Saturday, March 6, 2010

Those Who Deserve and Those Who Get

The Oscars will be handed out soon. And like most things in life there will be a deviation between those who deserve to win and those who actually do.

Speculators have expectedly used a lot of ink picking winners. The usual mud-slinging has occurred, though not as much as in previous years.  The apposite amount of grandstanding has transpired at talkshows and in trade magazines. Most individuals though, are a bit fatigued by what seems like an unusually long awards show season, culminating with the mother lode of them all, the Academy Awards on March 7th.

Only a fool would argue that the awards are handed out purely based on merit. All sorts of other things play into a win, but I am not here to wax on about the terrible injustice of it all. Every year, the New York Times publishes “Who Should Win” and “Who Will Win” picks for each of the top Oscar categories. I have always liked those, and decided to post my own version of the same.

Best Picture »
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
This is the biggest category, and also the trickiest to predict this year. Unlike some previous years, there has not been a consistent front-runner in this category in the months since the nominations. I am a fan of the newly expanded 10 slots in this category, simply because additional (or any) recognition never hurt a movie. At some point, ‘Up In The Air’, ‘Avatar’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’ have all been considered certain wins in this category. But at this late stage, it is down to ‘Avatar’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’. Do you award the big, loud, (most ever) commercially successful, overwhelmingly popular film, “Avatar” or the small, independent, but truly great movie, “The Hurt Locker”? Early on,"The Hurt Locker" had been the critics’ darling, and for the right reasons too. But then the visual splendor of ‘Avatar’ blew away ticket-buyers around the planet, and it became the juggernaut to beat, and for a while in the past month it appeared that nothing could unseat the sheer might of James Cameron’s space-age, green epic. But then, in the last stretch, the pendulum appears to have started swinging back in favor of "The Hurt Locker”, I suspect because the film industry voters are resisting being told what to do, and are probably going with their hearts. If this will come to pass, hurray!
Who Should Win: “The Hurt Locker”
Who Will Win: “Avatar” (although, I really hope I am wrong here).

Best Director »
James Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up In The Air
This race was going to parallel that for the Best Picture. However there has been a consensus lately that Kathryn Bigelow will win this one. Perhaps for the wrong reasons. Bigelow is only the fourth woman to be nominated for Best Director, and if she gets the prize, she will be, shockingly the first woman to do so. Who can deny the drama inherent in seeing this happen. Plus there is the added juiciness with her being the ex-wife of James Cameron, and one cannot make up this sort of television-ready drama: the ex-wife reigns over the celebrated husband. But these are all irrelevant. Bigelow deserves to win not because of her gender or who she was married to. She does, because without question, her accomplishment as the director for "The Hurt Locker" far exceeds all others on the nominated list.
Who Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”, with a tip of the hat to Quentin Tarantino
Who Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”

Best Actor, Male, in a Leading Role »
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up In the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
            Disclaimer: I have not seen Colin Firth in “A Single Man”.
There is general agreement that Bridges will win this. I do not feel strongly about any of the nominees in this category, although I would grant that Jeff Bridges has gone uncelebrated for a long time now. He should have won for "The Big Lebowski" years ago, and to see him in "Crazy Heart" is to acknowledge the height of what a vanity-free performance should look like. Also his singing in the movie is truly remarkable, so I will be happy to see him grab that statuette. However, for my money, Jeremy Renner created the most memorable, nuanced and unforgettable male character in a movie last year.
Who Should Win: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”

Best Actor, Female, in a Leading Role »
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie and Julia
            Disclaimer: I have not seen Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
If there were justice in the world, this trophy would be Carey Mulligan’s to keep. Her performance in the lovely “An Education” is a revelation. But who does not want to see Sandra Bullock being acknowledged for the second (even more successful) inning of her career, and to hear her speak from the Oscar podium. You might as well start practicing how you are going to gush about her acceptance speech at the water cooler at work the next day.
Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”

Best Actor, Male, in a Supporting Role »
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
            Disclaimer: I have not seen "The Last Station".
They could have mailed the Oscar to Christoph Waltz’s home last week, his win is so certain. And I would not be one to begrudge it; he came out of nowhere and his performance still towers over the others in this category. But for me, it is Woody Harrelson who has a slight edge, because of an unexpectedly subdued, hard-won and emotional performance in the grossly underrated “The Messenger”.
Who Should Win: Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”, with a tip of the hat to Christoph Waltz
Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Actor, Female in a Supporting Role »
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air
Mo’Nique, Precious
            Disclaimer: I have not seen Penelope Cruz in “Nine”
They could have mailed Mo’nique the Oscar statuette last week in the same dispatch as Christoph Waltz. There will be no bigger upset during the ceremony than if Mo’nique’s name is not called out as a winner. For me though, her performance was too showy, and her character never crossed the line from heinous to something approaching sympathy, or even comprehension. On the other hand, I just cannot think of another actor portraying Vera Farmiga's character in "Up In The Air".
Who Should Win: Vera Farmiga, “Up In The Air”
Who Will Win: Monique, “Precious”

Original Screenplay »
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Who Should Win: Inglourious Basterds
Who Will Win: Inglourious Basterds

Adapted Screenplay »
District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Up in the Air
            Disclaimer: I have not seen “In The Loop”
Who Should Win: An Education
Who Will Win: Up In The Air

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