This marks the first year since the 1940s that the Academy decided to bloat the Best Picture nominees to Ten, to make up for the guilt of not nominating the uber-popular The Dark Knight last year. So you have popular films like The Blind Side and District 9, and critically-adored films like A Serious Man that were able to sneak in this time. Plus a nod to Up, which was have been kept in the Animated Film ghetto otherwise. The remaining six would have most likely battled for the usual five slots in the old system. Precious got loads of noms this year, and will be happy with its Best Supporting Actress award. Inglourious Basterds will also have to settle for some of the other categories, considering the competition. Up In the Air was an early front-runner, but has lost momentum throughout the awards season. This is a cryin’ shame, because it is subtle, funny, romantic, and especially resonant to “these economic times”. Out of all the flicks, this is one that I would want to revisit. But the fight is between David (The Hurt Locker) and Goliath (Avatar). Indie vs. Big-Budget. Gritty reality vs. Fantasy. But more importantly, Big-Gaping-Pie-Hole James Cameron vs. Action Director Extraordinaire Kathryn Bigelow. Avatar seemed to have it locked up a month ago, but James Cameron wouldn’t shut up. It’s going to be very very close… but I think The Hurt Locker will get it.
Who should win: Up In the Air
Who will win: The Hurt Locker
Who was left out: They forgot the best film of 2009: A Single Man. I also think Bright Star would have been a much more worthy entry than at least a couple films on this list.
The is one of those races where only two names are mentioned: It’s the Battle of the Exes! Ex-spouses James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow have spoiled everyone else’s party simply by showing up… so congrats Lee, Jason, and Quentin on your nominations! Cameron directed a HUGE $500-million dollar opus full of magic and technology, and yes, I guess there are actors in there, too. Bigelow is the fiesty little guy, with her indie that is edgy, timely, and leaves viewers gasping for breath. Personally, I thought The Hurt Locker was unbearably tense and fascinating, and Avatar was a big dumb movie with a Big Mouthed Director. I think it is Kathryn’s year. And to that, I’ll say YEEE-HAW if she wins!
Who should win: Kathryn Bigelow
Who will win: Kathryn Bigelow
Who was left out: First-time directors Tom Ford (A Single Man) and Duncan Jones (Moon) had great debuts, and Jane Campion returned to form with the overlooked Bright Star.
I, like most people in the world, adore Jeff Bridges. I can’t believe that he has never won an Oscar before. This is obviously one of those years where the Academy will pat itself on its collective back and say, “It’s time.” and give him the Oscar. And it is by no means undeserving. Bridges’ Bad Blake oozed sweat and alcohol off the screen, yet never came across as a bad man, despite being a total fuck-up. You still rooted for him. Renner was great, but his movie was more about action and editing as opposed to acting. George Clooney was so good that his worst criticism was that he’s so smooth and effortless that you don’t think he’s acting. Morgan Freeman was in a movie that came and went, and got mild applause, so it isn’t his year. And that leaves Colin Firth, who would have gotten this award if Crazy Heart wasn’t thrown into the competition at the last minute. He is another actor that has been admired for a long time, and his performance as a mourning man learning to appreciate life again was heartbreaking and absolutely lovely.
Who should win: Colin Firth
Who will win: Jeff Bridges
Who was left out: The always-dependable Sam Rockwell was great in Moon, carrying the entire film by himself, in more ways than one.
Another race that is down to two names: It’s Meryl vs. Sandra! Seriously, if anyone else won, it would be the hugest upset of the night! Gabourey Sidibe’s performance was steamrolled to the background by her co-star Mo’Nique. Helen Mirren won recently, and no one has seen her film, so she also should be happy for the nomination. I feel most bad for Carey Mulligan, who was an absolutely fabulous discovery in An Education, and personally, I think her acting outshone everyone, including the front-runners. Meryl as Julia Child is adorable and funny, but only her half of the movie was good. And Sandra was in a hugely popular feel-good movie, and did just fine in a serious role, despite being known for her romantic comedies. So this one could go either way. But I think it’ll go to that nice Sandy Bullock.
