Oscar Moment: Final Preseason Predictions!

1 12 2010

It’s time!  The guessing is about to be over, so I figured I’d take my final stab at Oscar’s picks before the critics groups and guilds exert their influence over the race.

Past predictions: November 2010September 2010.

Best Picture:

  1. The Social Network
  2. The King’s Speech
  3. Black Swan (9)
  4. Inception (6)
  5. Toy Story 3
  6. 127 Hours (3)
  7. The Fighter
  8. Winter’s Bone (NR)
  9. True Grit (4)
  10. The Kids Are All Right (8)

Dropping off: How Do You Know

Little change in the “TSN”/”TKS” dialectic as I still believe their duel will be the story of the season and that David Fincher’s Facebook movie will win out.  Other than that, the job of a prognosticator is to distinguish the dark horses from those just lucky to populate the top 10.

Noticeably different from the lineup a month ago is the position of “Black Swan,” which has received some massive praise in large amounts.  I’m just really feeling the love for this movie right now, and while it may just be a movie for the critics groups, I think the emphasis on its artistic achievement will push it through.

As for other motions on the chart, “Inception” moves up as the DVD release gives it an uptick; how much the movie can run with it, though, is yet to be determined. “127 Hours” moves down because I just don’t feel the passion for it has been able to sustain.

“True Grit” falls as reviews make it out to be great but nothing to stop the presses like ‘The Social Network” did, and since the Coens have already directed a Best Picture winner, the movie stands in a big shadow.  And I’ve never felt secure on “The Kids Are All Right” simply because it just seems too assumed, too “its a well-reviewed social commentary and comedy so it’s in” to be a safe bet.  The public didn’t quite catch on, and its DVD release didn’t revive much passion.

“Winter’s Bone” charts for the first time as it seems to be the “anointed indie” of 2010 after its triumph at the Gotham Awards and it led the pack of Indie Spirit award nominations (more on Friday.)

Best Director:

  1. David Fincher, “The Social Network” 
  2. Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech” 
  3. Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”  (4)
  4. Christopher Nolan, “Inception”  (3)
  5. Danny Boyle, “127 Hours” 

Not much going on here other than the flop in positions of Aronofsky and Nolan.  For me, this is a stagnant category and not much will change unless the Coen Brothers knock out one of the bottom 3.

Best Actor:

  1. Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”  (2)
  2. James Franco, “127 Hours”  (1)
  3. Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network” 
  4. Robert Duvall, “Get Low”  (NR)
  5. Ryan Gosling, “Blue Valentine” 

Dropping off: Mark Wahlberg

Although I don’t agree with the commonly held conception that “The King’s Speech” will be the big winner of 2010’s Oscar race, I do think it will have a nice trophy haul.  The voters like this movie, and they want to give it some reward other than Best Picture.  Thus, Colin Firth, the very likable and talented performer, gets Best Actor as a testament to the film’s power.  I can see it playing out much like 2008 when “Milk” took home Best Actor for Sean Penn and Best Original Screenplay.  James Franco may just be too young to win (and he gets to host the show.)

Eisenberg stays at position #3, a safe bet for now but could be dislodged if little support is thrown his way.  Duvall reenters as Bridges/Wahlberg praise has been relatively muted amidst the raves for their movies.  “The Fighter” and “True Grit” will get their chance in the Supporting categories, both with a good shot at the win.  There’s the sentimental Peter O’Toole in “Venus” vote going for him here, although it does hurt that he’s won before.

And I still stick with Gosling simply because I stand to my guns on this movie being rewarded for its raw acting.  But I realize that the Academy could pull a “Revolutionary Road” on us and nominate neither he or Williams because the material is too depressing.

Best Actress:

  1. Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” 
  2. Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right” 
  3. Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole” 
  4. Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”  (NR)
  5. Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”  (4)

Dropping off: Lesley Manville

Little change here as well.  I stil think this is Portman’s year, and she will run away with it.  Perhaps certain organizations where sentimental votes really count will choose Bening, but I think the Academy knows an incredible, transformative performance when they see one.  To quote my own review of “Black Swan” in a shameless plug, “Portman absolutely disappears into her character.  It’s a shocking and startling transformation due to Portman’s dedication to learning the craft of ballet and her impeccable acting.”

Kidman stays stagnant, and Michelle Williams is forced down a rung by the force of Jennifer Lawrence, an actress whose chances I was very cynical about (as shown by her fall off the chart from September to November).  But now I think I’m sure that she’s the real deal, although if “Winter’s Bone” falters in awards season, I may retract that statement.  I was hesitant to place her in my top 5 because she is so young; if nominated, Lawrence will be the second-youngest nominee ever at 19 years of age.  But she could easily be the Carey Mulligan of 2010, the breakout star no one can deny.  I doubt she could topple Portman or Bening, but I wouldn’t rule her out as the year’s critical darling.

