Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Race

I'm a little disappointed at how pat this Oscar race has become.

Not the Best Picture category, mind you: the 10 nominees might become one of the best ideas the Academy has ever come up with not because it will give us 10 worthy contenders, but because the top 5 (The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air) include some movies that might not have made it into the big race normally, but are each truly incredible films on their own merits.

I'm not even really referring to the Best Actress race, despite my distaste for Sandra Bullock's now-rallying performance in The Blind Side, simply because there's enough tension there that we could see a strange suprise win. But all the other races just feel a little snoozy.

However, I keep forgetting that we haven't even heard the nominations yet, so this post is focused solely on that. In case you've forgotten, picks are ordered in likelihood of nomination.

Best Picture
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Up in the Air
An Education
District 9

Surprised to see Nine back again? So am I. Trust me, it's not a prediction that's easy to make, but I do know this: Chicago swept the Oscars with Harvey Weinstein running the campaign, and while Chicago was actually a good movie, in a year that's so hard to find ten nominees for, I think Nine could just be default enough to sneak on.

You might be wondering, then, why I removed A Serious Man instead of Invictus. While buzz for neither movie is burning brightly, I've never quite bought Man as an awards contender, and so far, it has proven itself to be anything but an awards contender. So I removed it, because inspiring Eastwood trumps silly Coens.

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

This list is set. I don't see any other real possibilites.

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Mirren still feels vulnerable to me. If she hadn't shown such default status throughout the precursors, I would think there was a solid fifth option, but to me, this list seems pretty clear-cut. One possible spoiler? Marion Cotillard's category fraud is blatant, but the Academy has bought worse. She's the best part of a bad movie, and the Academy does love Rob Marshall's work, so maybe she makes it in. I don't think so, though.

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Matt Damon, Invictus
Alfred Molina, An Education

I know it's crazy to remove Christopher Plummer for Molina. I know this, and yet I do it anyway. In fact, other than Woody Harrelson and Christoph Waltz, I'd say none of these performances are sure things. But I do know that Molina had the early momentum, and the Academy seemingly doesn't like Plummer, so I'm going with my gut. Which will especially hurt Tuesday morning when they nominate Plummer.

Best Supporting Actress
Mo'Nique, Precious
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Julianne Moore, A Single Man
Penelope Cruz, Nine

I'm tempted to remove Penelope Cruz, since her movie has fallen by the wayside, but in all honesty, she hasn't missed one list, except for BAFTA, but then again, only the top three on this list made the BAFTA list. Moore feels vulnerable, too. I guess Diane Kruger or Melanie Laurent could sneak on this list for Inglourious Basterds, but Laurent's category confusion is killer, and Kruger honestly didn't do much for me as Bridget Von Hammersmark. I think this list is about as close as I'll get.

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Lee Daniels, Precious

I still can't help but feel that someone is gonna fall to Clint Eastwood. Daniels, maybe? Or Reitman? Probably not Reitman; they love him. Tarantino's pretty controversial, but his movie was really astounding. I feel he's safe. Maybe they all make it in. I'm just not sure: this race seems so unsettled while still being set.

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

I've hemmed and hawwed over these scripts for a while now, and no more deliberation is going to change how poorly I'll fare on nomination morning. One note, though: Tarantino should be very worried about getting snubbed by the Writers Guild of America, because that award comes on February 20, right in the middle of Oscar voting. He could easily lose this to Boal because of that slip.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Damien Paul, Precious
Nick Hornby, An Education
Nora Ephron, Julie & Julia
Tom Ford, A Single Man

Reitman and Turner are nominated for, but should be very worried they won't win, the WGA. There's been a whole storm of controversy about the script and if Reitman doesn't deserve the credit he's getting, meaning Paul could sneak in there and win this one, which would give the win to Precious on Oscar night. The WGA is going to be incredibly influential this year, and no one yet realizes it.

I'm already confident in who will win this year, so that only makes the nominations that more infuriating to discuss. I feel fairly safe with these 45 nominees, but I feel like my score could be as high as 45 and as low as 35. What do you guys think? Any particular weaknesses you can see? Care to try to beat my predictions? Try it in the comments!

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