Monday, January 31, 2011

Movie with Abe: No Strings Attached


No Strings Attached
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Released January 21, 2011

Following her Oscar-nominated (and likely Oscar-winning) turn in “Black Swan” with a romantic comedy co-starring Ashton Kutcher seems like a puzzling move for Natalie Portman. While Kutcher isn’t (always) quite as bad as most purport him to be (see “The Butterfly Effect”), he and Portman are definitely an odd match. Yet Portman excels at comedy, as has been indicated in the more serious “Garden State,” and she’s even funnier opposite the often (purposely) bumbling Kutcher. They’re an unlikely and ultimately endearing pair, and even if the movie isn’t airtight in all of its logic or plotting, it’s a largely entertaining and enjoyable experience.

While the trailer edits scenes to make “No Strings Attached” seem like the grand story of two lifelong best friends giving a “friends with benefits” partnership a shot, it’s an entirely misleading perception of the film’s actual events. Instead, it’s a much more contained, singular experience, where a casual hook-up leads to a yearning for more, and then less, on the part of both participants, who have a history but couldn’t have even been considered friends, let alone best friends, before the fact. The story is still just as engaging, and the film has a rather shocking taste for vulgarity, especially when it spews forth from the mouths of either partner’s bunch of good friends. An R-rated comedy, and one about sex at that, doesn’t need to make apologies for its content, and this one certainly doesn’t.

Though not much needs to be said about Kutcher’s acting abilities, since the film requires little more of him than just to stand or sit and read his lines rather undramatically, it is worthwhile to praise other members of the cast for their contributions to the film. Portman’s Emma is just a bit less stressed out than her last onscreen character, swapping out the nutso paranoia for some prickly intimacy issues. She’s effortlessly charming, and it’s hard not to fall for her just like Kutcher’s production assistant Adam does. Lake Bell is somewhat atypically hilarious as Adam’s zany coworker, and both Ludacris and Mindy Kaling (Kelly from “The Office”) provide amusing support as friends of Adam and Emma, respectively. The true standout is Greta Gerwig, who perfectly fills the role of the loyal best friend also searching for love, never aggressively stealing scenes from her costars but still managing to deliver all of her material brilliantly. Overall, this is hardly an actor’s film, and it’s much more about the jokes, which are generally funny. The plot is rather uninventive and generic at times, making it a humorous and not entirely forgettable above-average January comedy.

B-

Movie with Abe: When We Leave


When We Leave
Directed by Feo Aladag
Released January 28, 2011

This year’s Best Foreign Film submission from Germany didn’t become an Oscar nominee or even make the list of nine finalists, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t absolutely deserve a place among the top five foreign films of the year. “When We Leave” is a rather straightforward story about a Muslim woman who leaves her abusive Turkish husband and takes her young son with her, hoping to find refuge at her family’s home in Berlin. Yet what awaits her is just as insufferable, if not more, than what she left. It may be a simple premise but it’s a marvelously complicated and deeply engaging and affecting film.

Though the protagonist, Umay, is Muslim, traveling from Turkey to Germany, this is a story that could be related to by any person embedded within a strong cultural observance. Umay’s abandonment of her wifely duties is seen as a black mark of shame on her family’s honor, and those she thought she could turn to for comfort end up treating her just as coldly as the husband she had to leave. Yet it’s hardly a black and white matter. Her father, her mother, and both of her brothers each have conflicted loyalties, and their lives are torn apart by their love for Umay and the shame her act has brought upon their family in the community.

The performances in “When We Leave” are immensely raw and devastatingly real. The entire ensemble works together to craft a haunting portrait of a family that might seem to function better than most, but cannot hope to handle a crisis that comes into direct opposition with the norms of its culture. The standout, unsurprisingly, is Sibel Kekilli, who embodies Umay with humanity, kindness, and a sense of justice that doesn’t seem to be present in any of her family members. It’s heartbreaking to watch Umay so courageously defy the limitations of her society and then be so cruelly shunned by those she loves. The film doesn’t try to over-dramatize any of its events, and it’s up to the actors to convey the pain and agony they feel as a result of their unfortunate situation. When countries submit what they consider their best film of the year as a contender for the Oscars, it’s a chance to see a snapshot of what a particular nation and culture has to offer. This powerful, tragic, moving film is an mesmerizing example of a film doing just that, and excelling at it.


B+

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAG Awards: Quick Rundown

There were only five film categories, so there isn't much to write home about here. My prediction for Annette Bening to eclipse Natalie Portman was incorrect, and otherwise we have the frontrunners taking home the gold: Melissa Leo, Christian Bale, and Colin Firth. At this point, I think they're all unstoppable. The big game-changer tonight was the Best Ensemble win for "The King's Speech," which also won Tom Hooper the Directors Guild of America award last night. Both are somewhat surprising, putting "The King's Speech" in a very similar position to "The Hurt Locker" last year, which didn't even win the SAG ensemble award. I'm sad to say it, but at the moment, it looks like "The Social Network" may have peaked too early and may not win Best Picture. Any thoughts on the SAG show? I don't really have anything to say other than that it was cool to have the real Dicky up there when Bale was giving his speech.

Final SAG Predictions

Tonight on TNT and TBS, we have one of the major precursors to the Oscars. There are only five categories, and only a few nominees that weren't present at the Golden Globes and could potentially shake up the race. I'm predicting that "The Kids Are All Right," which won 2 Golden Globes, will follow up on those wins as it gets pitted against dramatic films, taking home both the lead actress and ensemble trophies. Natalie Portman sure is hot right now, so she could just as easily win, and any of the ensemble nominees besides "Black Swan" could theoretically triumph. I think the other three winners - Firth, Bale, and Leo - are far enough ahead in the race and shouldn't have a problem winning, but Hailee Steinfeld could pose a threat in the supporting category. TV predictions can be found here. Enjoy the show!

