Okay, I’ve had a couple people ask me what I think of the nominations. I’ll go through the categories one by one… but first, more broadly, let me just say that X movie you loved didn’t get nominated because the Academy doesn’t have your taste. And I am among the most marginal: my favorite film of the year, Agora, hasn’t made any critics lists, much less the Academy’s list.
The Academy is older and mostly made of up actors, which is why Y performance you thought was not great did get nominated. Academy members know that actor personally and like that actor, and the unconvincing, actor-y performances that that actor does.
That settled? Now, specifics:
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
Pundits seem to have concluded that the race is between The King’s Speech and The Social Network. People at home will be rooting for Inception and True Grit, because those are the ones they saw. I’ve seen all ten (thanks to watching Winter’s Bone on DVD last night), and if I was picking my personal favorite from these, I’d go with The Social Network.
Since the Academy is older, they might like that the snot-nosed kid with those computer-website-things is a nogoodnik. Or, they might go, “I didn’t understand that movie. Too many computers.” It’s a toss up. If it goes down to the rest of the list, don’t count out True Grit, which features an old dude as a hero. The Academy has seen fit to vote for the old-dude redemption Western Unforgiven and likes the Coen Brothers.
Javier Bardem, “Biutiful”, Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”, Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”, Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”, James Franco, “127 Hours”
This is Colin Firth’s to lose. The Academy could reward James Franco, because he is likeable and he carried an entire movie. Jeff Bridges just won last year, so he’ll probably be overlooked. Eisenberg will have to be happy he was nominated, unless The Social Network is just sweeping the ballots and people got carried away in this category. I personally feel he knocked it out of the park and that he will never get a role where he is so well-cast and well-written. But I don’t think the Academy feels the same way. I haven’t seen Biutiful and I’m guessing a lot of Academy members haven’t either.
Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”, Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”, Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”, Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”, Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”
Natalie Portman, all the way. She’s well-liked and this role made her degrade herself physically and sexually, which are always big vote-getters. I haven’t seen Blue Valentine or Rabbit Hole yet, but if the Academy decides that Portman is too young to win, they’ll give it to Bening, not Williams or Kidman. I’m sorry, but I did not find Jennifer Lawrence’s performance anything more than competent. Because there are so few female lead roles in a given year that are well-written, often this category is thin.
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”
This is between Christian Bale and John Hawkes, in my opinion. Bale is not well-liked, or at least his reputation is that he yells at people and is cranky. Hawkes’ performance is less transformative, but only by a little. He’s an actor’s actor. Could be a surprise.
Amy Adams, The Fighter, Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech, Melissa Leo, The Fighter, Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit, Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
This one goes to Leo, unless the Academy is feeling sentimental and wants to give it to the kid newcomer Steinfeld. My favorite of these is Jacki Weaver, a mostly-stage actress who is absolutely unforgettable in Animal Kingdom. These supporting awards have been known to go to great performances in obscure films, so I’m keeping fingers crossed for her. I could also see Bonham Carter getting a surprise win if the Academy is kneeling before The King’s Speech throughout the night.
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan, David O. Russell, The Fighter, Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech, David Fincher, The Social Network, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Aronofsky, Russell and Fincher all have reputations that proceed them. Hooper is not well-known in the States. The Coens already won Best Director three years ago for No Country for Old Men. If it is The Social Network‘s night, look for Fincher to win. All of these films are nominated for Best Picture, so this category will be a big tip-off about which way that one will go.
How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, Toy Story 3
What would it mean if Toy Story 3 didn’t win, yet it was nominated over the others in Best Picture? I don’t think this is the zen koan everyone thinks it is. A movie can break ground in terms of animation, as last year’s surprise animation nominee The Secret of Kells, yet not have the storytelling and acting that raise it to Best Picture level. That’s more nuance than I expect Academy voters to have, so they’re pixin’ PIXAR.
More analysis to come on the categories below…
127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
The Social Network. Everyone agrees that Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is what elevated the film. Also, the dialogue is very showy and calls attention to itself, which helps it to stand out from the rest of the contenders, except maybe True Grit, which also has some snappy reparté.
