Since making my 2011 Oscar predictions a few weeks ago, I’ve now seen all ten of the Best Picture nominees and more of the nominated performances. The only ones I still haven’t seen are Javier Bardem in “Biutiful,” Jeremy Renner in “The Town,” and Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom.”
Despite some killer performances in the additional films that I’ve seen (“Winter’s Bone,” “Blue Valentine,” “Rabbit Hole,” and “True Grit”), I think I’m going to stubbornly stand by my original predictions. I especially liked “Winter’s Bone” and thought nominees Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes were outstanding. At age 20, Lawrence carries the film (thus becoming the second youngest Best Actress nominee in history) and her performance stays with you long after this terribly bleak film comes to an end. As Lawrence’s uncle, Teardrop, Hawkes achieves the incredible feat of making us despise him as a cruel monster at the beginning of the film and then gradually causing us to change our minds. I remember Hawkes as the out-of-place Lennon in the final season of “Lost” (what happened to that character? Didn't he just disappear after a few episodes?) and a few years ago I remember him from the film “Me and You and Everything We Know.” I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of both of these fine actors.
I’m still hoping that Annette Bening wins for Best Actress even though there’s a huge buzz that Natalie Portman has it in the bag. Sorry, Nat, you’re probably going to win and I’ve loved your acting since you were a kid, but I just wasn’t that taken by the film. I want Bening to win for two reasons: 1), as a tribute to all of her amazing performances to date (I know that’s not how it’s supposed to work but…um…Elizabeth Taylor winning for “Butterfield 8?” Don’t tell me that Oscar had anything to do with that forgotten film!) and 2), even though “The Kids Are All Right” is perceived as a “lighter” film than some of the others, I really thought Bening mined every possible subtlety and nuance from that part. She may be a Big Hollywood Star, but during those two hours I completely believed she was that character. I also want to add a word of praise for Best Actress nominee Nicole Kidman for doing such an exquisite job in the very difficult “Rabbit Hole,” a depressing but beautifully made film that I’m sure most Academy members could not sit through, even with their convenient screeners.
I still want Melissa Leo to win for Best Supporting Actress even though word is out that her blatant publicity campaign backfired among Academy voters and seriously damaged her chances. I hope not—that would be unfair and ridiculous. While I thought it was odd and unnecessary for Leo to present herself in such a glamorous light as some kind of an antidote to her older, hard-boiled character in “The Fighter,” since when is self-promotion such a sin in Hollywood? Her ads were not in poor taste, just a little embarrassing—as if she felt the need to say, “Hey, I’m only a few years older than the guys who played my sons. See—I’m really hot!” I hope voters ignore her misguided campaign and give her the Oscar based solely on her incredible acting chops. And note to Leo: don’t you realize that the more hideous you make yourself in a film, the more likely you are to get rewarded for it? Do you think Charlize Theron or Halle Berry would have ever won Oscars for glamour roles?
Only three days until the Big Event and I’m curious to see whether James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be able to pull off their hosting duties without too much criticism. It was definitely a different choice for the Academy but I’m optimistic. But before Oscar weekend takes over this city, let me make a few more predictions:
Animated Film: In fairness, I haven’t seen “How to Train Your Dragon” or “The Illusionist.” I’ve heard great things about both but this award will definitely go to “Toy Story 3.” I haven’t seen a film praised so much since “Gone With the Wind,” and “Toy Story 3” doesn’t even have racist undertones!
Art Direction: I’ve seen all five of the nominated films and all had amazing production designs. I don’t think “Harry Potter” has a chance this year, and I doubt “True Grit” will get it. “The King’s Speech” may pull off a win if there’s a big sweep on Sunday night. But if it were up to me, I’d pick between two films that were largely ignored by the Academy: “Inception” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Both had great designs, in my opinion. I guess I’d throw it to “Inception” but only because “Alice’s” Robert Stromberg won last year for “Avatar.”
