The Oscars: Will Win, Should Win, Snubs

03/04/2010 2:03 PM |

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Not so long ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Stuff wouldn’t get around to handing out its annual awards until almost the end of March. Though the awards were only moved up by a month, that extra time now seems like an eternity; it’s just the beginning of March, and the week or two the Oscars were pushed back to accommodate the Olympics (or rather, to accommodate their own ratings) feel like an eternity. Not from crazed anticipation, mind you, but from weariness that this all is still going on. Maybe that’s what happens when Scorsese and Polanski put out movies in February—people remember that this is, indeed, a new year, full speed ahead. That said, I’ll still go ahead and lay down some predictions and preferences about this Sunday’s awards, because I’m pretty sure they won’t hold the awards until every last nerd has his or her say.

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
WILL WIN: You may have heard that this Jeff Bridges fellow is due.
SHOULD WIN: I’m tastefully unexcited about these choices. If I were voting, I’d probably cast it for Jeremy Renner; The Hurt Locker was far more of a character study than a thriller or a drama and Renner carries it.
MISSING: Matt Damon got a consolation nomination in the supporting category, but his work in The Informant! deserves the recognition.

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Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
WILL WIN: In Bullock-versus-Streep, Bullock should have the edge; giving her an award for stretching (you know, being feisty in a different genre) allows the kind of tacit reward for financial success (Bullock had her best box-office year ever) that the Academy prefers to actually saying, we’re celebrating your money here.
SHOULD WIN: Mulligan and Sidibe made their characters feel like real people; Bullock and Streep were basically doing shtick. I didn’t see The Last Station, because come on, I’m still well under sixty.
MISSING: It never had a shot, but few 2009 performances moved me as much as Maya Rudolph’s lovely work in Away We Go.

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
WILL WIN: That’s a bingo! Waltz has had this sewn up for months.
SHOULD WIN: Man, this category is usually aces, and it kind of sucks this year. Waltz deserves it and I can’t even really figure a worthwhile alternative. Maybe Harrelson… for Zombieland!
MISSING: If you want scenery-chewing villainy, and this category usually does, there’s Peter Capaldi swearing up a storm for In the Loop.

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
WILL WIN: Mo’Nique.
SHOULD WIN: Any of these ladies would be deserving, minus maybe Cruz (you shouldn’t get an award just for being enjoyable in a terrible movie). Just to be contrary, I’d be happy to see an Up in the Air gal get it.
MISSING: Cruz’s Nine co-star Marion Cotillard rocked it in Public Enemies.

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Cinematography
Mauro Fiore, Avatar
Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker
Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon
WILL WIN: The Hurt Locker has a good shot, but I’m guessing the prettiness of Avatar will win out. Voters love photography of mountains, probably even fake ones.
SHOULD WIN: I haven’t seen The White Ribbon yet, but Robert Richardson’s gorgeous Basterds work certainly deserves it.
MISSING: Every shot in Public Enemies is pretty much amazing [Yes, though as far as lunar-landscape-lit semiabstract digital cinematography in Michael Mann movies, I actually preferred Dion Beebe's work on Collateral and Miami Vice to Dante Spinotti's on Public Enemies. Still, the fact that Beebe won his Oscar for Memoirs of a Geisha should tell you about the wavelength the Academy is on as far as digital photography and, especially, lighting. -Ed.].

Editing
Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
WILL WIN: The Hurt Locker.
SHOULD WIN: I don’t claim to understand all of the nuances that go into editing, but Basterds is a two-and-a-half-hour movie with like, a dozen scenes, and it’s riveting. Surely the editor has something to do with that. [It's Sally Menke, QT's regular editor, who has developed a very close feel for his filmmaking rhythms. Or, possibly, based on what we've seen of him in person, has actually imposed a fair amount of rhythm on him. That said, one of the things the husband-and-wife team of Bob Murawski and Chris Innis were responsible for, with Hurt Locker, was balancing multiple perspectives in several action set pieces shot simultaneously with several cameras—it's the sort of movie that usually gets editing awards but for once it's actually an impressive storytelling achievement in addition to a technical one. -Ed.]
MISSING: Again, Public Enemies was one of the strongest technical achievements of the year.

Would that there were an Oscar for Achievement in Millinery.
  • Would that there were an Oscar for Achievement in Millinery.

