Sunday, 13 February 2011

Oscar Predictions 2011



With Oscar night just a couple of weeks away now, and a slew of other awards already handed out, I thought I’d have a stab at some predictions for the big night. Looking across the categories it’s clear that it’s been a pretty strong year, with many a favourite film and performance being recognised, even if the overbearing presence of The King’s Speech as a damoclean blade dangling above the heads of its more deserving rivals, will inevitably cause a great deal of consternation come the night itself.

A few categories, as per usual, already feel like foregone conclusions, but there are also a few that feel wide open, and I’m not expecting anything like a clean sweep from any one film, stammering or otherwise. If The King’s Speech does walk off with Best Picture (and god forbid, Best Director), there’s at least some hope of a few upsets on its way to the big prizes, with The Fighter, Blue Valentine, True Grit and especially The Social Network all so much more representative of excellence in 2010.

So, for what it’s worth…



Actor in a Leading Role



Javier BardemBiutiful
Jeff BridgesTrue Grit
Jesse EisenbergThe Social Network
Colin FirthThe King’s Speech
James Franco127 Hours

Speaking of foregone conclusions… I really can’t see anyone taking this away from Firth. Even if his performance last year in Tom Ford’s A Single Man was the more deserving of recognition (and ironically Jeff Bridges, who beat him last year, offers the stronger turn this time round), he delivers a technically assured (although perhaps slightly mannered) performance in a firm, crowd-pleasing favourite. Bardem may be in charge of the histrionics this year, cornering the sentimental vote, but as strong as his performance was, the unfocussed film left me rather cold. Bridges is great as Rooster Cogburn, if veering close to pantomime and Franco charms his way through the mess that was 127 Hours, but for me Jesse Eisenberg represents the best of the category (we won’t mention the glaring Ryan Gosling omission), a subtle, nuanced turn that hides quite how hard he’s working through the densely woven tap dance of Sorkin’s dialogue.

Will Win : Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Might Win : Honestly, it’s Firth’s year…
Should Win : Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Shoulda Been A Contender : Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine



Actor in a Supporting Role



Christian BaleThe Fighter
John HawkesWinter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner The Town
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush The King’s Speech

Depending on quite how high King’s Speech fever is running, Christian Bale should walk this pretty easily. It’s far and away the showiest performance of the lot, seemingly channelling the spirits of Al Pacino’s bad habits, but it’d be well deserved too. Bale’s always been a fearless performer (but always a ‘performer’ foremost), inhabiting his characters to an astonishing level of Method dedication, and his turn here as crackhead former boxer Dicky Eklund couldn’t have been played by anyone else, much less bettered. Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo, whilst both fine in their respective roles, here feel like category filler and neither stand a chance. The same unfortunately goes for John Hawkes, my personal favourite of the nominees, whose menacing Teardrop was a fantastic creation, a silent, effortlessly terrifying presence who commanded nervous attention every second he was on screen. Geoffrey Rush is the only one who could cause an upset though, blessed with the best lines in his film, it’s the type of role the academy would normally swoon over if they weren’t so busy applauding their first love,  a bit of well-implemented Method.

Will Win : Christian Bale, The Fighter
Might Win : Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
Should Win : John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Shoulda Been A Contender : David Bradley, Another Year



Actress in a Leading Role



Annette BeningThe Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman Black Swan
Michelle Williams Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine, here with its sole nomination, is (with one exception) the best film up for an Oscar this year, and Michelle Williams’ performance is a thing of wonder. Brave and brimming with life at its brightest and darkest moments, it’s an emotional tour de force that comes from deep within, the polar opposite of Natalie Portman’s surface-level commitment to the technical facets her role demands. Whilst Williams is busy bearing her character’s soul, Portman runs around shrieking and crying, reacting to external and externalised stimuli like a good 80s scream queen, but we never penetrate Nina’s goose-bumped skin, the script simply isn’t good enough for that, and we’re left instead with a superficial, but technically proficient performance that runs a gamut of emotions that only ring true within the confines of the film itself. Unfortunately Williams doesn’t stand a chance, and the award is Portman’s for the losing. Annette Bening waves the flag for old school Hollywood and delivers a fantastic turn in The Kids Are All Right, aided by such an astute script by Lisa Cholodenko. She’s probably the only one who could upset Portman’s chances, perhaps more as career recognition than for this particular role, but she certainly stands more of a chance than Kidman, a botox-frozen Tussauds waxwork, slowly metamorphosing into her character from The Stepford Wives as she attempts to emote her way through the stagey, verbose dose of grief-chic that is Rabbit Hole. The only other actress nominated here who comes close to Williams (and real life) in a subdued, restrained but masterfully controlled performance is Jennifer Lawrence, the new kid on the block who I’d love to walk away with the statue almost as much as I’d like Williams to, but the film is too subtle and low-key to register and a far cry from the shouty, ‘look at me!’ approach that Aronofsky’s film uses to sledgehammer his viewers into submission.

