As I do every year (except last year, when WordPress ate my entry, BOO), I’m giving you my thoughts on the Oscar nominee field and who, at first blush, I suspect will win their categories. Because I want to keep today’s previous entry near the top of the Whatever front page, I’ll put these thoughts behind the cut.
Note also that I’ll be writing about the nomination as they relate specifically to the science fiction films nominated in my AMC column on Thursday.
Best Picture Nominees: “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.”
First, throw out any nominee here that doesn’t have a commensurate Best Director nomination. So long The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man and Up. Next out: Precious, which I think is too flatly down and depressing this particular year, and Up in the Air, which I think peaked early in terms of its viability. Of the three that remain, Hurt Locker is hurt by making almost no money at all at the box office and Avatar is hurt by being science fiction — yeah, I know. I’m just telling you how it is. The real question is do both of their disadvantages weigh in enough to allow Inglourious Basterds to slip through the middle.
Additionally complicating things this year: As I understand it, the Best Picture nominees will have a different voting system than the rest of the ballot, in which voters will rank their selections and then there will be instant runoffs (science fiction fans will recognize this as this the Hugo voting system). This means that it’s entirely possible that a film initially in the middle of the pack can emerge as Best Picture winner. This is good for the five films that are handicapped by not having Best Director nominations, although I’ll tell you what, if The Blind Side ends up winning Best Picture, the Academy’s flirtation with a 10-nominee Best Picture field will be a short one.
What should win: The Hurt Locker.
What will win: Right now, I’d go with a coin flip between Avatar and Inglourious Basterds, because science fiction or not, $2 billion in worldwide box office does a lot of talking, and Avatar is genuinely a technically revolutionary film. But Inglorious Basterds also has screenwriting and acting nominations, which will help its cause, and at the end of the day, everyone loves it when the Nazis get it. This will be close.
Best Director Nominees: James Cameron, “Avatar”; Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”; Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”; Lee Daniels, “Precious: Based on the Novel ’Push’ by Sapphire”; Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air.”
Lee Daniels and Jason Reitman out of the boat first, although I suspect at this point Reitman’s got a date with a directing Oscar at some point in his future, and now we’re left with the same quandary we had in the Best Picture category. Unlike Best Picture, however, I think this one is more clear cut: Cameron and Tarantino already have Oscars, The Hurt Locker is going to miss Best Picture but it deserves a major award, and Kathryn Bigelow has been underappreciated director for years, and deserves the thing not only for this movie but for her body of work. And yes, her being a woman will let the Academy feel good about itself.
Should win: Bigelow, although a very big tip of the hat to Cameron on managing the crazy technical innovation of Avatar.
Will win: Bigelow.
Best Actor Nominees: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”; George Clooney, “Up in the Air”; Colin Firth, “A Single Man”; Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”; Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker.”
Jeremy Renner is just happy to be nominated. So is Colin Firth. Clooney and Freeman have Oscars and are cool with themselves. Anyone who doesn’t think Jeff Bridges is getting this one, as much as a career award as anything else, is seriously deluding themselves. The dude has abided long enough.
Should win: Renner. Because, damn.
Will win: Bridges.
Best Actress Nominees: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”; Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”; Carey Mulligan, “An Education”; Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”; Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia.”
I do wonder, when Meryl Streep passes on, if they are simply going to retire her annual nomination slot. Gabourey Sidibe and Carey Mulligan are happy to be nominated. Helen Mirren has an Oscar and her film here was largely unseen. Sandra Bullock is having a career year, is well liked and this is where The Blind Side gets its acknowledgment for, yes, coming out of the blind side and making $200+ million.
Should win: Sidibe. Because, damn.
Will win: Bullock.
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: Based on the Novel ’Push’ by Sapphire.”
Penelope Cruz is the “Uh, I’ve nominated everyone I wanted to nominate, who do I nominate now?” nomination, and anyway she just won one of these. Farmiga and Kendrick are in the same film and seem likely to split each other’s vote. Maggie Gyllenhaal has a decent chance, especially as Bridges is likely to swamp the actor category. But Mo’Nique has been rampaging through the run-up awards, and is likely to continue her streak. This is where Precious gets its due.
Should win: Mo’Nique. Because, damn (and yes, I’m done with that now).
Will win: Mo’Nique.
Best Supporting Actor: Matt Damon, “Invictus”; Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”; Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”; Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”; Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds.”
Good field, but ten years from now people are going to remember Waltz’s completely unhinged Nazi and not a single one of these other performances. If Waltz doesn’t dance off with this one, there’s something very wrong.
Should win: Waltz.
Will win: Waltz.
Other stuff: I would pick Reitman and co-writer Sheldon Turner for Adapted Screenplay for Up in the Air, and Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds, as another example of the Screenplay awards being consolation Best Director awards. Avatar will sweep technical categories, because, DUH — although if it wins Cinematography that would be really interesting, considering how much of its cinematography relied on server farms. Neil Gaiman is happy Coraline is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film, as he should be, and as am I, but inasmuch as Up is also nominated for Best Picture, this is where Up is likely to pick up its award.