Academy Awards 2010: Cheers, Gripes, and Predictions

Posted on Feb 7, 2011

It seems a bit silly to get worked up over the Academy Awards. After all, it’s a relatively small group of film professionals voting on their favorite films, and who says their opinion is any more valid than the New York Film Critics or the Golden Globes or anyone else? But the fact is, there’s an undeniable prestige to the Award, even though their decisions are often perplexing to true film buffs. For me, it’s even more frustrating when, as they might this year, the Academy nominates a gaggle of truly groundbreaking films and then proceeds to shower much less ambitious films with Oscars. But I digress:

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Javier Barden 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

Not a single weak performance in the group, but Colin Firth is a shoe-in for the Oscar: Not only did many think he deserved to win last year (myself included) for the heartbreaking A Single Man, but he’s playing right up the Academy’s alley this year by playing a British monarch — a monarch that overcomes a disability, to boot. Eisenberg’s astonishing performance in The Social Network is probably too intellectual, Bridges in True Grit too weird, Bardem in Biutiful too bleak. If voters could bring themselves to watch James Franco cut off his own arm in 127 Hours, I think he could have a legitimate shot, but I don’t think enough voters will dare.

Should Win: Eisenberg

Will Win: Firth

They Forgot: the funny and empathetic work of Robert Duvall in the wry Get Low

Best 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

An uncommonly strong field for this category (it’s about time!) but it really looks like it’s down to Natalie Portman vs. Annette Bening. Kidman, Lawrence and Williams will just be happy to be nominated to bring attention to their small films. Bening anchored one of the most successful indie-comedies of 2010, The Kids are All Right, with sharp wit and great empathy. But Natalie Portman simply blew the doors off theaters with her masterful performance in Black Swan – from its extreme physicality to its constant shifts in tone, Portman gives the best performance of anyone, male or female, period, in 2010.

Should Win: Portman

Will Win: Portman

They Forgot: Carey Mulligan is heartbreaking in the quiet science fiction tale Never Let Me Go

Best 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

It’s hard to deny that Christian Bale’s work in The Fighter is extremely impressive – he completely transformed his body, his vocal cadence, and his hairline. And though it pains me to say it because he’s one of my favorite actors, but Bale’s work in The Fighter is just the kind of broad overacting the Academy can’t resist. Bale’s been putting up brilliant work since American Psycho, and I’m happy that he’ll finally win an Oscar, but I’ll consider this a make-up award and be happy. Bale’s only real competition is Rush’s semi-leading role in The King’s Speech, but I think Bale’s a shoe-in. Mark Ruffalo put up what I thought was the best performance in this category, but I’m guessing voters will find his part too lightweight to consider.

Should Win: Ruffalo

Will Win: Bale

They Forgot: Ben Mendelsohn as the sociopathic, truly terrifying Uncle Pope in Aussie import Animal Kingdom

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams in The Fighter

Helena Bohnam Carter in The King’s Speech

Melissa Leo in The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

Though she has no chance, I love seeing Jacki Weaver here – Animal Kingdom was one of the best films of the year and hopefully people will check out the film on DVD and witness Weaver’s stunning work as a remorseless matriarch of a downtrodden crime family. Here’s my thinking in this most up-for-grabs category: Leo’s shrill overacting and Adams more subtle role will divide voters eager to reward The Fighter, Bohnam Carter will ciphon off die-hard King’s Speech fans even though her role in completely insubstantial, and newcomer (and, really, lead actress) Hailee Steinfeld from the very highly regarded True Grit will be the shocking winner.

Should Win: Adams

Will Win: Steinfeld

They Forgot: Keira Knightley was brilliantly icy and complex in the completely overlooked Never Let Me Go

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan

David O. Russell for The Fighter

Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech

David Fincher for The Social Network

Joen and Ethan Coen for True Grit

Allow me to gripe for a minute – it’s inconceivable to me that the Academy could consider Inception a nominee for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and a half-dozen tech awards and NOT consider Christopher Nolan one of the five best directors this year. Nolan is a big-picture visionary and this snub will be discussed similarly to the previous snubs of Hitchcock, Kubrick and Scorsese. I have a feeling that the Academy will further salt the wound by ignoring indie-provocateur David O. Russell, masochistic maestro Darren Aronosfky, spotless craftsmen Joel and Ethan Coen and the masterful conducting of David Fincher in honor of the distracting camera angles and maudlin direction of newcomer Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech. I hope I’m wrong and Fincher pulls it out for his mesmerizing work on The Social Network (seriously, think about that film without his guidance and how talky and static it could have been) but I think Hooper wins it this time.

Will Win: Hooper

Should Win: Aronofsky

They Forgot: Christopher Nolan for Inception; see above

Best Picture

Black Swan

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

The King’s Speech

127 Hours

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter’s Bone

People complained again this year about awarding 10 nominees for Best Picture rather than the more traditional 5. But let’s really examine the quality of the 10 choices and celebrate: the ripe, provocative horror/suspense masterpiece Black Swan; the quirky against-all-odds sports flick The Fighter; the insanely ambitious, instant classic blockbuster Inception; the sharply observed, laugh out loud progressive comedy The Kids are All Right; the inspirational, artistic, occasionally bloody survival tale 127 Hours; the zeitgeist nailing, fast talking, symphonic, intellectual The Social Network; the Bergman-meets-Great Escape trilogy capping Toy Story 3; the classically composed yet still Coen-y quirky Western True Grit; and the truly indie, wonderfully atmospheric Winter’s Bone. Of course, none of these films stand a chance next to the primo-Oscar-bait, British royalty/man overcomes disability/women in corsets/World War II softball The King’s Speech. (sigh)

Should Win: Inception

Will Win: The King’s Speech

They Forgot: No room for the masterful, Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom?