Cinematography: All of the nominated cinematographers did incredible work this year. I remember watching “Inception’s” Wally Pfister shoot a scene in our living room (for the Christopher Nolan film, “The Prestige”) so that would be cool and I wouldn’t object if Matthew Libatique won for “Black Swan.” Danny Cohen’s work in “The King’s Speech” was Oscar-worthy as was Jordan Cronenweth for “The Social Network” (and how fun that his dad was also a well known cinematographer for films such as “Blade Runner” and “Altered States”) but in this case I have to give the Oscar to Roger Deakins for “True Grit.” The film was gorgeous but I’m choosing Deakins because he’s never won after eight well deserved nominations for films such as “The Shawshank Redemption,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” and “The Reader.”
Costume Design: I was surprised but glad to see Antonella Cannarozzi nominated for the otherwise forgotten “I Am Love.” Jenny Beavan has done a ton of historical films including my favorite Jane Austen adaptation, “Sense and Sensibility” and may well win for “The King’s Speech.” I didn’t see “The Tempest” but we don’t need to endure another weird Sandy Powell speech (remember her ungracious comments last year?). Mary Zophres did a good job designing the “True Grit” costumes, but I say let’s throw a bone to “Alice in Wonderland” and give it to Colleen Atwood for her outrageous designs even though she already has two Academy Awards.
Documentary: I refuse to predict this category on the grounds that I haven’t seen even ONE of the five nominated films and because I’m so outraged that “The Tilmon Story,” which should have won the Oscar this year, wasn’t even nominated. Oh well, at least the overrated but heavily promoted “Waiting for Superman” wasn’t nominated either.
Visual Effects: “Iron Man 2?” Huh? “Harry Potter” belongs here but won’t win. I also don’t think “Alice in Wonderland” will get it. I’d say it’s between “Hereafter” and “Inception,” both of which were dependent on great effects. I’d give it to Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb for “Inception” which was as visually unusual a film as you can get.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The writing awards are always hard to predict. I saw all five of the films and would be hard pressed to pick one script (have I mentioned how much I hate awards shows even though I’m obsessed with the Oscars?). The Coen Brothers won’t get it for “True Grit,” nor do I think Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy will be honored for “127 Hours.” It’s possible “Toy Story 3” could pull off a surprise win since everyone was so enamored by this film but I fear Aaron Sorkin is bound to win for “The Social Network.” Well, maybe “fear” is too strong a word. It’s just that I’d give it to Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini for “Winter’s Bone” so that’s who I’m going to pick!
Writing (Original Screenplay): How have I not seen Mike Leigh’s “Another Year?” I tend to love his films and yet this one barely got a run in Los Angeles. Christopher Nolan will never win for “Inception” since most Academy members are still wondering what that film was about. “The Fighter” was well written but it won’t win. As much as I loved “The King’s Speech,” I might have voted for Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg for “The Kids Are All Right” (I know that will shock some people I know who loathed this film). But I do think David Seidler will win for “The King’s Speech” and I can’t begrudge him that. And how can you not honor any screenwriter who managed to salvage his career after penning “Come On, Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story.” Oy.
Director: How can they have ten nominations for Best Picture but only five for Best Director? It doesn’t make sense. This one is anyone’s guess. I think, like the top prize, it will be between “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” It’s David Fincher’s second nomination (I was a huge fan of his much maligned “Benjamin Button”) but since Tom Hooper has already won the Director’s Guild Award for “The King’s Speech,” I’m guessing he’ll take home an Oscar as well.
That’s it for now. I’ll try to head over to Hollywood Boulevard this weekend as I usually do to witness the insanity of the Oscar preparations. And I’d like to give one award myself—a Booby Prize to CNN for hiring Real Housewife Camille Grammer to cover the Red Carpet for the network on Oscars night. Really, CNN? What's next? Sending Snooki overseas to cover the crisis in Libya?