Will Win : Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Might Win : Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Should Win : Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Shoulda Been A Contender : Jeong-hie Yun, Poetry



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

Proof that it’s a crowded field for actresses this year comes in the form of Hailee Steinfeld’s cheeky shoe-horning into the supporting category. She’s on screen for almost the entirety of True Grit and is very much the film’s lead, but feeling competition would be too much in the leading actress category meant that the film’s publicists campaigned for her inclusion here, a ploy the academy were seemingly happy to swallow. Her chances are helped by quite how brilliant a turn she delivers, more than the equal of her co-stars, her stubborn, never precocious Mattie Ross displays an attitude and intelligence that belies her fourteen years. Melissa Leo may still take it though, despite her bizarre self-campaigning strategy recently, her Lowell clan-queen is another strong, outwardly heavily characterised performance, not dissimilar from Jacki Weaver’s in its propensity for edging towards caricature, which is aided greatly by her co-stars yet never short of engaging by itself. Against Leo, Amy Adams stands little chance, although I preferred her quieter, subtle characterisation to Leo’s grandstanding (much in the same way I preferred Wahlberg’s to Bale’s) and Weaver is just too much of a long shot to throw punches against these big-hitters, regardless of how good as she is in that average picture. Bonham Carter could perchance ride the King’s Speech juggernaut to victory, but I think it’s unlikely, her role is too small and straight for that, without the defining clip moment the academy loves so much.

Will Win : Hailee Steinfeld True Grit
Should Win : Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Might Win : Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Shoulda Been A Contender : Lesley Manville – Another Year

Animated Feature Film



How To Train Your Dragon Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois
The Illusionist Sylvain Chomet
Toy Story 3 Lee Unkrich

Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist is the best film I saw in 2010, animated or otherwise. A beautifully rendered slice of bittersweet magic from an unfinished script by Jacques Tati, it's tale of a fading vaudeville star taking his show across England to an exquisitely drawn Edinburgh is enough to restore anyone’s faith in the power of the moving image. It's largely dialogue-free telling represents cinema at its purest, and builds upon Chomet’s earlier success with Les Triplettes de Belleville to breathtaking effect, saying more with less than any one of the ten films up for Best Picture. The sentiments expressed by Chomet are a far cry from Toy Story 3’s readiness to embrace sentimentality, it's supposedly ‘adult themes’ fast becoming a Pixar cliché, an illusion of ‘depth’ that on closer inspection here reveals itself to be little more than skin-deep, appearing mostly as a cynical reproduction of an emotional resonance earned in their previous, more successful features, but bought rather than worked for in this instance, resulting in one of their least effective works. Even How To Train Your Dragon eclipses it, predominantly through narrative engagement, its story arc being much stronger and the visuals providing a higher drama than its rival. Toy Story may still edge it in the gag stakes, but HTTYD presents us with a new animated landscape we’re visiting for the first time, rather than the (over)familiarity bred by a third trip to toytown. If The Illusionist won it’d be a miracle - it’s foreign, tinged with an air of melancholia and just too off-kilter for the Academy, but I defy anyone to spend 90 minutes in Chomet’s world and not be moved, it’s a celebration of traditional animation from a true independent who refuses to offer easy answers or emotional shortcuts, but leaves his audiences with a restored sense of awe at the potential of cinema to make us believe in magic again.

