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And the Winner Will Be …

02/26/2011

The Academy Awards are just 24 hours away, so, as usual, I’m second-guessing some of my early Oscar predictions. I always have eleventh-hour panic over my choices and start re-thinking things that don’t need to be re-thought. That said, I have shifted a few opinions since the nominations came out last month. Herewith are my guesses for every category in which I have an opinion. I really don’t know what to say about the short subjects this year, so I haven’t included them. A full list of nominees and a cool, downloadable ballot can be found on the Oscar Web site.

So let’s get the picture/director split out of the way up front. I’ve been saying for months that The King’s Speech will win. I still believe this. Altough The Social Network won most critics’ awards, I don’t think it speaks to the more conservative, older Academy members. Maybe in five or ten years, but not yet. It may get the most votes in the first round of voting, but with ten nominees and a complicated runoff tallying system, it’s not the most initial votes that matter but what film also has second- and third-place support. That movie is The King’s Speech.

The thing is, there are only five nominees for the directorial award, which condenses the voting balance. The Director’s Guild of America selected Tom Hooper for their theatrical award, so it’s certainly a safe and arguable bet to go with the King’s Speech director. But I feel like there’s more support in the acting camp for Fincher, and actors still represent the larget Academy voting block. Even the British picked Fincher for the BAFTA over their fellow countryman Hooper. That upset tipped me back toward a Fincher win tomorrow. Yes, I could be wrong.

Below are the candidates in those two important categories; my predictions are highlighted in purple. Why purple? Because February 27th is Elizabeth Taylor‘s 79th birthday, and violet is the color of the day.

Best Picture
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky: Black Swan
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen: True Grit
David Fincher: The Social Network
Tom Hooper: The King’s Speech
David O. Russell: The Fighter

As far as the acting awards are concerned, Colin Firth is a lock. He’s got what I call “Oscar rollover minutes” from last year and delivers another great performance in Speech. Only the supporting actress field holds any real hope for a surprise. Right now, my money is on True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld, who dominates the film in a performance of leading actress weight and quality. Prior to the January nominations, The Fighter‘s Melissa Leo had been the odds-on favorite, but between her off-putting ads lobbying for the award and the fact that the Academy loves to award spunky ingenues in this category, Oscar history is on Steinfeld’s side.

Three-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening could have won this year if not for Natalie Portman’s all-in performance as a mentally unbalanced ballerina. If there’s one thing the Academy loves, it’s multi-tasking, and Portman not only acts but dances. Her commitment to the role is just too intense not to win. But look for Bening to grab Oscar gold in the future; as head of the Academy’s acting branch, she has wide support from her peers.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem: Biutiful
Jeff Bridges: True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg The Social Network
Colin Firth: The King’s Speech
James Franco: 127 Hours

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening: The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman: Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence: Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman: Black Swan
Michelle Williams: Blue Valentine

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale: The Fighter
John Hawkes: Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner: The Town
Mark Ruffalo: The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush: The King’s Speech

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams: The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter: The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo: The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld: True Grit
Jacki Weaver: Animal Kingdom

Although The King’s Speech is going nab a best picture win, don’t expect it to take home the original screenplay statue. Academy voters usually give this award to quirky indie favorites with great dialogue, strong acting, and few other wins. Think Independent Spirit Awards here. As for the adapted screenplay, this is where The Social Network will triumph, both because the script is well-regarded and its writer, Aaron Sorkin, revered. The Academy, particularly actors who amire his ability with words, would love to hand him the prize.

Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Another Year: Mike Leigh
The Fighter: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington
Inception: Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech: David Seidler

Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced/Published
127 Hours: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3: Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
True Grit: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini

And now for the visual awards. Cinematography usually goes to the most spectacular film. And it doesn’t seem to matter if a lot of digital effects are involved. It’s certainly time for longtime Coen-collaborator Roger Deakins to win, as he’s now been nominated nine times (twice in one year!) without a win. But the Academy doesn’t appear to focus on who’s overdue in this area; they focus solely on the film. Last year’s winner was the effects-laden Avatar. Look for Inception to follow suit for the 2010.

And if it wins nothing else (unlikely; I think it’s going to earn a few), Inception will take home the Oscar for best visual effects. If any film stands to compete, I think Alice is the one.

Best Cinematography
Black Swan: Matthew Libatique
Inception: Wally Pfister
The King’s Speech: Danny Cohen
The Social Network: Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit: Roger Deakins

Best Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2: Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, Daniel Sudick

Inception is the front-runner for art direction as well, but don’t be surprised if that prize goes to Alice in Wonderland instead. In either event, look for Colleen Atwood to take home the Oscar for her fanciful Wonderland costumes. She’s lucky that King’s Speech is a 20th-century period piece and not filled with Victorian or Elizabethan dress. Had it been set in an earlier century, Atwood’s chances would be doomed.

