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This Oscar Thing Again... [Feb. 27th, 2011|08:12 am]
Virtual Pope
[Current Location |Conesus]
[mood |exhaustedexhausted]
[music |Silkwood on TCM]

 As promised, here's my pre-Oscar rundown of opinions and predictions. I've seen quite a few (though I didn't manage to beat my 2008 record of most nominees viewed, and there's one in a very major category that I've yet to see), but that doesn't mean I know anything when it comes to these predictions. Hell, seeing the nominees probably mucks my predictions up more. In terms of commentary, it's gonna be the usual format, though just to make things a little more fun, I've decided to spotlight two selections for some of my "Shoulda Been Nominated" picks: one whose nomination was within the realm of possibility and one who didn't have a friggin' chance. The former will be listed first, though I imagine in most cases it'd be pretty damn obvious which is which.

Best Picture: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone
Last year in this spot, I praised the expansion to ten nominees because it managed to showcase a greater variety of films, and only one dud managed to slip in. This year, I actually like all the nominees (and just remember, no matter what I say about The King's Speech throughout this rundown, I do like the movie; I just don't like-like it), but I'm a bit more jaded about the whole ten nominees thing. Certainly, it's great for a movie like Winter's Bone, which got a lot more attention than it ever would have even with its other three nominations, but it's just one of a number of movies on this list that have no chance of winning. At least with five, even though the Best Picture was generally pretty easy to predict, most of the time there was a glimmer of hope that one of those movies could pull an upset. Hopefully if they keep going with the ten, it won't be just two frontrunners battling it out every year, but that's how it's been for two years in a row now, with The King's Speech the likely victor and The Social Network as a potential upset. Considering The King's Speech is my least favorite of the nominees, I've gotta gun for The Social Network, though I'd be very happy and unbelievably shocked to see either of my two favorite movies of the year, Toy Story 3 and Black Swan, landing the big win. That's not gonna happen.
Will Win: The King's Speech
Should Win: Toy Story 3
Shoulda Been Nominated: Shutter Island, Dogtooth

Best Actor: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King's Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)
This is the major category where I haven't seen all the nominees. Due to snow and a general desire not to take a misery endurance test, I opted not to go see Biutiful yesterday, and it's doubtful I'll build up enough desire to see it today. Colin Firth's very likely win in this category is probably the win for that film I'd complain about the least. Considering how rare it is to see one believably depicted onscreen, I have to imagine stutters are quite difficult to pull of convincingly, and Firth succeeds while also giving a genuinely moving portrayal. Still, this is another category where I'd rather see The Social Network triumph, as Jesse Eisenberg completely disappeared into his character while facing an impediment of his own in having to make Aaron Sorkin's dialogue sound natural. I'm also a big fan of how Jeff Bridges turned Rooster Cogburn into a wonderful comic creation, but even I'd be a little upset if he made Firth stay seated this year too.
Will Win: Firth
Should Win: Eisenberg
Shoulda Been Nominated: Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek)
Need to See: Biutiful

Best Actress: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
I'd really be fine with anyone pulling a win here. Natalie Portman's victory was pretty clear while watching Black Swan, and based on everything she put into that movie, it's deserved. Annette Bening has been slated as the potential upset, and while I wasn't much impressed by her performance when I first saw The Kids Are All Right, a second viewing revealed that I was probably underwhelmed at first because her performance seemed so effortless. In looking at the race between these two, it becomes a question of whether to reward a great performance that brings its physical and emotional torment to the forefront, or a great one that reveals emotional turmoil without showing any strain. Enter Michelle Williams, whose scenes as the younger version of her character effortlessly shine, making the emotional wreckage of her later-in-life scenes all the more harrowing. The only problem is without a corresponding nomination for Ryan Gosling, even if Williams did win, it'd feel like they were only rewarding half of a greater whole.
Will Win: Portman
Should Win: Williams
Shoulda Been Nominated: Leslie Manville (Another Year), Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank)

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Christian Bale seems to have this one pretty locked down, though some are calling a Geoffrey Rush upset. Perhaps because those two performances offer the most scenery to chew and are played by the most "I'm acting!" actors in the bunch, those two feel a bit too showboaty, so I'm finding myself gravitating toward the more low-key performances in the batch, John Hawkes and Mark Ruffalo. (I like Jeremy Renner's performance, and while I couldn't call it low-key, he doesn't have a lot to work with, either, so his performance is kind of in the shadow of the other nominees.) Ruffalo navigates a lot of emotional territory with natural ease, but it gets to the point where he feels so easy-going that it's hard to feel anything for him, while Hawkes maintains a menacing presence while constantly shifting audience loyalty, taking a relatively small number of scenes to go from a character that's easy to hate to one that's grudgingly understood to a sympathetic tragic figure by the end.
Will Win: Bale
Should Win: Hawkes
Shoulda Been Nominated: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Hamed Behdad (No One Knows About Persian Cats)

