25 January 2011

83rd Academy Awards: Predictions

I don't proclaim to be savvy.  I've only seen a couple of nominees and I know virtually nothing about several.  Still, it's always fun to review lists and make remarks so here we go.  I've underlined my predictions.

The Social Network
Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Firth has had the most recent buzz, which bodes well for him.  Bridges was solid, but I think playing a role already defined by an Oscar-winning performance by John Wayne is a liability here.  The Oscars, like the Grammy's tend to give awards based on our social zeitgeist and I think right now Eisenberg's surprising (and, I'm told, effective) performance is the one that best captures 2010.

The King's Speech
Actor in a Supporting Role
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

I hear great things about both Bale and Rush.  It could go either way, but I suspect that the same voters who will choose Eisenberg over Firth will favor Rush here.

Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Word on the street says this is Portman's to lose, but it's worth noting that the industry at large really seemed to rally behind Blue Valentine and its battle with the MPAA.  I'm going with the street on this one.

The Fighter
Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Conventional wisdom says it's bad when two performances are nominated from the same picture.  Adams or Leo (a favorite of mine since her days on Homicide: Life on the Street) would stand a better chance of winning without the other on the ballot.  Steinfeld seems to have wowed everyone and probably should have been nominated in a Leading Role, but it is what it is.  I'm going with Melissa Leo, for reasons I can't right now articulate.

Toy Story 3
Animated Feature Film
How to Train Your Dragon, Chris Sanders and Den DeBlois
The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet
Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich

How to Train Your Dragon really surprised everyone, I think, with its box office take and its strong word of mouth.  I love Craig Ferguson, but I never bet against Pixar.  Toy Story 3 was more than a worthy sendoff for beloved characters; it continued to explore the theme of that franchise.  Namely, how we make sense of our changing place in the world.

Alice in Wonderland
Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland, Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephanie McMillan
Inception, Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
The King's Speech, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
True Grit, Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

The King's Speech and True Grit faithfully recreated times past, but Alice in Wonderland invented an entirely new world--no mean feat, given how many interpretations of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland have graced the screen.  Bonus: I think being available for streaming from Netflix will help increase its visibility with voters who may have otherwise lost their regard for the movie after it left theaters last Spring.

True Grit
Black Swan, Matthew Libatique
Inception, Wally Pfister
The King's Speech, Danny Cohen
The Social Network, Jeff Cronenweth
True Grit, Roger Deakins

Shooting against natural landscapes is almost a cheat in this category today, but Deakins's work was simply stunning.  Moreover, his work kept the dialog and exposition-heavy film moving even when little was taking place.  Then again, I'm biased as this is the only nominee I've seen and I was completely enamored with how gorgeous it was.

Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland, Colleen Atwood
I Am Love, Antonella Cannarozzi
The King's Speech, Jenny Beavan
The Tempest, Sandy Powell
True Grit, Mary Zophres

Again, while I admire the authenticity of The King's Speech and True Grit, I feel that I've seen their ilk before.  Not so with Alice in Wonderland.

Black Swan, Darren Aranofsky
The Fighter, David O. Russell
The King's Speech, Tom Hooper
The Social Network, David Fincher
True Grit, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

The Coen Brothers managed to make a solid movie that had already had an iconic film adaptation, Russell coaxed four nomination-worthy performances out of his cast and Fincher made a compelling movie about the guy behind Facebook.  But I'm going with Aranofsky here, for juggling the technical with the artistic and turning in what is, by nearly all accounts, a fascinating and captivating work of originality.

Documentary (Feature)
Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
Gasland, John Fox and Trish Adlesic
Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Restrepo, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Waste Land, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Being promoted on iTunes and Netflix will help, but I think Exit Through the Gift Shop benefits most from it subject matter.  The harmful effects of natural gas, war in Afghanistan, the economic collapse and garbage piles are more important than a street artist, but not as accessible or as likely to resonate with the art-conscious voters.

