Friday, March 5, 2010


It's that time of year again. The time of year where I feel like a complete and utter failure of a film fan. It seems no matter how hard I try I never end up seeing all of the films nominated for an Academy Award each year. I consider myself to be a fairly aggressive film fan, but every year there are always a few films up for the award that I miss because of time constraints or pure laziness. I feel extra ashamed this year - I have not seen any of the films nominated for Best Actress performances.

That being said, I'm still going to give my two cents on every major category, whether you like it or not. I'll be assessing each category like so: I'll list all the films in each and then tell you what will win, give my opinion on what should win, and then I'll throw in what film I think would be a pleasant surprise if it wins.

Here we go.

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

Much has been made of the Academy's decision to expand the Best Picture category to ten nominees instead of the usual five. This is not new - for the first ten years of the awards existence there were ten nominees. The last year to feature that many films up for the award was 1943. Some folks believe it cheapens the award - after all, now there's a chance that a pure genre flick like District 9 can be nominated alongside hefty dramatic fare like Precious. Believe it or not, I think these folks are right: ten nominees cheapens the category. That's because we live in a world where people consider genre pictures (horror, science fiction, parody) to be of a lesser pedigree than straight drama. Expanding the nominees to ten gives pictures like that more of a chance to win. Granted, the chance may be insanely slim that District 9 will take home the golden statue on March 7th, but there's the possibility that, from now on, straight genre films will become as respected as the typical "Oscar" film. As much hard work goes into making these films (perhaps even more so) as it does going into your typical Oscar-bait film. Plus, people go and see films nominated for awards. The more films that are nominated, the more people go to the movies. Anything that gets people into the theater to see a film they wouldn't normally go see is ok with me.

Will win: the past few years have been kind to smaller, more independent films (The Departed being an exception). I believe the trend will continue this year, with the Academy awarding the gold to The Hurt Locker which, if it wins, will be the lowest grossing movie to ever get the award. I can see Avatar possibly going home with the statue, if only because what I call "The Dark Knight Effect." A lot of people felt that movie was snubbed last year (and they're right - The Reader nominated instead? Really?), and it's possible that the Academy will award Avatar simply to restore the public's faith in the show.

Should win: Inglourious Basterds. The Hurt Locker is amazing, but Basterds is a masterpiece. It's Quentin Tarantino's best film yet, and the best film of the year. It's also a love letter to the power of cinema. If the Academy truly loves film, they'll give it to this one.

Pleasant surprise: As much as I want IB to take it, I wouldn't mind a District 9 upset. I believe it would be the first Best Picture winner to have no less than 10 exploding bodies and at least one exploding head.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth, Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Renner.

Will win: Jeff Bridges, and deservedly so. He's been gobbling up awards for the past six months, and I don't doubt he'll swoop this up with no problem. It's a perfect scenario of great performance, well-liked actor, and due time.

Should win: Jeff Bridges. I think the reason Bridges is such an underrated (or barely discussed) actor is quite simple: he's a natural. He's not over-the-top and flashy like a Pacino, and he's not quirky like a Depp. He doesn't perform, he doesn't act, he becomes.
Pleasant surprise: Jeremy Renner. In 2007 I saw Renner in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and I knew the guy would be nominated sometime in the future. Little did I know it would be not even 3 years later.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson, Chrisopher Plummer, Stanley Tucci, Christoph Waltz

Will win: Christoph Waltz. Another award-hog, Waltz's work as Colonel Hans Landa in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is a site to behold. Simultaneously charming and disarming, Landa is a villain like no other, and Waltz gives the most memorable performance in a film full of great ones.

Should win: Christoph Waltz. For every reason listed above.

Pleasant surprise: Christopher Plummer. Although I have not seen The Last Station, this is the first time the Academy has bestowed a nomination on the actor. He worked wonders in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and although I'm not sure he deserves it for The Last Station, I wouldn't complain if he won.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidibe, Meryl Streep.

Will win: Here we go, the category that makes me feel like a complete and utter failure as a movie fan. Shameful admission: I have not seen any of these films. Going by what I've heard and read, though, this is Sandra Bullock's year. Apparently she's great in The Blind Side. And again, she's won most every other award as well.

Should win: Helen Mirren. Because she still looks great after all these years.
Pleasant surprise: Helen Mirren. See "should win."

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Penelope Cruz, Vera Farmiga, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Mo'Nique

Will win: Mo'Nique. The last three acting categories seem to be a lock, and this one is no exception. Mo'Nique is a sure bet. I know this even though I have not seen Precious.

Should win: Anna Kendrick. To be honest, I don't really think she should win. She's solid in Up in the Air and it's certainly work worthy enough to be nominated, but not enough to win. I just think she's cuter than a puppy-dog wrestling a kitten on a cloud made of marshmallows, and anything that gets her up onstage and in front of the camera is fine with me.

Pleasant surprise: Anna Kendrick. You know why.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up.

Will win: Up. Quite simply, it's the best animated film of the year. Heck, it's one of the best films of the year period. The first ten minutes is more skillfully told than the whole of most movies. It's a triumph for Pixar, and talking about it makes me realize I don't own it on Blu-ray yet. And now I'm kicking myself.

Should win: Up.

Pleasant surprise: Fantastic Mr. Fox. As much as I love Up, I love this film too. Wes Anderson's take on Roald Dahl's childrens book is funny, odd, touching, and well-crafted. It's a shame more people didn't see it.

DIRECTING: James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman

Will win: Kathryn Bigelow. Not because she's a woman. Because she directed the heck out of The Hurt Locker. The action sequences are visceral and heart-pounding (ugh-cliche!), and she coaxed great performances from her actors. This is the year of K-Bigs.

Should win: Quentin Tarantino. Inglourious Basterds is a film that could only be directed by one man, and that man is QT. The film is made up of five chapters comprised of seemingly unrelated characters. The fifth chapter brings everyone together in one of the most satisfying and exhilarating endings I've ever seen.

Pleasant surprise: Quentin Tarantino. I don't believe he's going to win, but if he does I'll be ecstatic.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY): District 9, An Education, In the Loop, Precious, Up in the Air

Will win: Up in the Air. Unfortunately. This will be Jason Reitman's consolation prize for not winning Best Director or Best Picture, and I know I'll groan when his name is announced. Look, UITA is a fine film. It's a very good one. But it's safe, light-weight, and more self-important than it has any right to be.

Should win: In the Loop. One of the best satires ever made deserves to take home this award. I was surprised to find out that the dialogue is mostly from the page - watching the film I assumed it was largely improvised. The screenwriters deserve to be recognized with more than just a nomination for this one. It's brilliant stuff.

Pleasant surprise: District 9. I love the fact that this film is getting honored by the Academy. I had assumed it would be nominated for the technical awards (the effects are literally flawless), but it warms my heart to see it doing so well in the major categories. It has a hair's chance of taking this award, but if it does I'll be doing backflips.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger, A Serious Man, Up

Will win: out of all the categories to figure out, this one is the hardest. I think Tarantino is going to take home the statue if only, like Jason Reitman's statue for Up in the Air, as a consolation prize.

Should win: Inglourious Basterds.

Pleasant surprise: A Serious Man. As the Coen brothers are my favorite filmmakers working right now, I would be giddy if they captured this win.

And there you have it, folks. My Oscar picks for 2010. Just a note: I'm not responsible for any money you may win or lose based on what you've just read. I mean, if you win I'll surely take a cut. If you lose, tough luck.

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