Oscar Moment: Pre-Festival Predictions!

1 09 2010

Well, folks, I’ve given you 14 Oscar Moments so far that have examined and analyzed the potential awards contenders of 2010.  Today begins a new chapter of the Oscar hunt with the beginning of the Venice Film Festival.  Next week, the Toronto Film Festival will kick off, and soon there will be various festivals in New York, Telluride, and London.

No more idle chatter. This is real.  It’s the time of the year when we separate the weaklings from the true players.  And so I begin before the madness with a few opinions of my own, a set of predictions that I have formed from merely the raw slate as is.  I’ll probably look back at this list and laugh; last year, I said “It’s Complicated” would be nominated.

So, on with the show!  (I’m skipping the screenplays for the next set of predictions.)

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Keira Knightley, “Never Let Me Go”
  2. Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
  3. Barbara Hershey, “Black Swan”
  4. Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
  5. Marion Cotillard, “Inception”

This is a category that likes proven young talent, so I think Knightley makes a good first pick for a winner.  Melissa Leo is clearly well-liked enough by the Academy to score a nomination for a no-name movie like “Frozen River,” so I think pretty mainstream Oscar bait like “The Fighter” bodes well for her chances.  I threw Hershey in the mix because I feel like the Academy will love “Black Swan,” and Best Supporting Actress likes veterans as well.  I’ve never even heard of Steinfeld, but she’s young, and this is the category that gave Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin the big prize in their teen years.  And just for fun, I threw in Cotillard as a wild-card.  She’s already won an Oscar, and I get the feeling the Oscars want to nominate her again.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
  2. Sam Rockwell, “Conviction”
  3. Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”
  4. Vincent Cassel, “Black Swan”
  5. Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right”

An entire slate of first-time nominees?  Dang … I honestly have no idea how this category is going to play out; I just picked from some movies that I thought would be big.  Four of the five are from Best Picture nominees (riskiest bet being Cassel), and I threw in Sam Rockwell because his performance looks REALLY baity.

Best Actress

  1. Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
  2. Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
  3. Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
  4. Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”
  5. Julianne Moore, “The Kids Are All Right”

I’m sensing Bening vs. Portman with maybe a little bit of Jennifer Lawrence to make things interesting.  It’s time for Bening to get one, if not for “The Kids Are All Right” then at least as recognition of how amazing she was in “American Beauty.”  Then again, Natalie Portman is going way out of her good-girl comfort zone, even farther than “Closer,” for “Black Swan.”  She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with this year.  Lawrence is the up-and-comer of the season, which always adds some fun.  Williams, a previous Oscar nominee, is a good bet based on how emotionally wrenching her role is.  And Julianne Moore needs to show up somewhere this year; it appears they are campaigning her for lead where she belongs.  Honestly, they should move Annette Bening to supporting.

Best Actor

  1. Mark Wahlberg, “The Fighter”
  2. Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
  3. James Franco, “127 Hours”
  4. Robert Duvall, “Get Low”
  5. Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine”

It feels like a Wahlberg kind of year.  He’s been nominated before, but this is a role that is born for him to play.  More on that later in the inevitable Oscar Moment, though.  Everyone else has better days ahead, or, in the case of Robert Duvall, already has an Oscar.

Best Director

  1. David Fincher, “The Social Network”
  2. Mike Leigh, “Another Year”
  3. Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
  4. David O. Russell, “The Fighter”
  5. Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”

Fincher rides “The Social Network” train to victory.  Mike Leigh gives him a good run for his money because the Academy loves him way too much.  Christopher Nolan finally gets a much deserved Best Director nomination.  David O. Russell gets in because his movie is loved.  And Darren Aronofsky gets in for the same reason – except he has a rabid fan base that will try to push him to victory.

Best Picture

  1. The Social Network
  2. The Fighter
  3. Toy Story 3
  4. Another Year
  5. Black Swan
  6. Inception
  7. Never Let Me Go
  8. The Kids Are All Right
  9. Blue Valentine
  10. 127 Hours

I’ve read one review of “The Social Network,” but that alone has convinced me that the movie will win Best Picture.  If it’s as good as that review claims, it will be one of the most zeitgeist-tapping movies EVER.  After “The Hurt Locker” got in touch with the American psyche in Iraq last year and won Best Picture, the prize will move back home for “The Social Network.”