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
I fear that whenever I feel unsure about who to root for in this category, I just wind up going into a default Amy Adams mode, but she delivers the most impressive supporting role in the bunch, maintaining the charm and superb comic timing of her usual characters while taking away the naivety. I had to specify supporting role, though, because Hailee Steinfeld's role is clearly the lead, just slotted here because kids have better chances in supporting categories. It's a great debut for such a young actress, and while she handles the ornately-written sass marvelously, some of her more dramatic moments fall flat. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if she takes the prize (and I'm calling it that way), but then again, a Melissa Leo or Helena Bonham Carter win wouldn't surprise me either. This category is pretty up for grabs.
Will Win: Steinfeld
Should Win: Adams
Shoulda Been Nominated: Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer)

Best Director: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Despite my love for Black Swan, I'm actually ranking David Fincher as my director of choice here. For me, Black Swan succeeded because Darren Aronofsky is the kind of director I like seeing go off the rails, and the fact that he made an imperfect picture only works in favor of the film. The Social Network's imperfections, though, mainly come from the screenplay (we'll get to that in a bit), and it's Fincher's direction that lets the film soar over those flaws. Every frame comes off as a clearly thought-out cinematic decision and there's not a point where I can think that he made a wrong move. Tom Hooper is Fincher's biggest competition and a likely winner, but most of the time a directorial decision stands out in The King's Speech, it's often the wrong one, especially in terms of the camera placement. The only solid argument in Hooper's favor comes when considering directing as crucial to molding the performances of the film, but even if that were the only criterion, I'd rather see David O. Russell dominate that conversation.
Will Win: Hooper
Should Win: Fincher
Shoulda Been Nominated: Christopher Nolan (Inception), Giorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth)

Best Original Screenplay: Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech
I might be rooting for Another Year here just because it's the only place I can. Even though Mike Leigh's method makes it kind of odd think of it as a screenplay in the traditional sense of the term, it's still a beautifully structured piece of work with fully-formed characters that deserves recognition. Inception's probably my favorite film of the rest of the nominees, but all too often the film is too transparent as a screenplay (it's hard to think of a time I've been so constantly aware of a character's function as an audience surrogate as I have during Ellen Page's scenes). I often root for the token indie comedy in the bunch, but while I'd be pleased to see The Kids Are All Right score a win, it has a bit too much of a third act problem for me to place it on top.
Will Win: The King's Speech
Should Win: Another Year
Shoulda Been Nominated: Greenberg, Dogtooth

Best Adapted Screenplay: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone
I usually try to at least get a sense of the source material for the nominees in this category, but the only film where I can say that's the case is Toy Story 3, which happens to be my rooting interest for its strong display of wit and imagination. While The Social Network gets a "based on" credit, the background to the screenplay makes a stronger case for it as an original piece. I'm a big fan of most of its dialogue and the deposition framing device, so it's my second choice here, but I have a few problems with how hard it hammers the motivations behind the formation of Facebook, and I think the crumbling of the central friendship would have a lot more power if there weren't so many lines explicitly noting that friendship. Though I think True Grit is an improvement over the original film, I'd feel weird choosing it here without reading the source novel, since I've read that so much of the movie is taken wholesale from there.
Will Win: The Social Network
Should Win: Toy Story 3
Shoulda Been Nominated: The Ghost Writer, I Love You Phillip Morris

Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3
Though these are all strong films, I think you know where I stand here.
Will Win: Toy Story 3
Should Win: Toy Story 3
Shoulda Been Nominated: Tangled

Best Foreign Language Film: Biutiful, Dogtooth, In a Better World, Incendies, Outside the Law
I think I'd hafta start attending film festivals before I can become an expert on this category pre-ceremony (that, or become a member of the Academy). I've only seen one. It's pretty obvious I'm a fan, and while I don't think Dogtooth has a chance of winning, I doubt there's anything better in here. If there is, though, that'd be a pretty great find.
Will Win: In a Better World
Should Win: ? (But probably Dogtooth)
Need to See: All but Dogtooth