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Christian Bale
Christian Bale (The Fighter)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The Kids Are All Right

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Ensemble Cast


The competition: Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network

For your information: “The Fighter” and “The King’s Speech” both have three performers nominated individually. “Black Swan” and “The Kids Are All Right” have two, and “The Social Network” has one. All five of these films are nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and “The Social Network” and “The Kids Are All Right” won Golden Globes for Best Picture.

Who should win: I’d say “The Social Network,” though “The Fighter” is also great, and both “The Kids Are All Right” and “The King’s Speech” would be fine too

Who will win: Give the comedy the edge: in the thirteen years this category has existed, comedies have triumphed five times – “The Birdcage,” “The Full Monty,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Sideways,” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” Sure, it could be “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech” but I’ll pick The Kids Are All Right.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The competition
: Amy Adams’ supportive girlfriend (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter’s royal wife (The King’s Speech), Mila Kunis’ dancer (Black Swan), Melissa Leo’s manager mother (The Fighter), and Hailee Steinfeld’s mature fourteen-year-old (True Grit).

For your information: Adams was previously nominated in this category for her performances in “Doubt” and “Junebug.” Both Carter and Leo have contended in the lead category, for “The Wings of the Dove” and “Frozen River,” respectively. This is the first nomination for both Kunis and Steinfeld. Adams, Carter, and Leo are also nominated as a member of their ensemble casts. Everyone in this category but Kunis earned an Oscar nomination this year. Eight out of the past fourteen years, the winner of this category has not gone on to win the Oscar. In SAG history in this category, a performer without a Globe nod has only ever rallied to pull off a SAG win once, and that was Ruby Dee for “American Gangster.”

Who should win: Adams, Carter, or Leo

Who will win: Looks like Leo.

Friday, January 28, 2011

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


The competition: Christian Bale’s troubled former fighter (The Fighter), John Hawkes’ terrifying uncle (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner’s loose cannon buddy (The Town), Mark Ruffalo’s restaurateur sperm donor (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush’s eccentric speech therapist (The King's Speech).

For your information: Rush won SAGs for his lead role in the film “Shine” and in the TV movie “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.” He was also nominated for “Quills” and “Shakespeare in Love.” Renner was nominated in the lead category last year for “The Hurt Locker.” This is the first individual nomination for Bale, Hawkes, and Ruffalo. Bale, Ruffalo, and Rush are also nominated as a member of their ensemble casts. Everyone in this category earned an Oscar nomination this year. Fifty percent of the time, the winner of this category does not go on to win the Oscar, though the winners the past three years have matched up.

Who should win: Bale, Hawkes, and Rush are all deserving.

Who will win: Here’s where it gets interesting: Bale is certainly the frontrunner, but Hawkes being in the mix definitely shakes things up. Can he pull off a win? In SAG history in this category, a performer without a Globe nod has only ever rallied to pull off a SAG win once, and that was Ian McKellen for “The Fellowship of the Ring.” A category-switched Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Departed” couldn’t pull off an upset in 2006, so I’ll still call it in favor of Bale with immense spoiler potential from Hawkes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Leading Role


The competition: Annette Bening’s high-strung life partner (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman’s grieving mother (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence’s tough young caretaker (Winter’s Bone), Natalie Portman’s overworked ballerina (Black Swan), and Hilary Swank’s determined lawyer-in-training (Conviction).

For your information: While Swank has eclipsed Bening at both Oscars ceremonies where they’ve gone head to head, Bening actually won on the first outing (in 1999 for “American Beauty”) here, while Swank took it the next time (in 2004 for “Million Dollar Baby”). Each have received an additional TV nod in the past. This is Kidman’s second individual nomination, after “The Hours” in 2002. This is the first nomination for both Lawrence and Portman. Bening and Portman are also nominated this year as members of their ensemble casts. Everyone in this category but Swank earned an Oscar nomination this year.

Who should win: Lawrence, Kidman, or Bening

Who will win: Pitting Bening vs. Portman will produce interesting results. Though Portman has won most of the trophies this award season, it's worth looking at past SAG history. In past musical vs. drama competitions (not quite the same as comedy vs. drama), Renee Zellweger (Chicago) beat Nicole Kidman (The Hours) and Julie Christie (Away from Her) beat Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose). Both SAG losers went on to win Oscars. I think Bening takes the win here, though it could just as easily be Portman.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Leading Role


The competition: Jeff Bridges’ drunken bounty hunter (True Grit), Robert Duvall’s gruff hermit (Get Low), Jesse Eisenberg’s Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth’s stuttering King George (The King’s Speech), and James Franco’s trapped climber (127 Hours).

For your information: Bridges won in this category last year for “Crazy Heart” and was previously nominated for “Seabiscuit” in 2003. Duvall won in the supporting category in 1998 for “A Civil Action” and was nominated for “The Apostle” in 1997, in addition to two TV nods. Firth was nominated in this category last year for “A Single Man,” and Franco was previously nominated for his TV work in “James Dean.” This is Eisenberg’s first nomination. Eisenberg and Firth are also nominated this year as members of their ensemble casts. Everyone in this category but Firth earned an Oscar nomination this year.