Will Win : Toy Story 3
Should Win : The Illusionist
Might Win : Unfortunately this one’s Pixar’s, although I live in hope…
Shoulda Been A Contender : Chico & Rita


Art Direction



Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

A tough one this, but I’m inclined to go with Burton. As bad as Alice in Wonderland is in every other sense, its production design (along with costume and make-up) are its strongest assets. It’s been the case with Burton as a filmmaker for some time now, he’s always demonstrated a keen eye for individualistic visuals, but struggles to back them up with anything resembling narrative focus, usually giving his cast too long and indulgent a leash. For a film dealing almost exclusively in dream imagery, this is another category (like most) in which Inception fails to impress, adventurous only in the sheer volume of script pages it’s ready to devote to turgid exposition. Likewise Harry Potter, its ‘moody’ palette crying out to be taken seriously, but offering little in terms of production design, although that may well be of little consequence this time next year as it chases Lord of the Rings-style validation once the saga has drawn to a close. True Grit provides perhaps the most sumptuous example of period detail, yet it faces a tough task stopping The King’s Speech in its tracks, which may well take this from Alice. Like the rest of the film, every design decision is up on the screen, so noticeable and particular in its choices that period verisimilitude stands no chance against retro-styled affectedness.

Will Win : Alice in Wonderland
Should Win : True Grit
Might Win : The King’s Speech
Shoulda Been A Contender : Tron : Legacy



Cinematography



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

After twelve Oscar nominations and no wins, this surely has to be Roger Deakins’ year? One of the world’s greatest cinematographers, here working at the top of his game, his work on True Grit should win if only for the breathtaking sequence towards the end of the film with Beauty, Mattie’s horse. Channelling western iconography through Fordian framing and an exquisite use of natural light sources, his modern craftsmanship feels fresh and vibrant whilst steeped in acknowledgment and respect for the genre’s rich visual history. Matthew Libatique’s work on Black Swan is equally deserving of its place on the list, the ballet scenes in particular thrillingly rendered in swirling anamorphic 16mm, its punishing claustrophobia and restlessness perhaps even more penetrating than Aronofsky’s work with Maryse Alberti on The Wrestler, allowing a feeling of both docu-realism and heightened gothic melodrama to co-exist simultaneously within the frame. The Social Network exhibits an extraordinary visual craftsmanship, its muddy green and brown palette giving it a strong visual identity, but it lacks the showmanship of Black Swan or the neo-classicism of True Grit to give it much of a chance against those more immediately obvious choices. Inception utilised its showy IMAX moments well, but was otherwise pedestrian in its photography, doing little to separate itself from either Nolan’s other work or any other mega-budget ‘show me the money’ production. If The King’s Speech wins this, well… It really just doesn’t bear thinking… Affected, pretentious in its alleged style, it’s hard to know where to lay the blame for all the fish-eye lenses and laughable framing choices. It probably has as much to do with Hooper as with Danny Cohen, but either way, it has no place on this list.

Will Win : True Grit
Should Win : True Grit
Might Win : Black Swan
Shoulda Been A Contender : Blue Valentine


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

It’d be great to see I Am Love walk away with some recognition, here with it’s sole nomination. The entire film is a hymn to decadence and opulence, too indulgent for some but I found it hard to resist its tangible textures, most clearly rendered in both its production design and costumes. It faces a tough task against Alice in Wonderland though, the most obviously ‘designed’ of the nominees but none the less deserving of a win. I’ve yet to see The Tempest (and from what I’ve heard, I’m certainly in no rush) so am unable to comment, but both The King’s Speech and True Grit feel more researched than designed, even if the costumes were put together from scratch. It may well be foolhardy to underestimate the power of a period drama in this field however, even against the strange and unique concoctions of Atwood and Burton.

