Sunday, March 7, 2010

Final Predictions and Reflections

Predictions Overview

Picture: The Hurt Locker
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Actor: Jeff Bridges
Actress: Carey Mulligan
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique
Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds
Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Animated Film: Up
Documentary Film: The Cove
Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: The White Ribbon
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Original Score: Up
Original Song: Crazy Heart
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Sound Editing: Avatar
Visual Effects: Avatar
Makeup: The Young Victoria


As I write this, I’m sitting in at the Atlanta airport en route to Los Angeles. I’m enjoying the fact that I have scenes from “Up in the Air” running through my head as I watch people come and go. Truth be told, I feel a little like Ryan Bingham – I’m evading going home for Spring Break because I’m traveling across the country for work.

Of course, part of my week in LA will involve an attempt to get within 500 yards of the red carpet tomorrow afternoon. It may be the only time I’m in LA at the same time as the Oscars, and I’m also smiling at this Oscars being one of the biggest, most important I’ve watched…potentially since 2005. I’ll be watching the ceremony from an LA hotel room eight miles from the Kodak, LiveBlogging and enjoying the broadcast with my research partner.

For me to say anything more about what’s “at stake” in these Oscars or to try and frame them in a grand contextual scheme is reductive. I wrote nearly 2,000 words on it for The Daily Gamecock on Friday. Scroll down to read it. When this dust storm settles, I’ll be able to more precisely say why everything happened the way it did.

Hindsight is always 20/20. For the present, my vision is very cloudy. Some seasoned Oscar predictors think they have this year pretty much figured out. I say, impossible. This race can’t be figured out. There are too many variables, the least of which is historical precedent, the greatest of which is the preferential balloting system. These are my thoughts and my wishes for who will win and who should win.

I don’t think I’ll win my Oscar pool this year. It just doesn’t feel likely. This is the best I can do, though. I’ll say this much for those in my pool, even those who have yet to submit your ballots: the Oscars are not about 21 separate categories. They are about one award with 21 different facets. There is ALWAYS a larger picture and a recognizable pattern. You just have to be willing to look for it

Best Picture

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Inglourious Basterds
Spoiler: Inglourious Basterds

Reasoning: Statistics align behind The Hurt Locker. The winner of the Golden Globe has gone on to win the Oscar only once in the last five years (“Slumdog Millionaire,” a steamroller movie). Avatar doesn’t have the heat, and it doesn’t have the nominations (no screenplay or acting. An instant kill). It doesn’t have Guild wins, so it doesn’t have underlying industry support. The only thing that could help it win is that damn e-mail scandal. But thinking about statistics and patterns, “Inglourious Basterds” is really the best fit to go with how the Academy has recently voted – a mid-level success, an independent film, a renowned producer, an esteemed director, a very stylish film that can be both enjoyed and thought about (in this way, it really is similar to The Departed, No Country for Old Men, and Slumdog Millionaire).
But what about historic revisionism, you say? Won’t the Academy revolt against a film that so shamelessly recasts WWII into an epic revenge fantasy? Well, there was one other time in recent history where they awarded a piece of blatant revisionism – Shakespeare in Love, which upset a polished war film in a Picture/Director split. What I’m saying to you is this: if I had more balls, I’d predict Basterds to burn the house down. But I’m trying to win a pool, and I have to rely on statistics.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow
Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow
Spoiler: James Cameron

Reasoning: With the Directors Guild and a groundswell of support for her film, Bigelow should have this award locked up. The only reason she might not win – sexism. Yep, I went there. No female director has ever won this award. A win for James Cameron isn’t a win for James Cameron (he already has an Oscar; very few directors have more than one), it would be on par with Crash beating Brokeback.

Best Actor

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

Will Win: Jeff Bridges
Should Win: Jeremy Renner
Spoiler: Jeremy Renner

Reasoning: It’s Jeff Bridges time. This is a “career vote” for a very typical performance. It’s an Oscar performance given by a respected actor who’s never won. The only upsets I see are Colin Firth because he’s ALSO a respected actor who’s never won – he’s just British – and Jeremy Renner if they pull a Hurt Locker sweep (see also: The Pianist. Only difference there, Nicholson and Day-Lewis had already won; Brody was the exciting newcomer). I also can’t deny Renner’s been charming the pants off everyone while campaigning for his film.

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Will Win: Carey Mulligan
Should Win: Carey Mulligan
Spoiler: Sandra Bullock/Meryl Streep

Reasoning: I can’t physically bring myself to put Sandra Bullock down. I also think this race is incredibly close. Think about it: Bullock and Streep tie at the Critics Choice. They both win a Globe. Bullock wins the SAG. Mulligan wins the BAFTA. Yes, Mulligan’s British, so she had the home-field advantage, but a lot of people pointed at The Blind Side’s Picture nom as a sign it had enough support to award Bullock. Sorry, but An Education has a BP nod too. This is a category I probably won’t get right, but no guts no glory.

Best Supporting Actor

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Will Win: Christoph Waltz
Should Win: Christoph Waltz
Spoiler: Woody Harrelson

Reasoning: Waltz has won everything. Harrelson is a respected actor who had a great, diverse year. If anyone’s going to upset, it’s him.