Documentary (Short Subject)
Killing in the Name, Nominees to be determined
Poster Girl, Nominees to be determined
Strangers No More, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
Sun Come Up, Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
The Warriors of Quigang, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

I had to Google all five of these.  Killing in the Name (Muslim suicide bombers), Poster Girl (U.S. soldier returns home) and Strangers No More (multicultural school in Tel Aviv) all focus on man vs. man conflict; Sun Come Up (the relationship between land and see in the Carteret Islands) and The Warriors of Quigang (Chinese villagers combat a chemical plant) emphasize the ecological.  I'm going with The Warriors of Quigang for being a "green" David vs. Goliath story.

127 Hours
Film Editing
Black Swan, Andrew Weisblum
The Fighter, Pamela Martin
The King's Speech, Tariq Anwar
127 Hours, Jon Harris
The Social Network, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

I haven't seen any of the five, but it's my understanding that 127 Hours lived and died by the editing, crafting a story meant to make its audience feel discomfort, anguish and yet retain its hope.  Surely, Jon Harris had the thinnest margin for error of these nominees.

Foreign Language Film
Biutiful, Mexico
Dogtooth, Greece
In a Better World, Denmark
Incendies, Canada
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi), Algeria

Being available to stream from Netflix helps Dogtooth's visibility, but not as much as Biutiful benefits from having Javier Bardem nominated elsewhere on this ballot.

The Wolfman
Barney's Version, Adrien Morot
The Way Back, Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Tousseing
The Wolfman, Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

I'm only familiar with The Wolfman, but a quick Google search didn't show anything amazing about its competition.

Music (Original Score)
How to Train Your Dragon, John Powell
Inception, Hans Zimmer
The King's Speech, Alexandre Desplat
127 Hours, A.R. Rahman
The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

I have neither seen nor heard any of these, but there's been a lot of buzz for The Social Network's music in addition to the film.  It's my lazy pick.

Music (Original Song)
"Coming Home" from Country Strong; Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
"I See the Light" from Tangled; Music by Alan Menken, Lyric by Glenn Slater
"If I Rise" from 127 Hours; Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
"We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3; Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

A song from Toy Story 3 that isn't the Spanish version of "You've Got a Friend in Me?"  Pass.  I'm entirely unfamiliar with the other nominees, but "Coming Home" is $1.29 on Amazon and the others are $0.99.  That $0.28 tells me where the smart money is.

Black Swan
Best Picture
Black Swan, Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklins, Producers
The Fighter, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
Inception, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
The Kids Are All Right, Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
The King's Speech, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
127 Hours, Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
The Social Network, Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
Toy Story 3, Darla K. Anderson, Producer
True Grit, Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
Winter's Bone, Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

First things first.  Even though we're in the era of ten nominees, I for one still have the perception that there are really five nominees and five second class citizens in this category.  I identify the following as the latter: Inception (hindered by being linked to The Dark Knight by virtue of being by Nolan), Toy Story 3 (being a threequel hurts), True Grit (solid, but still seen as a remake).  That still leaves seven "serious" contenders.  2010 was a strong year for LGBT issues, and voters might be inclined to commemorate last year's progress with an award for The Kids Are All Right, but I think not.  The Fighter is well represented elsewhere on the ballot, a testament to the regard of its cast and crew.  I think its only hindrance is that Mark Wahlberg himself wasn't seen as worthy of nominating for Actor in a Leading Role.  The Social Network seems to have captured the zeitgeist of the year, and I think it comes down to this or the allure of Black Swan.  It's the latter that I think "feels" more like a Best Picture winner, and that's why I'm going with Aranofsky's head trip.

Day & Night
Short Film (Animated)
Day & Night, Teddy Newton
The Gruffalo, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
Let's Pollute, Geefwee Boedoe
The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary), Bastien Dubois

Again, I never bet against Pixar.

Na Wewe
Short Film (Live Action)
The Confession, Tanel Toom
The Crush, Michael Creagh
God of Love, Luke Matheny
Na Wewe, Ivan Goldschmidt
Wish 143, Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

I had to Google these nominees.  Three are about young boys (one taking his first confession in The Confession; another in love with his teacher in The Crush and Wish 143 is semi-autobiographical about the friendship between Tom Bidwell and a priest).  Of the others, God of Love is about Cupid as a hipster and that leaves us with Na Wewe's exploration of the genocidal civil war in 1994 Burundi.  One of these is not like the others...and I suspect it wins.

