Oscars 2011: Will Win, Should Win, Snubs

02/24/2011 1:50 PM |


Oscar time is upon us, and just as I am honor-bound to offer the disclaimer that obviously the Oscars don’t matter all that much, I am also required to tell you what I think of the categories where I feel like I know something about who will, should, and should’ve been able to win. This is long, so enough with the introductions:

Best Actor
Javier Barden, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
James Franco, 127 Hours
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Unless Julia Roberts physically forced people to sit down and watch Biutiful, which is entirely possible and terrifying, this goes to Firth, easily. He’ll somehow be considered long-due despite (a.) this only being his second nomination and (b.) his habit of appearing in movies that actually aren’t very good. Seriously, can you think of a movie with Colin Firth that you’d say was fucking awesome?
SHOULD WIN: I dug Franco’s one-man show, but Jesse Eisenberg created an indelible fictionalization of Mark Zuckerberg, with glorious lack of easy likability. He’s young enough so that people will probably say that he’ll have plenty of other chances, but really, his brand of neurotic Woody Allenisms, usually applied in smart comedies, rarely get much awards recognition.
MISSING: Jim Carrey gave one of his best performances ever as the con man who bursts out of the closet in I Love You Phillip Morris, but if dude can’t get nominated playing a real-life dead guy, a real-life gay criminal in a dark comedy obviously wasn’t going to do the trick. In other comedians-can-act news, Ben Stiller is aces in Greenberg.


Best Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
WILL WIN: It’s just never Annette Bening’s year, is it? She’s been beaten by Hilary Swank twice, and now here comes an even younger, prettier actress ready to steal her thunder again; barring a major triumph-of-the-oldsters upset, Natalie Portman will get this. Here’s the thing, though: good as she can be, I don’t know that Bening has ever really deserved this. Her scrunched-up cartooniness works for American Beauty, and she loosens up admirably in The Kids Are All Right compared to her other little movie this year, the bizarre and stilted Mother and Child. But she has a type, and she usually pushes it too hard—hey, sort of like Nina in Black Swan!
SHOULD WIN: I’ve got no quarrel with Portman; I didn’t even have a quarrel with her in those Star Wars movies. But I will say that Kidman’s Rabbit Hole performance is more nuanced than her Oscar-winning turn in The Hours, so I at least wish she was Portman’s primary competitor.
MISSING: If they actually bothered to give awards for this sort of thing, Emma Stone’s turn in Easy A.


Best Supporting Actor
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
WILL WIN: I don’t think there’s any stopping Bale; the Academy seems to like the movie and this is the most likely category rewarding it [As co-founder and one of two members of my high school’s Christian Bale Fan Club, I can’t tell you how happy this would make me. -Ed].
SHOULD WIN: Bale is great, but a John Hawkes win would warm my heart too.
MISSING: I didn’t miss Robert Duvall from the Best Actor list on account of Get Low being a cornball exercise in not amounting to much, but it is a shame that Bill Murray hasn’t amassed two or three career Best Supporting Actor nominations so far.


Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
WILL WIN: Well, I suppose that depends if voters would rather vote for an unequivocal lead in this category (Hailee Steinfeld), or category-typical scenery-chewing (Melissa Leo). I had a vague hunch that supporting Oscar favorite Amy Adams could head straight up the middle for integral-yet-clearly-supporting turn (this is her third nomination in this category), but, yeah, it’s probably gonna be Leo. I might put money on Steinfeld or Adams just ’cause they rule, though.
SHOULD WIN: Steinfeld, but that doesn’t seem fair, does it? In which case: Amy Adams.
MISSING: I liked two icy performances from the first half of the year: Olivia Williams in The Ghost Writer and Amanda Peet, hilariously mean yet wounded in Please Give.

Sound Mixing [Oh yeah he’s gonna do Sound Mixing. You guys have no idea. —Ed.]
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

WILL WIN: I guess the audio-centric and Best Picture fave The King’s Speech has an edge, but sometimes the bigger movies triumph here (even though Sound Editing is the more effects-y category), so I’ll say Inception.
SHOULD WIN: I don’t know all that much about sound, so I’ll say Inception.
MISSING: I’m all set here! [I would actually submit that to the extent that Somewhere works it does so because of a very scrupulously maintained ambiance for which the delicate sound mix deserves much of the credit. But, you know, I really just wanted to see if you were still paying attention. -Ed.]

Sound Editing
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

WILL WIN: Maybe Inception will make it two for two.
SHOULD WIN: Tron: Legacy was pretty rad from a tech point of view.
MISSING: Look, you nominate Unstoppable for an Oscar, I’m happy.