Another Year, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech
I don’t know Another Year, but the front-runner here has to be The King’s Speech, if it truly is as much a contender as everyone says. If it loses here to The Kids Are All Right, as it could since this category traditionally goes to quirky indies, it won’t be winning Best Picture.
Foreign language film
Biutiful, Dogtooth, In a Better world, Incendies, Outside the Law
You might predict Biutiful, since Javier Bardem is nominated from that film for actor. But that would be a mistake, because this category can only be voted on by people who have seen all five films. I haven’t seen any of them, so I can’t make a guess.
Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, Inception, The King’s Speech, True Grit
The Art Director’s Guild hasn’t given out their awards yet, so this is a blind guess, but I think the flash and weirdness of Alice in Wonderland has a shot at beating the pomp and circumstance of The King’s Speech.
Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, True Grit
Black Swan is the most uniquely visually stylized of these, ironically from the limited palette of the art direction, not so much from the photography. I’m not sure Academy members will make that distinction. If they go another layer down, they might choose The King’s Speech or The Social Network for using some flashy lenses. Or they might give it to True Grit because it was shot by the legendary Roger Deakins, even though I thought some of the night photography looked fake and the midnight ride at the end was downright cheesy.
Alice in Wonderland, I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest, True Grit
While I’d love to see The Tempest win for its Spanish Renaissance-meets-Alexander McQueen-zippers look, this probably goes to The King’s Speech.
Exit Through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo, Waste Land
Gift Shop probably wins, as it was the year’s most talked-about documentary along with
“Killing in the Name”, “Poster Girl”, “Strangers No More”, “Sun Come Up”, “The Warriors of Qiugang”
Your guess is as good as mine.
Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network
Sadly, this will probably go to 127 Hours purely for the flash of its style and not for any technical merits. Both King’s Speech and Social Network could win if they are caught up in a sweep mentality.
Barney’s Version, The Way Back, The Wolfman
Black Swan was a big oversight here according to people in the know. The Wolfman, as a big-budget monster movie, is the only one people have heard of, so I give it an edge. I think Barney’s Version is getting nominated for age make-up. I’m not sure why The Way Back is on there, perhaps it also has age make-up.
Inception, The King’s Speech, Salt, The Social Network, True Grit
Inception, probably, since this category tends to go to action movies and Inception was better-liked than Salt.
How to Train Your Dragon, Inception,The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network
The Trent Reznor score for The Social Network is already being used on This American Life, so what more could you ask? If the Academy finds it too modern, they may opt to recognize A.R. Rahman again for 127 Hours, even though that film is mostly tracked with pop songs.
Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2
Inception is the front-runner. Alice is a dark horse since it was also a commercial hit and it is very design-y.
“Coming Home” from Country Strong, “I See the Light” from Tangled, “If I Rise” from 127 Hours, “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3
The mere words “Toy” and “Story” will melt the Academy’s hearts, regardless of the merits of the song. Gwenyth Paltrow is liked, so maybe she has a slight chance with “Coming Home”.
Inception, Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, Unstoppable
Probably Inception, although if people know just how much sound editing went into an animated film, and how much it shapes the film, Toy Story 3 would win.
Animated short film
“Day & Night”, “The Gruffalo”, “Let’s Pollute”, “The Lost Thing”, “Madagascar, carnet de voyage” (“Madagascar, a Journey Diary”)
“Day & Night” is the PIXAR short that played before Toy Story 3 in theaters. It was cool and different. I have no idea if the other shorts it is up against are as creative, because I haven’t seen any of them. Some of them sound more serious, which might be a draw (draw, get it?). Only voters who have seen all the films get to vote, so this category really does go to a straight popular vote from informed audiences.
Live action short film
“The Confession”, “The Crush”, “God of Love”, “Na Wewe”, “Wish 143”
Your guess is as good as mine.
Thanks for reading along. Be sure to check out my Oscar Pool Tips for further predictive analysis.