Best Supporting Actor:

  1. Christian Bale, “The Fighter” 
  2. Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech” 
  3. Matt Damon, “True Grit”  (NR)
  4. Andrew Garfield, “The Social Network”  (3)
  5. Jeremy Renner, “The Town”  (NR)

Dropping off: Aaron Eckhart, Sam Rockwell

Since I last updated these predictions, people actually saw “The Fighter” and confirmed my suspicion that Christian Bale would steamroll his way through awards season.  He has the respect to get there (despite his temper), and he is deserving.  Paramount will easily be able to make the case that this is “his time.”  Apologies to Geoffrey Rush, but your time was in 1996 when you won Best Actor.

Matt Damon makes his first appearance on the list as good word gets around about his performance in “True Grit,” replacing Sam Rockwell, who isn’t very good in the fairly pathetic “Conviction.”

My bad for the category fraud – I assumed Aaron Eckhart would be campaigned in Best Supporting Actor after reading a piece by Dave Karger.  But according to the FYC ads, I’m wrong, and he will be rightfully campaigned in the leading category.  With passion for Andrew Garfield’s performance seemingly slipping but nonetheless still present, who should fill that last slot?  I still think the men problem of “The Kids Are All Right” will keep Mark Ruffalo out again (unfortunately).

My pick is Jeremy Renner.  There’s a whole lot of good will for “The Town,” although I still dobut it has enough to crack the Best Picture shortlist.  The good feelings for the movie could translate into a surprise acting nomination, much like Maggie Gyllenhaal found herself in the Best Supporting Actress race without any prior attention when “Crazy Heart” wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.  Jeremy Renner, a nominee for last year’s “The Hurt Locker,” is really emerging as a big star, and what better way to mint him as a mainstream actor than nominate him in consecutive years?  This would prove him to be more than just a one-hit wonder, and it’s one way they could honor “The Town.”

Best Supporting Actress:

  1. Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”  (3)
  2. Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”  (5)
  3. Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”  (1)
  4. Amy Adams, “The Fighter”  (NR)
  5. Dianne Weist, “Rabbit Hole” (4)

Dropping off: Miranda Richardson

I can’t wait for precursor season to start so we can GET SOME CLARITY ON THIS CATEGORY!  We have been wandering in the wilderness for months upon months now with everyone offering guesses, not predictions.  So my final guess is Hailee Steinfeld, the tenacious youngin of “True Grit.”  If the Academy wants to reward the movie with a trophy, this could be the simplest place to do it.  The socialism of the Oscars isn’t something dependable, but it happens enough to factor in to predictions.

With “The King’s Speech” taken care of in Best Actor, Helena Bonham Carter doesn’t pose much of a threat.  Ditto for Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, who will cede the carrying of the torch for “The Fighter” to Christian Bale.  I doubt Dianne Weist has a legitimate shot at winning since she has taken this category twice.  Can you picture her next to Jack Nicholson as the premier Oscar-winning actors of a generation?  I can’t.

Best Original Screenplay:

  1. The King’s Speech 
  2. The Kids Are All Right
  3. Inception
  4. Another Year
  5. Black Swan

Finally, some commentary on the screenplay race that you’ve been craving since September.  Don’t lie, this is exciting to you.

While “Inception” and “The Kids Are All Right” are undoubtedly the most original of the bunch, this seems to be a category for “The King’s Speech” simply because of the broad acclaim the movie has received.  If the Academy is looking for a place to reward the movie other than Best Picture, this is another easy way they can elevate its statue count above the winner of the Best Documentary Short.  With a good shot at several technicals, “The King’s Speech” could walk away with three trophies while “The Social Network” takes the requisite four (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing).

“Black Swan” glides in on the movie’s success, although I don’t think the screenplay was particularly fantastic.  It could easily be overlooked in favor of another independent selection.  And “Another Year,” which seems to have fallen from grace since its Cannes premiere, hangs on in Best Original Screenplay because Mike Leigh movies always get nominated here.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  1. The Social Network 
  2. Toy Story 3
  3. True Grit
  4. Rabbit Hole
  5. Winter’s Bone

If “The Social Network” should be eclipsed by “The King’s Speech,” it should still take Best Adapted Screenplay without a hitch.  Aaron Sorkin’s genius script will probably be the movie’s most appealing offering over the season, and this category seems to seal the deal for the Facebook flick to score at least one Oscar.  Then again, we said the same thing about “Up in the Air,” and then “Precious” came out of nowhere to steal.

“Toy Story 3” is probably the movie most likely to take down Sorkin, if that’s even possible.  The minds at Pixar have been ever so close to a Screenplay win for 15 years; it may be too soon to give them Best Picture, but why not Best Adapted Screenplay?  It’s a step in the right direction towards a time when a movie will not be discriminated against and excluded from the Best Picture race just for being animated, foreign, or a documentary.

The Coen Brothers always get nominated for their writing, and they’ve won twice.  So chances that they get in for “True Grit” are very high.  “Rabbit Hole” slides in because the category seems to be trending towards theatrical adaptations.  If “Doubt” can get in for a word-for-word adaptation, David Lindsey-Abaire’s cinematic reimagining shouldn’t have a problem garnering a nomination.

As for the final slot, I choose indie darling “Winter’s Bone” over “127 Hours” simply because it feels more literary.  Danny Boyle’s movie isn’t very scripted; the magic comes from Franco.

