BEST PICTURE: First, to understand the intricacies of this category, now that it has ten nominees, it’s wise to check out this new system of voting (in this category alone): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8539436.stm
Next, it is vital to check out this late-hour, and potentially very damaging event, perpetrated by one of the producers of The Hurt Locker, almost certainly after too many alcoholic beverages:
Let’s look at the first item. The new voting system, when you analyse it, will favour a film that consistently scores in the top three or so of the top ten lists prepared by the voters. You don’t have to be the number one the most to win – you have to have the overall most favourable numbers. In this instance, it is hard to believe that The Hurt Locker – or, for that matter, Inglorious Basterds or Up in the Air – will have too many low scores (sevens to tens). They’re pretty unanimously enjoyed films. However, Avatar – which in other years might be considered a clear favourite – has its detractors. Some people just don’t like Jim Cameron – they’ve never got over him declaring himself “the King of the World” when accepting Titanic’s Oscars. Some people envy him (the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”) and schadenfreude is definitely one of the fuels on which Hollywood runs. And an awful lot of people think that Avatar is a spectacular visual feast but that its story is not only derivative but cookie-cutter boring. So in all likelihood, Avatar will have a few sevens, eights, nines or indeed tens. With that in mind, the new system could absolutely favour the other films.
Now look at the second article. Woa, that guy really screwed up. He broke not only the official rules but the unwritten rules (uncool play). So if we combine the two, Inglorious Basterds and Up In The Air look like they have a chance.
That said, my gut says that Avatar is going to win Best Picture (partly because I don’t think Cameron’s going to win Best Director – see below). What do I think should win? Inglorious Basterds.
BEST DIRECTOR: I think Kathryn Bigelow’s gonna claim this one. Yes, Avatar is the unique and amazing vision of a truly visionary filmmaker. And yes, Avatar would not have happened without Cameron, wheras The Hurt Locker would almost certainly have been directed by someone else had she not existed (George Clooney, anyone)? But Cameron’s already got one; it’s a ripe year for “splitting the vote” – because one is mass entertainment and one is a “lil movie that could”; and… well, Bigelow is female, and that Best Director gong hasn’t gone to one of them yet. It’s time. It’s her time. She’s barely gotten a bad review in her life and when she has had one (Point Break) she’s raked in huge dough (Point Break!) She shouldn’t be affected by her producer’s mistake – I’m sure she condemns it – and she has oodles of integrity. Get ready to watch people stand as Oscar breaks a glass ceiling, finally.
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Hear). Done and dusted. Colin Firth (A Single Man), a quintessentially British actor, got the BAFTA. Bridges is quintessentially American, and the Oscar is his. Couldn’t be a surer thing than this category.
BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock’s gonna get it for The Blind Side because America’s sweetheart finally brought a character, not a version of herself, to the screen. AND she plays a Saint – or near enough: A rich white Republican Christian who takes an uneducated, low-IQ behemoth of a black youth from the wrong side of town into her home and propels him towards a great new life. Votes will be cast as much for the character as the actress. It feels like a shoo-in.
Which is a shame, because Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Carey Mulligan (An Education) both deserve it more. They were astonishing, wheras Bullock was simply the best she’d ever been.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The old school will vote for Christian Berger (The White Ribbon). Every frame is astoundingly beautiful, but also completely chilling – in fact, this film absolutely relies on its cinematography to achieve its horrific effect. And it’s in black and white. The middle cool will go The Hurt Locker – it’s got an intention (to simulate reportage) and it works, with its zooms and handheld and its “all-over-the-placeness” which is obviously highly designed. But this style also relies on the editor to make it work, wheras The White Ribbon has been, essentially, edited before a frame has been shot. Then there will be the Avatar vote – but was it cinematography or was it just visual affects? I think The White Ribbon deserves to win this, and I think it just might. Because also…
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: …will go to Avatar, which is also an acknowledgement of the way it is shot.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: There are only two contenders here, and they shared the two biggies at Cannes. The Prophet (Grand Prix) is a perfect movie – visceral, tremendously exciting, thrilling, suspenseful, perfectly executed and acted, amazingly designed and shot, and with something to say about modern ethnic and cultural relations as well. But The White Ribbon may haunt me for years. It is such a profound statement about the German mind-set leading up to both world wars, and so brilliantly made, that I think it’s going to have to win. Also, The Prophet is a prison picture, with extremely graphic violence – and therefore, essentially, a movie for men. The White Ribbon will be respected by all voters. And Michael Haneke is a world-famous artsy director, while Jacques Audiard is not (yet). The White Ribbon, hands down, but over an extremely deserving foe.
FILM EDITING: The Hurt Locker. Should and will.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christophe Waltz (Inglorious Basterds). Should and will.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo’Nique (Precious). Should and will.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Up. But it’s time to split this category so drawn and stop-motion pictures aren’t up against CGI. Fantastic Mr Fox was… fantastic.
ART DIRECTION: Umm… Avatar?
COSTUME DESIGN: Will the widely-admired Coco Avant Chanel take it in a field that is four-fifths period (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is basically period)? Well, no-one liked Nine, and, really, wasn’t it just a lot of suspenders and fishnets? But The Young Victoria is the period they really love…
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: The Cove has had an actual impact on the world, and is incredibly thrilling and moving to boot. Like An Inconvenient Truth and Bowling For Columbine, it can’t lose.
BEST MAKE UP: I guess this is where they give an Oscar to Star Trek…
SOUND EDITING: Avatar and The Hurt Locker are in equal contention here. Sound editors, please let us know in the Comments section below which deserves it, because I only know they both do…
SOUND MIXING: See above.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY): This is a great category this year. District 9 – bless its soul – was adapted from a short film by the same director – so, really, it doesn’t count. In the Loop just wasn’t accepted by many – in fact I’m surprised it’s nominated. But Up In The Air, Precious and An Education are all stellar adaptations – in fact, they’re all unbelievably good. I gotta say, I don’t think I’ll be laying a money bet on this one – it’s too close to call. But, since Up In The Air is gonna lose out big time across all its other nominations, it would be a sort of “typical Oscar thing” to win here.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): Well, Inglorious Basterds should be the obvious winner here. But The Hurt Locker will be thought of as needing some definite awards, and it could well prevail for that reason (though I think that film, profound as it is, is more comfortable hanging its success on its direction and acting than its writing). Maybe Quentin will get his second writing Oscar. He deserves it.
I won’t get into the remaining categories (the shorts) because I haven’t had the chance to see them.
This year’s Oscars should be the best in a long time. The hosts are a perfect choice (Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin) and we’ve got a classic David versus Goliath structure. Let the games begin. It’ll all be over before you know it, and the next day, it won’t mean much at all…