Original Song
“Coming Home,” Country Strong
“I See the Light,” Tangled
“If I Rise,” 127 Hours
“We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3
WILL WIN: “I See the Light” is like the animation ballads of old, while “We Belong Together” is a Pixar song of new… yet both feel like retreads and might split the cartoon-lovin’ vote. I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Coming Home” snatch it away.
SHOULD WIN: Yeesh. I guess I’d go with “I See the Light,” even though it’s hardly my favorite song from Tangled. (What? I heart Mandy Moore.)
MISSING: The better Tangled song would’ve been “When Will My Life Begin?”—the “I want” song rather than the romantic ballad. Also, I was no huge fan of the songs in Burlesque, but it seems like if you have a reasonably upbeat song, actually performed onscreen in the movie, and only four nominees, it would maybe make sense to include it.

Original Score
How to Train Your Dragon
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

WILL WIN: I doubt many of the voters care about Trent Reznor, and may well parlay their general feelings of uplift from The King’s Speech into a misplaced affection for a score they don’t actually remember, which points to this round of Speech versus Network going to the former.
SHOULD WIN: I loved just about everything about Inception, including the rumbling menace of the score.
MISSING: I’m starting to lose track of what gets disqualified based on past compositions and what just doesn’t make the cut, so I’m not sure why Black Swan isn’t on here, and really, apart from generally liking Clint Mansell scores, I don’t have strong feelings about subbing it in for any of these five.

Barney’s Version
The Way Back
The Wolfman

WILL WIN: It has to be The Wolfman, right? It had a goddamned wolf-man!
SHOULD WIN: The Wolfman.
MISSING: I liked the crazy stuff in Alice in Wonderland but maybe too much of it was considered computer effects.

Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One
The King’s Speech
True Grit

WILL WIN: This is one area where The King’s Speech just shouldn’t impress that many people (then again, how did it get nominated here in the first place unless people are easily impressed?). I have a gut feeling this will go to either Alice or Potter. Potter might have the edge due to Alice‘s (delightful [Oh you’re killing me. -Ed.]) garishness, but Potter also utilizes more real-world settings (forests and such) than usual, so Alice will probably stand out.
SHOULD WIN: Oh, hell, I don’t know. The Inception sets were pretty cool.
MISSING: They did a decent job this year of sticking to the Jesse Hassenger Doctrine that the majority of these nominations should come from awesome sci-fi and fantasy movies, not stupid period movies. That said, I humbly submit Tron: Legacy [Meanwhile, the Mark Asch Doctrine, concerning the enduring value of good location scouting and subject-appropriate set dressing, continues to be ignored, but watch The Town or Unstoppable in twenty years and tell me I’m wrong. -Ed.]

Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

WILL WIN: This category doesn’t have a Queen of England to place your bets on, but it does have a Queen of Hearts, so I’m guessing Alice. [You forgot that Sandy Powell did the Shakespeare adaptation. -Ed.]
SHOULD WIN: Alice is fine by me. [I actually asked my girlfriend to take my credit cards away from me after we saw I Am Love, but that movie takes place in the present, and will not win. -Ed.]
MISSING: Were the Tron costumes too sexy, too minimalist, or too nerdy? All of the above, probably and understandably. Wow, I’m really coming off as a huge Tron booster here, which is vaguely misleading. I just figure that for all of that movie’s storytelling clunkiness, it was inarguably an AV feast.


Foreign Language Film
Biutiful, Mexico
Dogtooth, Greece
In a Better World, Denmark
Incendies, Canada
Outside the Law, Algeria
WILL WIN: Biutiful may have widespread support if Bardem got in for Best Actor, but my gut says it’ll be too droopy and Dogtooth will be too weird, so In a Better World, which I have not seen at all [Comes out in a month or two. -Ed.], will win.
SHOULD WIN: Fine, I haven’t seen any of these. I’ve been meaning to see Dogtooth, but I don’t know if that means anything beyond that maybe it has enough exposure and another, even-less-known movie could use it more.
MISSING: Mark, I’m sure you have thoughts on this. [I do! Mainly: how terrible the nomination process is, given the way it encourages the film industries of various nations to make cynical and reductive guesses as to the types of movies the Academy is most likely to nominate, and unnecessarily elevating a lot of middlebrow fare, in the context of which Dogtooth’s nomination seems even braver and less likely. A more accurate picture of the disconnect between the Academy and the people in the world who actually watch subtitled movies is Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which Thailand submitted, presumably because of its epochal Cannes win, and which didn’t even make the shortlist. —Ed.]


