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Friday, February 25, 2011

And The Oscar Goes To...

Can I make it four years in a row winning the Oscar pool? Only Price Waterhouse knows for sure, and they ain't telling (yet). In the meantime, here's my thoughts on the major Oscar categories this year.

At first glance, it almost seems pointless to write this post, as most of the major awards have appeared locked up, with little chance of a shake-up. But the last few weeks have been interesting, awards-wise, and there's some intrigue going on just beneath the surface.

Let's start with the two surest things, the male acting awards.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”

Christian Bale is the clear favorite here, having swept up just about every Supporting Actor award this year, making it likely that he'll be the second Batman to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. As "The King's Speech" has gained momentum the last few weeks and become the clear Oscar favorite, there has been some murmuring that a "King's" sweep might lead to Geoffrey Rush upsetting Bale here, but it seems doubtful. Bale for the win.

1st Pick: Christian Bale
2nd Pick: Geoffrey Rush

Performance by An Actor in a Leading Role 
Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
James Franco in “127 Hours”

Even more rock solid than Bale's lock on Supporting Actor is Firth's lock on Leading Actor. So strong are his chances that none of the other names have even been mentioned in conversation.  It's Firth's to lose at this point, and odds are good he won't.

1st Pick: Colin Firth
2nd Pick: Milhouse

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Here is where, surprisingly, things get interesting. After having all but sewn up her win shortly after the nomination was made official, Melissa Leo has seen her star fall over the last several weeks, as a minor scandal over her campaigning for herself combined with a groundswell of support for Hailee Steinfeld amongst Academy members (who, yes, should have nominated her in the Leading Actress category) have combined to make what was, only weeks ago, one of the more boring races one of the most interesting. At first, I thought all this "Hailee Steinfeld upset" business was just Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger trying to stimulate interest in an open-and-shut category, but there seems to be some legitimate weight behind the idea. Couple that with the outside chance that, like in Supporting Actor, wide overall support for "King's Speech" could put Helena Bonham Carter back in the race and the old "double nominees from one movie splits the film's support" factor in having Amy Adams competiting against Leo, and this category remains up in the air.

Right now, my gut is still telling me Melissa Leo, but don't be surprised if that doesn't change a time or ten by Oscar night.

1st Pick: Melissa Leo
2nd Pick: Hailee Steinfeld

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role 
Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Though not as tumultuous as Supporting Actress, this is another category that isn't as open and shut as it may seem. While odds are good that Natalie Portman will continue her awards season roll all the way to Oscar, there remains a small but growing sentiment for Annette Bening, a four time nominee considered by many to be "Hollywood Royalty" who deserves a win. If that sentiment prevails amongst the voting body, an upset is possible. My money is still on Portman, but this race is apparently closer than you'd expect.

1st Pick: Natalie Portman
2nd Pick: Annette Bening

Achievement in Directing 
“Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
“The Fighter” David O. Russell
“The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
“The Social Network” David Fincher
“True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

I mentioned it last year when discussing the Kathryn Bigelow/James Cameron showdown, but only six times since the inception of the Directors Guild award in 1948 has the recipient failed to win the Oscar (the last time being in 2003, when Roman Polanski won the Oscar over DGA winner Rob Marshall; Bigelow, of course, won last year). With Tom Hooper scooping up the DGA this year, and the general groundswell of support "The King's Speech" has, it looks like Hooper is a lock to win.

However, "The Social Network" remains an overall contender, and most voters point to its directing (and editing) as it strengths, so the possibility of another DGA/Oscar split (as well as another Best Director/Best Picture Oscar split) exists. Dave Fincher is one of those directors for whom many feel "his time has come" and are looking to reward him as much for "The Social Network" as for the strong body of work he's turned in throughout his career (as opposed to Christopher Nolan, a similar director popular with audiences and critics who Hollywood feels hasn't paid his dues yet, thus, no nomination for "Inception"). The idea of two films sharing the Best Director and Best Picture award used to be much more uncommon, but in recent years, it's become less and less outrageous an idea. Still, while a split wouldn't be unheard of, and might just be the best way to go, at the moment, I have to go with past precedent and believe that Oscar will once again line up with the DGA. But I expect to go back and forth on this one several times before inking my ballot, though.

1st Pick: Tom Hooper
2nd Pick: David Fincher

Best Motion Picture of the Year
“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King's Speech”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3”
“True Grit”
“Winter's Bone"

Once again, despite the swollen category, it's a two picture race between "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network", a race which has inspired some interesting thoughts on the respective nature of the films and the audience reaction to them (one being a very-much-of-its-time look at the digital revolution, the other a throwback to classic Oscar winners of yore). The later has been the front runner since it's debut, and has swept up a vast majority of awards already.  However, as the awards season dragged on, "Social Network" lost steam, losing the big three guild awards (Directors Guild, Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild) to "The King's Speech" and putting history on the side of "The King's Speech": since the creation of the SAG's best cast prize sixteen years ago, six films have won all three guild awards, and five of those six went on to win the Best Picture Oscar ("Apollo 13" being the lone loser amongst that group, losing to "Braveheart", though that loss was telegraphed by Ron Howard failing to score a directing nomination). Combine that with the fact that "King's Speech" notched the most nominations (usually, the film with the most overall nominations wins Best Picture, because it did well enough to garner support from all areas of the Academy) and it's looking more and more like "The King's Speech" will reign supreme.

1st Pick: "The King's Speech"
2nd Pick: "The Social Network"

In other races:

"The Social Network" won't go home empty handed, as Aaron Sorkin is considered a lock to pick the Best Adapted Screenplay award, and "Network" could also score the editing prize.

Expect "Inception" to nab a few technical awards, but don't count out "King's Speech" in some of those categories, as some voters may just run the ticket.

Another strong year in animation, another Pixar domination. "Toy Story 3" winning Best Animated Feature is probably the biggest lock of the night.


  1. if we're lucky, Anne and i will catch like maybe an hour or so before we go to bed, so i'm always glad when you do these posts

  2. i thought i posted on this, but then remembered i posted on your facebook post about this.


  3. It's feeling like Hailee Steinfeld to me. Maybe that's because I still haven't seen The Fighter, whose cast is clearly formidable; maybe it's because I've been trying to get up a pre-Oscars post that praises her performance (in a bumper crop of great performances by women in choice roles); maybe it's just that talk about Melissa Leo's odd for-your-consideration ads or the potential vote-splitting with the irresistible Amy Adams as you say.

    I also have a nagging suspicion that David Fincher might indeed take Director, and that The Social Network could even be named Best Picture, but at this point I'm having a hard time distinguishing cosmic signals from my own wishful thinking or the chills from this damn bronchial infection. So we'll just wait and see.

    Happy watching!

  4. @Falen: i'm always glad when you do these posts

    Good to know!

    @Anne: but then remembered i posted on your facebook post about this

    I will catch you over there!

    @Blam: It's feeling like Hailee Steinfeld to me.

    I also have a nagging suspicion that David Fincher might indeed take Director

    I was feeling the same thing (and my Oscar ballot reflected as much, but in the end, a night fraught with potential upsets turned out to be pretty routine (that early Cinematography upset aside).

  5. @Falen: Joe won (I'm not sure if you've ever met him...) and Scott came in second, with me third. And Dr. Bitz's brother fourth.

  6. Is it the Joe that was at your wedding? Because if yes, then i have met him.
    I see your reign is officially over

  7. @Falen: Yes, it was the Joe at our wedding. I forgot you would have met him there.

    And yes, the reign is over. >Tear<


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