Oscar time

About once a year Hollywood gathers to celebrate their grandest achievements of the previous year, their most silver-tongued spokespeople, and the money bags that speak more loudly still.  As I have written about some of my favorite films of the year it seems natural that I should make some comments on the upcoming ceremony.  The ballot seems to have been predetermined this year, as almost all of the major categories have a sure winner.  It would be great to see some surprises at the ceremony, but I doubt even Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will be accommodating.  If only they had hired Ricky Gervais and given him free rein, as the Golden Globes did.  In any case, here are my picks for who will win each of the major categories, along with brief notes describing the films and actors I hope will win.

  • The Best Picture category is one of the few that isn’t set in stone.  While Avatar [review here] appears to be a strong favorite (with over $700 million at the domestic box office backing it up), there is a very good chance that The Hurt Locker [review here] will steal away the little golden man.  Add in Harvey Weinstein’s recent push for Inglourious Basterds [review here] and the race becomes even more interesting.  But I doubt that even Harvey will be able to stop the monetary juggernaut or the darling of the awards season.  I say the award goes to The Hurt Locker, though I would love it if my favorite film of the year, Up in the Air [review here], could pull off a massive upset.
  • All four acting categories are all but announced.  Best Actor will go to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart, and I cannot harbor any grudges against him.  It is nice to see George Clooney nominated for Up in the Air, but The Dude will finally be awarded his dues.
  • Best Actress will go to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side.  It will be in honor of her resurgent career and incredible draw at the box office as a middle-aged woman, and for her contributions to romantic comedies throughout the past two decades, including the odious While You Were Sleeping [review here].  I have not seen The Blind Side so cannot comment on her performance.  Gabourey Sidibe and Meryl Streep were both very good, and at opposite ends of the acting-career spectrum, but I have no strong feelings in this category.
  • Christoph Waltz has been the front runner for Best Supporting Actor since audiences first witnessed him slithering his way through Jewish victims.  Stanley Tucci may have been the best part of The Lovely Bones [review here] but that isn’t saying much.  Additionally, he was equally good in Julie and Julia [review here], but Waltz is the crowd favorite, my favorite, and a lock for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Mo’Nique is as strong a lock for Best Supporting Actress as Waltz is for Supporting Actor.  Her performance in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is terrifying, horrible, and sympathetic.  It doesn’t hurt that her acceptance speeches have been increasingly popular as awards season has rolled on.  I would prefer one of the ladies from Up in the Air to win, either Anna Kendrick or Vera Farmiga, but this won’t happen.

  • Best Director will be an interesting category.  If Avatar wins Best Picture, James Cameron will have a chance to snag a second Best Director statuette.  If Avatar doesn’t win Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow will almost certainly win, as The Hurt Locker will have taken Best Picture.  Either way Bigelow has the momentum going in and I feel quite certain she will win.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Jason Reitman take home the gold for Up in the Air but that simply isn’t going to happen.
  • Best Original Screenplay seems to have a clear winner, but there might be a surprise here.  I expect that Quentin Tarantino will win for Inglourious Basterds, but if The Hurt Locker steamrolls it might take this category also.  It’s great to see Up [review here] nominated, though it has already won simply by being nominated for Best Picture.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay belongs to Up in the Air.  The writing makes the film, and Reitman crafted believable and honest characters.  It’s great to see District 9 [review here] nominated, though its greatest glory will be its nominations.
  • 2009 was a landmark year for animated features, with the likes of Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox [review here], and Avatar all being released to theaters.  But the Best Animated Feature Film will be awarded to Up. This was decided months ago; any year that Pixar releases a film will be a sure win for them.  The fact that Up is also nominated for Best Picture only seals the deal.
  • I have not seen any of the films nominated for Best Documentary Feature, but I will be surprised if either The Cove or Food, Inc. doesn’t win.  My official prediction is that The Cove will walk away victorious.

The majority of the technical categories will go to Avatar.  This is not a great stretch of the imagination; the visuals are by far its most impressive and groundbreaking element.  The short subject categories are difficult to predict, as the majority of the campaigning flies below the radar.  I have seen one of the Animated Shorts, Logorama, and it was visually and conceptually impressive though the content is less than cohesive.  I have also seen one of the Live Action Shorts, Kavi.  I met the director, Gregg Helvey, at the Heartland Film Festival last October, and it was clear that he was very interested in expanding his fledgling career in films.  I would not be surprised if his campaigning and networking skills earn him an Oscar, even though Kavi itself is a bit predictable and overt, even with an engaging setting and a quality production.

That is all the predicting I will do this year.  I look forward to the ceremony and am sure Ricky Gervais’s presence will be sorely missed.

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