Will Win : Alice in Wonderland
Should Win : I Am Love
Might Win : The King's Speech
Shoulda Been A Contender : Tron : Legacy


Directing



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

This category represents perhaps the biggest chance the Academy has of making a complete idiot of itself. If Tom Hooper wins over his infinitely more deserving rival nominees, then those that voted really need to take a good look at themselves and ask some fundamental questions about the way they watch movies. Full of poor choices, all of them directorial, The King’s Speech lacks any kind of subtlety or nuance beyond its three central performances and there are many, many other names that should be on this list ahead of Hooper’s. But you can’t stop a runaway Weinstein publicity train, and cinephiles around the world can only cross their fingers on the night in the hope that reason prevails and the only Oscar Hooper carries home on the night is the one Colin Firth lost at the Vanity Fair party. In fact, I’d be pleased with any of the other four taking the prize. Aronofsky deserves some credit for his commitment to deranged melodrama, even if it does often come across a greatest hits compilation of his favourite psychosexual/horror/ballet hits, and is often obvious in its use of symbolism and visual metaphors/motifs, he’s also made better films previously. David O. Russell channels the best of Scorsese (more Mean Streets and Goodfellas than Raging Bull though), and charges of TV movie-of-the-week stylings are completely unfounded, there’s an abundance of kineticism and playfulness in his direction in just the dialogue scenes for that, not to mention the fights, even if he does allow perhaps a little too much actorly grandstanding in the performances. True Grit represents the Coen’s on top form, but a recent win for a superior movie may well scupper their chances here, and it is perhaps a little too indebted to the best of its genre predecessors. The man most deserving of the prize is David Fincher, the control and structural clarity of The Social Network is enriched by subsequent viewings, revealing hidden depths and a fierce intelligence under the various layers of dialogue and performance. His frame is consistently bursting with brilliance, the background often as revealing as the foreground, it’s a film with technique as worthy of the lecture hall as the cinema and one I find myself taking more from, on every level, with each viewing and, along with Zodiac, is the second truly great film from one of American cinema's brightest stars.

Will Win : David Fincher, The Social Network
Should Win : David Fincher, The Social Network
Might Win : Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Shoulda Been A Contender : Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine


Documentary (Feature)

Exit Through The Gift Shop Banksy & Jaimie D’Cruz
Gasland Josh Fox & Trish Adlesic
Inside Job Charles Ferguson & Audrey Marrs
Restrepo Tim Hetherington & Sebastian Junger
Waste Land Lucy Walker & Angus Aynsley

I’m yet to see two of the nominations here, Inside Job and Waste Land, but will be catching both early next week, so will reserve judgement and update this entry once I’ve caught them both.


Documentary (Short Subject)

Killing In The Name Jed Rothstein
Poster Girl Sara Nesson & Mitchell W. Block
Strangers No More Karen Goodman & Kirk Simon
Sun Come Up Jennifer Redfearn & Tim Metzger
The Warriors of Qiugang Ruby Yang & Thomas Lennon

I’ve yet to see any of these, but will be catching them on Tuesday 22nd, after which I’ll update this post.

Film Editing

Black Swan Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter Pamela Martin
The King’s Speech Tariq Anwar
127 Hours Jon Harris
The Social Network Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter

This award belongs to The Social Network. Nothing comes close. Working hand in hand with Fincher’s masterful direction, Wall and Baxter create suspense and high drama from an incredibly verbose script, which on paper may read like a bunch of geeks talking but is given pace and life through its cutting. The opening sequence alone deserves this award, without even taking into consideration the parallel stories and multiple character arcs, all given enough space to breathe whilst maintaining dramatic momentum from start to finish. It’s one category in which The King’s Speech doesn’t stand a chance. 127 Hours may be the showiest contender here, but Boyle & Harris’ Ritalin-deprived orgy of wipes, split-screens and (to use a Michael Bay term) ‘frame-fucking’, seemingly works overtime to diminish any tension or suspense inherent to the film’s singular setting. The Fighter is cut brilliantly, again carrying multiple story and character arcs with aplomb, the fight scenes electric and the opening ten minutes exceptional, but as great as it (and the film) is, The Social Network is in a different league. Black Swan has plenty of tricks up its sleeve too, the ballet scenes in particular edited with both style and grace, but it’s the final act where all the stops are pulled. The only film here I think that could possibly upset Wall and Baxter’s chances, its final crescendo distinguishes itself especially, delivering a finish perhaps undeserved by that which preceded it.
Will Win : The Social Network
Should Win : The Social Network
Might Win : Black Swan
Shoulda Been A Contender : Blue Valentine


Foreign Language Film



Biutiful Mexico
Dogtooth Greece
In a Better World Denmark
Incendies Canada
Outside The Law (Hors-la-loi) – Algeria