I’m just picking up really good vibes from “The Fighter,” mainly because it’s the “little movie that could” story that propelled “Slumdog Millionaire” to victory in 2008.

“Toy Story 3” could actually win.  No joke.  But enough people have to raise the question of “Who cares if it’s animated, it’s the best movie of the year?” to overcome the hurdles.

“Another Year” becomes the critical darling of 2010, likely a critics’ circle favorite, and thus impossible to ignore.

I’ll admit that I caught a peek at some early “Black Swan” reviews from Venice and this is the real deal.  It’s in.

“Inception” plays into the mix, although outside the old-fashioned five, because it’s the big summer hit and for “The Dark Knight” reparations.  Such a combination has to equal a Best Picture nomination.

“Never Let Me Go” is the obligatory literary adaptation bait.

“The Kids Are All Right” will get in because of its great critical standing.  It’s going to have a hard time making a serious run, though, because of the mediocre box office receipts.

“Blue Valentine” is going to be so hard-hitting and gruelingly real that I think the Academy can’t ignore it.

And finally, “127 Hours” gets in just because the Academy loves Danny Boyle and can’t think of anything else to put in.  Or wait, maybe that’s me who can’t think of anything else to put in!

What are your thoughts?  Who did I leave off?  Where am I dead on?

Live Blogging: Oscars 2009

7 03 2010

NOTE: All times are from the Central Time Zone.

6:42 P.M. Got the epiphany to live blog the Oscars a few moments ago.  Watching the red carpet arrivals on E! while I wait for the show to start.  Basically, I really want to hang out with Gabourey Sidibe because she is awesome.  Keep checking back for more updates!

7:01 P.M. Blahhh, I thought the actual show started now!  Too bad it’s just another 30 minutes of red carpet…

7:30 P.M. It’s 7:30, now start the show!  I don’t want to see a Sketchers ad!

7:31 P.M. Interesting display of the leading actor/actress nominees…also kind of awkward.  Love Carey Mulligan and Gabourey though.

7:33 P.M. What awards show hasn’t NPH been on?  This is kind of a random opening…I want Alec and Steve.

7:36 P.M. I’m already digging the duo.  No more solo hosts, please.

7:41 P.M. Why on earth is Kathryn Bigelow sitting right in front of James Cameron?

7:43 P.M. Alec and Steve = my new heroes for poking fun at Taylor Lautner and Zac Efron.


7:49 P.M. I love Waltz’s “BINGO” reference.  What a humble speech.

7:52 P.M. They usually do the Best Picture nominees in alphabetical order, so if “District 9” is next, then “Avatar” won Best Picture.  I can’t stand how the producers don’t think we realize this.

7:57 P.M. This animated character thing is SO money.

8:00 P.M. Yayyyyyy “Up!”

8:04 P.M. Good win for “The Weary Kind” … Oscars proceeding without surprises.

8:06 P.M. Can I change my ballot now?  “District 9” just got presented, so “Avatar” has won.

8:15 P.M. Best Original Screenplay goes to … “The Hurt Locker.”  Beginning of a steamroller?

8:18 P.M. Likin’ the John Hughes tribute.  Some good laughs here.

8:24 P.M. Oh boy … scratch that “Avatar” theory.  They are showing “Up,” which I’m secretly hoping wins Best Picture.

8:32 P.M. And there goes my perfect ballot.  Thanks, “Logorama.”

8:38 P.M. How much better can Ben Stiller get?  After Joaquin Phoenix last year, I thought he was hilarious.  I’m literally dying at him in Na’vi makeup.  James Cameron looks so uncomfortable…

8:50 P.M. NO! “Up in the Air” just got robbed!  But happy for “Precious” too, I guess.

8:52 P.M. If “Up in the Air” doesn’t win an Oscar…

8:58 P.M. Why are they giving away the best parts of “Up in the Air” now?

9:01 P.M. Hey, Mo’Nique just proved that my “Importance of the Speech” article was right!  And what a deserved standing ovation for the best performance of the year.

9:02 P.M. Are they presenting the Best Picture nominees in the order in which they were voted?  Or am I just reading too much into this?

9:07 P.M. Wow, a win for “Avatar” for Best Production Design?  I guess they really do accept the digital filmmaking …

9:09 P.M. What is with the weird rotating set piece behind the presenters?

9:12 P.M. “Precious” has 6 nominations, Charlize.