Best Original Screenplay

Another Year

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

The King’s Speech

The perception is that Another Year and The Fighter are both triumphs of acting over writing, and that Inception is more a technical than narrative feat (though I’d argue that it’s clearly the most well written of the nominees in terms of narrative propulsiveness). It will come down to the sharp, incisive The Kids Are All Right and the inspirational The King’s Speech. Given the verbal fisticuffs between the excellent Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth at the heart of the film, I think the King’s got this one handily.

Should Win: Inception

Will Win: The King’s Speech

They Forgot: David Michod’s consistently shocking, twisty crime thriller Animal Kingdom

Best Adapted Screenplay

127 Hours

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter’s Bone

I think The Social Network’s falling from front-runner status at the Oscars has the most to do with its lack of movie-star cast and epic scope. It’s perceived as a more talky, intellectual exercise. These qualities are exactly what have led the film to being seen as primarily a writing accomplishment, and I feel like the Academy will surely recognize Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly quotable script. True Grit and Toy Story 3 could shock, but I don’t think so.

Should Win: The Social Network

Will Win: The Social Network

They Forgot: The cerebral, slow burning science fiction tale Never Let Me Go

Best Animated Feature

How to Train Your Dragon

The Illusionist

Toy Story 3

The surprisingly stirring and beautiful How to Train Your Dragon and the melancholy French hand-drawn The Illusionist will come no where near toppling Toy Story 3, a film many consider to be the finest of the beloved trilogy.

Should Win: Toy Story 3

Will Win: Toy Story 3

They Forgot: Those are my top three animated films of 2010, but Disney’s Tangled is also worth a look

Best Documentary Feature

Sometimes the documentary branch makes outlandish choices, but I don’t see how they ignore Charles Furgeson’s of-the-moment financial crisis doc Inside Job. There’s a chance voters could go for the utterly original and brilliant art-world (faux?) doc Exit Through the Gift Shop, but it’s doubtful.

Should Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Will Win: Inside Job

They Forgot: Some would say that leaving off Waiting for Superman was an oversight, but to me that preachy film deserves to be an also-ran

Best Cinematography

Black Swan

Inception

The King’s Speech

The Social Network

True Grit

Should Win: Wally Pfister’s big-screen compositions helped create the year’s most memorable visual imagery in Inception

Will Win: It’s a crime that Roger Deakins has never won an Oscar (look at his credits on IMDB if you don’t know him) and I think he finally will for True Grit

They Forgot: Mike McDonough’s minimalist landscapes were the strongest part of Winter’s Bone

Best Costume Design

Alice in Wonderland

I Am Love

The King’s Speech

The Tempest

True Grit

Should Win: If there’s one thing that The King’s Speech got right, it was its gorgeously details period costumes

Will Win: The King’s Speech, in a walk-away

They Forgot: Black Swan; the ballet outfits alone are stunning

Best Film Editing

Black Swan

The Fighter

The King’s Speech

127 Hours

The Social Network

Should Win: It takes a master to keep up with Aaron Sorkin’s words, Trent Reznor’s music and David Fincher’s direction – Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall are those masters for The Social Network

Will Win: It’s a squeaker, but in the end I think the Academy will recognize the integral strength of The Social Network’s editing

They Forgot: Inception: Really? If NOTHING else, Inception, especially it’s last 45 minutes, is a bona-fide master class in editing

Best Make-Up

Barney’s Verison

The Way Back

The Wolfman

Should Win: I haven’t seen any of the three, but supposedly The Way Back is stunning

Will Win: The late Rick Baker gets a lifetime achievement award for The Wolfman

They Forgot: The iconic make-up in Black Swan

Best Original Score

How to Train Your Dragon

Inception

The King’s Speech

127 Hours

The Social Network

Should Win: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created an avant garde, propulsive, completely integral music experience for The Social Network

Will Win: I really, really want to believe they vote for Reznor, but my gut tells me they go for the more traditional score for The King’s Speech

They Forgot: It was deemed ineligible, but Clint Mansell’s score for Black Swan was an integral character in the film

Best Song

“Coming Home” from Country Strong

“I See the Light” from Tangled

“If I Rise” from 127 Hours

“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3

Should Win: “I See The Light” is good, old-school Disney balladry at its best in Tangled

Will Win: Overall support for Toy Story 3 carries “We Belong Together” home

They Forgot: Any of the hilariously goofy songs by Sex Bomb-omb in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Best Sound Editing

Inception

Toy Story 3

Tron: Legacy

True Grit

Unstoppable

Should Win: The all-enveloping Inception

Will Win: Can’t see voters ignoring Inception

They Forgot: Black Swan was as much an aural experience as a visual one

Best Sound Mixing

Inception

The King’s Speech

Salt

The Social Network

True Grit

Should Win: The verbal and musical fireworks of The Social Network

Will Win: Guessing the old-school thrill of classical music playing over montages will net The King’s Speech this win

They Forgot: The brilliant, bombastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Best Visual Effects

Alice in Wonderland

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

Hereafter

Inception

Iron Man 2

Should Win: Inception; rotating hallway

Will Win: Inception; Paris folds in on itself

They Forgot: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World; probably the most inventive use of graphic special effects ever put to screen

I haven’t seen any of the nominees for Best Foreign Film, Best Documentary Short, Best Live Action Short, or Best Animated Short, so I have no comment. Good luck to the nominees though and I hope the best in each category is recognized.

1 Comment

  1. Mrsmiyagi
    February 7, 2011

    Well put as always, Mr. P. You hit on an important point with the Animal Kingdom snubs: While US audiences don’t know the difference between English and Australian (see: Russell Crowe and Cate Planchett as Robin Hood and Maid Marian) the Academy apparently does, with a vengeance.

    Reply

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