The only category which it seems I’ll be voting for with a 40% handicap, having been unable to see either In a Better World or Incendies, and am unlikely to be able to catch in time for Oscar night. It’s a real shame, as I’ve heard great things about Incendies and am a fan of Danish director Susanne Bier, whose In a Better World beat Biutiful to the Golden Globe last month and is a talent one would be foolish to write off. I managed to catch Algerian entry Outside The Law at the London Film Festival last year, and whilst I’d stop short at raving about it, I was surprised by the hostility the film garnered (both stylistically and politically) at earlier festivals, finding it quite brilliantly directed (particularly its first act) if somewhat derivative. Biutiful, like Iñarritu’s previous two features, I had substantial problems with. Javier Bardem delivers an astonishing performance, but its relentless misery aside, my chief issue lay with its determination to be as all-encompassing in its socio-political relevance as possible. There’s a great 90 minute movie in there, I’m sure, but the director seems unsatisfied with telling one story, and appears to have (just like Babel) a check-list of ‘issues’ he feels the need to address, reaching for universal rather than personal resonance. The film I’ll be cheering for loudest come the night though (The Illusionist aside) has to be Giorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, a brilliantly biting satire that puts the ‘nuclear’ into nuclear family. It’s a sharp, twisted and blackly funny film, with a formal control you’d expect if Michael Haneke suddenly developed a sense of humour. It’s one of the best films of the year, and I’m so glad it’s getting the platform it deserves.

So based on the three I’ve seen…

Will Win : Biutiful
Should Win : Dogtooth
Might Win : In a Better World (based on Bier’s track record and the Globe victory)
Shoulda Been A Contender : Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Poetry


Makeup



Barney’s Version Adrien Morot
The Way Back Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk & Yolanda Toussieng
The Wolfman Rick Baker & Dave Elsey

This category was made for Rick Baker. Literally. There was no makeup category at the Academy Awards until Baker did the makeup effects for An American Werewolf in London in 1981. Back here with another wolf, albeit a less impressive one, the ageing effects utilised for Barney’s Version and the ‘isn’t their journey tough?’ effects for The Way Back simply don’t stand a chance.

Will Win : The Wolfman
Should Win : The Wolfman
Might Win : The Way Back (it won’t)


Music (Original Score)



How To Train Your Dragon John Powell
Inception – Hans Zimmer
The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours – A. R. Rahman
The Social Network – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Another tough category. I’d say it’s safe to rule out John Powell’s functional but unexceptional score for How To Train Your Dragon, likewise A. R. Rahman’s noisy irrelevance. The real competition is between the three remaining nominees, all with their merits. Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception I’d probably rank third in the running for the prize, it’s bombastic and relentless, utilising a narrative gimmick from the film, with the Edith Piaf song Non, Je ne regrette rien being the framework around which the score manifests itself. Zimmer slows it down and speeds it up, snatching random fragments with which to manufacture his own brand of aural dissonance, but it’s too grandstanding for my taste, though perhaps apt considering the film, within the confines of which it matches the onscreen posturing. I’d love to see Reznor and Ross’ Social Network score take the Oscar, especially as it seems to have been strangely overlooked elsewhere. It’s certainly the most effective and memorable of the nominees, and is a current fixture on my ipod, but I think this one’s ultimately going to go to Desplat. His score for The King’s Speech isn’t bad by any means, merely functional, I certainly can’t recall much of it (I’ve had to youtube some segments for the purpose of this paragraph) and he’s done better work elsewhere, but this is unfortunately the kind of category where voters may tend to go with what they’ve voted for in other categories, rather than as a result of actually remembering/liking what they’re voting for. It’ll be a shame if it wins, but my vote’s with The King’s Speech on this one.

Will Win : Alexandre Desplat, The King’s Speech
Should Win : Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Might Win : Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Shoulda Been a Contender : Grizzly Bear, Blue Valentine


Short Film (Animated)


Day & Night Teddy Newton
The Gruffalo Jakob Schuh & Max Lang
Let’s Pollute Geefwee Boedoe
The Lost Thing Shaun Tan & Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) Bastien Dubois

Another category I’m yet to see all the nominees for. I’ve seen two so far, but will be catching the rest on February 22nd, when I’ll update this post.

