I’ve held off as long as I could on issuing my predictions, but now I simply cannot wait. It is December and Oscar season is about to kick into high gear.
Don’t fret if you haven’t heard of some of these movies. You will soon. The National Board of Review, the first precursor that deserves to be taken seriously, issues its list this week. Critics circles from all over the country will begin to put forth their lists, and then we get the Golden Globe nominations on December 17th.
So, without further ado, here’s my first stab at predictions.
- Up in the Air
- An Education
- The Hurt Locker
- A Single Man
- Inglourious Basterds
- It’s Complicated
I’m convinced that “Up in the Air” is the movie to beat this year. I think it will tap into the zeitgeist and become a juggernaut. If anything takes it down, it will be “Precious,” which is receiving raves all over the board and has done fairly well at the box office. ”Invictus” and “Nine” have been getting good reviews as they begin to trickle out. With no one going crazy though, they are all but assured a nomination but a win doesn’t seem likely. Everyone likes “An Education” and “Up,” so I think those two are safe. ”The Hurt Locker” is the critical hit, yet history has shown us that those types of movies often don’t make the top 5. It’s going to make it in a field of 10, but I think it’s not as secure as many pundits will have you and I believe. That’s where my certainties end and it becomes a guessing game.
I’m pretty confident that “A Single Man” will get in because of its striking visual style and Firth and Moore’s performances. ”Inglourious Basterds” was an audience favorite, and it did pretty well with the critics. The Academy respects Tarantino enough to give him an Oscar – they already did 15 years ago. If the voters try to appease the audience with the 10 nominations, this could be their attempt at a populist pick.
My 10th slot was a total throw-up. I don’t know why, but I just get a feeling that “It’s Complicated” will take the slot. It’s a bold and optimistic pick, considering that I’m leaving traditional Oscar fare like “A Serious Man” and “The Last Station” out in the cold. I make this selection out of a sense of optimism that could only come from someone not involved with the industry. Some would probably call it naivete. I believe that the shift to 10 nominees for Best Picture because they earnestly wanted to change the dynamics of the race. What’s the point of expanding the field if they were just going to included 5 similar movies? It would only serve to devalue a nomination. So I’m under the impression that they want to include something that is not our traditional Oscar movie, but nothing too radical. Nancy Meyers makes movie that are just plain enjoyable, and “It’s Complicated” could be the beneficiary of a year where the voters might have the good will to test out something new and different. As my friends at Awards Daily would say, “No guts, no glory,” right?
- Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
- Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
- Lee Daniels, “Precious”
- Clint Eastwood, “Invictus”
- Rob Marshall, “Nine”
The Academy loves Jason Reitman. They gave him a nomination for Best Director in 2007 for “Juno” when even the boldest prognosticator wouldn’t predict him. A split between Best Picture and Best Director is rare, and with respect for Reitman so high, it doesn’t seem likely that he won’t be rewarded along with his film.
Don’t count out Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker,” though. She helmed a stunning war movie with incredible vision, and praise has been lavished on her for months. If the “year of the woman” theme becomes prevalent, she could steal this category. If etiher Lone Scherfig for “An Education” or Jane Campion for “Bright Star” makes a surge, I will have to seriously reconsider.
The majority of the raves for “Precious” have fallen on the acting and not director Lee Daniels. But if I have underestimated his movie’s chances and it becomes an unstoppable force, it would be pretty hard for Daniels not to come along for the ride. I think Clint Eastwood is safe out respect, but 2008 was not particularly kind to his films. The Academy showed that they are not a Clint-worshipping cult, shutting out “Gran Torino” completely and barely noticing “Changeling.” As for Rob Marshall, I think “Nine” will play well enough that he’ll get swept into the category.
- George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
- Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart“
- Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
- Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
- Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Most people are saying that Jeff Bridges is unstoppable and are predicting with certainty that he will win. However, I remain skeptical. I’m pretty firm in my convictions about “Up in the Air,” so I think the love will spread here. Most Best Picture winners take home at minimum 4 statues. It doesn’t have much of a chance in the technical categories (save editing), so Clooney would be the most logical fourth award in addition to Picture, Director, and Screenplay, right? He won recently in the supporting category might cause some second thoughts, but I don’t think this will work against him too greatly. If an actor’s first win was for Best Supporting Actor, the voters usually don’t have scruples in crowning them Best Actor (proof: Denzel Washington, lead for “Training Day” in 2001 and supporting for “Glory” in 1989). Clooney is widely respected as a leading man in the industry, and with this performance, they may have found the perfect time to bestow the highest prize an actor can get on him.
