So the Oscars are Sunday. It’s been a long time coming, and what a whacky Oscar season it’s been. A small and outstanding Iraq War film has been sweeping the precursors, with its strongest competition being an enormous dopey action movie about blue people and trees. For added drama, the directors of both films are ex-spouses. Oh, the intrigue!
And what’s more, for the first time in over 60 years, the Best Picture ballot is open to a wide 10 nominees. Of course, there are only a small handful of those movies that have a shot at the title at all, but it’s nice to see movies like Up, A Serious Man, and District 9 getting such lofty consideration.
So this season has been pretty intriguing indeed, and amid it all I’ve gotten myself in a fair amount of trouble voicing my opinions of films like Avatar and The Blind Side. I’ve been wondering real hard what this was going to be like when it all culminated. And all that wondering has gotten me to this moment.
Here are my humble predictions for the 2009 Oscars!
BEST FILM EDITING
No, I’m not going to hit every category, but as far as this technical categories go, this one is always of particular interest. The Oscar for Film Editing often is a strong determinant of the Best Picture winner. Of course, there are exceptions. They do love to give this award to actiony spectacle films on occasion. The Bourne Ultimatum and The Matrix both picked up this prize without being nominated for Best Picture. But in a year where Avatar, The Hurt Locker, and District 9 are all nominees for both Best Picture and Best Film Editing, the Academy certainly has their choice of highly regarded action-heavy films to choose from, so they’ll likely go with whatever takes home the top prize—which gives fellow nominee, Inglourious Basterds, a sporting—if low—chance as well. Precious, on the other hand, is just happy to be mentioned as a surprise nominee over Up in the Air. Me, I’m still bummed that A Serious Man, expertly edited by the Coen brothers under their usual pseudonym Roderick Jaynes, didn’t get more citations.
My Pick: The Hurt Locker
The Winner: The Hurt Locker
What About…? A Serious Man
There’s always disappointment to be had in this category. The Oscars oftentimes confuse overall visual spectacle with good cinematography. Or God forbid there’s some kind of ethnic period film in the running (Memoirs of a Geisha, anyone?). I’m mostly in full agreement with everything in this category. Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon was absolutely stunning, but I know what a whore I am for black-and-white, and I don’t want to give it too much credit for that sake alone. And I’m frankly thrilled that the awesome look of the Harry Potter franchise has finally been acknowledged, so seeing that here makes my heart happy. The Hurt Locker is a very well-shot film, as well, and is deserving of its nod, but I’m not so sure about the win. In all honesty, my favorite work here is probably that of Inglourious Basterds. But, oh that Avatar. Unquestionably the visual achievement of this year, James Cameron’s massive spectacle film will probably walk away with this one. I had a discussion with Quaid about how much of the look of this film was the work of the DP, and how much was visual effects and animation. He knows more about this kind of thing than I do and certainly had some good arguments. But still—Avatar is just not the best shot movie in this grouping. As the frontrunner for Best Picture, look for Hurt Locker to spoil, or possibly White Ribbon, which just won the ACS Award.
My Pick: Inglourious Basterds
The Winner: Avatar
What About…? The Road
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Is there really any competition to be had here? It’s a pretty solid category, but do any of them stand a chance against Pixar’s Up, which has the distinct benefit of being only the second animated film ever to score a Best Picture nomination? If any of them do, then it’s probably Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox which managed to swipe a few precursors from Up. My pick however (if not for Up) would be Henry Selick’s outstanding 3-D stop-motion animated film Coraline. However, Up is an utterly amazing film, which is just as deserving of its inevitable win in this category as it is of its Best Picture nomination. Good job, Pixar! Keep ‘em coming!
My Pick: Up
The Winner: Up
What About…? A Christmas Carol
BEST FOREIGN FILM
Because of Oscar’s strange means of qualifying films for this category, there are always a few surprises to be had. This year, however, it’s pretty much between The White Ribbon, and the French film A Prophet. I loved White Ribbon, as did many. It’s won a lot of precursors (like the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival) and is the current favorite for this category. But if I’m going to pick one upset, it’s going to be right here. I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about A Prophet lately—the kind of talk to propel it into a last minute upset a la The Lives of Others beating Pan’s Labyrinth. I’ve got a gut feeling on this one, don’t ask me why.
My Pick: The White Ribbon
The Winner: A Prophet
What About…? Thirst
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
You know, with the exception of The Messenger which doesn’t have a shot anyway, I’d be happy to see any of these movies take home the gold. Inglourious Basterds was my favorite film of the year, so I’m very much inclined to say that one will win—it’s also the favorite. But, in all honesty, the one that I’d be most excited for to see win would probably have to be the script Coen brothers’ dry, funny, and philosophical A Serious Man. What will win, though? Like I said, on most fronts the favorite is Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds, but I’ve got a feeling that Sunday will be a big night for The Hurt Locker, and it’s going to grab this one…especially if—God forbid—it loses Best Picture to Avatar. This would be its consolation prize. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
My Pick: A Serious Man
The Winner: The Hurt Locker
What About…? Moon
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
I’m still a bit bitter that Star Trek wasn’t included on this ballot, but either way, Up in the Air has got this one pretty much wrapped up. Although by one look at the title of Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire, you’d think it was the poster child for adapted screenplays. In all honesty, Up in the Air is pretty deserving. It was an excellent film, and since it probably isn’t going to win anything in any other categories, it would be nice to see it win here. Oh sure, District 9 is terrific, and I absolutely loved In the Loop and was thrilled to see it get nominated, but the real star of this show is Up in the Air. I wish it good luck, although it probably doesn’t need it.
