Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 Oscar Predictions

A confession up front: I actually didn't see too many movies in the theater this year. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but there wasn't much that motivated me to rush out to the picturehouse on opening weekend. In these tough economic times, I found it best to stay home and give my Netflix Instant Streaming a heavy workout.

Regardless, I assure you that my Oscar predictions will be as reliable as ever. I may not have seen all the movies this year, but I've been as close an observer of the critical winds as ever, and I have a pretty good idea which way those winds are blowing... to torture a metaphor. In fact, many of the categories this year are such a solid lock, it almost feels like a waste of time to wager my guesses. But waste my time I will. So let's dive in!

Best Sound Editing
  • Avatar
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Star Trek
  • Up
Best Sound Mixing
  • Avatar
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Star Trek
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Just a refresher course: sound mixing is recording the practical sound at the time of shooting; sound editing is gathering all the audio (dialogue, foley, library sounds, music, etc.) and cutting it to synch with picture. These categories are not my strong suit, I admit. But my slightly-educated guesses would be Avatar for Editing, and Hurt Locker for Mixing.

Best Visual Effects
  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • Star Trek
I'd love to see District 9 win this. The effects in that movie were handled subtly, and integrated extremely well with the live actors. But who are we kidding? The effects in Avatar represent a significant leap forward in performance capture and rendering. Avatar is sure to win this one.

Best Score
  • Avatar
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Up
Might as well broach this topic now - the big contenders this year are Avatar and The Hurt Locker, and I think general momentum for each movie will help them pick up additional awards. In other words, don't expect Sherlock Holmes to pick up random prizes like this one. Avatar's score came off a little routine to me. I'd expect The Hurt Locker to win Best Score.

Best Song
  • “Almost There,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
  • “Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
  • “Loin de Paname,” Paris 36, Reinhardt Wagner & Frank Thomas
  • “Take It All,” Nine, Maury Weston
  • “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart, T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham
The clear standout here is Crazy Heart. The Academy will be all too happy to award T-Bone Burnett for his efforts in supporting Jeff Bridges' soon-to-be award-winning role.

Best Art Direction
  • Avatar
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Nine
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Young Victoria
I'm looking at Nine or The Young Victoria -- movies that didn't lean too heavily on computer-aided production design -- to win in this category. And out of the two, I'd expect the Academy to look more favorably on The Young Victoria.

Best Cinematography
  • Avatar
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • The White Ribbon
A prejudice against the mostly-computer generated world of Avatar will prevent it from winning here. That gives odds to The Hurt Locker. However, I'm expecting the stark black & white cinematography of The White Ribbon to sneak in and take this prize.

Best Costume Design
  • Bright Star
  • Coco Before Chanel
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Nine
  • The Young Victoria
I usually place odds on the period piece in this category; but the Academy is playing a cruel joke on me this year - every single one of these is a period piece. I'd expect the Academy's love affair with queens to put The Young Victoria over the edge.

Best Documentary
  • Burma VJ
  • The Cove
  • Food, Inc.
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
  • Which Way Home
Although Food, Inc. is probably the documentary with the most buzz this year in the general public, I think The Cove pushes more Academy buttons.

Best Editing
  • Avatar
  • District 9
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
I'm going to play long odds here and place my bet on Sally Menke for Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino's longtime editor has been an integral part of his critically vaunted career, and I think she'll get her due this year.

Best Animated Film
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • The Secret of Kells
  • Up
Although I'm no fan, critical darling Pixar is sure to take the prize yet again with Up. But if I were an Academy voter, I'd cast my ballot for Coraline, an extremely well-crafted and enjoyable movie.

Best Original Screenplay
  • Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
  • Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
  • Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
  • Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy, Up
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
A very strong category! I'd put The Messenger and Up down as least likely to win. I loved A Serious Man, but it won't win. And while Inglourious Basterds was footloose and fun, I think this is the category where we'll see The Hurt Locker take the lead for the night.

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche, In the Loop
  • Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
  • Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
  • Nick Hornby, An Education
  • Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Also strong. I don't think the Academy is ready to lavish awards upon Jason Reitman yet, although you can count on him being an Oscar mainstay for years to come. And while they'd love an opportunity to give Nick Hornby a statuette, I actually think the writers of In the Loop will take it home.

Best Foreign Language Film
  • El Secreto do Sus Ojos (Argentina)
  • Un Prophete (France)
  • The White Ribbon (Germany)
  • Ajami (Israel)
  • The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)
This is one of those solid locks. The White Ribbon will win.

