff Bridges
If the ballots reflected friendship within the Hollywood community, George Clooney would probably be taking a certain bald man home with him. Alas, many have said that Clooney’s lucked-out in getting a role that was written like, well, George Clooney. Bridges, on the other hand, is a great actor – and, additionally, seems to have the momentum to land the little guy.
Nominees: Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”), Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”), Carey Mulligan (“An Education”), Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”), Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”)
Winner: Sandra Bullock
If Meryl Streep were to have played Anthony Hopkins’ comatose wife in “Fracture,” she might well have been nominated. Such is the clout of the aging fave that merely showing up on-set seems to have critics reflexively demanding recognition. I haven’t cared for any of her recent work, something that can’t be said for the underrated Sandra Bullock. Not only was 2009 the year she proved her box office appeal, it was the year in which she played a middle-aged white woman who brought success to a troubled black youth. A lock?
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Nominees: “Coraline,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “The Secret of Kells,” “Up”
Currently on-release, “The Secret of Kells” has inspired viewers and critics alike to suggest it as something of a dark horse here, but I think not. Even if Henry Selick’s “Coraline” more ably mixes the melancholic with the adventurous and even if “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is just plain smarter and funnier, “Up” is walking this one.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”), Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”), Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”)
Winner: Christoph Waltz
Maybe it’s just the circles that I move in, but wasn’t Stanley Tucci’s turn in “The Lovely Bones” on the receiving end of mockery and damnation. Still, it’s nominated – but it sure as hell isn’t winning. Matt Damon was robbed when his sterling work in “Team America” went unnoticed, but to give this prize to anyone other than “Inglourious’s” Waltz would be theft in and of itself (not to mention the biggest surprise ever). Like the Heath Ledger effect repeated, Waltz’s glory is a certainty.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Penelope Cruz (“Nine”), Vera Farmiga (“Up in the Air”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”), Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”), Mo’Nique (“Precious”)
Get the hankies at the read, for another acceptance speech sermon is en route. Penelope Cruz might be everybody’s favorite Latin thespian, Maggie Gyllenhaal may be the ultimate regular supporting actress, Anna Kendrick may have broken free of the “Twilight” stigma and Vera Farmiga might well have a sweet butt, but as Mary in Lee Daniels’ “Precious” Mo’Nique is an all-consuming, all-destroying monster. She. Will. Win.
Nominees: Mauro Fiore (“Avatar”), Christian Berger (“The White Ribbon”), Bruno Delbonnel (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”), Barry Ackroyd (“The Hurt Locker”), Robert Richardson (“Inglourious Basterds”)
Winner: Robert Richardson (“Inglourious Basterds”)
I’m tempted to anticipate a win for “Avatar” in this one, but I guess I’ve got to let my heart rule over my head for at least one of these predictions. You could freeze-frame and take a pristine shot from about every minute of QT’s film and I could look at the thing all day. The visuals here have a lasting impression: you’ll never get Melanie Laurent’s demise out of your head.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”), Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”), Allesandro Camon and Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”), The Coens (“A Serious Man”), Bob Peterson and Thomas McCarthy (“Up”)
Winner: Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”)
Torn between two of the contenders (“The Hurt Locker”; and “Inglourious Basterds”) I’ll again go in the direction I’d personally be inclined to vote: QT’s script. “The Hurt Locker’s” charge towards Best Pic gives it a fighting chance but even though I thought “Inglourious Basterds” amounted to slightly less than the sum of its parts, it’s splendidly well-written in terms of individually great scenes scattered throughout.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nominees: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (“District 9”), Nick Hornby (“An Education”), Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche (“In the Loop”), Geoffrey Fletcher (“Precious”), Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (“Up in the Air”)
Winner: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (“Up in the Air”)
“In the Loop” is consistently hysterical from opening credits to closing credits, but such comic brilliance is unfortunate to have been blessed with a nomination in this of all years. “Up in the Air” is precisely the kind of film that makes the Academy’s voters want to hug themselves, so even when “In the Loop” can lay claim to hysterical threats of shin murder it’s climbing a steep, steep hill.
. . .
Follow Tom Elce on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tom_elce.