9:21 P.M. They did NOT just show “New Moon” in the horror sequence…

9:22 P.M. Anna Kendrick, get off Zac Efron’s arm and marry me.

9:23 P.M. Thank you, Morgan Freeman, for explaining sound to me!  I love your voice.

9:25 P.M. And the first “Avatar”-“Hurt Locker” face off goes to … “The Hurt Locker.”

9:27 P.M. Make that the first two* faceoffs…

9:30 P.M. All of a sudden, I really want to watch “Inglourious Basterds.”  Kudos to the person who edited the clip for utilizing the amazing soundtrack.

9:36 P.M. And now “Avatar” takes one from “The Hurt Locker” with cinematography.

9:41 P.M. I miss Natasha Richardson.

9:47 P.M. These street dancers are interesting … I much prefer last year’s simple and classy Best Score presentation.

9:52 P.M. YESSSSSSSSS! “UP” WINS … very deserving Best Score win.

9:56 P.M. Wait … “Avatar” for Best Visual Effects?  That’s shocking … NOW we are tied at 3.

9:58 P.M. Remind me why “Up in the Air” isn’t going to win Best Picture…

10:01 P.M. Only 29 minutes left in the show … this is when my heart starts pumping like crazy.

10:04 P.M. A deserved win for “The Cove.”  Bravo, Academy.  Bravo.

10:06 P.M. Where are Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin?  And why is Tyler Perry presenting editing (actually, this isn’t such a big deal)?

10:07 P.M. And the Oscar goes to “The Hurt Locker” … that makes 4.

10:09 P.M. “The Hurt Locker” coming on now means that “Avatar” will be presented last … am I reading too much into it?

10:15 P.M. What’s with these lamps behind Quentin?

10:20 P.M. Four awards to go, ten minutes scheduled … we are definitely running over.

10:25 P.M. I thought they had gotten rid of this awkward presentation for the acting categories … guess not.

10:32 P.M. Oh, and now we get Kate Winslet.

10:33 P.M. I’m happy for Jeff Bridges.  Almost 40 years from nomination to win. Wow.

10:48 P.M. What the heck did Sean Penn just say?

10:49 P.M. Not my personal choice, but I like Sandra Bullock’s attitude.

10:52 P.M. It’s going to be really awkward for Barbra Streisand if Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t win … melted butter, if you will.

10:55 P.M. We have just seen history.  CONGRATULATIONS KATHRYN BIGELOW!


10:58 P.M. Oh, wow, that was quick.  Go “The Hurt Locker!”

11:04 P.M. Why do I hear “E.T.,” “Chariots of Fire,” and the musical “Oklahoma” in the end credits for the Oscars?

11:07 P.M. Why are the rules being presented at the very end of the broadcast.

11:08 P.M. Well, that’s it, folks.  “The Hurt Locker” is the big winner with six, but “Avatar” took home three, and “Precious,” “Crazy Heart,” and “Up” each won two.  Nothing for “Up in the Air.”  It’s my movie now!

2009: Best Actor

5 03 2010

I’m wrapping up the in-depth analysis of this year’s Academy Awards with the Best Actor category. In a perfect world, I would have done the screenplays, director, and picture categories as well. But life happens, and things don’t always work out as planned.

Nevertheless, please enjoy this deeper look at the performances that got these actors here.

Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The little things that help to turn Bridges into this character aren’t very obvious, yet I never felt like I was watching Jeff Bridges.”

He’s here because … he is an industry veteran with a lot of respect, and his four winless trips to the Oscars simply aren’t enough to honor such a great actor.

George Clooney in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “George Clooney remains the best in the business at playing visibly collected while emotionally perturbed beneath the surface.”

He’s here because … he’s an Academy favorite who is as good as he’s ever been in a beautifully nuanced performance.

Colin Firth in “A Single Man”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Firth keeps the grief bubbling under the surface for most of the movie, and he makes George’s journey even more heart-rending with his subdued misery.”

He’s here because … he is immensely likable, and he finally gives a performance that can turn good feelings into awards attention.

Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Morgan Freeman is remarkable as Mandela, and it is a performance that reminds us why he has such a revered status among actors.”

He’s here because … it’s Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela – a legend playing a legend.

Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Renner gives an absolute tour de force performance as James; he strips James down until he is emotionally raw.”