Who should win: Franco, Eisenberg, Firth – take your pick

Who will win: Firth

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oscar Nominees: Overall Reactions


After posting quick summaries of the nominees in each category, I’d like to step back and offer an overall analysis of the nominations. I scored 89/120, or 74%, which I’m pretty happy with, and my gamble to predict the short categories paid off pretty well, as I got 10/15. I got ten for ten in Best Picture, and five for five in Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Foreign Film. At this point, I’m planning to see all fifteen shorts on February 20th, and otherwise I’m only missing nine films: two documentaries (“Gasland” and “Waste Land”), two films in sound editing (“Tron: Legacy” and “Unstoppable”), one in makeup (“The Way Back”), and four in foreign films (all but “Biutiful”). I’m hoping to see as many of those as possible before Oscar night, but I’m least concerned with the sound editing mentions. Now, some brief thoughts on the nominations as a whole. Please offer your own thoughts below!

Good surprises

- Javier Bardem for Best Actor! A great performance in a film that might otherwise have been underseen, and a very deserving nominee.
- John Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor! He’s the type of character actor who could easily go his entire career without being recognized, and I’m so thrilled that he got a mention, even if the film didn’t make too much of a splash besides its other three expected categories.
- “I Am Love” for Best Costume Design. Though its fans would surely have also included it in Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Foreign Film, this will have to do!
- No Mila Kunis. Much as I like the actress, there just wasn’t much to the performance, and she shouldn’t have taken a spot away from someone like Jacki Weaver.
- “Another Year” for Best Original Screenplay. Not so much of a surprise (I predicted it), but I’m still thankful.
- “Barney’s Version” for Best Makeup. Another prediction of mine but an admirable inclusion nonetheless.

Bad surprises

- No Christopher Nolan. I wrote about this at length in my Best Director post. It’s just ridiculous. Similarly, the film gets snubbed in Best Film Editing. Seriously?
- No Lesley Manville for Best Actress. I know it didn’t really come that close to happening, but come on? At least she lost her slot to Michelle Williams, which isn’t a bad choice.
- No Andrew Garfield for Best Supporting Actor. He’s such a nice guy, and it’s a shame that he had to be the one to go to make room for Hawkes.
- Only four nominees for Best Original Song. I could easily pick seven or eight great songs from the
- No “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” for Best Visual Effects. Why??!!
- No “Waiting for Superman” in Best Documentary. That’s just puzzling. I’m also sad about “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” being left off the list, but it’s not as big of a shock.

It seems alarming to me that the ten Best Picture nominees ate up a staggering 69 nominations, which is over 50% of the entire nominations total and closer to 75% of the feature film categories. It strikes me as unfair that those films are more so broadly recognized and individual achievements can’t stand out as much. Only four acting nominees, one per category – Javier Bardem, Michelle Williams, Jeremy Renner, and Jacki Weaver – didn’t star in Best Picture nominees. The Best Makeup award, interestingly enough, contains three nominees not found elsewhere. That’s good. There really weren’t so many surprises this year, despite my assertions above, and the good ones were balanced out by the bad ones. The only person who I’d be newly rooting for (besides the costume designer from “I Am Love”) would be John Hawkes, and Christian Bale was just so good that he doesn’t need to lose. I’m going to step away from the Oscars for a bit, chiming in only as I see a few of those nine leftover films, and focus instead on an awards body I have more say in, notably, the AFT Awards. My own personal choices for the best in film in 2010 begin next Tuesday. Stay tuned! SAG predictions will go up until then in advance of Sunday night’s ceremony.

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture


My predictions: 10/10!
My ballot: Come back in February for my top 25 films of the year.
The nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

After a big surprise here last year, this lineup was actually totally expected, with unfortunate surprises saved for other categories (Best Director). Despite my lack of love for “Black Swan” and “True Grit,” there isn’t a “Blind Side” in this bunch. The other eight films are strong, good movies, and two earn an A- from me (“127 Hours” and “The Social Network”), with another one getting an A (“Toy Story 3”). The discussion should now turn to who’s going to win this thing. It can be argued that “True Grit” is in great shape after receiving ten nominations, including a Best Director bid. “The Fighter” has been building strongly, and “Toy Story 3” hasn’t had too many opportunities to be in direct competition with these other films. In truth, it’s down to “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech,” with the latter film scoring a huge victory this past weekend with a Producers Guild of America win. I still think the former film will prevail, but we’ll see.

My current bet to win: “The Social Network”

Oscar Nominees: Best Director


My predictions: 4/5, picking Nolan over Joel & Ethan Coen
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David Fincher (The Social Network), Joel & Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Disbelief, horror, and fury are good emotions to describe my feelings on the inexplicable snub of Christopher Nolan. There was talk that Hooper was vulnerable and that Russell might not make it, but they did. And it’s not because of an interesting choice like David Michod (Animal Kingdom), Mike Leigh (Another Year), Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), Danny Boyle (127 Hours), John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole), or Sofia Coppola (Somewhere). Instead, it’s because of a directing duo whose latest film is extremely overrated and hardly indicative of their best work, earning them their third nomination over the far superior “No Country for Old Men” and the incredible “Fargo.” But mostly it’s because Nolan, who had before been snubbed for both “Memento” and “The Dark Knight,” was so incredibly close to an Oscar nomination that there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that he would make the cut. The film still made it in for Bes Picture and earned a total of eight nominations, but there was still a way for Nolan to be snubbed, cutting off the film where it really counts by not citing its direction and editing, the two most impressive and important elements of its construction. This category used to have a lone director slot, and as if snubbing Nolan in itself wasn’t enough of a crime, there’s no reason for it. That’s all I have to say.

My current bet to win: Fincher

Oscar Nominees: Short Films

For my first time predicting these categories, I didn’t do too badly, scoring ten out of fifteen. I’m excited to report that, for the first time as far as I know, the documentary shorts will be shown along with the live action and animated ones, so I should have the opportunity to see all fifteen nominated shorts on February 20th and offer winner predictions before Oscar night. Since I’ve only seen two of the animated shorts at this point and nothing else, I’ll wait to offer commentary until them. All images below are from Oscar.com.

