I'm back from Kairos, and I'm reevaluating my snap-judgments before I left. Overall, this year's nominees are pretty satisfying, with some especially so (An Education hung in there!) and not so (THE BLIND SIDE?!?!?!?!). Below, the breakdown in full:
The Blind Side WRONG
District 9 CORRECT
An Education CORRECT
The Hurt Locker CORRECT
Inglourious Basterds CORRECT
A Serious Man WRONG
Up in the Air CORRECT
Avatarwas going to be nominated, obviously, but I have serious doubts about its ability to win. Actors really don't like it, because they see it as representative of a future where they as actors aren't as necessary. Morgan Freeman has even called it "basically a cartoon," which undoubtedly pissed-off James Cameron. As a writer, it similarly offends me. Here's a fun fact for you, though: the last time a Best Picture nominee won without a single nomination in a writing or acting category was almost 80 years ago. Maybe this isn't that much of a two-horse race. Maybe The Hurt Locker is the clear frontrunner, and Avatar is just one of four films angling for an upset.
So... Who else is a little angry about this whole The Blind Side thing? Don't worry: you're not alone. We can heal together. Not that any other choice was that great; I don't fault the Academy members who couldn't come up with ten nominees. But The Blind Side?! My primary problem is that Blind seems more like a TV movie than a real movie, which is a bit unfair towards TV movies. I would take the poignant, touching Grey Gardens over this warmed-over Hallmark Movie Channel flick any day of the week.
I haven't seen District 9 yet, but I've heard that this one might be a touch overrated. Still, it's gonna help sink Avatar's chances (two sci-fi pictures in the big race is not better than one for James Cameron), so I'm all for it!
An Education is the prestigious-looking flick in this race; too bad this is a year when prestige doesn't matter too much. Normally, I'd say it had a tremendous shot at the top prize, but this beautiful, funny British pick will, unfortunately, be relegated to the second tier. One piece of advice, though: An Education just expanded its theater count, so there is absolutely no reason not to go see it. Carey Mulligan is truly a revelation, and the movie is, on the whole, better than most of last year.
The Hurt Locker came out of nowhere in getting 9 total nominations, tying Avatar and making this Best Picture race a total Battle of the Exes. I just wish the exes hated each other. Wouldn't that be so much more fun? I'd say right now that this is Locker's race to lose, but there's a whole host of things that could happen: will there be vote splitting between the two biggest flicks? Is Inglourious Basterds primed for an upset? What if Precious or Up in the Air regain their earlier momentum? We've got a month before showtime in which a whole lot can happen.
Speaking of the Basterds... With 8 nominations (high but not superb), including a high profile Best Supporting Actor nomination, and a Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble Cast award, you know what Quentin Tarantino's movie is starting to remind me of? Crash. If actors are feeling really self-important this year, I'd say we might see an upset the likes of the Brokeback Mountain-destroyer from five years ago. I'm really thinking this movie could upset. Not über-confident in that theory, but still...
Precious is the best movie that isn't getting the awards it deserves. Seriously, this thing would have eviscerated the competition last year (then again, most of the movies here, even the second-tier ones, would have destroyed last year's ridiculously bad Best Picture nominees). I'm thrilled Mo'Nique is getting the recognition she so deserves (again, it's the best performance I've seen in years), but this movie is so phenomenal. Here's the good news: with an Oscar editing nomination, a SAG Best Cast nomination, and an Oscar directing nomination, along with the nice-to-have double acting nominations and writing nomination, this movie has all the elements necessary to win. Still, without that crucial SAG win, I'd say we shouldn't expect an upset, but then again, I'd say that with Basterds, it is the most likely to upset. (Similar to Education, this movie has re-expanded into more theaters, so you owe it to yourself to go see it.)
A Serious Man is the wrong Man: Tom Ford's A Single Man was a million times better than the Coen Brothers' Jewish-centric flick. And that's why it is honored just to be nominated.
Up is only the second animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. Cool? Yes. Is it the right movie? Not a chance in hell. It'll win Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score, nothing more.