He’s here because … he’s finally found his breakout role at 39 in the little movie that could; who can resist that?

Marshall’s “Oscars”

I’ve seen all five of the nominees in this category, and I think they did a great job selecting here.  The only change I would make is replacing Morgan Freeman for Peter Sarsgaard in “An Education.”  Freeman did a great job in “Invictus,” but I felt like it was just him going through the motions.  He didn’t wow me.

Sarsgaard, on the other hand, dazzled me.  He was campaigned for Best Supporting Actor, but category fraud doesn’t happen at my awards.  He brings such grace and debonair to his character, the wooer of teenage Jenny, that I didn’t doubt why she fell for his charms.

So, the lineup at my awards would be …

Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Peter Sarsgaard, “An Education”


Should win: George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Could win: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Will win: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”

Bridges has it in the bag, no question about it.  If his wide array of trophies for this performance wasn’t enough, the massive standing ovations he has received collecting them leave no doubt in my mind.

2009: Best Actress

4 03 2010

Best Actress – it’s considered by many to be the most unpredictable of the major races at the 82nd Academy Awards.  Five very deserving and adored candidates are vying for the industries top prize.

But before they were candidates, they were performances.  And even before that, they were characters that existed on a page.  Each of these are just stages, and to move from one to the other, a fantastic actor is crucial.

Here, I intend to celebrate the actresses for their work in turning that character into a performance, work that was so excellent that it turned them into candidates.

Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Sandra Bullock’s spirited and spunky performance (which was good enough to overcome her dreadful accent) atones for some of the errors the film makes with her story.”

She’s here because … she is a popular actress playing a likable character in the box office surprise of the year.

Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”

She’s here because … she’s Helen Mirren and the Academy loves her; who cares if no one in America had seen her movie when the ballots were due?

Carey Mulligan in “An Education”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The understated grace and poise that Mulligan gives to Jenny is what evoked Hepburn’s resemblance, but the real marvel of Mulligan’s acting is that the old-fashioned spirit does not make her character some kind of antique.”

She’s here because … she is a brilliant rising star who dazzles in one of the year’s most agreeable movies.

Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “[Streep] completely masters the persona of the larger-than-life personality and woman – but to anyone that has seen Streep’s work, this is hardly a surprise.”

She’s here because … this is yet another fantastic Meryl Streep performance, and the Academy can’t not nominate one of those.

Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “[Sidibe] makes us feel great concern about her character from the instant we see her trudging through her school.  As Precious gains confidence, our concern develops into genuine care and affection.”

She’s here because … in her first role, she commands the screen with the presence of a veteran.

Marshall’s Oscars

I haven’t seen “The Last Station,” but three of the four nominated performances that I have seen made my Best Actress list.  The exception is Sandra Bullock, who I think has a great story this year, but not one of the best performances.

One spot goes to Zooey Deschanel for her fantastic work on “(500) Days of Summer.”  Her performance has stuck with me all year, and its beautiful subtleties are astounding.  In one of my first reviews on this blog, I raved of Deschanel:

Summer [Deschanel’s character] also has a deep need to be love, but she makes this yearning ever so subtle. Deschanel is able to play this crucial undertone quite skillfully … Deschanel, who most audiences will remember as Will Ferrell’s love interest in “Elf,” plays Summer with the right balance of warmth and bitterness. She plays hard-to-get but also projects Summer’s need to be loved at the same time.

I’ve always been hesitant about giving acting awards to foreign language performances (not that it really matters), but the more I have thought about Melanie Laurent’s performance in “Inglourious Basterds,” the more remarkable it has become for me.  I didn’t say anything other than her being “poignant” in my review, yet her virtuoso work is actually quite astounding.  Obviously Waltz reigns supreme in the film, but she’s crucial to the movie’s success in her own right.

At my prestigious ceremony, the nominees read as followed:

Zooey Deschanel, “(500) Days of Summer”
Melanie Laurent, “Inglourious Basterds”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”


Should win: Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Could win: Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
Will win: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”

The race is between Streep and Bullock, with Mulligan and Sidibe as the major dark horses.  Ultimately, I think the fact that Meryl already has two statues on her mantle coupled with the popularity of “The Blind Side” is enough to propel Bullock to the win.

Random Factoid #219

4 03 2010

I’m a dedicated Oscars watcher, no matter how painful it may be.