Best Documentary Short Film

My predictions: 3/5
The nominees: Killing in the Name, Poster Girl, Strangers No More, Sun Come Up, The Warriors of Qiugang
The frontrunner: Killing in the Name

Best Live Action Short Film

My predictions: 4/5
The nominees: The Confession, The Crush, God of Love, Na Wewe, Wish 143
The frontrunner: The Confession

Best Animated Short Film

My predictions: 3/5
The nominees: Day & Night, The Gruffalo, Let’s Pollute, The Lost Thing, Madagascar
The frontrunner: Day & Night

Oscar Nominees: Best Visual Effects


My predictions: 3/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2

Well, having to choose five nominees from a pool of seven isn’t always as easy as it seems. I’m genuinely surprised that “Tron: Legacy” didn’t place, especially considering its Best Sound Editing mention, and less shocked by the saddening omission of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” HP7 did have some pretty good effects, and “Hereafter” had that impressive natural disaster opening sequence. Though many didn’t like it, “Alice in Wonderland” was also strong, and it’s hard to argue against the awesomeness of both “Inception” and “Iron Man 2.” Who could win? One would hope “Inception,” but who knows?

My current bet to win: “Inception”

Oscar Nominees: Best Documentary


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” and “Waiting for Superman” over “Gasland” and “Waste Land”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Exit through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo, Waste Land

In this category we have the biggest snub after Christopher Nolan for Best Director: highly-acclaimed education exposé “Waiting for Superman.” My best guess is that some of the negative press about the way the film was edited with certain scenes staged and that others felt it was an over-simplification probably played into its snub most. I haven’t seen both “Gasland” and “Waste Land,” but it certainly seems like talking about a ‘land’ is good for a nod these days. The good news for people interested in seeing these films: both “Exit through the Gift Shop” and “Restrepo” are available on Netflix Instant Streaming, “Gasland” is out on DVD, and both “Inside Job” and “Waste Land” are coming to DVD is March, too late for the Oscars but not too much after. With “Waiting for Superman” out of the running, it’s probably now a competition between “Exit through the Gift Shop” and “Inside Job.”

My current bet to win: “Inside Job”

Oscar Nominees: Best Animated Feature


My predictions: 2/3, picking “Tangled” over “The Illusionist”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3

I was disappointed when I heard “The Illusionist” announced as the middle nominee (alphabetically) since that means that “Tangled” isn’t recognized, though at least it earns its status as an Oscar nominee with a Best Original Song mention. I’m mostly frustrated because, in a year with five clearly well-liked animated films, it makes sense for the category to have five rather than three nominees. Those damn rules again. Anyway, there’s no way that “Toy Story 3” loses this.

My current bet to win: “Toy Story 3”

Oscar Nominees: Best Foreign Film


My predictions: 5/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Biutiful, Dogtooth, In a Better World, Incendies, Outside the Law

I was equally stunned and impressed to find myself with a perfect score in this category, one in which I’ve only seen one of nine of the finalists. Fortunately, it seems both readers and I might have the chance to see most or all of these at some point soon. “Biutiful” is currently out in theatres, “Dogtooth” is on DVD, and the other three, from Denmark, Canada, and Algeria, respectively, should be released in theatres this spring. “Biutiful” gets a boost thanks to lead actor Javier Bardem’s nomination, and “In a Better World” is also in good shape after winning the Golden Globe in this category.

My current bet to win: “In a Better World”

Oscar Nominees: Best Makeup


My predictions: 2/3, picking “Alice in Wonderland” over “The Way Back”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Barney’s Version, The Way Back, The Wolfman

Further demonstrating the tendency that this category has to be wildly unpredictable – and just as nonsensical – the one “sure thing” doesn’t make the cut. Despite receiving bids for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” doesn’t get any recognition for turning Johnny Depp into one hell of a Mad Hatter. What is cool about this category is that the three nominees aren’t nominated elsewhere, and along with war epic “The Way Back” and the otherwise worthless horror pic “The Wolfman,” we get “Barney’s Version,” a film that specializes in transforming its characters from young to old. Who could win? Up for grabs.

My current bet to win: Perhaps “The Way Back”

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound Editing


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Inception” and “Toy Story 3”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable

I had predicted “True Grit” not to pop up in both sound categories, but of course it did, while “Toy Story 3” only popped up in one, joined by two presumably bonafide sound achievements (I haven’t seen either): “Tron: Legacy” (earning its only nomination, with a surprising Best Visual Effects snub) and “Unstoppable.” Sadly, no “Iron Man 2” here either.

My current bet to win: “Inception”

Oscar Nominees: Best Sound


My predictions: 2/5, picking only “Inception” and “True Grit”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Inception, The King’s Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit

This category is hard to predict because voters often like to reward Best Picture frontrunners like “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” and then throw in a true technical choice – the brainless but better sound-wise “Salt” to join Best Picture nominees with impressive and evident sound mixing, “Inception” and “True Grit.” Nothing more to say on the category other than that it’s sad not to see “Iron Man 2,” even though I predicted it wouldn’t make the cut.