Sound Editing
Inception, Richard King
Toy Story 3, Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
Tron: Legacy, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
True Grit, Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
Unstoppable, Mark P. Stoeckringer

In a nutshell, this is a consolation prize for Inception.  What hurt its chances with voters is Nolan's cold, cerebral style, but they'll want to recognize its technical achievements.

Sound Mixing
Inception, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
The King's Speech, Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
Salt, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and Mark William Sarokin
The Social Network, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weitgarten
True Grit, Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

I assume that voters will be doubly confident in awarding Inception for its Sound Mixing after having just voted to recognize its Sound Editing.  (It's possible, though, that they'll feel they've discharged their obligation to it with Sound Editing and instead hand this out as a consolation prize to The King's Speech).

Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland, Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Tim Burke, John Richardson,Christian Manz and Nicholas Aithadi
Hereafter, Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephen Trojansky and Joe Farrell
Inception, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Iron Man 2, Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

I'm sure the Harry Potter team did top shelf work, but I suspect voters take it for granted by now that the series will be visually competent.  For me, this comes down to Alice and Inception, and I think Inception has the edge for its scale and detail.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
127 Hours, Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3, Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
True Grit; Written for the Screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone; Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

First things first.  Toy Story 3 is here because the Academy considers its characters a pre-existing condition.  Ultimately, I think this one comes down to True Grit (where the Coen brothers put their stamp on Charles Portiss's novel) and The Social Network (based upon Ben Mezrick's The Accidental Millionaires).  It's the latter that I think surprised everyone, making audiences take seriously the seemingly superficial story of Facebook.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Another Year, Written by Mike Leigh
The Fighter, Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
Inception, Written by Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right, Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech, Screenplay by David Seidler

Inception blew everyone's minds, but I don't think it evoked an emotional response.  The Fighter did the reverse; its appeal is in knowing that it's a story of triumph against adversity.  It's The King's Speech that I think appeals most strongly to both heart and head, both inspiring and thought provocative.


  1. Thanks for the interest, Travis. Here's a link to the "I Live in the Woods" poster http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Iw7DALYyb7c/SgP6jkIWKrI/AAAAAAAAAS0/IxwA0cJgDMI/s1600-h/woods_drawnposter_smgood.jpg but please don't upload my film to the site or anything, if that's even how it works... Thanks! - Max

  2. Max, thank you for responding! Here's the page on Flickchart, so you can see for yourself how the movie appears there: http://www.flickchart.com/movie/27DB35B029 No movies are uploaded or shared; it's just a site for ranking movies. Warning: it can become addictive in a hurry!

  3. Roger Ebert has finally posted his predictions. We share 12 of them. Of the remaining eleven, it's worth noting that he declares he would vote for "Coming Home" to win Music (Original Song) but expects the Academy to give the nod to "We Belong Together."

    Also, I hadn't seen Restrepo when I made my predictions. I won't go back and change it, but I will say that I would have predicted it had I seen the movie beforehand. It's that good. Ebert also loved it, but predicts Inside Job to win.

    Otherwise, most of our disagreements are in categories where he favors The King's Speech: Best Actor, Directing, Best Picture, Music (Original Score). He has Hailee Steinfeld for Actress in a Supporting Role and The Social Network picking up Film Editing and Sound Design. Lastly, he's going with Killing in the Name for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

    I'm hopeful that he's right about the twelve we share, and that I'm more right than he is on the rest. I've got a sinking feeling he's right about The King's Speech. Next year, I'll wait until Ebert says it's safe to make predictions.

  4. Thanks for the interest, Travis. Here's a link to the "I Live in the Woods" poster http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Iw7DALYyb7c/SgP6jkIWKrI/AAAAAAAAAS0/IxwA0cJgDMI/s1600-h/woods_drawnposter_smgood.jpg but please don't upload my film to the site or anything, if that's even how it works... Thanks! - Max