Short Film (Live Action)

The Confession Tanel Toom
The Crush Michael Creagh
God of Love Luke Matheny
Na Wewe Ivan Goldschmidt
Wish 143 – Ian Barnes & Samantha Waite

Likewise, only seen one here, so will update when I’ve caught the rest next week.

Sound Editing


Inception Richard King
Toy Story 3 Tom Myers & Michael Silvers
Tron : Legacy Gwendolyn Yates Whittle & Addison Teague
True Grit Skip Lievsay & Craig Berkey
Unstoppable Mark P. Stoeckinger

As weak as the film was in a narrative sense, I had a lot of time for the technical merits of Tron : Legacy, perhaps aided by a sense of nostalgia for the original incarnation, a firm favourite as a kid. The Oscar here is going to go to Inception, one of the two I think it’ll take home on the night, its big, brash foley work may be far from subtle, but the film has far too many admirers for it to go home empty handed, even if the electronic soundscape of Tron : Legacy is infinitely more exciting and original, aided by Daft Punk’s inexplicably absent score.

Will Win : Inception
Should Win : Tron : Legacy
Might Win : Tron : Legacy
Shoulda Been A Contender : Iron Man 2


Sound Mixing


Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

Another Oscar that belongs to The Social Network, its masterful sound mix works wonders with Sorkin’s dialogue, whilst never obvious in its choices. The use of music in the film is also extraordinary, not just in the compositional sense, but in the way the mix utilises it within the film, particularly the Timberlake/Eisenberg club scene. The King’s Speech and True Grit stand little chance here, likewise the noisy mediocrity Salt. Only Inception can take this away from The Social Network, which whilst effective, its bombastic action sequences lack any of the subtlety or nuance of the deserved winner.

Will Win : The Social Network
Should Win : The Social Network
Might Win : Inception
Shoulda Been A Contender : Tron : Legacy


Visual Effects



Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

As much as I disliked Inception, with Tron : Legacy inexplicably absent, it’s the most deserving of the nominees here for the visual effects Oscar, even if its dream imagery proved unimaginative to say the least. Harry Potter gives us more of the same, and next year is likely to be its year (especially in the technical categories). Likewise Iron Man 2, offering little beyond what it did the first time round, and Alice in Wonderland’s merits lay more with the makeup/costume departments than the effects team. The most bizarre inclusion on the list is Eastwood’s Hereafter, presumably for its opening tsunami. Terribly rendered, the only explanation must be that perhaps it has now become illegal in the State of California for a Clint Eastwood film not to be nominated for an Oscar, and that with an effort this time round beyond woeful, they felt it was the only category the Academy thought they could get away with. This should have been Tron’s.

Will Win : Inception
Should Win : Inception
Might Win : Iron Man 2 (it won’t)
Shoulda Been A Contender : Tron : Legacy


Writing (Adapted Screenplay)



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

It’d be a brave soul who casts a vote against Aaron Sorkin for this one, a foregone conclusion if ever there was one. One of the best screenplays of recent years, it deserves all the accolades it gets, its ferocious intelligence and wit equal to the brilliance of its formal construction. 127 Hours and (sorry to say) Toy Story 3 have little business being here, and whilst True Grit is marvellously written, too much comes from Portis in my opinion for the award to be given to the Coens. The only other screenplay here I think deserving of the Oscar, and if it had been any other year I’d be cheering it to win, is Winter’s Bone. It’s brilliantly astute and insightful writing has no end of compassion for its subjects, evading any sense of ‘poverty tourism’ whilst flirting with genre sensibilities through a unique and uniquely American cultural landscape.

