Oscar Moment: FINAL Predictions, 2009

1 02 2010


(deep breath)

I can barely contain myself!  The morning that I spend all year anticipating is tomorrow!  Last year, they gave me a nice sucker punch to the gut by denying “The Dark Knight” nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay.  Four years ago, the same happened to “Walk the Line.”

We often let the pain outweigh the good on nomination morning.  Remember than even if your favorite movie doesn’t get a nomination, life will go on.  The filmmakers made the movie to entertain and excite, not to win awards (despite what we might cynically think).

Without further ado, here are my final predictions for the names and movies Anne Hathaway will be calling out on Tuesday morning.  (NOTE: I’m going to limit my speculation as to who will win and try to keep it mostly about the nominations.)

Best Picture

  1. The Hurt Locker
  2. Avatar
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. Up in the Air
  5. Precious
  6. Up
  7. An Education
  8. Invictus
  9. Crazy Heart
  10. District 9

Most people have my top 8 set in stone (although a few might argue about how secure “Up” and “Invictus” really are); it’s those final two slots that have everyone sweating bullets.

There has been a lot of speculation about this year as an important crossroads for the Academy.  Do they choose a piece of traditional and powerful filmmaking, “The Hurt Locker,” or do they choose “Avatar,” the game-changing movie for 3-D technology and motion capture which has made a whopping 50 times more than the aforementioned film?  Really, it comes down to how the Academy defines “best,” a topic which I have speculated about in the past and will continue to talk about in the month to come.

I think these last two Best Picture nominees will reflect the voter’s conflicting interests.  Some want to appease the crowd (a la “Avatar”) and some want to continue to nominate the usual fare (a la “The Hurt Locker”).

The crowd-pleaser: “District 9.”  The movie is a clever metaphor for the Apartheid, which doesn’t make it to hard of a sell with the Academy technophobes.  It has critical support as well as guild support (Producers, Editors, and Art Directors).  It might have scored a nomination from the Writers Guild had it not been ruled ineligible.  It might not have a large section of passionate fans, but most respect and like the movie.  I think that will be enough.

The awards bait: “Crazy Heart.”  If it does get in, Fox Searchlight owes it all to Jeff Bridges.  Sure, “Crazy Heart” has guild support, but only from the Writers Guild (and probably only because of many disqualifications).  Bridges is clearly the highlight of this movie, and the studio has been selling that since day 1.  There have been plenty of movies that get to the big dance because of one performance, such as Helen Mirren and “The Queen,” Philip Seymour Hoffman and “Capote,” and Jamie Foxx and “Ray,” just to name a few.  So I’m predicting that “Crazy Heart” gets it.  Call me crazy.

I’ll address the other candidates and why I don’t think they will make the cut.  “A Serious Man” has no big support, and a Golden Globes snub was a huge blow.  “Star Trek” has Writers and Producers Guild support, but it’s too big and booming blockbuster for their taste.  “The Messenger” is too small to make it without any big champions.  “The Hangover” is just too raunchy for all the old members of the Academy.  “The Blind Side” may be the big story of the year, but it’s all about Sandra because the support just isn’t there for the movie as a whole.  “Nine” might unpleasantly surprise despite its widely publicized flop: it did get the SAG ensemble nominee, which means that it is liked among the actors who make up the majority of the Academy.

I’m going to break my self-imposed rule and talk about who will win Best Picture.  Most people have it narrowed down to five candidates for the win, and I think the nominations will give us subtle clues about who the voters are favoring. (The * denotes the most telling sign, not necessarily the most plausible though.)

They are feeling “The Hurt Locker” if…
Anthony Mackie gets a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.*
the final two Best Picture nominees are typical Academy fare.
it gets the most nominations.

They are feeling “Avatar” if…
it gets a Best Original Screenplay nomination.
“District 9” and/or “Star Trek” gets a Best Picture nomination.
any member of the cast gets an acting nomination.
Zoë Saldana gets a Best Actress nomination.*
it gets the most nominations.

They are feeling “Inglourious Basterds” if…
Diane Kruger gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Mélanie Laurent gets a Best Actress nomination.*
it gets the most nominations.

They are feeling “Precious” if…
Mariah Carey gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination.*

To be honest, I think “Up in the Air” is locked in with its six nominations from the Golden Globes, plus one for editing. I don’t really think there is a way to discern how positively the Academy receives the movie. If it were to be snubbed, then we would know to discount it (unfortunately).

Best Director

  1. Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
  2. James Cameron, “Avatar” 
  3. Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds” 
  4. Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air” 
  5. Lee Daniels, “Precious”

Welcome back, Lee Daniels.  After the final slot at the Golden Globes went to Clint Eastwood, he bounced back and received a Directors Guild nomination.  The dying support for “Invictus” only aids him now, but his spot is still insecure.

The spoiler here could be Lone Sherfig for “An Education,” but this would probably only happen if they were really into the year of the woman theme.  Then again, the Academy could take a big stand for Clint again.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

As for the win, it comes down to Bigelow vs. Cameron.  A battle of the exes.  This is competition that is bigger and better than anything reality TV can buy.  After the DGA win, my money is still on Bigelow.