Costumes
Bright Star
Coco before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria
WILL WIN: The Young Victoria; never bet against a queen [Especially one dressed by Sandy Powell, who won for Elizabeth in the same year she was also nominated for Velvet Goldmine. -Ed].
SHOULD WIN: I’ve seen two of these movies (though Bright Star is in my mailbox at home [The costumes in that movie are actually pretty great, which is good because the female lead is a seamstress. As opposed to Coco Before Chanel, in which the female lead is Coco Chanel, which seems relevant to speculation here. -Ed). But I’d probably vote for Imaginarium; never root for a queen.
MISSING: Should Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox be ignored just because their costumes were tiny? I think not [Great point, but then aren’t we just giving the award to whichever vintage store Wes gets all his corduroy from? -Ed.

Makeup
Il Divo [Wait, what? OMG So Random. -Ed.]
Star Trek
The Young Victoria
WILL WIN: Maybe Star Trek? Star Trek!
SHOULD WIN: Star Trek!
MISSING: You know what, I think they covered it.

Art Direction
Avatar
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria
WILL WIN: If this category featured a clear alternative to Avatar, I wouldn’t be surprised to see voters reject mostly-virtual set design. But none of these are exciting, so: Avatar.
SHOULD WIN: Imaginarium certainly rocked that Gilliam derelict (in the Zoolander sense). But I’m fine with Avatar winning. They created a whole planet.
MISSING: Just as the Academy will nominate any period piece for this award, I would sub in just about any sci-fi or fantasy movie I liked at all: Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, The Box [Though you make another very good point about the Academy's blindered understanding of the many things that could conceivably count as art direction, costume design, cinematography, etc., I will humbly offer that I found the 70s-suburban design of The Box a little too funny-ha-ha, what with the corny wallpaper and the Corvette and Diaz's Farrah wings. But still. Also, given the period hard-on, where's Bright Star? Ravishing use of color-coordinated floral exteriors (and, in one scene, live butterflies) to underscore the capital-R Romantic rapture of the story. -Ed.]

Sound Editing
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

WILL WIN: This one is for sound effects so Avatar should prove irresistible and I don’t really have an opinion about sound effects.

Sound Mixing
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

WILL WIN: This is for overall sound, so I’m guessing The Hurt Locker, though if it’s for overall sound, I’m not sure what Transformers is doing here. They should not be thanked for letting us hear that dialogue.

Score
Avatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up

WILL WIN: I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the majority-animated movies take this prize, but Up will win out.
SHOULD WIN: If we want to talk about awesome years, to hell with Sandra Bullock; let’s talk about Michael Giacchino. Dude scored Up, Star Trek, and, um, Land of the Lost (hey, I liked that one too). Hopefully he’ll be rewarded here.
MISSING: I dug the portent of the Arcade Fire-y score to The Box.

Song
“Almost There,” The Princess and the Frog
“Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog
“Loin de Paname,” Paris 36
“Take It All,” Nine
“The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart
WILL WIN: “The Weary Kind.”
SHOULD WIN: Those Frog songs are OK, but yeah, “The Weary Kind” should definitely win [Yesbut it's tops the third-best song they wrote for that character, sorta like how "I'm Easy" was barely one of the better half-dozen songs in Nashville. -Ed.].
MISSING: I should never look at the full Oscar song eligibility list that comes out a few weeks before the nominations; otherwise, it wouldn’t even occur to me that “Petey’s Song” by Jarvis Cocker from Fantastic Mr. Fox could’ve been included. I guess it really was bad songwriting, Petey.

Visual Effects
Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

WILL WIN: Avatar.
SHOULD WIN: No contrarian here: mother-effing Avatar.
MISSING: They nominated three really nice-looking movies, so I’m not going to complain.