My current bet to win: “Inception”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Song


My predictions: 2/4, predicting only the animated choices
My ballot: Come back next week! (still deliberating on how to do this category since I might want to include submitted songs from films I didn’t see)
The nominees: “Coming Home” (Country Strong), “I See the Light” (Tangled), “If I Rise” (127 Hours), “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)

Do you know what I hate almost more than anything? A category with a peculiar number of nominees. Rules aside, at the very least it messes up prediction totals. The snub of both tunes from “Burlesque” (and the film as a whole in all categories) further reinforces the peculiar trend, broken just last year, of the Golden Globe winner in this category going on to be left off this list. I’m happy about both animated songs as well as the “Country Strong” tune that’s grown on me. A.R. Rahman’s melody is somewhat interesting, and I’m a bit worried it might win. But given the fact that Randy Newman lost for the first two “Toy Story” tunes he wrote, I think it’s his turn.

My current bet to win: “We Belong Together”

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Score


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Never Let Me Go” over “How to Train Your Dragon”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: How to Train Your Dragon, Inception, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

In this category, I simply mixed up which non-Best Picture nominee would place, betting on the entirely snubbed “Never Let Me Go” over Best Animated Feature nominee “How to Train Your Dragon.” This is a good list, and I’m especially pleased that, even with all of the other snubs, “Inception” did make it in here. Given the overall buzz for the film and its recent Golden Globe win, however, I think the frontrunner right now is…

My current bet to win: The Social Network

Oscar Nominees: Best Film Editing


My predictions: 3/5, picking “Inception” and “True Grit” over “The Fighter” & “127 Hours”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network

So here’s the thing. I’m completely behind both “The Fighter” and “127 Hours,” which I didn’t predict, getting nominated since they boast some terrific editing. Despite accidentally thinking that it did get nominated at first, I’m glad that “True Grit” isn’t here, and I’ll just have to live with the fact that “Black Swan” got nominated. But what is entirely inexcusable is that one of the most incredibly edited films in a long time – if not ever – isn’t even here. It’s such a deliberate slap in the face, along with the Best Director snub, to “Inception,” recognizing it in Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and six technical categories and still managing to remain guarded and not fully support it. A heinous omission.

My current bet to win: Well, now it’s definitely going to be “The Social Network”

Oscar Nominees: Best Costume Design


My predictions: 2/5 (my worst category), selecting only “Alice in Wonderland” & “The King’s Speech”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest, True Grit

Yay to “I Am Love” for placing here! Easily the most exciting nomination of all. Interesting that it booted “Black Swan” (though I guess that makes sense), “Burlesque” (reminiscent of the shut-out for “Hairspray” a few years ago) , and the completely snubbed “Made in Dagenham” (why? such a good film!). This is a good place for the otherwise unimpressive “The Tempest” to get recognized, along with period pieces and nomination leaders “The King’s Speech” and “True Grit.” “Alice in Wonderland” didn’t do badly either, earning three nominations in total.

My current bet to win: “Alice in Wonderland”

Oscar Nominees: Best Art Direction


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Black Swan” over HP7
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit

So this is where HP7 pops up, in addition to its Best Visual Effects mention, of course. It boots my #1 sure thing “Black Swan,” a snub I’m hardly mourning given my lack of affinity for that film. That said, this bunch includes some good-looking films. I’m pleased with it, and I can only hope that the film that deserves to win actually will…

My current bet to win: “Inception”

Oscar Nominees: Best Cinematography


My predictions: 4/5, picking “127 Hours” over “The King’s Speech”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit

The Oscar nominations puzzle me sometimes. While I understand that different people from different branches of the Academy vote in each of the categories, it strikes me as strange when, for instance, “127 Hours” pops up in a whole bunch of other categories and then doesn’t get recognized for its stunning visual framing. While I was let down by both “Black Swan” and “True Grit” and not nearly as impressed aesthetically as most were, this still seems like a strong category. You’d think the default winner would be “Inception,” but its snubs elsewhere indicate it might go to a film that probably won’t win in other categories.

My current bet to win: “True Grit”

Oscar Nominees: Best Adapted Screenplay


My predictions: 4/5, picking “Rabbit Hole” over “127 Hours”
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

So Nicole Kidman did make it into her category but her film couldn’t muster up any steam elsewhere. I am glad that “127 Hours” got recognized here, and it’s worth noting that this is a category stacked entirely with Best Picture nominees. Of course, the winner will be…

My current bet to win: The Social Network

Oscar Nominees: Best Original Screenplay


My predictions: 5/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech

The inclusion of “Another Year” is bittersweet because somehow voters saw Lesley Manville’s incredible performance and chose just to recognize the film here. Still, it’s good that it got nominated, and the same can be said for Christopher Nolan and “Inception,” who was horrendously and shockingly snubbed in the Best Director category (I’m still reeling!). That pretty much seals the win for…

My current bet to win: The King’s Speech

Oscar Nominees: Best Actress in a Supporting Role


My predictions: 5/5
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Amy Adams (The Fighter), Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

The first category announced this morning, by last year’s winner Mo’Nique, no less, was also my first in which I scored five for five. No Mila Kunis, but we do get the lovely Weaver as well as Steinfeld in the supporting category where many don’t believe she belongs. A terrific list, honestly, and I’m excited to see these women here!

My current bet to win: Leo

Oscar Nominees: Best Actor in a Supporting Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Garfield over Hawkes
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: 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)

So SAG nominee Hawkes makes it in with the rest of his list over Garfield. I’m so thrilled for Hawkes but would so have loved to see Garfield nominated. Unless Hawkes really has support, which I don’t think he does compared to the actors, this is Bale’s to lose.

My current bet to win: Bale

Oscar Nominees: Best Actress in a Leading Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Manville over Williams
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

No Hilary Swank, which is good, but we do have the decently deserving Williams (who made it with over the horrifically snubbed Lesley Manville, who earned almost no attention all awards season. At this point, it’s definitely between Bening and Portman.

