Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cinema Freaks Presents: The Observer's 2010 Oscar Picks and Predictions

Well, the Academy Awards are tonight and all the critics are making (or rather, have made) their predictions and personal preferences as to who will and/or should win at the big event. That being the case, I have decided to make my own list. Yeah, I know this is a little late, but better to do it at the last minute than not at all. Obviously, I have not seen every nominated film and a bunch of my predictions might end up being dead wrong, but this is just for fun, so do not take this too seriously; I am just trying to give my humble opinion just like everyone else. Now, for the sake of time and simplicity, I am only going to do "the big six", but that should be okay. If I do this next year, I may expand the list, but I don't know yet. For now, however, let's get started:

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Who Will Win: Amy Adams, though I will not be surprised if Melissa Leo won instead.
Who Should Win: Hailee Steinfeld
Why: Okay, if I get any of these predictions wrong, I think it will probably be this one. To be fair, this may be because there does not really seem to be much consensus for this category. There seems to be a leaning toward Leo, but it is by no means definitive. I am instead going to go with her co-star Adams just because her star power has been continuously rising over the years, and the Academy may like to give her a feather for her cap, especially since she plays against type in her role as Charlene Fleming, a sex bartender who becomes the love interest of protagonist Micky Ward in "The Fighter". All that being said, I think that Steinfeld should get the award. As Mattie Ross in "True Grit", she brought strength and warmth to a character that is initially very cold, and was able to stand on her own against seasoned veterans. True, she technically did play a lead role as opposed to a supporting one, which bothers me a little bit, but that's the Academy's fault for claiming to know so much about films and yet they do not even understand a fairly standard definition for a certain part of a movie! Regardless, she has been placed in this category, and I thought she was the best one, so I am going with her.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Who Will Win: Christian Bale
Who Should Win: Christian Bale
Why: This is actually a difficult choice for me, because I liked a lot of the guys in this category. Still, like almost everyone else, I am going with Bale. He simply nailed his part as Dicky Eklund in "The Fighter". He really looked and acted like a man with a lot of problems and a bit of a loser, but underneath it all just wants to help out his family. At the end of the film, they even show a clip of the real Eklund, and the similarities are spot-on. Yes, I am sure the producers did that on purpose to show off how good Bale had done. Well, guess what: they have a right to do so.

Best Actress:
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Who Will Win: Natalie Portman
Who Should Win: Natalie Portman
Why: This one is pretty much set in stone. Portman, as Nina Sayers in "Black Swan" goes from being a nice yet troubled ballerina whose desire and discover her dark side sends her into a downward spiral in which the line between her reality and her imagination becomes blurred. Portman has always had a bit of an innocent look to her (well, except maybe when she was a little girl in "Heat", ironically enough) so the role was a perfect fit. She also apparently went through intense physical training to prepare for the part, and preformed much of her own stunts. All of this considered, she definitely deserves the part.

Best Actor:
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Who Will Win: Colin Firth
Who Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg
Why: It is no surprise that Firth is the favorite. He put on a great performance as the stuttering King George VI, who in "The King's Speech" learns to find his voice as well as his confidence. From watching it, it appears that he worked hard to get the dialect down right. However, my pick goes to Eisenburg simply because he was able to blend into the role so well and effortlessly. That last part is critical: while Firth did a good job at getting the stutter down, I could never get it out of my head that he had worked to get it right. I do not mean to attack his performance; if "King" gets any award at all, I would prefer that it goes to him. The reason why Eisenberg edges him out in my mind is that it he gave a great performance as Mark Zuckerberg, the smart but arrogant mastermind behind Facebook in "The Social Network", and he did it without making it look difficult. Even if Firth's role was technically more challenging that Zuckerberg's role, I still give the latter the win because, in my opinion, it is better to excel in a modestly difficult role than to pull off a challenging role but make it look like you may have tried to hard. Now I don't really believe that Zuckerberg sounds or has ever sounded like that (same is true with George VI), which is usually a bit of a problem, but as I implied in my review, I'm just focusing on his characterization in the film, nothing more. Anyway, I think Firth will still win because of the overall fondness for "King" over "Social", as well as the fact that it is easier for them to give an award to seasoned actor who has appeared in a number of highly acclaimed films rather than the kid from "Zombieland". A little unfair, but that is kind of the way it goes with the Academy. Still, if Firth wins, more power to him. If Eisenberg wins, however, it will be a pleasant surprise, at least for me.

Best Director:
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Ethan and Joel Coen (True Grit)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
David O. Russell (127 Hours)

Who Will Win: Tom Hooper
Who Should Win: Darren Aronofsky
Why: The award should go to Christopher Nolan for "Inception", but the Academy doesn't know anything movie categories, so I will not dwell on it. Anyway, Hooper won the Directors Guild Award which, according to Roger Ebert, predicts the winner of this category 90% of the time. I think I will just leave it at that. As for my personal choice, there is a certain amount of irony to it. I will admit that I did not like "Black Swan" as much as some other people did; there were too many parts that were just kind of gross and I though some of the characters and elements were a little too weird for it's own good. Still, I enjoyed it overall: Portman was great as I already mentioned and I think Aronofsky did a great job of incorporating professional ballet with the gritty violence, sexuality, and overall darkness that inhabited the mind (or reality) of the main character. So even though I don't think it was as good a psychological thriller as, say, "Jacob's Latter" and I thought that the director's previous work on "The Wrestler" was better, I still think that the imagery that Aronofsky used is intriguing enough for me to bypass my own personal bias and decide that he deserves the award.

Best Picture:
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Who Will Win: The King's Speech, with a very small possibility of "The Social Network" pulling off an upset
Who Should Win: Inception
Why: Kind of a boring choice. Even though it's chances of winning in this category are slim, people just love"Inception" (it was number three on my Top Ten list for 2010), and for good reasons. It combines a complex plot line with great special effects and even manages to throw in an emotional element into the mix. Imagine, an action/thriller movie that makes you think! "The King's Speech" as I mentioned in my review, is a very solid, entertaining movie. However, it is still a little surprising to me that this is the film that is (likely) going to be chosen. I understand the politics behind it (the Academy likes royalty, British people, real-life stories, etc.), but I just think that it is weird that this movie should get so much acclaim. I expected it to be a nice, humorous, feel-good story, and it met those expectations, but nothing more. I do not want to degrade the film in any way because it was very good; there just wasn't anything that particularly amazing. Now, a lot of this has already been said by supporters of "The Social Network", but I have similar reservations for that movie as well. It was a smart, funny, and poignant film with a talented cast who played interesting characters, and it was much better than I thought it was going to be. But even though I think it deserves more than "King", I still don't think it was a masterpiece or the beginning of a new generation of film-making like people say it is, or at least imply it (David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin are not exactly newbies to the industry). It was definitely above-par and I enjoyed it, but that's it. Don't get me wrong: "Inception" is not an untouchable monument peaking above the clouds; it is not even Nolan's best work ("Why so serious?"). But it still took what could have been an average, or even a bad, movie and instead brought forth the true abilities of film-making: to have people be both awed by the images as well as get emotionally involved in the story. And that is why I think it deserves the Best Picture Award.

Happy Oscar Night!