Example: In 2008, I was very ill on the day of the big show.  Did I sleep and try to recuperate, watching the Oscars on TiVo on the morning?

Obviously not.

I stayed up until 11:00 P.M. to watch “No Country for Old Men” take home Oscar gold.

2009: Best Supporting Actor

3 03 2010

My celebration of this year’s Academy Award-nominated performances continues with a look at the Best Supporting Actor category.

It’s an interesting mix, but I’ll try not to treat them as numbers or as candidates.  They are actors, and they give performances.  The Oscars become a political race, but I think it’s time to relax and remember 2009 simply as it was: a great year at the theater.

Matt Damon in “Invictus”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The urgency with which [Damon] sets out to transform rugby into something more than just a game for his team is played with an ardent and admirable intensity.”

He’s here because … he had a great year, playing two completely different characters, and he is a well-liked and popular actor.

Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”

He’s here because … he is a character actor who has gone too long unnoticed and under appreciated, and it is time for his moment in the sun.

Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”

He’s here because … he is a fantastic aging actor who had never been nominated before this year, and it was time to correct the crime.

Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”

He’s here because … he’s a well-liked actor who showed his versatility this year, and he has sympathy after the sad loss of his wife to cancer earlier this year.

Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “[Waltz] makes Landa very eerie, nearing the level of Javier Bardem in ‘No Country for Old Men,’ but he is also quite likeable and somewhat charming despite the atrocious deeds he commits.”

He’s here because … he is absolutely spellbinding and commanded the screen every time he graced it.

Marshall’s “Oscars”

It’s a little tough for me to gauge how well the Academy did with this category because at this moment, I have only seen two of the five nominated performances.  However, the two that I did see (Waltz and Damon) both made my list.

As for the other three, it’s a bit of an eccentric collection.  First, I would like to honor the snubbed Alfred Molina for his role as Jenny’s father in “An Education.”  Last year, I spoke on my strong support for his performance:

“Among the ensemble, the real standout is Alfred Molina as Jenny’s father.  Despite being a stern authoritarian when it comes to educational matters, Molina brings an all-encompassing charm that lets us know that he cares for her greatly (but with the values of a fading generation).  His presence lends a warm feel to the movie that blends well with all the other pleasant sentiments the movie radiates.”

Another actor who made my list is not a conventional Academy pick (and thus he finds a home here): Alec Baldwin for “It’s Complicated.”  Other than perhaps “The Hangover” guys, I can’t think of any one actor who made me bust a gut so hard in 2009.  In my review, I raved of Baldwin:

“The real comedic spirit of the film comes from Alec Baldwin, who plays the overbearing fun-lover with such energy that he steals the screen every time he appears on it.  Motivated by little other than carnal desires, [his character’s] every move is fairly anticipated, but Baldwin’s zeal and verve prevent them ensure that they are always hysterical.”

For my final nominee, I debated including Paul Schneider for his role as poet John Keats’ friend in “Bright Star” as well as Stephen Lang for his muscling role as tough-as-nails marine in “Avatar.”  But after some thought, I decided that the spot deservingly goes to Nicholas Hoult for playing an overly interested student in “A Single Man.”  At first, I found myself quite annoyed by the character.  But as soon as I got over that, I discovered that a great performance lay underneath:

“The real acting standout is the young Nicholas Hoult as George’s overly inquisitive pupil, Kenny.  The script only feeds him obsequiously sexually inviting lines, and it’s hard to overcome that.  But Hoult understands the nature of his character and allows him to progress from somewhat creepy to somewhat of a guardian angel for George (look no further than his giant white sweater).”

So, at Marshall’s Oscars, the nominees would have been…

Alec Baldwin, “It’s Complicated”
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Nicholas Hoult, “A Single Man”
Alfred Molina, “An Education”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”


Should win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Could win: Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Will win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

The only way Waltz loses here is if the voters feel like they need to give Plummer a “career achievement” Oscar. But even that doesn’t seem likely after Waltz’s steamrolling through this season.

Random Factoid #218

3 03 2010

I’ve been watching the Oscars for a long time, and my parents always made me go to bed before all the good awards when I was younger.

The first year I saw the presentation of Best Picture live was in 2006 when “Crash” upset “Brokeback Mountain.”

The first year I got to watch the entire show was 2008 when “No Country for Old Men” reigned supreme.

2009: Best Supporting Actress

2 03 2010

It’s here.

