Sunday, November 29, 2009

Even a Blind Oscarologist Finds Gold

OSCAR SEASON! Anyone who knows me even slightly well can attest to the fact that this is my favorite time of year. Soon enough, I'll start blogging in-depth about the season, but here are my preliminary thoughts on the big six races, all involving acting, directing, and producing.

Best Actor
This race is looking like it could go three ways: Colin Firth in A Single Man, George Clooney in Up in the Air, and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Firth's performance is looking like the strongest, considering it's a period piece performance as a gay man and Sean Penn just won for nearly the same thing, but then again, maybe too much of a good thing is terrible. Bridges' performance is a little Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, and as we just found out, Oscar doesn't really like that. Since he's a major superstar in a no-frills performance that is looking like 'best-of-career' type work, I'll go against the grain and say Clooney.

Best Actress
Another race that comes down to three possibilites, and they're about as different as can be. The ingenue versus the natural versus the legend: Carey Mulligan in An Education, Gabourey Sidibe in Precious, and Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. In a rare instance, I've actually seen all three frontrunner performances, but really, that doesn't matter. A good Oscarologist doesn't allow his views of a performance to delude his predictions. Not that I would be able to choose anyway; Mulligan is an absolute joy to watch in An Education, and Streep does wonderful work as always. Sidibe's work as an obese, abused Harlem teen is effortless and pure prosody in motion. So who wins? Think of this year as parallel to the Best Actress race two years ago: Ellen Page, the natural, and Julie Christie, the legend, both lost out to Marion Cotillard, the (sorta) ingenue. Expect that to happen again, with Mulligan the victor, unless An Education loses even more steam than it already has. If that happens, it's Streep. Sidibe won't win. Just a feeling.

Best Supporting Actor
The supporting categories are much more cut-and-dry, with one frontrunner in each and two possible spoilers. Stanley Tucci has had nothing if not an incredible year, with an award-worthy performance in Julie & Julia and a buzzy performance in The Lovely Bones. Slowly but surely, Bones is losing steam, but the performances by Saoirse Ronan (who would have two Oscar nominations by 15 if she does indeed get a nod) and Tucci are still buzzy. He looks like a strong possibility, as does Alfred Molina, fantastic in An Education. My gut feeling is that Christoph Waltz of Inglourious Basterds will probably win this one. Basterds has started to get more hype than will pay off, making it this year's Gran Torino, as Academy voters may love a Holocaust movie, but they don't exactly want their history tampered with. No, Basterds will fall in most races, though I wouldn't count out a Best Picture nod, but the one win that's almost guaranteed is Waltz's. Multilingual, evil, and just plain good, Waltz will make like his name and dance away with this Oscar.

Best Supporting Actress
Anna Kendrick and Penelope Cruz of Up in the Air and Nine are the closest things to spoilers this race has, but quite frankly, it's all sewn up for Mo'Nique. You read that right. Mo'Nique, the plus-size African American comedienne known for such films as Phat Girlz and television series like my guilty pleasure Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School, will not only be nominated for an Oscar this year, she will win. No hesitation. The performance is absolutely phenomenal, a villain scarier than even Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight last year. Mo'Nique's performance causes gasps, disgust, anger, and disdain towards her character, Mary, the mother of Precious, in the movie named for the lead character. Her opening monologue shouting up the stairs is, quite simply put, the best acting I've seen this decade, because she's not acting. Mo'Nique becomes this monster on camera, and anyone who thinks she's still a lightweight isn't paying attention.

Best Director
Aaaand this is where it gets hard. In a year with so much diversity in the directing field, anything goes, really. I do honestly believe that we'll see the first female Best Director winner in Kathryn Bigelow of The Hurt Locker but I have no clue when it comes to the rest of the nominees. Other possibilities include Lee Daniels for Precious, Rob Marshall for Nine, Lone Scherfig for An Education, Jason Reitman for Up in the Air, James Cameron for Avatar, Clint Eastwood for Invictus, Tom Ford for A Single Man, and Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds. My bets are that Reitman, Daniels, Marshall, and Eastwood will get the other nods, but Cameron and Tarantino are tough customers and vets of this field. I really am clueless on this one. Bigelow's my only sure thing.

Best Picture
With a ten-wide field, you're gonna see a lot of Oscarologists screwing this race up this year. Precious, The Hurt Locker, and Up in the Air are set. An Education, Invictus, Nine and Avatar are likely to join. I'd fill out my field with Inglourious Basterds, Up, and A Serious Man, though I wouldn't rule out The Road or A Single Man. It all really depends on the precursory awards and the campaigns. Either Precious, The Hurt Locker, or Up in the Air will win, though, and my money's on Precious.

What are your thoughts, either on the Oscar races or my predictions? Anything I omitted that you think will make it in? Wondering how I make my selections? Take it to the comments!

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