My Pick: Up in the Air
The Winner: Up in the Air
What About…? Star Trek
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mo’Nique has been the shoe-in for this before the awards season even began. If there’s any competition to be had here, then it’s probably from Anna Kendrick for her outstanding performance in Up in the Air. She managed to nab a precursor or two out from under Mo’Nique at the beginning of the season, but seeing as Up in the Air’s popularity has basically peaked and gone down, this win seems unlikely. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a bit of a surprise to see in this category, so that might be a sign of some unknown good faith, but it’s still way, way, way in Mo’Nique’s favor.
My Pick: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
The Winner: Mo’Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire
What About…? Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christoph Waltz as Nazi Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds is another shoe-in, and it’s really making me take notice of a strange Oscar trend of late. Between Waltz’s role and Mo’Nique’s role, as well as recent winners Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, and Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, it seems like the supporting performance categories are really into awarding villains—which makes it no surprise that Stanley Tucci from The Lovely Bones is also on the ballot. Also nominated: Matt Damon for Invictus, and I have no idea why. I sincerely believe he was only nominated because he used an accent. Not that it matters, anyway. It goes to Waltz.
My Pick: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
The Winner: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
What About…? Peter Capaldi, In the Loop
I’m keeping all negative thoughts on The Blind Side to myself, so let me just state that Sandra Bullock is the current frontrunner for Best Actress for her performance in that film. And with her SAG win, and the movie’s surprise Best Picture nomination, it shows some good faith that indicates that it’s probably going to be her. But even among that, something about it just doesn’t seem right. I’m inclined to say that it’s going to be Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia—which I would prefer—but this is a gut hunch that I’m getting a secondary gut-hunch for that’s telling me I’m probably wrong. So I guess what I’m saying is go with Sandra.
My Pick: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
The Winner: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
What About…? Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Yeah, so there are more than a few locks for the acting categories this year. Jeff Bridges, for his performance in Crazy Heart, is way more than likely going to be walking home with the gold after years and years of being overlooked. I really, really liked Crazy Heart and I loved Bridges in it, and think he’s totally deserving, but I still would have liked to have seen him win for Starman all those years ago. I guess we can’t have everything. Other nominees in this category are wholly worthy as well, especially George Clooney from Up in the Air and Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker, but this one belongs to Bridges.
My Pick: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
The Winner: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
What About…? Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
Here’s where I start to get really torn. I loved Inglourious Basterds. It was my favorite movie of the year. Look back at my top ten—it’s firmly affixed in the number one position. I loved it. And what I loved most was probably Quentin Tarantino’s epically bombastic directorial style. But if we’re going to talk about which one of these five nominated directors deserves this nomination the most, then it is without question Kathryn Bigelow. This massively talented woman made what is not only a great movie, but arguably the most important film of the year. The Hurt Locker is an assured, dignified, and fascinating piece of work, and without the guiding hand of Kathryn Bigelow it would not have been the same movie. Also, I really want to see her stick it to her ex-hubby and his crappy movie. And with her recent DGA win—a habitual indicator for this category—the Oscar is all hers.
My Pick: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
The Winner: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
What About…? Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Alright. Here it is. The big one. It’s a category of ten this year, and there are six that I would be genuinely excited to see win. Personally, I loved District 9, but I wouldn’t give it the Best Picture Oscar. However, if somehow it won, I’d have to admit—that would be pretty cool. I’d also love to see A Serious Man win, but with only two nominations, if that’s its only award, that would be a little sad and strange. Up would also be an amazing choice. I loved, loved, loved Up, but since it has its own category, it’s odds here are a little low. Up in the Air has a chance, although most say it peaked too soon. The Hurt Locker, as I’ve mentioned time and again, is a great movie. It’s the frontrunner to win, and for good reason—it most likely will. I completely support that. But for me, as I’ve also stated time and again, my favorite of this year was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. And since I’ve been somewhat conservative with the love I’ve been giving it in this article, denying it both Screenplay and Director, I’ve got to make it my pick right here. I just enjoy the hell out of this movie, and if it won, that would be awesome. But there’s also an anal retentive side to me that really loves it when something wins big, and if that’s going to be anything this year then it’s going to be The Hurt Locker. And rest assured, it will be The Hurt Locker. I realize that its stiffest competition is Avatar, but I just don’t—can’t—see that happening. Really, with Inglourious Basterds’ SAG ensemble win, it has a decent shot, too. Anything could happen! It sure looks like it all belongs to The Hurt Locker—and let’s face it, it probably does—but when you really take a look at some of the strange new things that this year’s ceremony has to offer, it’s really a bit more up in the air than you might think at first glance (no, that wasn’t a subtle prediction).
My Pick: Inglourious Basterds
The Winner: The Hurt Locker
What About…? Star Trek
So there it is. Cast your office pool ballots wisely, and good luck to you. And remember to come back on Sunday. We’ll have a live video stream of us…watching the Oscars! I promise that it will be almost as much fun as watching someone else playing a video game!