Jeff Bridges’ “Crazy Heart” was moved to 2009 just so he could win an Oscar (which is maybe why I resent it so greatly). He has 4 nominations under his belt, and most argue that he is overdue. We all know that the Academy has a sense of urgency in rewarding someone they feel fitting, a sense that I don’t get with Bridges. They went to great lengths last year to make sure Kate Winslet won an Oscar, but she has been turning in fantastic performance after fantastic performance. Bridges, on the other hand, doesn’t have consistently excellent work. We’ll see in the coming weeks whether the people with a say reward a career or a single performance.
Colin Firth is a reputable actor in his own right, constantly doing solid work but rarely stepping into the spotlight. With “A Single Man,” he has his chance. His performance has already won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival, which could be the first of many to roll in. I see him being more a critical darling, though, which can be both good and bad.
I gave the fifth spot to Jeremy Renner for “The Hurt Locker” because I get the feeling that voters will feel it criminal to ignore him. This is one of the few movies in the race that I have seen at this point, and I can say that he does deserve it. But a spot for him comes, in my opinion, at the expense of an Oscar veteran: Daniel Day-Lewis or Morgan Freeman. Here, the “we-just-gave-it-to-him” will play against Day-Lewis. He already has two statues, one coming just 2 years ago. However, he is the farthest thing from a prolific actor, and I think the Academy does feel the need to nominate him whenever he actually makes a movie. I think Morgan Freeman will get the slot because he is playing Nelson Mandela, a well-known political figure (which usually plays well with the Academy). He also has in his favor a win that came in the supporting category, and like Clooney, it’s time for a win in the big leagues.
- Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
- Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
- Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia“
- Helen Mirren, “The Last Station“
- Abbie Cornish, “Bright Star“
Having seen “An Education,” I will testify to the fact that Carey Mulligan’s performance will make the Academy voters fall head over heels. It is acting that reminds us of the elegance of an earlier era, evoking comparisons to Audrey Hepburn. The Academy is notoriously smitten by the past, and this will give them their old-time fix. And I couldn’t be happier.
Sidibe is harrowing in “Precious,” but she is overshadowed by Mo’Nique too greatly to win. Meryl Streep will of course be nominated for “Julie & Julia,” like she is for every movie in which she appears. However, there could be a deal between Sony and Universal to campaign her in the supporting category for her aforementioned role and in the leading category for “It’s Complicated.” A double nomination could be possible, but Kate Winslet reminded us last year of the Academy’s unwillingness to accept “category fraud.” She has what it takes to win for this role, but I think they know that she doesn’t need another award to cement her status as the greatest actress of our time. Or who knows, maybe they will realize that they haven’t given her a statue in over a quarter of a century.
I haven’t heard much about Helen Mirren or “The Last Station,” but I’m throwing her in the mix just because she is Helen Mirren and the trailer just screamed, “GIVE ME AN OSCAR!” I was very tempted to give my last slot to Marion Cotillard for “Nine,” yet I ended up giving it to Abbie Cornish for “Bright Star.” Hers was a universally agreeable performance, it’s a period piece, and she is a rising star. I feel comfortable making this prediction because Keira Knightley followed a very similar trajectory to a nomination in 2005 for “Pride and Prejudice.”
Best Supporting Actor
- Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
- Alfred Molina, “An Education”
- Matt Damon, “Invictus”
- Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
- Alec Baldwin, “It’s Complicated”
This is a category that has favored psychopathic villains and old people this decade. The last two have been from the former, so for now, I think Christoph Waltz seems fitting to carry on the tradition that Javier Bardem and Heath Ledger have left. He was an absolutely magnetic presence, and the movie was always better when he was on screen. Isn’t that what makes a performance the “best” in a given year?