My current bet to win: Portman

Oscar Nominees: Best Actor in a Leading Role


My predictions: 4/5, picking Duvall over Bardem
My ballot: Come back next week!
The nominees: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (Get Low), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours)

So Javier Bardem did make it in! Good for him. Duvall gets snubbed, Bridges makes the cut, and then we have our final three. (No Gosling, sorry Stacy!) A good, strong list, though I would swap out Bridges, who now contends for the second time against Firth, and certainly isn’t going to beat him this time around.

My current bet to win: Firth

Monday, January 24, 2011

Abe's Final Oscar Predictions

Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning, which is very exciting! I'm going to be traveling so may not be able to provide my usual category-by-category analysis until later than usual, but here's your official scoop on the predictions! Click on category headings to read detailed thoughts and analysis, and see the succinct list below.

Some last-minute thoughts:
Many are saying that Hailee Steinfeld might get promoted from supporting to lead for what most argue is in fact a lead role, just like Keisha Castle-Hughes did in 2003 for "Whale Rider." The important thing to remember is that Castle-Hughes is the exception to the role and that Steinfeld has been nominated by many critics groups in the supporting category and therefore there isn't any indication that she'd be bumped up. It's still possible, though, and Best Actress is absolutely a volatile category.

Will there be a surprise nominee for Best Picture? Who knows. Maybe "The Ghost Writer" or "Blue Valentine"? It would be really cool if "Another Year" or "Made in Dagenham" made a stunning comeback from being completely ignored by almost all precursors.

Three No Guts, No Glory predictions:
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" for Best Picture
Matt Damon (True Grit) for Best Supporting Actor
Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) for Best Supporting Actress

I'll post my reactions as soon as I'm able to, possibly starting as late as either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Feel free to comment on this post until then.

Also, don't go anywhere! The 4th Annual AFT Awards, my personal choice for the best in film from the year of 2010, begin next Tuesday, February 1st! If there is any category you'd like to see (including a reader's choice), please write in on any of my posts to say so!

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

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O'Russell (The Fighter)
Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Robert Duvall (Get Low)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
Lesley Manville (Another Year)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Best 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)

Best Original Screenplay
Another Year
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay
Rabbit Hole
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Best Cinematography
Black Swan
Inception
127 Hours
The Social Network
True Grit

Best Art Direction
Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
Inception
The King's Speech
True Grit

Best Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland
Black Swan
Burlesque
The King's Speech
Made in Dagenham

Best Film Editing
Black Swan
Inception
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Best Original Score
Inception
The King's Speech
Never Let Me Go
127 Hours
The Social Network

Best Original Song
"Bound to You" (Burlesque)
"You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" (Burlesque)
"Le Gris" (Idiots and Angels)
"I See the Light" (Tangled)
"We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3)

Best Sound
Black Swan
Inception
Shutter Island
Toy Story 3
True Grit

Best Sound Editing
Black Swan
Inception
Iron Man 2
Shutter Island
Toy Story 3

Best Makeup
Alice in Wonderland
Barney's Version
The Wolfman

Best Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland
Inception
Iron Man 2
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Tron: Legacy

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon
Tangled
Toy Story 3

Best Documentary Short Film
Killing in the Name
Living for 32
One Thousand Pictures: RFK's Last Journey
Poster Girl
The Warriors of Qiugang

Best Animated Short Film
Day & Night
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
The Silence beneath the Dark
Urs

Best Live Action Short Film
Ana's Playground
The Confession
The Cruch
God of Love
Wish 143

Best Documentary
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
Exit through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waiting for Superman

Best Foreign Language Film
Biutiful
Dogtooth
Incendies
In a Better World
Outside the Law

Oscar Predictions: Best Picture


Last year’s nominees: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

This year’s locks: The Social Network, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Black Swan

Very likely: True Grit, Toy Story 3, The Kids Are All Right

Possible: Winter’s Bone, 127 Hours, The Town

Unlikely: Blue Valentine, Another Year, Shutter Island, The Ghost Writer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The rundown: There were plenty of puns last year about Oscar prognosticators being “blind sided” by “The Blind Side,” but, honestly, it’s absolutely true. It was a major surprise, and it wasn’t easy to see coming. We shouldn’t purposely anticipate such a shocker this year as well, and therefore I’m tempted to predict the seemingly most likely ten, though “The Town” really is nipping at the heels of both “Winter’s Bone” (which missed out on a PGA nod) and “127 Hours” (which hasn’t landed many Best Picture bids from critics groups). In any case, there’s a few independent films and major films to watch out for, and hopefully this year we’ll have a category that honors ten deserving films. While this is the most important category, there also isn’t much to say about it that I haven’t already said.

Forecasted winner: “The Social Network,” though “The King’s Speech” is nipping at its heels.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Oscar Predictions: Best Director


Last year’s nominees: James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

This year’s locks: David Fincher (The Social Network), Christopher Nolan (Inception), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)

Very likely: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Possible: Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), Mike Leigh (Another Year)

Unlikely: Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), Ben Affleck (The Town), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right)

The rundown: With ten Best Picture nominees, and this lineup matching up perfectly with Best Picture in 2008, voters seem to have forgotten about the lone director slot! Before we even get to contenders like Leigh and Granik, of course, we have two recent Oscar-winning directing teams – Boyle and the Coens – nipping at the heels of one former nominee (Fincher) and four prospective first-timers. The DGA lineup matched the Globe list five for five, as opposed to last year, when Clint Eastwood still held on to some hope for “Invictus.” This year, it looks pretty standard, and barring any exciting surprises – or snubs for the supposedly vulnerable Hooper and Russell – this should be the above five men.