By this point, the ballots are in, and all the campaigning is over. The politics of the Oscars are over, and now we are just left with the scripts, the performances, and the movies.  Rather than do one big post discussing and analyzing all of the categories, I want to use this week to honor the films and performances themselves.

Penelope Cruz in “Nine”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Cruz is absolutely mesmerizing from the first instant we see her traipsing around on some pink fabric.”

She’s here because … she was the highlight of a pretty disastrous movie, pulling off one of the year’s sexiest performances.

Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Vera Farmiga walks a very thin line between “feminine and agressive,” according to Reitman, and she never gives us any hint that she will lose her balance.”

She’s here because … she is a delightful female counterpart to George Clooney, and her performance illuminates Clooney’s character as a whole.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “It’s a performance very much in Gyllehaal’s comfort zone, and she’s pleasant to watch.”

She’s here because … she holds her own against the renowned Jeff Bridges, and she has a lot of respect amongst actors (not unlike her co-star).

Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: [Kendrick] doesn’t show promise as a star; Natalie Keener has made her one.

She’s here because … she is a brilliant discovery, making uptight lovable and reminding us of the happiness and pain that comes with having real human relationships.

Mo’Nique in “Precious”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Mo’Nique delivers a performance that is absolutely harrowing.”

She’s here because … this is the most emotionally gripping performance of 2009, and it’s equally shocking to think that it comes from the actress who headlined “Phat Girlz” three years ago.

Marshall’s “Oscars”

The Academy did a pretty good job this year. My top five match 4/5 with their list.

I would replace Maggie Gyllenhaal with Rosamund Pike for “An Education.”  Both played relatively simple characters: Gyllenhaal the devoted single mother and Pike the dumb blonde.  But the distinction arises from what they do with it.  Gyllenhaal seems complacent with sticking to the stock character; on the other hand, Pike does fascinating things with Helen.  I didn’t feel like I was watching the ten millionth air-headed rich blonde because Pike made it feel refreshing and new.

In my review, I said about Pike:

“The performance that will probably go criminally unheralded is Rosamund Pike as one of David’s companions.  She is the typical ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype, but she brings her own flair to it in a way that makes the tired stock character seem brand new.  When she is on screen, you can’t help but grin.”

So, at Marshall’s Oscars, the nominees are…

Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Rosamund Pike, “An Education”

In case you don’t realize this, my favorite is revealed in the “should win” listed below.


Should win: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Could win: Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Will win: Mo’Nique, “Precious”

No way in hell anyone other than Mo’Nique wins. She’s just too good.

Random Factoid #217

2 03 2010

An Oscars tradition at my house: my mom always makes pizza, and we eat it while watching the red carpet arrivals on E!

Don’t know how it got started, but it stuck.

UPDATE: Turns out that I am a bit of a factoid repeater.  Oh well, it was bound to happen sometime.

Random Factoid #190

3 02 2010

Yesterday afternoon, I had an exciting revelation.

For the first time in my life, I had seen every single Best Picture nominee on the day that the nominations were announced!  I can now speak without reservations about personal taste on the category!

The 2009 Academy Award Nominations!

2 02 2010

Best Picture:
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

Best Director:
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
James Cameron, “Avatar”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

Best Actress:
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”

Best Supporting Actor:
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Supporting Actress:
Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”

Best Original Screenplay:
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man

Best Adapted Screenplay:
District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Up in the Air

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.)

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Oscar Moment: Predictions As The Ballots Go Out

28 12 2009

Oscar nomination ballots have now been sent out to the Academy!  Thus, I felt it was time to issue a new set of Oscar Predictions.  Since I last went on record, we have heard from a multitude of critics groups, the National Board of Review, and have received nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.  What conclusion can we draw from them?  I draw mine here.

Best Picture

  1. Up in the Air
  2. The Hurt Locker
  3. Avatar
  4. Precious
  5. Inglourious Basterds
  6. Up
  7. An Education
  8. Invictus
  9. Nine
  10. A Serious Man

Big changes this week, though nothing changes at the top.  I still think “Up in the Air” is going to win – and not just because I love it so much.  It is slowly picking up steam at the box office, and it is a movie that pretty much everybody really likes.  It is powerful storytelling with commanding performances, the recipe for usual Oscar success.

