Oscarpalooza: Previews and Predictions

Even though Cablevision’s dispute with ABC means that I, along with several other million people in the NY-NJ area, will not be able to watch the Oscars, NPI’s Oscarpalooza carries on with previews and predictions. Of course, I am not a movie critic and, thus, have not seen all the movies nominated. Nor do I care about the majority of awards. So much of what makes the Academy Awards interesting to casual movie fans, though, is how a cottage industry of diviners and predictive pseudo-sciences has sprung up in response to the awards. Thanks to innumerable “Best Of” lists and predictive “secondary” awards like the SAGs or the Golden Globes, most people feel like they have a good idea of, say, Meryl Streep’s performance in Julie & Julia, whether or not they have seen it. Sifting through the critical white noise has become something of an art, and I’m offering my services so that those of you who would rather not watch Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin chaperone a four-hour self-congratulatory love-fest (or those of you who have Cablevision and simply have no choice), don’t have to watch to see who wins the eight major awards.

8 ) Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

  • District 9
  • An Education
  • In The Loop
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • Up in the Air

John’s Take: I don’t know much about In The Loop, a satire of Anglo-American diplomatic relations, other than that the preview looks intriguing. I guess you could say I’ve been out of the loop on In The Loop, which doesn’t bode well for its chances. As for the writer of Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Geoffrey Fletcher), I think the main strike against him is that awful subtitle. This category is actually pretty easy to call: Up in the Air will win because it’s a movie reliant on it story and its dialogue; also, it has received a lot of buzz, but won’t win anything major.

7) Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • The Messenger
  • A Serious Man
  • Up

John’s Take: This is a tough one for me. Two of my favorite films of the year, whose scripts were particularly exciting—Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man—are nominated against each other. Not only that, I’ve been a big fan of both writers—Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers—for a while now. Mark Boal’s nomination for The Hurt Locker is interesting now, not only because of the lawsuit recently filed against him, but because the script is really one of the least compelling things about that movie. The Messenger is an interesting dark horse candidate for this award, but I think it really comes down to the Coen Brothers vs. Tarantino. In truth, as much as I love Tarantino and Inglourious Basterds, the award should probably go to the Coens, if only for this scene. With that said, I think Tarantino will be the winner.

6) 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: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

John’s Take: Nine was a terrible movie. It wasn’t really Penelope Cruz’s fault, but still—you shouldn’t win an award for a bad movie. Kendrick and Farmiga probably cancel each other out, since they are nominated for the same film. All the attention in this category has gone to Mo’Nique’s performance, and there is the whole Oscar bias in favor of actresses playing ugly and despicable characters. This is an easy call for Mo’Nique.

5) 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

John’s Take: Another easy prediction in the “supporting” realm: Waltz’s performance in Tarantino’s movie was superb and he’s won most other awards this season. I can’t definitively say “he deserves it” since I haven’t seen the other films, but it’s hard to imagine a better performance than his. He’ll win.

4) Best Actress

Nominees:

  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

John’s Take: This is the toughest one for me to call. Do they go with another fat black chick? Do they go with Sandra Bullock’s popular, feel-good performance? Do they give it to Meryl Streep just because she’s Meryl Streep? I really have no confidence in this pick, but I’m going to go with Bullock, just because she had such a big year—Oscar voters shouldn’t take things like this into consideration, but they almost certainly do—and got such good reviews for the movie.

3) Best Actor

Nominees:

  • Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney, Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

John’s Take: It seems to me like Clooney and Freeman were nominated largely based on name and prestige. I didn’t see either film, so this reflects the responses to the performances, rather than the performances themselves, but neither one seemed to get much buzz at the time of release. Invictus was a highly anticipated movie that failed to gain as much traction as its pedigree and promotion warranted—the nominations for Damon and Freeman seem like consolation prizes more than anything. Clooney, on the other hand, was a very important part of a very successful movie, but not a lot of the praise was directed at his role in particular. Renner, meanwhile, gave a solid performance in a critically beloved film, but his role was only that—solid. That leaves Bridges, the Golden Globe winner and the front-runner, and Firth. This is where the Academy will probably differ from the Golden Globes, and reward Firth for a film with less widespread appeal (only $12 million gross), but with more critical praise.

2) Best Director

Nominees

  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
  • Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

John’s Take: As much as I loved Tarantino’s work in Inglourious Basterds, this is a two-horse race between a former married couple: Cameron and Bigelow. Cameron won the Golden Globe and his work with special effects in Avatar was truly stunning. With that said, Bigelow made a much better film, and the directing was the main reason her film was so good. It was both technically impressive and subtly moving. This is a very close one, but I believe the Academy will recognize true quality lies in more than just knowing how to shoot make-believe: Bigelow will win.

1) Best Picture

Nominees:

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

John’s Take: I don’t know if there has ever been a year in which I’ve seen every film nominated for Best Picture in time for the awards, and the recent expansion of the category has made it even harder. I got to four this year, and three of my omissions—The Blind Side, District 9, and Up—don’t seem like serious contenders anyway. If it were up to me, I’d be choosing between Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man. Those two films were by far my favorites of the year, and I don’t think you can really go wrong with either of them (I’d probably give the edge to the Coen Brothers once again, but I’m not 100% on that). Unfortunately, neither of those films will win. Once again, this category comes down to Avatar and The Hurt Locker (I’d give Up in the Air an outside chance, but very outside). It’s kind of a David vs. Goliath match-up, with the super successful, multi-billion dollar blockbuster going against the small, daring, critically beloved independent film. I’m also inclined to portray it as Good vs. Evil, since The Hurt Locker was pretty good and Avatar fucking sucked.

I’m going to go with The Hurt Locker for a couple of reasons. The first is one that’s been floating around for a while now: The new Oscar voting system hurts Avatar. Since Avatar has been somewhat polarizing, it will register low on a lot of ballots, while coming in at #1 on a lot as well. If no film has a majority of #1s—which is somewhat unlikely with 10 nominees—then the #2 choice on peoples’ ballots becomes important. The Hurt Locker is much more likely to be #2 or #3 on the ballots of those who were less favorable towards it than Avatar, which has many vocal detractors.

The other reason to pick The Hurt Locker is sheer optimism. I want to believe that the Academy will see through James Cameron’s $300 million pile of mediocrity. I’d rather leave my daughter at a party chaperoned by Ben Roethlisberger than watch Cameron give another acceptance speech (although, once again, I won’t be watching, thanks to ABC and Cablevision’s feud). I may be picking with my heart more than my head on this one, but I’m really rooting for the ex-wife in this one.

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One response to this post.

  1. [...] tonight is going to stop me from offering predictions and analysis, they were wrong. Dead wrong. Like last year (when I was 5/8), we’re sticking with the eight major [...]

    Reply

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