Friday, February 25, 2011

Oscar Predictions / Those Who Deserve And Those Who Get: 2010 Edition

The Academy Awards, which will recognize quality in films from 2010, are only a couple of days away. And as always, there will be a disconnect between those who deserve to win and those who do win. The granddaddy of film awards has always been political, and how can it not. So, there isn't much point in getting in a huff about those that made the cut, and those that go on to win. Yes we all have our favorites, and yes a win can mean a lot for a Hollywood career. But after a point, it seems silly to get worked up about the awards; there are more critical things in the world to lose sleep over. So using minimal ink, and following a tradition from last year, here are my predictions for the wins this year in the major categories. 

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone
At year’s end, it appeared that there was only one dog in this fight, as The Social Network was lapping up the top prize in one award ceremony after another. And then the inevitable fatigue set in, and in the past few weeks, The King’s Speech got the tail-wind to forge ahead and has been sweeping the awards shows. The conventional wisdom therefore is that The King’s Speech will win the top Oscar. But like in the remarkably similar race from last year (remember the see-sawing between Avatar and The Hurt Locker) I have a suspicion that staunch defenders of The Social Network (I am not one of them) may come out en masse to show their support for their film. So this category is not a done deal yet in my books.
Who should win: 127 Hours
Who will win: The King’s Speech

Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky
The Fighter, David O. Russell
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper
The Social Network, David Fincher
True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen
The Coens have been recognized in this category too recently. The Fighter and Black Swan just do not have that much support in the big (Best Film, Best Director) categories. Suspecting that The King’s Speech will clean out most of the categories, I have a feeling voters will want to grant an acknowledgment for the other film that was leading up until now. And I suspect this will translate to a win for David Fincher.
Who will win: David Fincher, The Social Network
Who should win: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
To win the trophy in the Leading Role category, it appears that two conditions need to be met. One needs to be nominated for doing a good job that year. And more importantly one needs to have reached that undefinable critical mass in public opinion, when it is generally acknowledged that it is time for the person to win the award. Sometimes this happens relatively quickly in a career (Halle Berry, Adrien Brody) and sometimes it takes decades (Jeff Bridges). Be that the situation, nobody can deny that Colin Forth has gained that elusive critical mass. He was nominated for his wonderfully restrained performance in A Single Man last year. And here he is again, with a high level of difficulty role in The King’s Speech. The others just don’t have the right alignment of recognition and critical mass to pull off this win.
Who will win: Colin Firth
Who should win: Colin Firth (with a tip of the hat to James Franco. Of course if it were up to me, Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling would be taking home the prize, but don’t get me started)

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Bening did the best job of these five in my books, and has been denied the prize in the past despite multiple nominations. It would seem unusually cruel to not hand the award to her yet again. But Natalie Portman has that elusive critical mass right now, where everyone just believes that its her time to win. And win she will.
Who will win: Natalie Portman
Who should win: Annette Bening (with a shout out to Michelle Williams).

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
The Supporting Role categories are refreshingly free from the critical mass requirement, and hence we often see surprise winners in this category (because nobody expects the winners in this category to have consistently paid their dues over a long period of time). The fight here, and it is a tight one, will be between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush. I have to concede that both have put in frankly amazing performances. Many expect Geoffrey Rush to pull through to the podium on the heels of general goodwill for The King’s Speech. But I would not put it past Bale to finally get recognition from Hollywood. This is the closest race amongst all the categories.
Who will win: Geoffrey Rush
Who should win: Mark Ruffalo

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
This is the one category that has the most uncertainty. Melissa Leo had an early lead, but got bad press of late due to some goofy ads she placed on behalf of herself in contention for this prize. Jacki Weaver is too unknown. And Helena Bonham Carter and Amy Adams, while putting in solid performances, just did not have that show-stopper moment in either of their films. Hence, overall I believe this prize may actually fall in the very young, (but not undeserving) hands of Hailee Steinfeld.
Who will win: Hailee Steinfeld
Who should win: I don’t particularly have a dog in this race (amongst those nominated), but if I was forced to choose, I would go with Melissa Leo.

How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3
I am not going to belabor my minority opinion that How To Train Your Dragon was a superior film than Toy Story 3. And I have not yet seen The Illusionist. But this is the one sure lock amongst all categories: the Pixar folks are going home happy on Oscar night
Who will win: Toy Story 3
Who should win: How To Train Your Dragon (unless The Illusionist wows me even more)

127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone
All of the nominated films had amazing writing, no question about it. But I believe the academy will not drop the ball on this one, and will nominate the one script that has had people talking for months: Aaron Sorkin for his fast, smart and incisive script for The Social Network. This prize is Sorkin’s to lose.
Who will win: The Social Network
Who should win: The Social Network

Another Year
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
This is a tough one to predict. If The King’s Speech pulls a complete sweep, then it is likely it will grab the prize here too (and I would not be one to begrudge it). I am wondering though if those riled by Christopher Nolan being denied a directing nomination, may choose to award his film with a prize here instead. I am going to go on a whim here and predict that Inception will pull an upset win.
Who will win: Inception
Who should win: The Kids Are All Right, with a pat on the back to Another Year

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