Documentary Feature
Exit through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

WILL WIN: I think the time of Iraq wars and financial flimmflammery is over, and voters will just be excited that Exit through the Gift Shop was a good time.
SHOULD WIN: I don’t really see documentaries. Is that weird? I feel like if someone says they mostly just read fiction, lit people don’t consider that weird, but I don’t get the same sense about documentaries.
MISSING: Seriously, one of the only documentaries I saw last year was Babies, so obviously I’m not the best judge here [Exit Through the Gift Shop has a good subject, and of the year’s “formally interesting” docs it’s by far the least self-aggrandizing about its structure; I imagine you don’t watch very many documentaries because many promise to be exactly as interesting as their subject—of course, few actually are, which is why the engrossing, sensitive, straightforward Marwencol deserves extra credit, and has received it from the voting bodies—critics groups, chiefly—who actually watch all the shallow, badly jazzed-up docs that proliferate like kudzu. -Ed.]

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

WILL WIN: Toy Story 3 in a walk.
SHOULD WIN: Toy Story 3 in a walk.
MISSING: I liked Tangled at least as much as the dragon movie.

Film Editing
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Pamela Martin, The Fighter
Tariq Anwar, The King’s Speech
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, The Social Network
WILL WIN: This usually goes with Best Picture, so if it goes to anything but King’s Speech, consider it a chink in that movie’s armor. Once in awhile, in these two-movie Best Picture races, the editing award goes to some kind of flashy third-party candidate like The Matrix or The Bourne Ultimatum, but I’m not seeing one of those this year since everything nominated is also up for the big award. Maybe 127 Hours snakes in, reminding everyone that editing is how come the whole movie wasn’t stuck under a rock, but probably not.
SHOULD WIN: Most of these are probably fine, but I like the jittery yet fluid cutting in Black Swan.
MISSING: Was Inception too flashy for this category? Usually that kind of parallel cross-cutting weirdness impresses people. [I am not generally a fan of the maximalist cutting which this category too frequently rewards, and of which Nolan is often guilty, but “the last 40 minutes of Inception” was really quite disciplined, necessarily so. —Ed.] Also, our man Roderick Jaynes!

Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Wally Pfister, Inception
Danny Cohen, The King’s Speech
Jeff Cronenweth, The Social Network
Roger Deakins, True Grit
WILL WIN: Roger Deakins is well overdue [OH WORD. —Ed.], and I don’t see much in his way. Wally Pfister’s guild win suggests he may have some support, though, and there are further theories suggesting maybe Deakins hasn’t won before because the general voting body is more aware of the movie than the name (which doesn’t, I’m told, appear on the final ballot in this category). That diminishes the sentimental favorite factor, but ignores that True Grit is just a gorgeous movie even if you don’t know who shot it, and this category probably represents its best shot at any awards this evening.
SHOULD WIN: Deakins, not just because True Grit was stunningly beautiful, but because it checks him off and clears the way for me to complain about Pfister’s million nominations without a win in the future. [And Ed Lachman, Caleb Deschanel, Emmanuel Lubezki, Dante Spinotti and Michael Balhaus. Chris Doyle, who is objectively the best DP of the past two decades, has never been nominated. (And they had to give an Oops sorry! honorary award to Gordon Motherfucking Willis.) This may actually be the category of which the Academy has, historically, the most to be embarrassed about. —Ed.]
MISSING: There are many cinematographers I’d prefer to Cohen [Seriously! -Ed.] in this category: Harris Savides [Never nominated! —Ed.] did a lovely, subtle job lensing Greenberg; Robert Richardson’s Shutter Island work was typically gorgeous.

Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One
Iron Man 2

WILL WIN: This is one of those categories where the best-liked movie tends to triumph regardless of quality, and Inception has the good luck to be both the only Best Picture nomination and also a bonanza of different and successful visual effects technique.
SHOULD WIN: Inception would deserve it even in a competitive field, and this is a pretty weak one; Alice in Wonderland had inventive, non-photorealistic effects, so that’s cool, but the rest are either sequels treading water or a movie with one decent effects scene in its first fifteen minutes. [If they give the Visual Effects Oscar to a post-converted 3D movie—as you just came dangerously close to suggesting they should!—I am going to throw a container of Thai food at the television. —Ed.]
MISSING: Either of the movies that made it to the “bake-off” list of seven finalists, Scott Pilgrim or Tron: Legacy, would be better than the majority of these choices: more visually striking, more central to their stories. I wonder if they were shunted aside based on their videogame aesthetics.