What are your thoughts heading into the season?  Am I right on “The Social Network?”  Am I missing something?





Oscar Moment: “True Grit”

12 11 2010

Unlike “The Fighter,” which seems Academy-appealing on premise, “True Grit” is appealing on pedigree.  It comes courtesy of the Coen Brothers, who each have three statues thanks to their work producing, writing, and directing “No Country for Old Men” in 2007 and another for writing “Fargo” in 1996.  Including the nominations they have received for editing under the alias Roderick Jaynes, Joel and Ethan Coen have each received a whopping TEN Oscar nominations.

Beyond just their own history, the Coen Brothers have roped in some phenomenal talent to make this look like one heck of an Oscar contender on paper.  “True Grit” is an adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis, NOT a remake of the 1969 film starring John Wayne.  According to sources, the two are very different, and those expecting a remake are in store for something entirely different.  However, John Wayne’s leading turn as Rooster Cogburn won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, so keeping in the same vain wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Jeff Bridges.

Bridges is hot off his Best Actor win for “Crazy Heart” last year and looks to be in striking range of a second trophy.  The “too soon” political argument will surely be a factor, but it’s not a novel concept for an actor to be nominated the year after they win.  It happened twice over the past decade with Russell Crowe nominated in 2001 for “A Beautiful Mind” after winning for “Gladiator” and Penelope Cruz nominated in 2009 for “Nine” after winning for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”  Then, of course, there’s the once in a lifetime case of Tom Hanks, who won back-to-back Best Actor statues for “Philadelphia” and then “Forrest Gump” in 1993 and 1994.  The only other actor to pull this off was Spencer Tracy back in the 1930s.  While I think Bridges has the respect to achieve this massive distinction, I doubt the politics of Academy voting nowadays will allow it.

Bridges isn’t the only threat the movie has in the acting categories.  Two-time nominee Matt Damon looks to make an entry into the Best Supporting Actor category, as does prior nominee Josh Brolin.  The race still has no clear frontrunner (hard to believe), and either of them with enough buzz when the movie screens around Thanksgiving could lead to a major shake-up.

My money is on Damon, the more respected actor in the eyes of the Academy.  He was nominated just last year for “Invictus” and has history with the Oscars dating all the way back to 1997 when he won Best Original Screenplay with pal Ben Affleck for “Good Will Hunting” and also received a Best Actor nomination.  2010 has been yet another banner year for Damon, starring in Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” and narrating Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job.”  He has also been recognized as a great humanitarian and just a general class act.  It’s hard to judge his chances without anyone having seen the movie, but I think Damon could easily win the whole thing.

Brolin, on the other hand, has only recently emerged as an actor to be reckoned with thanks to roles in “Milk,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and “No Country for Old Men,” the Coen Brothers’ Best Picture winner which earned him a SAG Award for Best Ensemble.  He has a more volatile personality, and this could harm him.  In “True Grit,” he plays the outlaw Tom Chaney, another villainous role that he has gained so much notoriety playing.  Unlike the Best Supporting Actress category where double nominees from the same film are common (see the Oscar Moment on “The Fighter” for statistics), the feat hasn’t been accomplished in Best Supporting Actor since 1991 when Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley were both nominated for “Bugsy.”  So if I had to pick one of the two “True Grit” supporting men, I take Damon at the moment.

Then there’s also the easy Oscar nominations that the movie will pick up since is this is a Coen Brothers movie that happens to take place in the 1880s Wild West.  Best Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design and Film Editing are certainties.  The movie could bomb and those three nominations would still be in the bag.  Best Adapted Screenplay should be an easy nomination to net given that they have been nominees four times in the category and winners twice.  Best Director will be interesting for the same reasons that it will be interesting for Danny Boyle, but if “True Grit” is a huge hit, there’s no way the Coen Brothers won’t come along for the ride here.

But perhaps the movie’s biggest wild card is the spunky teenaged heroine Mattie Ross, played by newcome Hailee Steinfeld.  She will be a more central figure in the 2010 version of “True Grit” since the novel focused more on her perspective. Still, Steinfeld will likely be campaigned for Best Supporting Actress where the field is thin and the category is more hospitable territory for young actresses.  In the past decade, 13-year-old Saiorse Ronan and 10-year-old Abigail Breslin have been nominees for “Atonement” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” respectively.  The category has also seen pint-sized winners like Tatum O’Neal for “Paper Moon” at the age of 10 and Anna Paquin for “The Piano” at the age of 11.

Steinfeld is in good company, but we have nothing other than a trailer and the confidence of the Coen Brothers to indicate whether or not she has the capability to execute this role.  Their word is good, as most actors who have worked with the duo state that they are perfectionists obsessed with precision.  All signs point to this being an inspired casting, and it won’t be hard for Steinfeld to make it a pretty meager Best Supporting Actress category this year.  But still, like everything else about “True Grit,” we still have to wait and see the critical reaction – just to make sure.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bridges), Best Supporting Actor (Damon), Best Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actor (Brolin), Best Original Score