Forecasted winner: Fincher

Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing


Last year’s nominees: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious

American Cinema Editors nominees: Drama (Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network), Comedy or Musical (Alice in Wonderland, Easy A, The Kids Are All Right, Made in Dagenham, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Animated (Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3), Documentary (Exit through the Gift Shop, Inside Job, Waiting for Superman)

This year’s locks: Inception, The Social Network

Very likely: Black Swan, The King’s Speech

Possible: True Grit, The Fighter, 127 Hours, The Town, Shutter Island

Unlikely: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the rest of the ACE nominees

The rundown: This category is highly unpredictable because it often snubs Best Picture contenders that you would assume would be secure – like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” in 2005. Last year, “Up in the Air” was left off to make room for “District 9.” It’s worth noting that only twice (1993 & 2002) when both Best Picture and Best Film Editing both had five nominees did the two categories match exactly, and only once besides last year when there were ten Best Picture nominees and five Best Film Editing nominees did all of the latter category’s nominees also get mentioned in the former (way back in 1937). What does this all mean? Not much. The frontrunners are still the frontrunners; just don’t count on a Best Film Editing nod if you’re a strong Best Picture contender, and watch out for some of the films that don’t seem like they’re in that race anymore to pop up here (those three 2005 films were replaced by “Cinderella Man,” “The Constant Gardener,” and “Walk the Line”). It begs the question of whether “The King’s Speech” and “The Fighter” might be ousted by some more high-tech choices, and this is one place that “The Town” and “Shutter Island” could definitely pop up. The ACE drama list could easily be the final list – we’ll have to see.

Forecasted winner: So technically it should be “Inception,” but it will probably The Social Network, which honestly is fine too.

Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design


Because of the busy nature of the next few weeks awards-wise, here are my current Oscar predictions, subject to minor revisions before nominations are announced on January 25th.

Last year’s nominees: Bright Star, Coco Before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, The Young Victoria

Costume Designers Guild nominees: Contemporary Film (Black Swan, Burlesque, Inception, The Social Network, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Period Film (The Fighter, The King’s Speech, True Grit), Fantasy Film (Alice in Wonderland, The Tempest, Tron: Legacy)

This year’s locks: The King’s Speech

Very likely: Alice in Wonderland

Possible: Burlesque, Black Swan, Made in Dagenham, True Grit, Secretariat, Robin Hood, Inception, The Tempest

Unlikely: Get Low, The Way Back, Tron: Legacy, The Social Network, The Fighter

The rundown: Like last year, this is the one race in which the juggernaut (“Avatar” / “The Social Network”) is not going to get nominated, even if both did get Costume Designers Guild nods, and so period piece “The King’s Speech” gets a big boost. Otherwise, this category doesn’t have to relate to the top races as much, and many of my “possibles” have a decent shot at upsetting. I’m particularly worried about “Made in Dagenham,” which couldn’t manage a CDG nomination and hasn’t earned an ounce of awards attention for some truly peculiar reason this entire season. I’m still pulling for it, and watch out for “Secretariat” and “Robin Hood” to be recognized here when they so likely won’t be recognized anywhere else.

Forecasted winner: Maybe Alice in Wonderland.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Film



Last year’s nominees: Ajami, The Milk of Sorrow, The Secret in their Eyes, A Prophet, The White Ribbon

This year’s locks: Biutiful (Mexico)

Very likely: In a Better World (Denmark), Incendies (Canada)

Possible: Outside the Law (Algeria), Dogtooth (Greece), Live Above All (South Africa), Even the Rain (Spain), Confessions (Japan), Simple Simon (Sweden)

Ineligible semi-finalists: Of Gods and Men (France), The Edge (Russia), When We Leave (Germany)

The rundown: Earlier this week, the field in this category was narrowed to merely nine contenders, leaving some notable films, listed above, off the list. I’m particularly surprised by the omission of the terrific “Of Gods and Men,” and at this point I’ve only seen what’s likely the one surely thing, the Javier Bardem starrer “Biutiful.” Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has had all three of his previous feature films nominated in some category or another, and his last non-English effort (“Amores Perros”) ended up recognized here. Golden Globe winner “In a Better World” gets a boost as the frontrunner to challenge it, and then we have the other seven contenders, all vying for three other slots. I can’t offer much more analysis since I haven’t had the opportunity to see any of these. “Dogtooth” is on DVD on Tuesday, and a good portion of the rest open in 2011. Has anyone seen any of the other contenders?

Forecasted winner: “Biutiful,” though “In a Better World” may give it a run for its money.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary


Last year’s nominees: Burma VJ, The Cove, Food Inc, The Most Dangerous Man in America, Which Way Home

This year’s locks: Waiting for Superman

Very likely: Inside Job, Exit through the Gift Shop

Possible: Restrepo, Client 9, The Tillman Story, Precious Life, Enemies of the People, Gasland, Quest for Honor

Unlikely: Waste Land, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, This Way of Life, The Lottery

Ineligible: 11/4/08, The Art of the Steal, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Catfish, Countdown to Zero, Freakonomics: The Movie, Highwater, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel, Severe Clear, Smash His Camera, Waiting for Armageddon, When You’re Strange

The rundown: I feel more equipped than ever before to take on this category due to the fact that I’ve seen six of the fifteen eligible films, and before the nominations even came out! Looking at the lists from the previous four years, I’ve only seen twelve total, and eleven of them were nominees. Of course, the shortlist of fifteen still manages to leave off a bunch of great docs, listed above. This is a highly unpredictable category, but let’s try to do our best, shall we? I’ve broken it down in terms of what I’ve heard about certain films and the subjects of other that haven’t garnered much buzz. “Waiting for Superman” seems like a solid bet, and I can’t imagine that the hugely similar but not as good “The Lottery” would also be nominated (hence its last place ranking). Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. It’s always hard to determine whether voters will consider production value or subject material more strongly. If you’ve seen any of the nine films that I haven’t, please weigh in with your comments to held provide as complete a look at this category as possible.