Original Screenplay
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington, The Fighter
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler, The King’s Speech
WILL WIN: Probably The King’s Speech by default; if it’s sweeping, this’ll come with the territory, and if not, screenplay often equals consolation prize.
SHOULD WIN: I haven’t seen Another Year, but I swear it’s not just neglect and fanboyism that causes me to say Inception is the only script of these five (four) that I think is actually really good. Actually, The Kids Are All Right has a lot of nice character writing, but its speeches are at least as on-the-nose as Inception‘s Ellen Page-related exposition (which actually did the exposition job pretty entertainingly).
MISSING: Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg. I also prefer Nicole Holofcener’s incisive, funny Please Give to Kids (and for that matter, I’m not sure if The Fighter‘s strengths come from its four-man screenplay).

Adapted Screenplay
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone
WILL WIN: Aaron Sorkin has this one locked down, giving the Adapted Screenplay category the Actually Best Movie Nominated feel that Original Screenplay often has.
SHOULD WIN: I’m pretty much Sorkin agnostic and would argue that Fincher found a brilliant way to shape his words into something less self-aggrandizing and self-pleased than usual, but even I grudgingly admit: the Social Network script crackles and pops and all that good cereal-related stuff.
MISSING: This is a pretty solid group. Edgar Wright and Michael Bacall did a fine, witty job of adapting the Scott Pilgrim comics, but I wouldn’t insist upon it or anything.


Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter
WILL WIN: Even if voters can’t resist the uplift of The King’s Speech, Fincher (like Steven Soderbergh and Ang Lee before him) has a better shot than a first-timer who seems, no offense, like the new Stephen Daldry. Then again, the DGA and PGA and SGA all went for King’s Speech, so obviously support isn’t wavering that much. Still, splits happen surprisingly often (though not as often as I predict them), so why not bet on Fincher?
SHOULD WIN: Fincher has amassed an impressive body of work and made a wildly entertaining movie that’s still basically about people talking, although I wouldn’t object to the Coens or Aronofsky, either [“From the mind of Oscar-winning director Darren Aronofsky…” No. -Ed.].
MISSING: Christopher Nolan, obviously; he would fit in well with Fincher, Russell, and Aronofsky, as he started just a step or two behind that crew in terms of timeline (and caught up by never taking a Fincher/Russell/Jonze style hiatus from making movies [“Hiatus” sorta implies lying on one’s back on a beach eating mangoes, and not, you know, struggling to get your projects going, leaving an almost-finished project because the producers are deadbeats, and signing on for a work-for-hire job so you’ll ever be allowed to work again. -Ed.]). Strange, really, that the guy from that crop of filmmakers who’s worked the most and found the most comfortable home within the studio system has had a tougher time getting industry-award recognition [I’m sure he’ll live. -Ed.] [You’re not wrong, though, about the relative unlikeliness of a guy who works well within the studio system and makes successful movies that lots of people see getting passed over in favor of niche auteurs. -Ed.]


Best Picture
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

WILL WIN: The King’s Speech looks pretty unbeatable; the question is more whether it winds a few big awards, or a most of its twelve (twelve?!).
SHOULD WIN: I don’t mean to sound churlish and say “anything but The King’s Speech,” but I do literally prefer every single other movie (okay, I guess The Kids Are All Right is a close one). As with last year, the overly broad ten-movie field does have the neat side effect of boosting the number of acceptable-to-me potential winners. Inception was my movie of the year, but The Social Network, Black Swan, Toy Story 3 and True Grit were also way up there, and I have a lot of affection for The Fighter and 127 Hours, too. But the problem with ten movies is that so far it only seems to make a difference if there isn’t a clear frontrunner, which there always is.
MISSING: The weakest movie here (cough cough frontrunner) can’t nearly match the embarrassment of last year’s Blind Side inclusion, but I’d like to make this list an annual tradition, so here, in no particular order, are some non-nominated movies that are better than The King’s Speech: Greenberg; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Fish Tank; The Other Guys; I Love You Phillip Morris; Shutter Island; The American; The Town; Please Give; The Ghost Writer; Tiny Furniture; Tangled; Cyrus; Easy A; Let Me In; Alice in Wonderland; Get Him to the Greek; and MacGruber [You forgot Chloe. -Ed.]. See you next year!

One Comment

  • Somewhere is not only a worthwhile sound suggestion, but another movie missing from my “better than King’s Speech” list.

    Also, RE: Alice, the post-conversion 3-D, to my mind, (a.) has little to do with the effects themselves since the movie was semi-available in 2-D, and (b.) looked fine, actually, since computer-animated stuff is pretty easy to convert, and most of that movie is some kind of computer-animated. By all accounts, the movie was designed for 3-D; it just wasn’t shot that way.

    And wow, I hadn’t realized that none of those DPs had won. Even as a teenager, though, I’d get frustrated by the way the cinematography award would be handed out to the movies with the prettiest mountains, like making mountains look pretty is some kind of highwire act.