Best Cinematography: Black Swan, Inception, The King's Speech, The Social Network, True Grit
I already slammed The King's Speech camerawork in the director slot, and while it's valid to mark it as a poor directorial choice, that criticism is even more apropos here. The rest of the field, however, is golden. It's tough to choose, so I'll admit I'm feeling a sentimental pull for Roger Deakins, since he's the one who made me care about this category back when he was nominated for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and here he is, doing another great lensing job on a western.
Will Win: True Grit
Should Win: True Grit
Shoulda Been Nominated: Shutter Island

Best Film Editing: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, The King's Speech, The Social Network
This is perhaps the toughest category to predict. I could see it going to any one of these movies, so I'm just gonna slot The Social Network in here. For my personal choice based simply on my gut and memory, I'd go with Black Swan, but not sure where I'd stand if I actually sat down and fully analyzed the editing.
Will Win: The Social Network
Should Win: Black Swan
Shoulda Been Nominated: Inception, Exit Through the Gift Shop

Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Inception, The King's Speech, True Grit
Inception is the only film that stands out in this line-up, but I have a feeling The King's Speech will take it. Even with the whole porn film set thing that was unearthed recently, I'd much rather see it win than Alice in Wonderland, which was just ugly.
Will Win: The King's Speech
Should Win: Inception
Shoulda Been Nominated: Shutter Island
Need to See: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (I'm often cockblocked in a lot of the technical categories by these films, but I may wind up seeing the next one just to see what it's like watching it without having read the books or seen any of the previous novels)

Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King's Speech, The Tempest, True Grit
I still haven't seen two movies in this category, and I've been meaning to see I Am Love for a while and don't really have an excuse for why I haven't yet. Alice in Wonderland's costume design is one of the few positives of the film, but it still doesn't overcome the film's general ugliness. The King's Speech is probably gonna win here, being a Best Picture-frontrunner British royalty period piece, and I wouldn't be surprised if all the clothes were taken from a closet labeled "For Oscar." But damn, True Grit had some great costumes that really accentuated the characters, with Hailee Steinfeld taking on an outfit bigger than she should, Matt Damon gussied up in immaculate frills, and Jeff Bridges in that loose, flowing coat. And what other movie has an old bearded man in a goddamn bear skin?
Will Win: The King's Speech
Should Win: True Grit
Shoulda Been Nominated: Black Swan, The Runaways

Best Makeup: Barney's Version, The Way Back, The Wolf Man
Only saw The Way Back. The whole dried-up desert face look was very effective on all the actors, but I have no idea how this category will go.
Will Win: Barney's Version
Need to See: Barney's Version, The Wolf Man

Best Original Score: 127 Hours, How to Train Your Dragon, Inception, The King's Speech, The Social Network
I loved The Social Network's score and would love to see Trent Reznor take the podium, but I think they'll be going more traditional here, so I'm chalking another one up for The King's Speech. I'd be much happier if Alexander Desplat's was recognized here for his score for The Ghost Writer instead, though. Also, they really should reconsider reinstating the adapted score category, 'cause there were some damn good ineligible ones this year (Black Swan, True Grit).
Will Win: The King's Speech
Should Win: The Social Network
Shoulda Been Nominated: Never Let Me Go, Black Swan

Best Original Song: "If I Rise" (127 Hours), "Coming Home" (Country Strong), "I See the Light" (Tangled), "We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3)
This is a pretty weak line-up. Though I don't remember it even being in Toy Story 3, the best of the batch is "We Belong Together," and that doesn't stand out much. (Still gonna call it, though.) In terms of how the songs are incorporated into the films, the scene from Tangled that features "I See the Light" is pure visual splendor, so voters may simply remember that one the best even though it doesn't stand out musically, 'cause nothing else does either.
Will Win: "We Belong Together"
Should Win: "We Belong Together"
Shoulda Been Nominated: "Sticks and Stones" (How to Train Your Dragon)
Need to See: Country Strong

Best Sound Mixing: Inception, The King's Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit
A lot of people are calling Inception for both sound categories, but I'd be kinda surprised if it managed both. This is the first year where I actively tried to distinguish between sound mixing and sound editing, and the most impressive mixing job to my ear was in The Social Network, though it might just be the most obvious example of sound mixing for a novice listener. (It's hard to think of a better way to demonstrate sound mixing at work than showing that club scene with Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake talking.) I'm gonna out on a limb and call True Grit, though.
Will Win: True Grit
Should Win: The Social Network