Oh, Up in the Air. What happened? You've lost too many opportunities, my friend, including an Oscar editing nomination, a SAG Best Cast nomination, among others. That was the final nail in your coffin, and you're so close to being second-tier. And that's sad, because you truly are a phenomenal film.
If I had to rank their chances now, this is how the nominees would break down:
1) The Hurt Locker
3) Inglourious Basterds
5) Up in the Air
6) An Education
7) District 9
8) The Blind Side
10) A Serious Man
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart CORRECT
George Clooney, Up in the Air CORRECT
Colin Firth, A Single Man CORRECT
Morgan Freeman, Invictus CORRECT
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker CORRECT
Ding! Got all those right. On a side note, I just saw Crazy Heart, and Jeff Bridges totally deserves the Oscar he's going to win. Bridges, Renner, and Firth were all so phenomenal. I'd rank Bridges and Renner as the leaders of the pack (I know Renner was riding the bottom of the nomination list, but then again, that was for a nomination, and winning is a whole different game), with Freeman at the bottom.
1) Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
2) Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
3) George Clooney, Up in the Air
4) Colin Firth, A Single Man
5) Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side CORRECT
Helen Mirren, The Last Station CORRECT
Carey Mulligan, An Education CORRECT
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious CORRECT
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia CORRECT
Ding-ding! I love going 5-for-5, and the last-minute switch off of Emily Blunt paid off! If Bullock and Streep wind up splitting the veteran vote, I think Sidibe could steal. It all depends on how Precious plays with the Academy.
1) Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
2) Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
3) Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
4) Carey Mulligan, An Education
5) Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus CORRECT
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger CORRECT
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station INCORRECT
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones CORRECT
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds CORRECT
Whoops! I knew the switch from Plummer to Alfred Molina would bite me in the ass. I just didn't think Plummer had enough of a following in the Academy, but who knows what those old curmudgeons like anymore? I guess he could get the generational vote, but I doubt it. This one is Waltz's.
1) Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
2) Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
3) Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
4) Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
5) Matt Damon, Invictus
Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Nine CORRECT
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air CORRECT
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart INCORRECT
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air CORRECT
Mo'Nique, Precious CORRECT
No one saw that Gyllenhaal nomination coming, so I don't feel too bad about missing it. I'm actually pretty proud of calling Cruz: I knew the Academy couldn't resist her. She's been nominated three times in four years. That's pretty freaking cool. You know who else has that exact same percentage? Meryl Streep. You know who else is the only repeat nominee from last year? Meryl Streep. You know who got a nomination every single time Cruz did? Meryl Streep. They must see each other a lot. I wonder if they text about boys and meet for brunch on the weekends like BFFs do.
1) Mo'Nique, Precious
2) Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
3) Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
4) Penelope Cruz, Nine
5) Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker CORRECT
James Cameron, Avatar CORRECT
Lee Daniels, Precious CORRECT
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air CORRECT
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds CORRECT
"That's a bingo!" A black man and a woman: is this really the category that has only seen either of the identifications four times TOTAL in its history? Pretty freaking cool. The rankings reflect the directors' films in the Best Picture race, and that isn't a coincidence.
1) Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
2) James Cameron, Avatar
3) Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
4) Lee Daniels, Precious
5) Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker CORRECT
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds CORRECT
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger INCORRECT
Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man CORRECT
Bob Peterson, Up CORRECT
Not bad for Best Original Screenplay. The Messenger was a bit of a shock for everyone. Didn't see that one coming.
1) Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
2) Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
3) Bob Peterson, Up
4) Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
5) Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, The Messenger
Best Adapted Screenplay
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9 INCORRECT
Nick Hornby, An Education CORRECT
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, & Tony Roche, In The Loop INCORRECT
Damien Paul, Precious CORRECT
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air CORRECT
Aaaaannnnd... boom. This was my weakest category. Kind of a total swap from last year.
1) Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
2) Damien Paul, Precious
3) Nick Hornby, An Education
4) Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Ianucci, & Tony Roche, In The Loop
5) Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
What do you guys think of the nominees? What are your picks for the winners? My score was 38/45: not too bad! Post your comments!