Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Oscars!

Christmas this year has been great, with family time not grating on my nerves too badly, work yesterday actually ending on time, and seeing a few movies here and there. However, it is Friday, so it's Oscar Post time!

Not a whole lot of new has happened this week, but things are starting to come into focus. I'll also introduce my "Hit or Miss" picks, which are selections that are risky, but could wind up paying off.

Precursors, critics, and Oscarologists are all falling into the same pattern of films and performances being chosen over and over again. I'll have none of that. This race is hardly sewn up, and with a little over a month left before nomination announcements, there's still time to be surprised.

Best Picture
Up in the Air
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
An Education
A Serious Man
A Single Man

Hit or Miss! (500) Days of Summer

An Education and Nine are starting to rally back, despite fading buzz and harsh reviews, respectively. I've now lost all faith in Up. I thought for sure it would be a lock for a nomination, but then the buzz has started slowly slipping away... Will it vote-split here with The Princess and the Frog and The Fantastic Mr. Fox? As much as I don't think it will happen, I've moved both A Single/Serious Man onto the list, but it still seems implausible. The Last Station could redeem itself, but that movie has a whole other host of problems (see: Best Actress), so I'm going with this for now. The "Hit or Miss" pick, (500) Days of Summer, isn't as great a movie as it's been made out to be, but precursors really like it, so look for it to possibly spoil.

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Hit or Miss! Lone Scherfig, An Education

Hmm... is this one really as sewn-up as it would seem? Was I wrong to knock Lee Daniels off? Does Scherfig really have a chance? It would be cool to have two female directors nominated in one year, but Scherfig's reviews weren't as stellar as her star's... Eastwood's the most vulnerable on this list, as no one is really that excited about Invictus, but I'd consider the top four locked up.

Best Actor
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Hit or Miss! Tobey Maguire, Brothers

Bridges' press might be overblown, as most of the precursors actually went for Clooney, so despite most pundits putting the Crazy Heart star first, I'm sticking to my guns with the biggest movie star on earth in the number one spot. Firth's buzz is slowing, and Freeman's never really got off the ground. Renner won't win, but neither will Maguire, so I'm going with the more likely option. At this point, it's all about coming for the show, not playing to win.

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria

Hit or Miss! Helen Mirren, The Last Station

I'm starting to think Mirren isn't really anywhere near the type of lock most thought she would be. The Globe nod for Blunt leads me to think they'll latch onto her. Here's what's for sure, though: Streep, Mulligan, Sidibe, and Bullock are locked and loaded. Nothing's budging them, save a miracle.

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Matt Damon, Invictus
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Hit or Miss! Christian McKay, Me and Orson Welles

What the hell happened to Alfred Molina? For the longest time, he looked like the only sure thing on this list, but now, he's dropped off completely due to precursor total disinterest. I hope he makes it on, but I don't really consider him a contender anymore. Again, this is Waltz' trophy already, but Tucci and Harrelson are gaining ground. Too bad the best they'll do is second place. Damon's being discounted by more than a few pundits, even though he's racked up precursor awards and nominations like no tomorrow. I just don't see The Last Station being a big player in any category, much less this one. I feel like Plummer is going to lose his spot to McKay for his fun, inventive performance, or to Molina.

Best Supporting Actress
Mo'Nique, Precious
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds

Hit or Miss! Mariah Carey, Precious

Best Supporting Actress (AKA The Mo'Nique Award) is one of those categories that this year especially is getting so marred by category fraud it's almost seeming impossible to distinguish. Farmiga, Laurent, and Nine's Marion Cotillard have all tried at least once to go lead, each of which was an epic failure. Laurent is great in Basterds; she probably deserves the nomination, plus the buzz for the film has really been ratcheting up, but should she worry about splitting votes with SAG Award nominee Diane Kruger for the same movie? Cotillard has no chance here, as her category fraud is just too ridiculous. It may have finally worked out for Kate Winslet last year, but Marion Cotillard is not Kate Winslet. Cruz is looking lock-ish, and Farmiga, Kendrick, and (of course) Mo'Nique are all locks. Carey's a shot in the dark, as she has always been. Julianne Moore, by the way, fell by the wayside due to the lack of support from SAG. She could probably still edge out Laurent, but that's a bad organization to be stiffed by...

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, (500) Days of Summer
Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Bob Peterson, Up

Hit or Miss! Nancy Meyers, It's Complicated

I'm feeling good about this category...and that scares me. It's all feeling a little too lock-ish for me. Where's the out-of-nowhere In Bruges-type nomination? This is too pat for my tastes. Even my "Hit or Miss" seems too typical.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Damien Paul, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Nora Ephron, Julie & Julia
Anthony Peckham, Invictus

Hit or Miss! Various Authors, In the Loop

And this one is done. The Globes' nominations didn't really destroy the chances for any film here, so the list is the same.

Best Animated Feature
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Hit or Miss! Ponyo

Please understand that I don't bear any ill will towards Ponyo. But getting snubbed by the Globes? That's just plain terrible. Meatballs is a commercial success, as well as a surprise critical hit. And it got nominated at the Globes. Bye-bye, Ponyo.

We're still a month away from the nominations, so this could take a whole lot of turns. Next week, I'll more closely examine the acting races, followed by the direction and screenplay categories the next week, then the specialty categories (documentary, animated film, foreign film), and finally, a look at that big green monster known as the Best Picture categories. Playtime is over, kiddies. Oscarology becomes a serious game now.

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