Best Actor

  1. Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
  2. George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
  3. Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
  4. Colin Firth, “A Single Man
  5. Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”

This is the only category where I feel almost rock solid with all five nominees.  This has been the standard five all awards season (although the Golden Globes swapped Renner for Tobey Maguire).

Best Actress

  1. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia” 
  2. Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
  3. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
  4. Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious” 
  5. Emily Blunt, “The Young Victoria

Fine, world.  You win.  Sandra Bullock is in.  The movie is too succesful and the story has gotten too much publicity.  With wins at the SAG, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice Awards, she has the support necessary to win.  So obviously, a nomination is in the bag.

Streep is my favorite to win, and she will most assuredly break her own record and net her 16th acting nomination.  This is unprecedented, and maybe it’s time to reward the best actress of our generation by giving her the highest prize in the industry that she hasn’t won in 27 years.  Mulligan and Sidibe are locks too.

The last slot troubles me.  Common sense would say it is going to Helen Mirren for “The Last Station.”  She has the respect; we know because she won this award three short years ago.  She has been nominated by the SAG and the Golden Globes, two very crucial precursors.  But she has no victories and, more importantly, no passionate supporters.  It also doesn’t help that “The Last Station” has only been shown in nine theaters.  No one has seen this movie.  Nominations for the movie are going to be seen as pretentiousness.

A surprise nominee in the category could be Mélanie Laurent of “Inglourious Basterds.”  With no prior mentions and a bit of category confusion, Laurent is a huge underdog, but love for her movie could be enough to catapult her into contention.  The actors, who pick the nominees, showed plenty of it at the SAG Awards. Some have put forth Zoë Saldana as a nominee for “Avatar.”  A nomination would mean that “Avatar” has Best Picture in the bag.  But her inclusion would be very unlikely given how threatened actors might feel by the motion capture technology, which has the power to make them irrelevant.

My pick for the final nominee is Emily Blunt for “The Young Victoria.”  She has respect for roles prior to this; her hilarious assistant in the comedic hit “The Devil Wears Prada” earned her nominations from both the Golden Globes and the BAFTA (the British equivalent of the Oscars).  In the same year, she won a Golden Globe for her work on a BBC TV special.  This year, she has been cited by the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards for her performance.  I see her sneaking in like Keira Knightley in 2005 for “Pride and Prejudice.”  Another young British actress, Knightley had a very similar trajectory through awards season. No one really thought she could take down Reese Witherspoon or Felicity Huffman, but it was a nice way to acknowledge a good performance from an up-and-coming actress.  So my pick is Blunt.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
  2. Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger
  3. Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station
  4. Alfred Molina, “An Education”
  5. Anthony Mackie, “The Hurt Locker”

Here’s the category that could easily be radically different from my predictions.  The only person I predict with complete confidence is Waltz, who has piled up virtually every award this year (and deservedly so).

When you have a performance like Waltz’s, which is so universally loved, it makes having other nominees seem almost pointless.  It feels to me like there aren’t many passionate supporters of any of the other candidates.  The only actor to have won a formidable prize other than Waltz is Woody Harrelson, who took the first award of the year from the National Board of Review for his role in “The Messenger.”

The three big guns (Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG) agreed on Waltz, Harrelson, Stanley Tucci for “The Lovely Bones,” and Matt Damon for “Invictus.”  For the fifth slot, he Globes and SAG chose Christopher Plummer for “The Last Station” while the Critics Choice chose Alfred Molina for “An Education.”

Even though Tucci and Damon got the holy trifecta (if you will), I can’t call either of them safe.  “The Lovely Bones” has tanked with critics and audiences, and the movie has no real awards traction.  Tucci could easily be caught in an across the board snub.  Some bold writers have suggested that those who admire Tucci could nominate him for the much more agreeable “Julie & Julia.”  As Julia Child’s husband, he was quite the charmer, a contrast to the murdering pedophile he played in “The Lovely Bones.”  Damon has to overcome the so-so feelings about “Invictus,” a daunting task.  I think Morgan Freeman will be able to do it only because of his reverential status.  Although Damon has one acting nomination to his credit, I have my doubts.

I think Alfred Molina, despite two big snubs, will be able to make it in the field with help from a significant British faction of the voting body.  They loved “An Education;” the film’s eight nominations at the BAFTAs clearly show that.

With Christopher Plummer, the same issue with Helen Mirren comes up: no one has seen “The Last Station.”  But Plummer is 80 years old, beloved, and without an Academy Award nomination.  I think “it’s time” is enough to overpower the aforementioned issue.

As for that final slot, I’m going to make a gusty pick.  Despite having no individual mention all season, I think Anthony Mackie will be nominated for “The Hurt Locker.”  I think the Academy is going to show a lot of love for his movie, and it seems logical that Mackie would get caught in this wave of good feelings.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Mo’Nique, “Precious”
  2. Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
  3. Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air” 
  4. Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
  5. Penelope Cruz, “Nine

The sure bets here are Mo’Nique and the girls of “Up in the Air.”  The SAG miss for Moore hurts her chances, but I still think she will get in based on her previous history with the Academy (four nominations, no wins).  If they want to set her up as a Kate Winslet-type actress who needs to win the statue eventually, every nomination helps.