Animated Feature
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

WILL WIN: Barring unforeseen Pixar fatigue, it will be difficult for most people to ignore how much they loved Up.
SHOULD WIN: It’s not really fair; Fantastic Mr. Fox or Coraline would be the best in any number of non-Pixar years (or even in the years of Cars or Finding Nemo), but, yeah, sorry, impossible to ignore how much I loved Up. That said, if Fox or Coraline wins, it’ll be a neat surprise.
MISSING: I haven’t seen The Secret of Kells and have no idea how it got in, but this category mostly rules, so no complaints.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious: Adapted from the Novel by That Sapphire Lady You’ve Heard So Much About
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
WILL WIN: Up in the Air is exactly what Hollywood thinks of as a screenplay movie [In that its script was worked independently on by multiple people and its final screenplay decided as the result of Writer's Guild arbitration? -Ed.], even when the writing isn’t one of its chief strengths. It should dominate a surprisingly wan category.
SHOULD WIN: Either British import would please me most. ["At the end of a war you need some soldiers left, really, or else it looks like you've lost." -Ed.]
MISSING: The difficulties of translating beloved (and short!) books into the feature-film versions of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Where the Wild Things Are warrant more recognition than the rambling novelty act of District 9.

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Up
WILL WIN: It’s between Locker and Basterds; the latter presents an opportunity to reward Tarantino without giving him the director Oscar, so I think he’ll get it.
SHOULD WIN: Up, Basterds, and Serious Man were three of my favorites last year; I’d give it to Basterds for its unique approach to fudging historical details.
MISSING: Rian Johnson’s script for The Brothers Bloom was the backbone of that movie’s crazy invention. I know “Best Original” is not the same as “Most Original,” but Bloom eliminates the need for that distinction.

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
WILL WIN: Bigelow; one giant leap for ladykind.
SHOULD WIN: Tarantino. But I’m not anti-lady! I liked Sofia Coppola the best of the five that year!
MISSING: I’d take the Coens, the Up team, Rian Johnson, or Spike Jonze over several of these acceptable choices. [James Gray is a master of tone, has an aching sense of place, a poetic way with light, and always, always coaxes great performances of out his actors. And it's not like his movies are so unobtrusive that you don't notice they're directed, or anything; he actually does less to make himself known in Two Lovers than Reitman's supposedly "functional" work in UITA. I'm by no means a partisan about him—these things are just objectively true. Maybe if he had cut from a close-up of baking kugel to Joaquin Phoenix panting away on top of Vinessa Shaw or something. And since you've cited the lighting and editing of Public Enemies, I'll throw out the man(n) who's maintained a distinct and absolutely unique aesthetic over several films made with several technical collaborators. -Ed.]

Populism!
  • Populism!

Best Picture
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

WILL WIN: Director/picture splits have become more common in recent years, which causes me to predict them even more often than that. Avatar certainly has a shot at causing one such split this year, but likely its feats of financial derring-do will be considered reward enough and The Hurt Locker will prevail.
SHOULD WIN: Up, but among movies with an actual sliver of a chance, I’d love to see Inglourious Basterds storm the podium.
MISSING: I was pretty much okay with these ten—not the ten best movies of the year, but a reasonable selection—until I made the mistake of actually seeing The Blind Side. Here is a partial list of 2009 movies that are better and therefore more deserving of this spot than The Blind Side: Where the Wild Things Are; The Brothers Bloom; Coraline; Public Enemies; Fantastic Mr. Fox; Observe and Report; Star Trek; Funny People; Away We Go; The Informant!; The Girlfriend Experience; Adventureland; Moon; In the Loop; 500 Days of Summer; Zombieland; Jennifer’s Body; Paranormal Activity; The Box; Mystery Team; Sugar; Drag Me to Hell; Humpday; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Big Fan; The Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans; The Princess and the Frog; Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; Uncertainty; Bandslam; Taking Woodstock; Land of the Lost; Year One; Crank: High Voltage; Bruno; Orphan; Invictus; Underworld: Rise of the Lycans; and Sorority Row.

2 Comment

  • I have to say, Mark, I don’t get the James Grey thing. His movies have good scenes, sure, but his actual storytelling strikes me as sluggish and half-baked. Maybe he’s just not a very good writer?

  • Well, Gray’s writing is a point of contention, sure. I should say I’m not as dedicated to the cause as other L critics (Rowin I think is the most passionate advocate among us). I find his writing spot-on in a way we’re not used to anymore: within archetypal frameworks, people actually talk openly about their feelings and motivations. It’s the kind of thing we’re trained to reject, and say show-don’t-tell, but that’s really a fairly recent fashion if you look back at classical melodrama. And Gray, like say Sirk or Preminger, backs up some very on-the-nose dialogue with an impressive depth of psychological nuance. He’s always so painfully earnest that it takes me a while to key in to his sophistication.