Best Sound Editing: Inception, Toy Story 3, TRON: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable
I haven't seen two of the movies in here. Nobody wanted to see "that stupid train movie" with me, so it wound up leaving theaters before I could catch it. (I should catch Tron soon, though.) While I think I kept a good ear for mixing this year, I can't say the same for editing, so I'm just gonna call this one for Inception and abstain from a "Should Win" here. I will put 127 Hours in the "Shoulda Been Nominated" category, though. It's mainly based on one sound effect, but imagine how much thought must have gone into the question of what an arm popping off under a rock in a cave sounds like. Pretty sure that sound effect's gonna stay in my head for a long time.
Will Win: Inception
Shoulda Been Nominated: 127 Hours
Need to See: TRON: Legacy, Unstoppable

Best Visual Effects: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2
Well, considering there are two I haven't seen in here, and of the three I've seen, only Inception has any sort of visual flair to it, the choice is clear. Alice in Wonderland is ugly and Iron Man 2 is simply unimpressive.
Will Win: Inception
Should Win: Inception
Shoulda Been Nominated: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop, GasLand, Inside Job, Restrepo, Waste Land
I haven't seen three movies on here, but Exit Through the Gift Shop is in my top five movies of the year and dear lord, do I wanna see what happens if Banksy wins it. It's probably gonna be Inside Job, though.
Will Win: Inside Job
Should Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Shoulda Been Nominated: Catfish
Need to See: GasLand, Inside Job, Waste Land

Best Documentary Short: Killing in the Name, Poster Girl, Strangers No More, Sun Come Up, The Warriors of Quigang
Haven't seen any, but I've heard the most buzz about Poster Girl
Will Win: Poster Girl
Need to See: All of 'em

Best Animated Short: Day & Night, The Gruffalo, Let's Pollute, The Lost Thing, Madagascar: A Journey Diary
I haven't seen The Lost Thing, so I can't judge its potential. Unless voters are wowed by the star power of The Gruffalo's voice acting, I don't think that one's gonna win. Though Day & Night is my favorite of what I've seen, it might feel too slight, especially for a Pixar short. (Though its animation is impressive, it's the clever use of sound that stands out the most, and that might not work in the film's favor in this category.) From a visual standpoint, Madagascar is by far the most impressive, utilizing a variety of interesting animation styles (though it does venture into the uncanny valley a tad). Story-wise, there's not much there, but it's a tour diary, so there's not supposed to be, and I imagine this will impress the voters the most.
Will Win: Madagascar: A Journey Diary
Should Win: Day & Night
Need to See: The Lost Thing

Best Live Action Short: The Confession, The Crush, God of Love, Na Wewe, Wish 143
If The Confession wins, I'll be pissed. If anything other than The Confession wins, I'll be happy. The most likely candidate seems to be Na Wewe: it's got a weighty subject matter, high production values, and solid storytelling. My favorites in this category, though, are the two comedic offerings, God of Love and Wish 143. With God of Love, I feared at first that its preciousness would become overwhelming, but I was won over by the film's charm. Should Luke Matheny expand to features (and it's hard to imagine he won't since this short is a textbook showcase for rising talent), he'll have to reel his twee impulses in, but in short form, it works. Wish 143 is a bit weighter, considering its central character has cancer. In the wrong hands it would be a disaster, but fortunately, it has a crucial understanding of its central character, and the result is a very sweet comedy with a winning combination of terminal illness and teenage lust.
Will Win: Na Wewe
Should Win: Wish 143
Shoulda Been Nominated: I imagine it was ineligible, and it's probably not ideal to have an established director in a slot that's such a breakthrough for budding filmmakers, but I absolutely loved Spike Jonze's short, I'm Here (basically a live-action hipster Wall-E starring Andrew Garfield).

Well, with all that settled, all that's left is to watch (and maybe live-tweet) the ceremony to see how many prediction contests I lost. And now, for the hell of it, arbitrary rankings of the nominated features I've seen:

1. Toy Story 3
2. Black Swan
3. Dogtooth
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop
5. The Social Network
6.True Grit
7. Another Year
8. Inception
9. Blue Valentine
10. The Kids Are All Right
11. Animal Kingdom
12. Winter's Bone
13. The Fighter
14. The Illusionist
15. Rabbit Hole
16. The Town
17. Tangled
18. How to Train Your Dragon
19. 127 Hours
20. The King's Speech
21. Salt
22. Restrepo
23. The Way Back
24. Iron Man 2
25.Alice in Wonderland
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Comments:
From: zoxenorn
2011-04-11 02:12 am (UTC)
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(Reply) (Thread)
From: zoxenorn
2011-04-12 03:35 pm (UTC)
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(Reply) (Thread)