But its two biggest threats have changed since the last set of predictions.  “The Hurt Locker” has clearly established itself as the critical favorite, the movie that scores the most with the various critics groups from New York to Oklahoma.  This can be good and bad, but the good critical favorites are usually the ones that are mixed with audience support.  With only $12 million in the bank, it is clear that “The Hurt Locker” does not have this.  If people a more populist pick for Best Picture with the expansion of the field, this would most likely send a message of adherence to pretentiousness.

The opposite message would be sent with the selection of “Avatar.”  I resisted for as long as I could, but now it is virtually undeniable.  With critics clearly behind it and box office standing at a formidable $213 million, this has a lot going for it.  Yet it has a gender prejudice going against it.  Only rarely do action movies fly with the Academy; just look at how they snubbed “The Dark Knight” last year for “The Reader.”  I think many will see it as little more than a visual spectacle and technological innovator.

“Inglourious Basterds” has really jumped on the scene, getting top nominations from the Golden Globes and the SAG.  I didn’t think this was possible in August, but I guess I was wrong.

“An Education” didn’t really fall; everything else just went up.  Same goes for “Invictus,” but I think we are looking at this year’s “Frost/Nixon” or “Good Night, and Good Luck” here.  By that, I mean the movie that gets a bunch of nominations with no real chance at winning any of them.

“Nine” actually dropped, though.  Audiences didn’t receive it well as shown by the lackluster $5.4 million it posted Christmas weekend.  Critics aren’t digging it, and its Rotten Tomatoes score is now sitting at a dreadful 37% fresh.  On the other hand, we can’t forget that it did get a SAG Best Ensemble nomination over high-flying “Up in the Air,” among others.  This is a movie that the actors seem to like, and they make up a large portion of the voting body.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see it slip off the charts completely, but don’t count it out just yet.  (“Precious” dropped too, but I offer some explanation on that in the Best Director section.)

The tenth slot continues to puzzle me.  Now, I have it going to the Coen’s “A Serious Man,” but this is another big question mark.  It failed to get a nomination for Best Picture at the Golden Globes (where “It’s Complicated” did, so “ha!” to all my detractors on that one), which is pretty big considering that “Burn After Reading” made it last year despite being met with a slightly chillier reception.  And it pains me to pick this while so many of my favorite movies sit in the cellar.

Best Director

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

Bigelow has gained a lot of strength with most of the critics groups on her side, and I can now see a Best Picture-Director split between “Up in the Air” and her.  The momentum for her to become the first female director to win the Oscar may just be too big to deny.  Not to mention the fact that if “Up in the Air” takes screenplay and picture, Reitman will walk away with two statues.

James Cameron is the real star of “Avatar,” and the Academy will no doubt want to honor his work.  This is a project that he has had in his head for over 15 years, and his patience while the technology caught up with the idea should be rewarded.

Tarantino takes over the fifth spot from Rob Marshall because of the lack of love for “Nine” (which is mostly because of him).  The “Inglourious Basterds” love the critics, Golden Globes, and SAG have displayed is enough to get its director a nomination.  After all, it really is his movie.

Lee Daniels drops off the chart because of his Golden Globes snub when “Precious” was clearly well received by the group.  “Precious” has lost a ton of momentum from its release in November, mainly due to bumbling Lionsgate who refused to capitalize on the limited release success by taking it nationwide then.

People see the Academy as Clint’s cronies, which isn’t necessarily true.  Maybe they just set out to make a statement last year with their “Gran Torino” shutout, but I think that the financial success came too late to make an impact.  “Invictus” hasn’t exactly lit the box office on fire; however, I just get the sinking feeling that he is still going to get nominated here.  Call me crazy.

Best Actor

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

The only change here is Bridges falling to number 4.  He has only won awards from critics whose awards truly mean something like the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle;  Clooney and Firth have been taking all the others.  I’m getting a vibe that this a performance that is being honored for honor, not because people really love it.  I am getting the latter vibe from Clooney, who has been taking the prizes from a lot of the smaller, less renowned critics circles.

This is the standard top 5 now among almost everyone.  I can’t help but feel like there has to be some kind of shake-up here, some surprise nominee.  But who?  Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis will find his way in like always, or perhaps Matt Damon will surprise for his turn in “The Informant!”  He had a heck of a year, and the Academy could see fit to honor that with two nominations.  Just spitballing here.