Best Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland: Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Inception: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Douglas A. Mowat
The King’s Speech: Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
True Grit: Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

Best Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland: Colleen Atwood
I Am Love: Antonella Cannarozzi
The King’s Speech: Jenny Beavan
The Tempest: Sandy Powell
True Grit: Mary Zophres

And now for the technical awards, which can really stump people. Here’s my best guess at where these are headed. Editing usually goes to a film that’s got an element of suspense, where the editing accentuates tension. Personally, I think 127 Hours should win this award, but too few people have seen it (more on that later). The editing in Social Network is excellent, but although it’s surprisingly fast-paced, I don’t think it’s going to win. My bet, be it a small one, is on Black Swan, a decidely strung-out experience that has that edge over the competiton.

A lot of people have trouble distinguishing between the two sound categories, mixing and editing. Not only are the nominees often different, the winners typically are, too. I’ve got a strong feeling that Inception will win for sound editing because it’s critical to the film’s believability (though note that the movie wasn’t nominated for visual editing). In the mixing class, Inception could certainly defy the odds and take this one home, too (Avatar did). But I’m going to predict a True Grit win for the reproduction of gunshots, spurs, and other sounds from the old west.

Best Achievement in Editing
127 Hours: Jon Harris
Black Swan: Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter: Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech: Tariq Anwar
The Social Network: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Inception
Toy Story 3
TRON: Legacy
True Grit
Unstoppable

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

Remember that comment about no one seeing 127 Hours? Well, clearly the folks at the Independent Spirt Awards have. But there are a fair number of people who wouldn’t see this film because they didn’t want to watch Aron Ralston cut off his own arm. I know several people who felt this way. And if that’s you, too, I have to say that 127 Hours is a really upbeat, life-affirming film. It’s gorgeously filmed and surprisingly energetic. And it’s got the best and most well-integrated score of the year.

But will it win? The score category is remarkably inconsistent against best picture winners. Sometimes, the award goes to a movie that wins very little else. My brain is saying that the Academy will reward Hans Zimmer for his bombastic, overblown Inception score, but I’m going to go with quality here and pick the Danny Boyle flick. (I will probably kick myself for this later.) Some camps predict a win for Trent Reznor’s Social Network score, but I think it may be too subtle for Academy voters.

As for song, Alan Menken (Tangled) is due again. In the past, he’s frequently been thwarted by having multiple nods in the same year and, likely, a split vote. This time, the emotional and catchy song “I See the Light” is likely to give him the gold. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s well done and memorable. If not, look for Dido’s “If I Rise” (a better but less-heard song) to win. Even if the 127 Hours score doesn’t nab an Oscar, Dido has a very strong chance as the song category never seems to relate to anything else but the songs.

Best Original Song
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours
“Coming Home” from Country Strong
“I See the Light” from Tangled
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3

Best Original Score
127 Hours: A.R. Rahman
How to Train Your Dragon: John Powell
Inception: Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech: Alexandre Desplat
The Social Network: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

And now for the crapshoot categories. … I’m guessing the economy will spark a win for Inside Job as best documentary feature this year. I think it’s between that and soldiers in Afghanistan in Restrepo. I have very little confidence about the always-challenging foreign film group, but I wouldn’t bet on Biutiful, as the winner is rarely a well-distributed film. After a series of eliminations and arbitrary guesses, I’m going with Canada, but you may as well flip a coin on this one.

Best Documentary, Features
Exit Through the Gift Shop
GasLand
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

Best Foreign Language Film
Biutiful: Mexico
Dogtooth: Greece
In a Better World: Denmark
Incendies: Canada
Outside the Law: Algeria

And finally, chalk another win up for Pixar.

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Inception
If my predictions are right, Inception will be the leader in Oscar-night wins, if not for director (in which is wasn’t nominated) or picture. We’ll see how I do. The King’s Speech could certainly dominate if voters tow the line on categories like score and cinematography. But I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

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2 Comments
  1. I think many of your picks misjudge the academy. I’ll be surprised if Inception wins anything. Whatever wins best picture (probably The King’s Speech, maybe The Social Network) will win the most awards.

    • mkc permalink

      Could be. We’ll see. Avatar won three Oscars last year and the best picture wiiner, Hurt Locker, nabbed six. But Hurt Locker was a war movie, which has historically been a winner for the sound awards, and it also had tension and suspense that gave it the edge on editing. King’s Speech could win editing or other unlikely awards if there’s just a ridiculous sweep, but it doesn’t have the advantage in sound and editing—Inception has those.

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