Forecasted winner: “Waiting for Superman”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oscar Predictions: Short Films


This is the first year I’m going to be predicting the three short film categories (documentary, animated, and live action). Usually I go to see the animated and live action nominees after they have already been chosen, but this year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch four of the animated finalists and trailers for almost all of the rest of the finalists in the three categories. There are only eight to ten finalists in each category, translating to three to five eventual nominees per race. I’ve ranked each of the finalists in order of most likely to least likely to be nominated, most of which is purely guesswork. I’ll provide further commentary once nominees are selected. If you’ve seen any of the films, please offer your own additional analysis in the comments. Pictured is the one surefire nominee, “Day for Night,” which played before “Toy Story 3” in theatres this summer.

Best Documentary Short Film
1. Living for 32
2. Killing in the Name
3. Poster Girl
4. One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey
5. The Warriors of Qiugang
6. Sun Come Up
7. Strangers No More
8. Born Sweet

Best Animated Short Film
1. Day & Night
2. Urs
3. Let’s Pollute
4. The Silence beneath the Bark
5. The Lost Thing
6. Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)
7. The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger
8. Coyote Falls
9. The Gruffalo
10. Sensology

Best Live Action Short Film
1. The Confession
2. Ana’s Playground
3. Wish 143
4. God of Love
5. The Crush
6. The Six Dollar Fifty Man
7. Sma Barn, Stora Ord (Little Children, Big Words)
8. Na Wewe
9. Seeds of the Fall
10. Shoe

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Film


Last year’s nominees: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up

This year’s locks: Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon

Very likely: None

Possible: Tangled, The Illusionist, Despicable Me

Unlikely: Megamind, Shrek Forever After, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Alpha and Omega, My Dog Tulip

The rundown: Above you see ten of the fifteen films eligible for this category (I couldn’t rate the remaining five since I know nothing about any of them and they’re so unlikely to pop up). What we have here is a year with only fifteen films deemed eligible, meaning that only three films can be nominated. The trouble is, there are five strong contenders. Last year, there were five slots across the board, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “9” ultimately lost out to surprise nominee “The Secret of Kells.” Now, the five are very clear, and the question is, which third film will prevail? I’m pulling for “Tangled,” though French-produced film “The Illusionist” could take it (four foreign films have been nominated in this category since its inception in 2001). There’s also “Despicable Me,” which joined the two above-listed locks at the PGA Awards. Some are suggesting that a big surprise a la “The Secret of Kells” could occur again, but I doubt it.

Forecasted winner: “Toy Story 3”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects


Last year’s nominees: Avatar, District 9, Star Trek

This year’s locks: Inception, Iron Man 2

Very likely: Tron: Legacy

Possible: Alice in Wonderland, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1

Unlikely: Hereafter

Ineligible finalists: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Shutter Island, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Unstoppable

The rundown: As of January 6th, the race is officially down to seven contenders. The Academy’s press release said that five films will be selected rather than three, despite the fact that the category has almost always only had three nominees. If the number is three, the choices are pretty obvious. With five, however, there becomes a possibility of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Unfortunately, the Visual Effects Society nominated “Hereafter” in the Best Supporting Visual Effects category, honoring the other five in the Best Visual Effects race, leaving Scott Pilgrim out in the cold. Here’s hoping that some innovative thinking can honor one of the most entertaining films of the year in the only race where it actually has anything close to a shot. For the record, the Harry Potter series has only ever received one nomination – for the third film in 2004. The sixth film did make the initial bakeoff last year but didn’t survive the cut from seven to three.

Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup


Last year’s nominees: Il Divo, Star Trek, The Young Victoria

This year’s locks: Never a good idea in this category.

Very likely: Alice in Wonderland

Possible: The Wolfman, Barney’s Version, The Way Back, True Grit

Unlikely: The Fighter, Jonah Hex

The rundown: This category has only seven finalists, and only three of them will advance to the final round. This category tends to favor showier work, which is why I’ve discounted the chances of “The Fighter,” and often even rewards completely unsuspecting contenders, like “Il Divo” last year. I think even the detractors of “Alice in Wonderland” will give it a pass in this category, if only for the way that Johnny Depp looks in the film. “The Wolfman” seems like a good bet (especially considering the effects looked very unfinished and the makeup was considerably more commendable). My third pick is for “Barney’s Version,” perhaps because the stars of the film were discussing the intensity of the makeup process for that film at a recent press day. This could also be the only place that the epic “The Way Back” pops up, and then we have two Best Picture contenders and one horrifically-reviewed film. This is one race, however, where that doesn’t matter, as evidenced by the nomination for “Norbit” in 2006.

Forecasted winner: “Alice in Wonderland”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound Editing


Last year’s nominees: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Up

This year’s locks: Inception

Very likely: Toy Story 3

Possible: Iron Man 2, Shutter Island, Black Swan, True Grit, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Tron: Legacy, Unstoppable, Salt, How to Train Your Dragon

Unlikely: So many more.

The rundown: In the past four years, when this category had five nominees, the match-up with the Best Sound category has consistently been four for five. In that light, I’ll give “Iron Man 2” (whose predecessor was nominated only in this category) a boost here, while “True Grit” might fall out. I’m not expecting to do too well in this category – please feel free to offer your thoughts if you have a clearer sense of the frontrunners.

Forecasted winner: “Inception” in its sweep of the tech categories