Best Actress

  1. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
  2. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia
  3. Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious” 
  4. Helen Mirren, “The Last Station
  5. Marion Cotillard, “Nine”

I’m sorry, but I cannot pick Sandra Bullock here.  I keep seeing all these raves for her and wonder if I saw the same movie and performance as they did.

I moved Sidibe back a spot because the critics awards seem to be hinting that this race will be a duel between Streep and Mulligan, the veteran and the fresh face.  However, I could see a possible vote split propelling the novice to victory.

With Abbie Cornish showing up nowhere and “Bright Star” seemingly forgotten, she falls off the list.  I replaced her with Marion Cotillard because the Academy loved her enough to give her an Oscar when no one knew who she was.  Even though the buzz on “Nine” is down, I have a feeling there will be plenty of love for the ladies.  Cotillard does have two emotionally wrenching numbers in the movie going for her.

And I’ll use this post to congratulate Meryl Streep on receiving her 25th Golden Globe nomination.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
  2. Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones
  3. Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
  4. Alfred Molina, “An Education”
  5. Matt Damon, “Invictus”

This is the category with the big shake-up this week.

Christoph Waltz is winning almost everything, so I can still place him in the number one slot.

Stanley Tucci jumps from off the list all the way to number 2.  I think its a mix of career achievement and a very good year (despite the apparent “The Lovely Bones” flop).  Christopher Plummer shares the former of these; Matt Damon, the latter.  I think the fact that Plummer is 80 years old, well-respected, and has no nominations is enough to get him into the field.

Woody Harrelson, Alfred Molina, and Matt Damon were the three men vying for my last three slots.  Despite Globes and SAG snubs for Molina, I still feel confident that he can make it.  Damon and Harrelson got the two nominations that Molina missed, so logic would probably say that they would be the two to fill the spots.  But I just get the feeling that Damon will get in because of the one-two punch of “Invictus” and “The Informant!”

Best Supporting Actress

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

No large change here.  Mo’Nique is becoming quite the juggernaut, and unless she goes full Eddie Murphy, there’s no chance she loses it.

If she does go full Eddie, Anna Kendrick takes it.  Her “Up in the Air” co-star, Vera Farmiga, takes over the fourth slot from Penelope Cruz.  “Nine” love isn’t very strong, but she is the scene stealer.  And she gets her picture here because she was too stunning not to feature.

Best Original Screenplay

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

Tarantino’s dialogue has won over the Academy once before, and I think he may do it again this year.  He could be the new Woody Allen (for the Oscar voters) – just don’t tell him that I said that.

“A Serious Man” moves into the the nominees mainly because I can’t ponder hearing “Winner of One Oscar Nomination – BEST PICTURE.”  I know it will happen eventually, but I don’t think it can the first year.

If “(500) Days of Summer” doesn’t get nominated here, I will hit something.  It is too creative and brilliant to be ignored.

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

“Up in the Air” is still king here.  Even if it doesn’t take Best Picture, I have a hard time seeing it losing this category.

“An Education” moves up despite missing out at the Golden Globes.  There is a sizable British faction of the Academy, and they will see to it that he gets his just reward for this great screenplay.  “Precious” moves down not only because of the Globes screenplay snub, but also because of a general loss of momentum.

“Invictus” gets a bump up mainly because “District 9” moves into the field as a wild-card contender.  “Avatar” has probably dashed its hopes in the Best Picture field, so the Academy could reward it here.  This was a well-scripted movie that scored with audiences and critics alike, and it deserves more than technical nominations that it is bound to lose to “Avatar.”

So, what are your thoughts?  Am I crazy to still think “Up in the Air” will win Best Picture?  Or that Jeff Bridges won’t win Best Actor?  I’m dying to know what you think, so don’t hesitate to tell me!

Random Factoid #129

4 12 2009

Today’s factoid deals heavily with Sporcle. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you should (and you can find out by clicking the link to the left). It is the perfect way to do “meaningful procrastination.” By that, I mean that this is somewhat beneficial to your brain.  Facebook and YouTube, not so much.

A friend of mine was in random quiz mode on Sporcle, and the quiz that followed was “Can you name all of the categories at the Academy Awards?”  She knows me well enough and instantly called me over to help.  In less than 2 minutes, I had rattled off all 28 categories much to astonishment of my classmates.

Oscar Moment: First Predictions!

1 12 2009

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.

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