Will Win : The Social Network
Should Win : The Social Network
Might Win : This one’s Sorkin’s…
Shoulda Been A Contender : The Mysteries of Lisbon


Writing (Original Screenplay)

Another Year Mike Leigh
The Fighter Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Inception Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The King’s Speech David Seidler

This category should be a heavyweight fight between the two best nominees here, Another Year and The Kids Are All Right. The Fighter certainly has its moments, but it’s a performance driven piece and the writing draws little attention to itself, whilst Inception represents two and a half hours of smug, not-as-smart-as-it-thinks-it-is, metaphysical expositional waffle. Mike Leigh is at the top of his game here, but I wonder if knowledge that his films are built around an improvisational process would make people less inclined to vote for the final product. Cholodenko’s film features wonderful writing, a smart, funny slice of modern family life, it’s most likely too far left-of-centre for the more traditionally inclined Academy voters. It’s a shame, as both contain more wit, originality and truthful emotional resonance than the likely winner, David Seidler. The King’s Speech is screenwriting-by-numbers, a clichéd triumph-over-adversity tale / buddy movie, it’s structural banality as old hat as its sports-movie construction and says little we’ve not heard a thousand times before. It may be a rarity to use the outbreak of war to simulate a ‘feelgood’ ending, and its popularity stems from the world in which it’s set. With every minutiae of movie stars’ lives now splashed across the pages of countless magazines, the opportunity to peek behind the closed curtain of the royal household must seem irresistible for a voyeuristic public tired of reading about Angelina Jolie, the monarchy now representing the highest echelon of ‘celebrity’ of which we know little of the everyday workings, past or present. It worked for The Queen, and this is another one in the bag for the king.
Will Win : The King’s Speech
Should Win : Another Year
Might Win : The Kids Are All Right (it won’t)
Shoulda Been A Contender : Blue Valentine


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


Even with the expansion last year to ten nominees from an original five, this remains a two horse race, and one I’m finding it increasingly difficult to call. The category is after all called ‘Best Picture’, not ‘Most Popular Picture’ or ‘Best Crowd-Pleaser’, and as much as I’d love to see The Social Network take its rightful crown from the king, clearly being the best picture by a long shot, it’s hard to shake the notion that we’ve another Slumdog year on our hands and that sentimental herd mentality will triumph, with The King’s Speech stealing the top prize. I’m all for the inclusion of another five nominees, especially if it means that films such as Winter’s Bone receive recognition (and therefore greater business) than they would have otherwise, but it doesn’t mean they have any chance of winning. True Grit has gathered both critical and commercial momentum in the run-up to the big night and is perhaps the only wild card in the pack, but it’s a considerable long shot, especially after such a recent victory for the Coens. As much fun as there is to be had with The Kids Are All Right, it’s not a Best Picture winner, Toy Story 3 neither, which whilst popular is hardly representative of the studio’s best work and falls well short of Sylvain Chomet’s masterful The Illusionist. Both Inception and 127 Hours have little business on the list, especially with films such as Blue Valentine absent, and if it were any other year, The Fighter could well have stood a greater chance, remaining one of the best American features of 2010. Black Swan is great fun, but doesn’t improve with repeat viewings, its shortcomings becoming more glaringly apparent each time. I’m still confident that Darren Aronofsky has a phenomenal film in him, and The Wrestler certainly came very close, but this isn’t his year, and Black Swan isn’t that film. The Social Network, like There Will Be Blood a few years ago, remains the film that in 20 years’ time will retain its status as the best picture of 2010, whether it takes home the award on the night or not. It’ll still be playing on repertory cinema screens, whilst The King’s Speech finds its true home on Sunday night television. The Social Network remains the most evocative period film in the list of nominees, forensically capturing a time and place with as great and methodical an attention to detail as the director’s outstanding earlier feature, Zodiac. It’s utilisation of language and (mis)communication is a marvel to behold from its opening moments, and whilst by no means a film ‘about’ Facebook in any literal sense, remains a poignant and acerbic take on social dislocation in an era perhaps not long past, but still an age away from our ‘connected’ lives today, both online and off. I strongly feel that the further removed from the picture we become, once we’ve stepped back from its current cultural positioning as an ‘important’ movie in 2010/11, the greater its lights will shine. Nothing else on the list can touch it in a formal sense, a technical achievement if nothing else of the highest order, but its historical, cultural and social resonance, working hand in hand with a ferociously insightful wit and intelligence I’m sure will not only ring true today, but also in many years to come, something that could never be said for The King’s Speech.
Will Win : The King’s Speech
Should Win : The Social Network
Might Win : The Social Network
Shoulda Been A Contender : The Illusionist, Blue Valentine

1 comment:

  1. Smartest/best prediction that I've seen yet.
    Waiting your prediction for the short categories.

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