Who should win: Carey Mulligan
Who will win: Sandra Bullock
Who was left out: Maybe her films didn’t qualify, or maybe no one but me saw them, but the versatile Trine Dyrholm was awesome in two films I saw at SIFF, Little Soldier and Troubled Water.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Matt Damon in Invictus
Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds
This category isn’t even a two-man race. Christoph Waltz, unheard-of on these shores until Inglourious Basterds, spoke four languages, completely stole the movie from everyone around him, and became an instant star. Stanley Tucci is well-loved, but his movie was not. Matt Damon’s character was secondary to freakin’ Nelson Mandela, so he’ll be happy for the nomination. The only way-out chances for an upset are a career-honoring award for Chris Plummer (who has never even been nominated before… WHAT?!??!), or for Woody Harrelson, the dark horse candidate, who has received much praise for his excellent work in a varied year that also included him playing a crazed-out conspiracy hippie in the popcorn flick 2012 and a zombie-slaying’ bad ass in the popular Zombieland.
Who should win: Christoph Waltz
Who will win: Christoph Waltz
Who was left out: The film only received a nod for screenplay, but In the Loop‘s Peter Capaldi‘s screamingly profane government official was one of the best performances of anyone, all year!
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Penélope Cruz just won, so cross her off the list… Thanks for coming, Pen! Maggie Gyllenhaal, the surprise nominee here, was lovely in Crazy Heart, but seriously, that movie is all about Jeff Bridges, so it is not her turn. And, ARRRRGGGHHH! Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are both soooo good in Up in the Air! There are three problems here: One, Vera probably should have been nominated in the Best Actress category for her sexy and worldly business traveler, who is a perfect match for George Clooney. Two, two actors nominated from the same film often split the votes. Three (the Biggest Problem), Mo’Nique. Mo’Nique at first didn’t quite impress me in Precious. She almost seemed to be having an internal fight with her own character of Mary, the horrible abusive mother. But, my oh my, there is a scene near the end of the film where Mo’Nique has a monologue that she just knocked so far out of the ballpark that she is winning just for that. Seriously, she gave me the chills.
Who should win: Vera Farmiga
Who will win: Mo’Nique
Who was left out: Marion Cotillard, already an Oscar-winner, was the heart and soul in Public Enemies and Nine, plus Rosamund Pike was a hilarious dim-bulb glamour-girl in An Education. And where the eff was Julianne Moore (A Single Man)???
BEST SCREENPLAY (ADAPTED):
This award usually go to movies based on books, so drop the great District 9 from the list. In the Loop is all about dialogue, so don’t count it out, but perhaps it was too little-seen to make an impression. That leaves three acclaimed films: Precious (which may be remembered more for its acting, rather than screenplay), An Education (how fun would it be if Nick Hornby won an Oscar!), and Up In the Air. This last film had all the early momentum at the beginning of the season, but its lovely subtlety has been overshadowed by flashier big blue people and exploding bombs. Plus I heard that the movie is even richer than the novel. I hope it wins.
Who should win: Up in the Air
Who will win: Up in the Air
Who was left out: Again, A Single Man was a slight book, and a glouriously rich film.
BEST SCREENPLAY (ORIGINAL):
Screenplay awards tend to go to the talky films where word is king. People loved Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds this year, but because of killer competition, it will probably only get Best Supporting Actor out of the top awards. So this is the way the Academy will show Quentin some love for his famous, clever, rat-tat-tat dialogue. (Though can I give a special Oscar to Up just for the line “I hid under your porch because I love you”?)
Who should win: Inglourious Basterds
Who will win: Inglourious Basterds
Who was left out: This is always a great category for comedy, as doesn’t everyone remember their favorite lines that make them guffaw? So throw some love to the huge comedy hit The Hangover. Better yet, how about comedy, romance, and the clever storytelling of (500) Days of Summer?
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
In a GREAT year for animated movies (no stinky filler nominees like Ice Age 3 here!), you really can’t go wrong with any of the nominees. The Princess and the Frog got some love, but no boffo box office (in Disney numbers, at least). Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox are beloved by hipsters and critics alike. And has anyone seen The Secret of Kells? To make this short list, it must be loved. But whenever Pixar is nominated, Pixar usually wins. And that will be the case for the sweet, critically-acclaimed, and audience-adored fable Up.
Who should win: Coraline (but Up would also make us happy!)
Who will win: Up
Who was left out: Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo of the sea! Where art thou, Miyazaki-san?!?!?
[2010 Oscars, 82nd Annual Academy Awards]