Best Supporting Actress

Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo’Nique, Precious

Will Win: Mo’Nique
Should Win: Anna Kendrick
Spoiler: Anna Kendrick

Reasoning: She’s won everything. It’s the place they will choose to award Precious.

Best Original Screenplay

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Up

Will Win: Inglourious Basterds
Should Win: Inglourious Basterds
Spoiler: The Hurt Locker

Reasoning: A lot of people think The Hurt Locker will win because it won the WGA and the BAFTA. I don’t buy it. BAFTA was a sweep. Tarantino was disqualified from the WGA because he’s not a guild member. Basterds is a more “written” film than the Hurt Locker, so unless there’s a sweep brewing I don’t see how Tarantino loses.

Best Adapted Screenplay

District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Precious
Up in the Air

Will Win: Up in the Air
Should Win: Up in the Air
Spoiler: Precious

Reasoning: This is where they award Up in the Air. It’s won virtually all screenplay awards prior to this. Only if they dramatically go for Precious can it lose.

Best Animated Film

Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

Will Win: Up
Should Win: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Spoiler: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Reasoning: The only way Pixar loses if it voters don’t want to vote for it for both Picture and Animated Feature – and foolishly decide to vote for it in Picture. I doubt it.

Best Documentary

Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America
Which Way Home

Will Win: The Cove
Should Win: N/A
Spoiler: Food, Inc.

Reasoning: The Cove is the most highly acclaimed and the most innovative of the bunch. Food, Inc. is arguably more timely.

Best Foreign Language Film

Ajami
El Secreto de Sus Ojos
The Milk of Sorrow
Un Prophete
The White Ribbon

Will Win: The White Ribbon
Should Win: The White Ribbon
Spoiler: Un Prophete

Reasoning: Un Prophete is more popular. It racked up at the French Academy. The White Ribbon is a more cerebral and more difficult work. I’ve also heard a lot of people say El Secreto de Sus Ojos stands a good chance of winning this. I can’t say. It’s really hard to predict this category, especially since you’re not allowed to vote unless you see all five. I have to cast my hat in Haneke’s favor simply because of how renowned he is, but White Ribbon and Prophete are fighting to the death. Secreto can easily take a surprise win.

Best Art Direction

Avatar
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Will Win: Avatar
Should Win: The Imaginarium of the Doctor Parnassus
Spoiler: Sherlock Holmes

Reasoning: Avatar built an entire planet. The sheer conceptual work behind it should elevate it. If they want more traditional period stuff, Sherlock Holmes can win. Both won separate Art Directors Guild award.

Best Cinematography

Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

Will Win: The White Ribbon
Should Win: The White Ribbon
Spoiler: The Hurt Locker

Reasoning: Anyone can win this category. They usually go for the most traditionally pretty film. Avatar is mostly visual effects, so I can’t see them voting for it. Hurt Locker is compellingly shot, but it’s very “dirty.” Inglourious Basterds is the most composed next to White Ribbon – the latter won the ASC, but it’s hard to tell if they’ll go for it. Because it’s black and white and very beautiful, I give it the vote. But seriously, this race is really wide open.

Best Costume Design

Bright Star
Coco Avant Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria

Will Win: The Young Victoria
Should Win: Bright Star
Spoiler: Coco Avant Chanel

Reasoning: Victoria is classy period costumes, which they love. And it won the Costume Designers Guild.

Best Film Editing

Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious

Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: The Hurt Locker
Spoiler: District 9

Reasoning: The only one I can’t see winning here is Precious. More often than not, the “most edited” film wins, and with the Hurt Locker’s sustained sequences with lots of quick cutting, it’s far more noticeable than Avatar or Inglourious Basterds. It’s also just really well edited.

Best Original Score

Avatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up

Will Win: Up
Should Win: Up
Spoiler: Sherlock Holmes

Reasoning: Best score of the bunch, has won most previous awards. In a year of really weak scores, it stands out.

Best Original Song

Princess and the Frog, Almost There
Princess and the Frog, Down in New Orleans
Paris 36
Nine
Crazy Heart

Will Win: Crazy Heart
Should Win: Crazy Heart
Spoiler: Nine

Reasoning: It’s the only good song nominated?

Best Sound Mixing

Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: The Hurt Locker
Spoiler: Avatar

Reasoning: This is really just because Hurt Locker won the Cinema Audio Society. Avatar could very easily win both sound awards. This also plays into my broader idea that the Academy will largely reject Avatar.

Best Sound Editing

Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

Will Win: Avatar
Should Win: Star Trek
Spoiler: Up

Reasoning: Both Avatar and Up scored at Motion Picture Sound Editors awards, and the Academy has a history of giving sound awards to a) big action movies, b) musicals, c) animated movies. I think it’s weird Up is nominated here, and is the only film that’s not a carryover from Sound Mixing. Does that make a difference?

Best Visual Effects

Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

Will Win: Avatar
Should Win: Avatar
Spoiler: District 9

Reasoning: The whole movie is a visual effect. For Avatar not to win this award would be the night’s greatest upset.

Best Makeup

Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria

Will Win: The Young Victoria
Should Win: Star Trek
Spoiler: Star Trek

Reasoning: A lot of people are thinking Trek will win this as a consolation prize. I don’t really think the Academy sees Star Trek as a movie they have to reward. Victoria is the classier, showier piece. It also has the same number of noms as Star Trek overall.

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