Best Live-Action Short
  • The Door
  • Instead of Abracadabra
  • Kavi
  • Miracle Fish
  • The New Tenants
I don't usually comment on this race, since I usually don't have the opportunity to see or hear much about the nominees in the short film categories. (*UPDATE: I found a screening of the short films here in Los Angeles; but so far, I've only seen the animated shorts. See below.) But this year, I have a horse in the race! I heard an extended interview with the director of Kavi, Gregg Helvey. That's as much coverage of any short film nominee as I've ever been exposed to. So I'm all for that guy winning. And some day, maybe I'll see the movie. It sounds great.

Best Animated Short*
  • French Roast
  • Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
  • The Lady and the Reaper
  • Logorama
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death
Each of these nominees are worthy competitors. French Roast is enjoyable, but has a particular logic error in the story that knocks it down a peg. Logorama is the most freewheelin' fun of them all, but is ultimately just a one-joke premise with no idea of where the story should go. Granny O'Grimm and The Lady and the Reaper were both highlights for me. But A Matter of Loaf and Death -- the latest installment in the fantastic Wallace & Gromit series -- is the clear standout and will win this category. (NOTE: This website claims to have found video clips of all the nominees for online viewing.)

Best Supporting Actor
  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
This is a lock. Christoph Waltz will win for 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
This is a lock. Jeff Bridges will finally win a much-deserved Oscar for this highly-regarded role.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Penélope Cruz, Nine
  • Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
  • Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  • Mo’Nique, Precious
This is a lock. Mo'Nique will win for her impressive dramatic turn in Precious.

Best Actress
  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
This one is not a lock, so let's discuss. For once, I don't think it's a freebie for Meryl Streep. While Gabourey Sidibe made an impressive debut, I have a feeling the Academy will want to award the current most successful and powerful producer-star in Hollywood, Sandra Bullock.

Best Director
  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Lee Daniels, Precious
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
James Cameron spent more money to produce a movie than has ever been spent on a single production before. But he's got the goods. He made a movie that was a huge hit with audiences, as well as most critics, and is the current record holder for highest-grossing movie of all time.

Sound familiar? It sounds familiar to Academy voters, too, which is why they won't bestow the win on him as they did with Titanic. The best director this year is Kathryn Bigelow. She'll be the first woman ever to win best director, and she won't make a Halle Berry moment out of it.

Best Picture
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air
So, it's moment-of-truth time for the big "ten Best Picture nominees" experiment. Did it work?

The Academy says the decision to have ten Best Picture nominees is to expand the celebration of movies. It's a pleasant notion, and I'm sure it's true on one level. But on another level, it's also an attempt to find room to nominate more popular movies. The most watched Oscar telecasts are the ones wherein popular movies are nominated - Titanic, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings. The thing is, even if this year had remained a five-nominee year, Avatar would've made the cut; so they would've been covered on the popular movie front. (District 9 is the true beneficiary of the ten Best Picture model.) Even so, I have to say that the ten nominees they put together make for a pretty nice list this year. Well done, Academy.

Okay, enough with the pleasantries. Who's going to win?

A Serious Man - Again, I loved it, but there's no way it's going to win.

Up - It's very impressive that an animated film was nominated for Best Picture (this is only the second time that's ever happened), but it will win in its own category and won't be considered here.

Inglourious Basterds and District 9 - You're great, fun movies, and it was nice of them to invite you to the party, but it's not happening.

The Blind Side and An Education - You're good for what you are, but not strong enough to be serious Best Picture contenders.

Precious and Up in the Air - You're top picks, and a lot of voters would love for you to win it. I hope you feel honored just to be nominated. It is an honor, and the Academy will look forward to future endeavors by your makers. It's just not in the cards this year.

That leaves - Avatar and The Hurt Locker.

There's enough Avatar backlash, and enough of the "silly fantasy movie" vibe to give Academy voters a feeling of disconnect. Nobody is denying that James Cameron achieved something amazing in Avatar. Personally, I love it. But it's not a "best picture."

The Hurt Locker will win Best Picture.

Agree? Disagree? Don't care? Let me know in the comments.

On Oscar night, I'll be live blogging during the ceremony via Twitter. Click here to follow me. The 82nd Academy Awards ceremony will air on March 7, 2010 at 8pm eastern/5pm pacific on ABC.

*Updated on February 21, 2010 to include the Best Animated Shorts category.


  1. I disagree with you on a few:
    Best Visual Effects - I have a feeling District 9 might grab it, since it's not likely to nab anything else.

    Best Actress - Ick, Sandra Bullock, really? I think this one will go to Meryl Streep.

    I agree:
    Best Animated - I would love to see Coraline take it over Up. Coraline had a much stronger story, and as you said, much better crafted.

  2. Love this!! :)

    I wish that Up in the air would have gone somewhere... I loved the film so very much.

    I agree completely with Coraline... though I find it difficult to give Up... well... Up.

    Coraline was just that much better though.
    I pretty much agree with everything else. : )


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