My second slot went to a sentimental favorite of mine, Alfred Molina in “An Education.” Absolutely charming and joyously witty, this a performance that will stick in the minds of voters. I think goodwill for “Invictus” will translate in a nomination for Matt Damon, or perhaps it will come as a reward for the actor’s great year (including a dynamite leading turn in “The Informant!” that will unfortunately be overlooked).
If the category goes back to honoring old people, Christopher Plummer will win. I’m sure he will get nominated for his performance as Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station.” If we want to talk about overdue, here is a renowned actor without even a nomination. The man is 80 years old, and I hate to use this as justification, but we are running out of time to honor a truly great cinematic presence.
The final spot was kind of a toss-up. I debated including Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger” or Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones,” but this category often has a comic soft-spot (example: Robert Downey, Jr. last year). Thus, I selected Alec Baldwin in “It’s Complicated,” going with my hunch that the movie will be a light, non-Oscar fare movie that will score with voters.
Best Supporting Actress
- Mo’Nique, “Precious”
- Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
- Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
- Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
- Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Barring some huge “Precious” backlash, Mo’Nique has this category in the bag. She’s simply too good not to win.
This is the category where we are most likely to see two nominees from the same movie. This year, “Nine” and “Up in the Air” both have that capability. Unfortunately, it is highly doubtful that both can sneak in two because I think Julianne Moore is very safe. ”A Single Man” is going to play strongly in the race, critics love her, and she has been four times an Oscar bridesmaid.
I’m inclined to say “Up in the Air” will take two slots because the movie is more of a force to reckon with than “Nine.” Anna Kendrick, featured more often and flashier, will occupy the first slot, and Vera Farmiga will get the second slot the film takes up.
As for “Nine,” there are many ladies to choose from for the one spot I’m anticipating for the movie. My money is on Penelope Cruz, who gets to play the temptress with a number that is killer sexy. Who cares that she won it last year? They aren’t picking her to win; they already know Mo’Nique has it all sealed up. But if “Nine” becomes a bigger player than I am anticipating, then Judi Dench will probably get the film’s second nomination.
Best Original Screenplay
- The Hurt Locker
- Inglourious Basterds
- (500) Days of Summer
- It’s Complicated
I’m having a hard time picking a winner here. I love “Up,” but I don’t think it was a very screenplay-driven movie. Ditto for “The Hurt Locker,” which was definitely propelled by the acting and directing. ”Inglourious Basterds” was not Tarantino’s best scripting work, and I don’t think the voters would indulge him with another Oscar unless it could top what won him the first one, “Pulp Fiction.” As for “(500) Days of Summer,” it definitely deserves a nomination here because of its creativity and ingenuity, but the film did have its detractors. Going with my hunch again about “It’s Complicated,” if it were to sneak in here, it wouldn’t be contending for the win.
This is a category that has been marked by a great deal of uncertainty and unpredictability over the past few years. Last year, they threw a massive curveball and nominated three movies that no one really expected. Of all the categories I predicted in this post, I expect this category to be most prone to fluctuation and discrepancy from the actual nominees.
Best Adapted Screenplay
- Up in the Air
- An Education
- A Single Man
Do I still need to explain my reasoning for “Up in the Air?”
I’m currently reading the source material for “Precious,” and that is quite a job to adapt. This is a very real threat to “Up in the Air.” I hope the same can be said for Nick Hornby’s wonderful screenplay of “An Education.” In the words of my review from last week, he turns a funny drama into what feels like a serious comedy. His script makes the movie just plain fun to watch.
My last two picks are not locks like the previous. ”A Single Man” will probably make the cut because it is a way that they can honor helmer and writer Tom Ford’s vision without giving up a spot in the tight Best Director field. Strangely, I’m finding it quite difficult to find anyone who will predict “Invictus” here. Although the book on which it is based is not held in a great deal of esteem, the movie is still a big part of the race. Although it may not win Best Picture, it’s the most impressive movie left to choose from after we take out the previous four.
What do you think? Have I hit the nail on the head or not even come close? What is your “Up in the Air,” your certainty? What is your “It’s Complicated,” your hunch? What is your “The Lovely Bones,” your doubt? I really want to know what you think! This is my favorite time to be a moviegoer and I am curious to hear what those truly interested in the awards season have to say.