It’s that magical time of the year, when trophies are handed out from this society and that, but we’re finally onto the gold standard, the little man that means the most: the Oscars. And this year is no exception, with some sweeping steps in the dimensions of cinema vying with each other for Academy recognition. Let’s take a look at the nominees for the awards I actually care about, and let’s make some predictions:
- In contention for Best Picture we have:
- An Education, whose major theme appears to be “Blockbusting;”
- A Serious Man, which like all Coen Brothers movies is defies classification in a single sentence, but if I had to try, I’d say it’s about the most interesting nebbish you’ve ever met;
- Avatar, about the White Man’s Burden as it exists in the future on other planets;
- The Blind Side, about the same, this time in modern middle-class America;
- District 9, which is about apartheid, but with extra-terrestrials;
- The Hurt Locker, about a soldier who loves dismantling bombs more than his own family;
- Inglourious Basterds, which is a revisionist, nazi-killing, romp that questions if terrorism is ever justified;
- Precious,which sounds to be about the most schadenfreude-fueled, feel good movie of the year (and we have The Blind Side on the list);
- Up is about two adorable little people, one old and one young, who learn to love each other, but the DVD released without subtitles, so screw their feel-good antics; and lastly;
- Up in the Air is a tale of a man with no time for life on the ground, which seems to have a happy ending without the middle of the film making me want to kill myself.
These are some seriously hard choices and there doesn’t appear to be a definitive winner looking over the list. Last time James Cameron directed a movie (1997) it won Best Picture (Titanic), but by putting another CGI affair on the list (Up) they’re practically slapping the new technology Cameron created over the past decade-and-change in the face. The past three years the Best Picture award went to Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, and The Departed, so no discernible pattern except for firsts (in reverse order: first Scorcese win, first Coen Brothers’ directorial win, first Bollywood win), so here are the possibilities: if either Avatar or District 9 win, it’ll make for the first sci-fi Best Picture win, if Up wins it’ll be the first Animated Best Picture win, and there’s always of course a chance to go the Scorcese route and give both Picture and Director to Tarantino, giving him his first Oscar in those two categories. That last scenario’s the one I’m rooting for, personally, but there’s truly too much competition (what with the nominees expanded to ten for crying out loud) to call it.
- Since that first category’s the big one, and the others are just gravy filling out the night, let’s run through the next few briskly, shall we? For Best Actor they’ve nominated:
- Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
- George Clooney, Up in the Air
- Colin Firth, A Single Man
- Morgan Freeman, Invictus
- Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
The last three years saw the award going to Sean Penn (Milk), Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), and Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), so the trend tends to be drifting toward “based on a true story,” hence a guess from me for Morgan Freeman for the role of Nelson Mandela if it went to trend. However, I’ve heard phenomenal things about Bridges’ performance so I think the Academy may break from the mold and give it to the country singer with a heart of gold.
- For Best Actress we’ve got these bevvies to choose from:
- Sandra Bullock, for The Blind Side
- Helen Mirren, The Last Station
- Carey Mulligan, An Education
- Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
- Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Kate Winslet (The Reader), Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), and Helen Mirren(The Queen) took the prize in the three years previous, so this tells us nothing except that the Academy likes English and French chicks. I’m calling it for Helen Mirren in that the award’s been given to actresses in (semi-)biopic films for the past four years (year before that it went to Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line).
- Best Director we’ve got these greats:
- Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
- James Cameron, Avatar
- Lee Daniels, Precious
- Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
- Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Because in the past three years Best Director has also won Best Picture [Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men) and Martin Scorcese (The Departed)], I’m calling it wistfully for Tarantino.
- For Best Original Screenplay, there’s these gems:
- Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
- Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
- Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
- Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
- Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
I’m sorry, it doesn’t get any more original in Hollywood than a guy’s life getting severely screwed up by a dybbuk, so the award, in my head, goes to those nice Coen boychicks.
- Best Adapted Screenplay distinguishes these films:
- Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
- Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
- Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
- Nick Hornby, An Education
- Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Oddly, the past three years, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay went to the same films. Since that’s not an option this year (unless they all go to Up In the Air) I’d give it to District 9, particularly considering that the adaptation from the original short film by the same writers came way shy budget-wise from a usual blockbuster film, and because sci-fi’s never taken this award before and it’s about time that changed. Also, as my good friend Mark points out, “Where the fuck’s The Road?”
- Best Animated Film I hope goes to:
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The Princess and the Frog
- The Secret of Kells
Because Neil Gaiman deserves pretty much any award you’ve got to offer.
- Best Cinematography I presume will go to:
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- The Hurt Locker
- Inglourious Basterds
- The White Ribbon
This is due, primarily, to the fact that the film is supposedly unsurpassed cinematically in awe and beauty, and required new technologies to get there. Sure, I’ll give that to Cameron, but someone pop that over-inflated ego before it kills us all.
- Best Make-up, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound-Mixing, and Best Sound Editing I usually couldn’t give a rat’s patooty about, but there’s one contender that’s in these categories that isn’t anywhere else, which really deserves to be, and that’s Star Trek. J.J. Abrams’ masterpiece ought to have had The White Ribbon‘s spot on Best Cinematography and/or The Messenger‘s spot on Best Original Screenplay and/or Eric Bana should have had Woody Harrelson’s spot for Best Supporting Actor. Whatever, we’ll let it slide, Academy, so long as Star Trek takes the gold in all these categories. It’s not even worth mentioning the other candidates, but here’s the rundown in case you were wondering.
Be sure to leave your own picks in the comments section, and tune in to ABC on Sunday March 7th, 2010 (8PM Eastern/5Pm Pacific) for the actual results.