The last slot is a headache.  Some think it will go to Maggie Gyllenhaal for “Crazy Heart.”  While I think the movie could net a Best Picture nomination, I think it is a stretch to think she could get cited here because she hasn’t even been a blip on the precursor radar.  But Michael Shannon did it last year, so nothing is impossible.  Others think Samantha Morton in “The Messenger” will be buoyed by Woody Harrelson and a potential surprise Best Picture nomination, but she also hasn’t popped up at all.  She does have the advantage of being a previous nominee, yet I’m not sure how much that would help.

SAG nominee Diane Kruger is a real possibility, and if the Academy loves “Inglourious Basterds,” she could very well pop up here.  But with a double punch of Golden Globes and SAG, I think Penelope Cruz will reappear in the category a year after winning it.  If the actors really like “Nine,” they could avoid the potential anger that would come with nominating it for Best Picture by honoring it here.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. The Hurt Locker
  3. Up 
  4. (500) Days of Summer
  5. A Serious Man 

No change here among nominees, only “The Hurt Locker” jumping up for probably a two-man race with “Inglourious Basterds.”  James Cameron’s “Avatar” script could pop up if they fall head over heels for the movie, and I think it would probably knock out “A Serious Man.”  A swap of pretentiousness for populism.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Up in the Air
  2. An Education
  3. Precious
  4. District 9 
  5. Crazy Heart

The top three are locks.  The last two are somewhat problematic.

I’ll take my last two Best Picture picks, “District 9” and “Crazy Heart.”  The former received a Golden Globe nomination; the latter, a Writers Guild nomination.  Neither are from well-known industry figures, but the nomination looks nice next to the words “BEST PICTURE.”

That’s the end of the predictions portion.  Now, my ending … I needed this line in bold so you wouldn’t think my ending statement was part of the predictions.

I love being able to toss and turn over these nominations; it reminds me what a great year we had in 2009!  Let’s hope the nominations reflect that to the best of their ability.

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  Sane?  Right?  Wrong?  What do you think about the nominations?  Let me know!



2 responses

2 02 2010

omg, marshall. why have you not posted about the actual nominations yet? just because you have actual things to do during the day…
so, I will start the discussion:
1. Why 10 nominations for best picture this year? I think it’s super lame- takes some of the “it’s an honor just to be nominated” distinction away. Now it’s just the academy’s “Top 10” list. Leave that to the Washington Post, please.

2. I will confess now that I haven’t seen a number of the nominated movies and several of the ones I did see I thought were awful. Well, maybe not awful, but not worthy of Oscars. District 9? Meh. Amusing, I suppose. Avatar? Visually impressive, but otherwise tedious. Poor writing, tired storyline. I literally took a nap in the middle.

3. I cannot see Precious. Just can’t – it goes on the list of movies that are just too difficult for my little heart. Maybe one day I’ll work up to it like I did with American History X. But merits aside, why on God’s green earth does it have to have such an atrocious title? Also, do you think it was really that good, or are we all just suckers for a tough true story?

4. Okay, that is all. Truthfully, I found it to be a ho-hum year in movies. Didn’t realize that till I just looked over this list and started thinking about how many movies I saw in theaters this year (and yes, I didn’t see all the nominated ones, but I saw an awful lot. Not as many as you, of course, but still. Guess I have some homework to do before Oscar night.)

You’re the best. Thanks for giving me a place to rant about how much I hated Avatar.

2 02 2010

A point-by-point reply.

1. It makes the win all the more prestigious? I think it was to provide a wider sampling of tastes in the Best Picture category because the Academy often gets called pretentious. Can you believe that? Pretentious. This is the group that gave Best Picture nominations to “Capote” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.” Now all the normal moviegoers can rejoice at seeing “The Blind Side” (gag) and “Avatar” in the Best Picture lineup because they are too lazy to see quality entertainment like “An Education.”

2. 6 of my top 10 made the Best Picture list for this year, which I think is pretty darn good. “Avatar” and “District 9” were both on my supplemental list. “A Serious Man” has grown on me some since I slapped it with a B-, but “The Blind Side” has only become more cliched with time. Is it the absolute best representation of cinema in 2009? No. But it does a pretty good job (save the previously lamented movie), without a doubt better than last year with the heinous omission of “The Dark Knight.”

3. “Precious” is really that good. See my review which pretty much encapsulates my feelings: yes, it is tough to watch, but hope shines through.


4. If you want to do some homework, start with “The Hurt Locker.” Also on video, check out “Inglourious Basterds” and “Julie & Julia.” In theaters, head to “An Education,” “Crazy Heart,” and “Precious” (if you can handle it).

And this goes out to not only Erin: I am more than happy to provide a home for your movie-related rant here. In fact, I welcome it. Want to rant about “Up in the Air?” I’ll tear you to shreds, but go for it.

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